The Blood of the Everlasting

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Chapter 12

Lucas picked me up in a cherry red Porsche for a change. The vampire certainly seemed to like his Porsches. Andreas gave him a stern lecture and a very threatening look when he picked me up, and promised Lucas that serious bodily harm would come to him if anything adverse happened to me in any way. Lucas took it with aplomb, smoothly assuring him that I was as safe in his hands as I was with the angel.

I was incredibly nervous in my plum velvet cocktail dress. I had chosen to dress somewhat conservatively, not wanting to tempt Lucas any more than necessary. My hem came just below my knees, and my sleeves came down to my wrists, encasing my arms in tight velvet. The neckline came up to my collarbones in front. The only daring portion of the dress was the back, which plunged in a deep V to the bottom of my ribcage. I completed the outfit with a pair of simple plum pumps. I had forgone a silver necklace, deciding it would be an effort in futility, and I didn’t want to ruin another chain. My palms were sweating as I sat there in his car as he raced across town. His presence, his essence, the very energy he exuded, had me completely on edge, and more than a little afraid, and I knew I was completely out of my element. I missed Andreas already, as we sped further away from him.

He pulled onto I-5, heading South. “I wish you wouldn’t be so afraid, the smell of your fear makes it harder to behave myself, my dear,” he said softly, as he whipped the car around a corner. “I meant what I said, you are safe with me.”

I thought about the magic speed dial connection I had with Andreas, and knew he could feel my fear, too, and that the growing distance was making it grow more faint. I endeavored to relax, using the meditation technique Grant had taught me. It helped.

By the time Lucas pulled off the highway, taking the exit to the airport, I felt much more at ease. Lucas noticed, as well. “Much better,” he approved, patting my hand lightly. The touch of his cool hand on mine sent a shiver down my spine, and my breath caught in my throat.

We pulled into airport parking. “Where are we going?” I demanded, twisting in my heated bucket seat to face him.

“Relax,” he said smoothly. “I know that angel of yours can feel you strongly when you’re near, I know somewhat of how these blood links work, and I don’t think he’s going to want to feel everything you feel tonight, so I thought a little ride to get some distance might be a good idea.” He pulled into the parking garage, and flipped into a narrow parking space with lightning reflexes. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Lucas, ever the vampiric gentleman, opened my door for me and helped me out of the car. “Besides,” he continued as we walked up the ramp, “I know his type, he’s liable to come rudely popping in without a moment’s notice, so even a little distance doesn’t mean much.”

I laughed at that. He was probably absolutely correct in that assessment.

He took my arm and led me through the airport to a private terminal, and from there to a small private jet that waited patiently on the tarmac for us. The stroll through the airport was a little difficult. By that time, I was definitely picking up his baser instincts. Surrounded by the bustle of humanity, everywhere I turned I saw red. Blood pulsed and flowed like nectar through each person, and the smell was so enticing I could almost taste it on the air. I was thirsty, and hungry. I gripped Lucas’ arm tightly to ground me in reality, and gritted my teeth. He seemed to know, too, almost instantly, when things changed for me. I think I must have smelled different.

“Intoxicating, isn’t it?” he murmured in my ear. I was concentrating on maintaining my composure too hard to respond with more than anything but a nod. My throat was dry, but my mouth was watering, and my heart pounded in rhythm to all the hearts beating around me, a symphony of flesh and blood to my eyes and ears.

I must admit, I was secretly delighted and surprised when we reached the private plane, and relieved to escape the sea of people. I’d never taken a ride in a private jet, and it was every bit as luxurious from the inside as they seemed from television. Black leather and burled dark mahogany wood covered everything. We buckled in, and the plane taxied toward the runway.

“Where are we going?” I asked him, curiosity getting the better of me, and any residual fear had subsided the instant we got into the plane.

“Portland,” he replied. It was only about an hour’s flight away.

“What is it with all you unnatural people and your unnatural amounts of money?” I asked, stretching out, enjoying the luxuriously comfortable chair. No airplane could compare to a private jet.

He laughed lightly. “After eight centuries you would figure out how to live in style too.” He pulled a flask out of his jacket and took a swig. Once again, he was dressed to kill, proverbially speaking, in a blue-black sharkskin jacket over a soft white linen shirt and indigo jeans. “Thirsty?” he asked, proffering the flask.

My throat was so parched it felt like it was cracking. I took the flask gratefully, put it to my lips, and took a long draw off of it. Whatever was in it was warm and tangy, and delicious. It hit the spot, and was better than anything I think I had ever tasted before. I passed it back after a swallow, almost reluctantly. “Thanks, what is it?”

He smirked. “Blood.”

Reflexively, I unbuckled my seatbelt, and raced to the bathroom, coughing and hacking, trying to throw up what I had just swallowed, but to no avail. I rinsed my mouth out with water in the sink, and strode back into the cabin angrily. “How dare you!” I spat.

He sighed. “You’re being ridiculous, Rhiannon. He unbuckled his seat belt and stood, taking my hands. “Was it not good? Do you not want more?”

I sputtered, and yanked my hands out from his, and spun around, stalking to the other side of the cabin. “Yes, no, I don’t know,” I cried. But deep down, the answer was yes, and I knew it.

He knew it too, I thought. I wrapped my arms around me, uncomfortable with the whole situation. “I’m no vampire,” I whispered.

He put a hand on my shoulder. “Rhiannon,” he said gently, “When you are around me, you certainly seem to be one, for what it’s worth, and given your current state of existence, you cannot avoid being around vampires forever. Even if you try, they will find you. I should know, I am one.” I sighed, and turned back around to face him, feeling powerless. “It is part of who you are now, and unless you learn to control your vampiric urges when you are around my kind, something bad will probably happen to someone you care about.”

I understood exactly what he was implying, and I shuddered at the thought of randomly attacking Andreas, or Grant; of losing that kind of control. That was the last thing I wanted. I nodded my head, admitting he was right.

“That is why you are here, is it not, my dear?” He cupped my face in his hands. “That’s why I’m here, and that’s why your friends agreed to this, because they know I’m right. Deal with it.” He brushed my lips lightly with his.

I balled my hands up into fists and pushed him away. “You might be right, but I don’t have to like it,” I grumbled. I sat down, and spent the rest of the flight seething, and dying of thirst. Oh god, was he ever right. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. Lucas just watched me, bemused, sipping occasionally from his flask, tempting me. I sneered at him. I could smell it from across the cabin, in the flask, and on his breath, and I clenched my jaw, but folded my arms across my chest in a huff.

Finally the plane began its descent, and we landed in Portland. Not a moment too soon, I thought. I gathered my composure as best as possible. The tarmac crew opened the door. Lucas stood up, and offered me his arm. I stiffly took it, and he led me down the steps onto the pavement. A light breeze was blowing, and the scent of the two humans attending the plane was overpowering. I inhaled with a gasp, and shuddered. Lucas had an iron grip on me. With a chuckle, he handed me his blood flask, and I took a sip begrudgingly, and desperately. If it weren’t for his inhuman grip, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done something I would have later regretted. He put one arm around my shoulders, and with the other he grabbed my bicep. “Come, we have to walk,” he whispered, forcing me to take one step, and then another. Almost mechanically, I let him lead me away. I was holding my breath, and shivering. Finally, he led me to a long black limo, and ushered me into the safety and privacy of the back. We drove off to parts unknown. My head was reeling.

“How can you stand it?” I groaned. “All I want is to – ”

“I know,” he said. “It gets easier for us after the first few years. Now I barely notice the hunger, and it takes very little to satiate it.” He passed me his flask again. “It’s mostly problems with newborns that started all those horror stories and legends. Every now and then a newborn slips through our fingers and causes problems. It happens only rarely, though.”

My cell phone rang in my purse. I retrieved it. I didn’t recognize the number. It must be Andreas, I reasoned. “Hi, dad,” I answered sarcastically.

“Where are you?” his tinny voice demanded. “I’ve been trying to call you for the past hour, what’s going on?”

“Relax,” I assured him. “Lucas flew me to Portland. The plane just landed. No worries, everything’s fine, I’ll be home before sunup.”

“I’m coming to get you,” he snapped.

I was furious. “Don’t you dare!” I hissed. “I’m safe with Lucas. Yeah, you don’t trust vampires, but trust me, I need to do this. I don’t like this any more than you do, but it’s you’re fault I’m here,” I said acidly. “You’re the one who made me what I am, and I’m the one who’s learning to deal with it.”

“You don’t have to be nasty about it,” he sighed. “How many times do I have to apologize?”

I sighed too. “Sorry. I’m just a little edgy. Please don’t come, you’d be too distracting.” I rubbed my forehead with my palm. “I’m safe, I’m fine, Lucas won’t let anything happen to me. Take a Xanax or something. I’ll see you in a few hours.” I turned my phone off, and shoved it back into my purse.

Lucas sat across from me smirking. I shot him a dirty look.

The limo led us through the unfamiliar streets of Portland. It was a lovely spring night with clear skies. Flowers were budding, it seemed, on just about every street corner. Portland wasn’t known as the city of flowers for nothing. I was too distracted, really, to pay much attention to where we were going. The limo stopped on an unfamiliar street corner in an unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar city. We could have been anywhere. It truly didn’t matter. Lucas led me out and down the alley to a steel door that reminded me very much of his club in Seattle. He placed his palm on a palm-reading sensor, and the door popped open.

I looked up at him. “Another rabbit hole?” I asked flippantly.

He flashed me a sensual grin. “You’re catching on.” Wrapping his arm around my shoulder possessively, he led me inside, down the dark corridor, and past the interior doorman.

The interior had the feel of a dimly lit industrial night club. Heavy dance rhythms hammered out of speakers. The walls were clad in diamond plate aluminum, interspersed with black curtains that I presumed led to secluded alcoves, since I saw a two people exiting one. She was human, I could tell by her beating pulse and throbbing neck. He was vampire, and he had recently fed; she had two fresh puncture wounds on her neck, down which blood trickled. I licked my lips hungrily. Lucas gripped my shoulder fiercely. “Mind your manners,” he whispered in my ear. His breath was hot across my neck, and a wave of goose bumps coursed down to my knees. I shivered.

The interior was one large cube, with a dance floor in the center, surrounded by a waist-high pony wall that separated it from the outer sitting and socializing area, which was interspersed with tables and benches. Curtained alcoves punctuated the steel clad far wall every few yards. The place was pretty crowded for a Tuesday night, I thought, but since vampires are all night owls, that shouldn’t have surprised me. There were a fair number of vampires, but I estimated a third of the clientele to be human. How could so many humans know about vampires, and yet vampires still remain a secret to the world at large? The question mystified me. The state of dress, or undress as the case may have been, was much as his Seattle club had been. The majority of the people would have fit in just as well in a BDSM sex club as a vampire club. I noticed with bemusement that the most wildly attired were the humans, partial to skimpy outfits, vinyl, latex, leather and corsets. The vampires were more sedate, favoring dark colors, but not flashy or tight fabrics. He steered me down the path. We walked past several clusters of people.

“I come here every month or so,” he murmured, “So I know a few people. I am your sponsor here, so I expect you to be on your best behavior, and don’t do anything to embarrass me,” he ordered quietly.

“Lucas de Mora!” a woman said warmly. He turned, and a tall blonde woman beckoned him over. She was a vampire, pale, fair, and lovely, wearing a long black evening gown and a red ribbon around her neck, with her hair piled on top of her head in casual ringlets. He led me over to where she stood, leaning on a table as if she owned it. She kissed his cheek lightly. “What brings you to Portland?”

“I needed a change of pace for the evening.” He bowed and kissed her hand. “Rhiannon, may I introduce Ophelia, who owns this fine establishment.”

She shook my hand delicately, that kind of antique feminine handshake that I so detest that has mostly gone out of style. “Pleased to meet you,” I said, as polite as possible, forcing a smile onto my face.

She arched an eyebrow. “She’s new. Yours?” She looked up at Lucas.

He smiled. “Only for tonight.”

“Ah.” She nodded her head, understanding. I was a little lost, but apparently everything was all right, and they were both in agreement about me. “Have you met my latest little boy?” she asked with a smile. She gestured to the man who was sitting at the table, a very human man, with a pulse that pounded strongly in his neck, as if to say ‘hello, come drink me.’ I bit my lip. He had the chiseled good looks you’d expect on the cover of GQ, and sat there leisurely wearing nothing but skin tight black leather pants. He had the most dreamy expression on his face, like he was lost in his own fantasy world, or drugged; I couldn’t tell which. “This is Alex,” she said, patting his head. Hearing his name, he looked up at her, and smiled euphorically. “Would you care for a taste?” she offered, raising the man’s wrist up to Lucas.

“It would be very rude to decline the owner’s offer,” he whispered softly in my ear. “Thank you,” he said to Ophelia, and bowed over Alex’s wrist. He opened his mouth, and bit, sucking hard. I could see the red glow of life flow from Alex’s wrist into Lucas’ mouth, and down his throat, and I let out a small moan. My knees trembled. Hunger and desire welled deep within me with such force that I could barely stand. I gripped Lucas’ arm tightly, and clenched my jaw. This whole evening was proving to be great exercise for my jaw clenching muscles. I wouldn’t be surprised if it locked up by morning.

Lucas released the man’s wrist and stood up straight. He turned toward me, slightly, and I saw him lick precious drops of red blood off of his lips. They glistened like rubies in my eyes. At that sight, I just lost it. I grabbed Lucas by the neck, and licked his lips, rescuing any residual blood from his skin. I kissed him deeply, with a groan, as if I could delve any more from his mouth. Lord knows I tried, but there was none to be found. He returned my kiss with a passion, however, before pushing me back down to earth again.

“Down girl,” he chuckled. Ophelia was eyeing me sharply. Lucas was, too. “I apologize for Rhiannon,” he said to her, staring at me intently the entire time. “She’s… new.” He brushed a finger across my lips with the lightest of touches.

“She couldn’t have a better teacher, Lucas,” she replied, relaxing her stance, and nodding her approval. “You better keep a tight leash on her, though, and for Christ’s sake, keep her fed. We don’t need any trouble.” With that, she waved her hand as if to dismiss us, and we turned and walked away.

Lucas held me tight against him. “You’re walking a fine line, my dear, I hope you know what you are doing. You better watch yourself.” The music might have been booming, but his whisper reached my ear with crystal clarity, thanks to my enhanced senses. He pinned me up against the wall, towering over me. He pressed up against me, and my pulse raced and my senses reeled.

“I’m sorry,” I hastily apologized. “He smelled so good, I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t mean to be rude or anything.”

He laughed lightly. “I wasn’t talking about him, I was talking about me.” He ran his hand through my hair, tangling it in my locks. “You might be able to fool all these people into believing you are a vampire, but never forget that I know who you really are, and I know your flavor,” he said sharply. “Do not tempt me. I made a promise not to kill or turn you, but that’s all I promised.” He eyed me threateningly.

I shivered. He stepped away, and once again took my arm and led me to a table, where we sat down. I watched people for a while. He watched me. “Do all vampires have human companions?” I asked him. Most of the ones present certainly did. Not all the humans wore that dreamy drugged expression, either. I got the impression that was just a side effect of being fed on; it seemed to impart some sort of euphoria. That also helped to explain why so many humans seemed to accompany vampires.

He grabbed my hand, and turned it over in his, drawing lazy circles on my palm. “Many, but not all. It makes it easier for vampires, having a regular supply of food at hand. Plus humans find the bite pleasurable.” He winked at me.

A shiver ran down my spine. “Do you?” I asked. “Have human companions, I mean,” I added hastily.

Lucas shrugged and frowned. “No. Venom junkies like most of the humans here are distasteful. Humans are fine for brief periods of time, but bite one too many times and they become addicted. I prefer not doing that to humans. They become useless creatures after that. Many of us simply don’t care. Some of us even revel in that kind of power. I prefer my solitude. I find the company of most humans rather intolerable for more than a night, and it’s just as easy to charm my way into a snack that the human won’t even remember or notice the next day.”

I gasped and pulled my hand back. “You can do that?” I thought quickly, back to the first time I met him. “Did you do that to me?”

He looked thoughtful. “Yes to the first, no to the second,” he answered. “Our venom has an interesting effect on humans. It imparts a euphoric high, depresses short term memory, and accelerates healing of the wound. In other words, you’ll enjoy it, not likely remember it or think it was just a pleasant dream, and won’t notice it the next day. Although that was initially my motive when I met you, you turned out to be… something else.” He flashed me a lascivious grin. I found myself blushing from head to toe. I didn’t know whether to be flattered to be that ‘something else’ or insulted that all he wanted when he first met me was a drink. He laughed, amused at my perplexed expression.

“So you can charm people, you’re strong, you’re fast, you burn in sunshine, you’re allergic to garlic and silver,” I said, ticking off the things I knew. “Are you all born human? Can, for example, a werewolf become a vampire? Or an angel?”

He looked at me thoughtfully. “I have never known a were to become a vampire. I don’t know any vampire who can tolerate their taste and smell long enough to actually try to turn one,” He said with a grin. “Angels, alas, however tasty they may be, are simply not compatible. Are you?” he winked.

It was my turn to blush, and I do so furiously. I looked down at my hands. “I – I was told a few days ago by a demon that there were two ways to make me immortal,” I said softly. I looked back up at him. “Vampires were one, angels were the other.”

He eyed me curiously. “How interesting. I have never known a mortal who has straddled that line before. You grow more unique with every passing day, don’t you, Rhiannon?”

I never got a chance to reply. “Hey Lucas,” said a man, a vampire, who came up to our table. He was on the short side, pale of face as all vampires seemed to be, with brown hair and wide cheek bones, dressed all in black. A human woman in a bright red shiny mini dress held his hand, wearing the same dreamy expression Alex had.

Lucas shook his hand. “Aaron, this is Rhiannon, Rhiannon, Aaron,” he introduced.

“In town for long?” Aaron asked, leaning on the edge of our table with his free hand.

Lucas shook his head. “Just for the night my friend.”

“That’s a shame, we miss you around here. Meet Candy,” he said to Lucas with a grin, gesturing to the woman. “Candy is dandy.” Candy smiled peacefully.

Lucas chuckled. “So I gather.”

“Either of you two hungry?” Aaron offered.

Lucas shook his head, and stood up, pulling me sharply with him. “No thanks, we’ve already eaten.” I was about to speak up in protest, but Lucas gripped my hand so tightly I thought he might break my fingers.

“That’s cool, otherwise I would have offered you a sip,” he replied. “Leaving so soon?”

“No, just going to go mingle more. Take our table, man,” he offered, and led me off down the wide hallway to the other side of the mezzanine.

“Why did you say that?” I whimpered. “I’m so thirsty, Lucas.”

He cursed, and dragged me by the hand into one of the vacant alcoves, pulling the curtains tight behind us. He backed me up into the dark corner with a hand tight around my chin and stared downward at me. “First of all,” he said sternly, peering intently into my eyes, “you are not truly a vampire, regardless of what you are feeling, so you don’t need to drink. Second of all, I deny you because I’m not certain you would be able to control yourself once you started, and you would hate yourself tomorrow if you hurt or killed that woman, not to mention so would Aaron, and I’d be the one answering for you since I’m your sponsor here, and I don’t need that kind of trouble!” He paused for breath. “Thirdly, in denying you, you learn to bear the thirst, which grants you control over your urges.” He relaxed his grip on my chin, and ran his hand along my cheek. “I’d treat you the same way if you were truly a new vampire, instead of just feeling like one,” he finished gently.

I let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “You’re right. I know you’re right,” I admitted. And yet the hunger was there, threatening to consume me, burning me from the inside, making me feel crazy. “But this… oh … oh my god,” I gasped. “I need something, how can you bear it?” I begged, my voice breaking.

He looked at me, sympathy in his eyes. “Bite me.”

“What?” I cried, not certain I had heard him right, but hoping that I had.

“Bite me,” he repeated. “You cannot hurt me, my dear, and you need to bite someone, don’t you?” he murmured, running a finger across my lips.

I just looked into his deep brown, soulful brown, eyes, not answering, knowing the answer was yes. He knew it, too. He wrapped his hand around my neck, tilting my head upwards, and bent his down until my lips tickled his neck. My salivary glands kicked into over drive at the touch of his flesh. “I don’t want to be a vampire,” I whispered.

“You won’t be, I promise,” he assured me. “It would take more than one little bite.”

So, with that reassurance, I tentatively reached out with my tongue and licked his neck, feeling his flesh. “Do it,” he hissed, gripping me tightly.

I did. I opened my mouth wide, and fangs slid out, sharp as needles, and with a growl of hunger, I bit into his flesh, sinking my teeth, and his blood welled up into my mouth, thick and rich. I sucked a mouthful, and swallowed, with a moan. It tasted so good it was nearly orgasmic. I latched onto him, holding him tight, wrapping my arms and legs around him for all I was worth, and I sucked and swallowed like a starving woman this sweet, salty metallic nectar of the gods.

“Rhiannon,” he whispered, “You need to stop.” He grabbed my hair fiercely, and pulled my head back. I groaned in regret, as my teeth slowly slipped out of his flesh. I disentangled my legs and arms from around him. I licked the twin wounds, and in amazement, felt them close underneath my tongue, until all evidence of my savage assault had disappeared.

He grabbed me by the head and kissed me fiercely, tasting his own blood on my tongue, devouring my mouth. He slammed me roughly up against the wall. “My turn,” he growled ferociously, his eyes blood red.

Before I could object, his mouth was on my pulsing neck, and I felt his teeth sliding in with a sharp pain. I cried out, but that pain turned instantly into pleasure, pleasure so fierce and so strong, that if it weren’t for his strong arms pinning me up against the wall I would have collapsed to the floor. I admit freely I didn’t want it to stop, never before had I felt sensations that pulled straight from the tips of my toes, and arced through my entire nervous system, making every fiber of my being sing.

After a moment, he reluctantly pulled away, leaving me shivering and shuddering underneath him. “My god,” I moaned, breathing hard. “I had no idea.” I looked up at him, my eyes wide. My last date with the vampire had been such a whirlwind of sensations that had left me confused and dizzy, and it ended so abruptly when I ran, that I really didn’t have a chance to fully appreciate or understand exactly what his bite could do.

He smiled, his eyes deep brown again, and nuzzled my neck where he had bit me. “You should try that with sex,” he whispered in my ear, nipping my lobe. I blushed furiously.

I thought about his blood. Lucas said it wouldn’t turn me into one, but certainly it came with some type of price. “What is your blood going to do to me?” I asked, concerned.

He buried his face in my hair. “Give you my strength and speed for a day or so,” he murmured. “But watch out, you’ll probably sunburn easily and be sensitive to garlic and silver.” He brushed my lips with his, light as a feather.

“What does it take to become a vampire?” I breathed.

He bit my lower lip lightly and ran his hands down my sides, resting his hands on my hips. “A nearly complete exchange of blood, yours for mine.”

I shuddered at the thought. I let out a long satisfied sigh, feeling much better. That overpowering thirst had dulled to just a mild distraction. “I feel much better,” I smiled lazily.

“I know.” He looked smug. “That is why I had you bite me.”

“Thank you,” I said simply, and I meant it. I would probably have lost control of myself if he hadn’t intervened.

“You taste…” he released me and stepped away with a sigh. “I shouldn’t have bit you.” He clenched his jaw tightly. “Especially not here, they might smell it.” He frowned. “Come on, we have to get out of here.”

Grabbing my hand, he rushed me out of the alcove, and we made a rapid bee line straight for the exit. The doorman tried to flag us down as we zipped past, but Lucas ignored him. He flung the exterior door open, and we were outside finally, the fresh night air cool on my skin.

The door closed behind us, and he turned, slamming me up against the cold, hard steel, pinning my hands above my head. I squirmed, but he was stronger than me. He kissed me, rough and hard, and he took my breath away. I felt his fangs slide out with my tongue, twin little pin pricks.

“Oh my god, you little siren,” he growled. He licked my neck, finding my beating pulse with his tongue. He hovered there, breathing hot ragged breaths in and out, and oh, how I wanted him to bite me again.

“Please,” I whispered, tilting my head back, willing him to, wanting him to.

With a snarl he tore away from me. “No!” he shouted. His eyes were red, and they bore into me like hot irons. “I told you that you walked a fine line,” he roared. “Do not step over it girl, do not push me.” He turned away and walked down the alley towards the limousine that waiting for us on the street corner. I wrapped my arms around myself and slowly walked after him. He paused half way there, fists clenched at his sides, and let out a fierce animalistic roar at the skies. A shiver of fear went down my spine. Perhaps I had gone too far. I was completely out of my element, and beyond my own ken, and I really didn’t feel like myself, I legitimately could no longer tell what was too far.

He just stood there with his fists clenched, shaking with fury. I took a deep swallow and walked up to him softly. “So I really am your cheesecake,” I said softly.

He was taken aback, and turned around. “What?” He looked at me inscrutably, but his hands unclenched, and he seemed to relax a little.

“Well,” I started, keeping my voice light and calm, “Andreas says that angel blood is like crack to vampires, and that I taste like part angel.” I licked my lips nervously. “Cheesecake is my big irresistible addiction, so I’m your cheesecake,” I finished, giving him a coy grin, and shrugging my shoulders.

He just stared at me, and then let out a big laugh, the tension flowing out of his body as he relaxed again. He took my hand, and led me back to the limo. “Yes, my dear, you are my cheesecake, and I better not snack, because you’ll go straight to my thighs.” He patted my rear with that comment, and I laughed, too.

He directed our driver to take us to a restaurant called Papa Haydn’s, telling him, with a wink, that his date needed cheesecake. I let out a peal of laughter.

Half an hour later we sat companionably in the busy restaurant. I was enjoying a delectable slice of New York cheesecake topped with strawberries, and Lucas was nursing a glass of red wine. He watched me closely, a bemused expression on his face, as if he was analyzing my every bite. I savored each morsel of that slice of cheesy heaven, too. My eyes rolled back into my head with the first bite. “God, this is good,” I sighed.

Finally, after I had scraped the last crumbs of the crust off of my now empty plate, he let out a hearty laugh, grinning at me with delight.

We headed back out to the limo, and back towards the airport at long last. “Yes, you are definitely my cheesecake,” he informed me as we drove, his eyes twinkling. “So think about that before you try tempting me into biting you again.”

I sighed mournfully. “God, Lucas, but it feels so good when you do. I would have thought it would be agonizing pain.” I smiled wistfully, remembering the delicious sensation.

He smiled. “That’s our best protection and our greatest gift, we make the pain into pleasure.”

I thought about that for a moment, and then nodded my head. “I think I understand you vampires a little better now. You aren’t the monsters I thought you were,” I admitted begrudgingly.

He let out a whoop of laughter. “Good, because I might be craving cheesecake again in the future,” he teased.

The flight back to Seattle was much more relaxing than the flight down had been. The presence of humans was not the temptation it was the first time around, either. I was relieved about that. I didn’t know quite how I felt about being a vampire for a night. It definitely wasn’t a way I would want to spend eternity, but as ominous and threatening as a vampire could be, I no longer believed them to be casual mass murderers who didn’t care a whit for humanity beyond having a meal at our expense. There were definitely layers upon layers to their hidden and complex society, and I knew I had only scratched the mere surface. Did I want to scratch further? I didn’t know, and I wasn’t ready to make that decision just yet.

I did want to learn about my vampiric host, however. “Ophelia said your last name was de Mora,” I commented as the plane took off the runway. “Where does that come from?”

He looked over at me, silent for a moment, as if contemplating how much of himself he wanted to reveal to me. As gracious and social as he had been, for a vampire at any rate, he had been very private about himself. “I was born in a small town called Mora in the Toledo province of the kingdom of Castile in 1286. It is about sixty miles south-east of modern Madrid,” he said finally, his voice low and soft. “My father was a farmer, and I was raised learning to till the fields. We had a small plot of land, enough to feed ourselves and to sell crops to the local lord.” He looked up at me. “We were lucky to be able to own our own land and control our own production. By the time my father died, I was twenty-five, and married, with a wife and baby to support, and found myself inheriting the family land, and my mother to take care of.” He paused to take a sip from his flask.

“The year I turned thirty, a famine struck northern Europe. Land there was harder to cultivate, and the population had grown beyond the ability of the land to support. It was, in more modern terms, a regular Malthusian dilemma. A series of harsh winters and heavy rains combined with the burgeoning population, the shorter growing season, and less fertile soil to create famine. Many people starved to death and food prices skyrocketed exponentially.”

“Where there was famine, there was economy for a struggling farmer with goods to sell. I decided to travel north when harvest time came. It was an opportunity to make a great deal of money, which my family needed.” I looked at him like I would a parasite living off a dying dog. Preying off of the starving just to make a quick buck was wrong. “Don’t judge me too harshly,” he said with a frown. “Life wasn’t much easier where I came from. Every day was a struggle to survive. Had you lived like we lived, you too would have jumped at an opportunity to make your fortune. So I went north. I sold my goods in Frisia. I made a great deal of money, enough to build a new house for my family and more land to till. I never made it back south.” He looked down at his hands, lost in his distant past.

I could guess the next part. “You met a vampire, didn’t you?” I whispered.

He nodded his head. “In a small hamlet called Amsterdam,” he said with a half smile. “I had only stopped at an inn for one night.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “She was fair and entrancing, and although I was a married man who was devoted to my wife, she was vampire, and I was unable to resist. She could have killed me. Back then, vampires were so few and death was so common that we were careless and casual with it,” he explained. “But she took a fancy to me, and decided to turn me instead.”

“Did you ever see your family again?” I asked softly.

He shook his head. “I was no longer the same man I was before. We have a rule that when you are reborn you abandon your old life and begin your new. There is good reason for it. At the beginning I was too afraid I would end up hurting my family, as I had the lack of control of a newborn, which you can relate to after tonight. And then, as time passed, and I remained unchanged, I was too afraid I would scare them. As they aged, I did not. People lived in fear in those times for their immortal souls, I would have been seen as a monster, Satan’s creature.” He frowned. “So you see, my dear, I too have lost those I loved. That is partly why I agreed to help you, because I could not help myself.”

I nodded my head, understanding. “What did you do then?”

He smiled. “I learned a new way to survive,” he said simply.

I, however, laughed in disbelief. “You call this,” I said, waving my arms out to encompass the luxurious private jet, “survival?

He laughed, and flashed me a toothy grin. “Survival is an art form, Rhiannon, and it’s one I’ve learned to do extraordinarily well.”

We past the rest of the flight talking of more pleasant things, until finally the plane descended back into Seattle, and Lucas escorted me to his car once more.

Finally Lucas drove me back to my house. The eternal gentleman, he walked me right up to my front door. He put a hand on my cheek. “The next time you feel like walking that line again, give me a call,” he said, and kissed me lightly. “Resisting you is the most fun I have had in years.” On that note, he sauntered back to his Porsche.

I let out a sigh, and went inside my house.

Andreas was in the living room. I wonder if he had been sitting there waiting impatiently all evening. I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was only one a.m., earlier than I had expected.

Andreas stood up and wrinkled his nose. “You stink like vampire.” He glowered at me.

“Yeah yeah,” I yawned, and headed off for the stairs. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

“Then we need to talk,” he said, following me up the stairs.

I turned and shook my head. “No, then I’m going to bed. I suggest you do the same.” I stalked into my bedroom and closed the door behind me.

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