The Blood of the Everlasting

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Chapter 3

I dreamed I awoke in a wild field of grass, damp with dew. The sweet scent of poppies permeated the air. I climbed to my feet. A fog surrounded me, hampering my view. I saw a man, glowing in the mist in front of me, the edges of his shape blurred with fog. “Wait!” I called out to him, and ran towards him barefoot through the grass. No matter how hard I ran, he was always too far away from me, and didn’t seem to hear me calling out for him. I woke up in a cold sweat. The scent of crushed grass and poppies surrounded me.

I climbed out of bed, stepping gingerly on my ankle, remembering the trials of last night. It felt fine, I was shocked to find out. I looked at my forearm, but there wasn’t a scratch to be found. I shook my head. That wasn’t possible. I knew what happened last night; people just don’t heal that quickly, they didn’t!

I ran into the bathroom and flipped on the light to examine myself. There wasn’t a bruise or scratch to be found anywhere marring my skin. I slowly sat down on the edge of the tub, baffled. Maybe I was confused; maybe I’d had too much to drink; maybe it was someone else’s blood, how else could I explain it? I shook my head and poured myself a glass of water. The water smelled clean and pure, with a hint of chlorine that I had never noticed before.

Wrapping myself in my silk robe, I meandered downstairs into my kitchen to make breakfast. As soon as I turned the corner and the room came into view, I stopped dead in my tracks. Something was wrong, horribly wrong, with my plants. I ran towards them in dismay. I kept a plethora of herbs in my kitchen, which Kat always teased me made my kitchen look like the jungle was winning the war, but I liked cooking with fresh herbs, and it wasn’t quite the season to move them back outside again. My plants were glowing green. All of them. They sparkled with subtle shades of green, as if someone had snuck in and dusted them all with a million tiny specks of glitter. The effect was one of exceptional ethereal beauty, but it was so very wrong!

I examined each one closely, but they were happy and healthy. The leaves were shimmering with sparkling energy, like someone had plugged them into a socket, and I jumped back in shock, rubbing my eyes, willing it to go away. I screwed up my eyeballs tight. “Stop!” I shouted. I shook my head. This was wrong! I opened my eyes, but they still stood there filling up the counter space, silently glowing. With a shriek, I ran out of the room and back upstairs and jumped on my bed, burying my head underneath the blanket.

The blanket was harsh and rough underneath my skin, I couldn’t stand it, it felt like sandpaper was abrading my skin. I jumped up with a cry, and backed up slowly into my bathroom, and sunk to the tiled bathroom floor.

What was happening to me? I stepped back into the bedroom nervously, feeling the hardwood sleek and smooth underneath my feet, and snatched my purse. Fumbling through it, I pulled out my cell phone. I dialed up my doctor’s office. Dr. Pedersen was just a general practitioner, but I had been going to him for years, and I trusted him. The receptionist answered. Her voice sounded unnaturally electronic and tinny. Did people always sound like this on phones and I had just never noticed, or was there something wrong with my phone? Or was there something wrong with my ears?? “I’d like to schedule an appointment for today,” I said between clenched teeth. “The sooner the better.”

“May I ask what’s wrong?” Came her tinny reply. It jarred on my nerves.

“Follow-up after a car accident I had a couple of days ago,” I told her. She scheduled me for an eleven a.m. appointment, finally, after asking me meaningless questions to which I mumbled equally meaningless answers, and I hung up. The whole transaction left me feeling exhausted, and my ears hurt.

My phone rang, and the shrill electronic shriek of it was harsh in my ears, grating on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. I flipped it open mechanically, not even looking at the caller ID. “Hello,” I said, between clenched teeth.

“Rhi, it’s Grant,” came a familiar voice from the other end of the line. The digitized facsimile of his voice carried none of the rich depth I knew he was capable of, and I choked back a cry. Something was horribly wrong!

“Hi Grant,” I said, trying to force as much calm into my voice as possible. “Hey, I’m glad you called. Remember how you suggested yesterday that I should take a few days off?”

“Yeah, why? You feeling ok?” he replied. “I was calling to offer you a ride.”

“I think I might have bumped my head harder than I thought,” I sighed. “I’m not up for working today.” Especially if the greenhouse is going to glow at me too, I added silently. “I’ve got a doctor’s appointment at eleven. I’ll talk to you after that.”

“How about I pick you up for lunch instead?” he suggested.

I gave him the address. “I should be done by noon. I gotta go,” I said, desperate to get away from this horrid telephone.

I hung up. I sat on the bathroom floor for a few more minutes, before I decided I’d worked up enough nerve to face the world. I popped a couple of Tylenol, and went back downstairs to make myself a pot of coffee and figure out what was going on. Whatever it was, coffee always made things better.

I tried to avoid looking at any of my herbs as I brewed my pot. The rich scent of coffee soothed my nerves, and finally after I was able to pour myself a cup of piping hot java, I sighed in relief. Slowly sipping on it, I wandered through the house, drawing all of the blinds shut and turning off all the lights. With my eyes cast down, I climbed up onto a barstool at the kitchen island, and took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and relaxed.

Finally, I opened my eyes and looked up. I gasped. The kitchen was dimly lit in a vibrant green that radiated outward from my herbs. I swallowed my fear, and tentatively reached a hand out towards the basil near me. It was unearthly beautiful. I touched the leaf, and I swear I could feel it tremble. I snatched my hand back with a gasp and stood up.

I wandered into my living room. My Norfolk Island Pine tree, a 7’ specimen that was my favorite in the entire house, a gift from my mother when I was but a child, and was nearly too big for my house, occupied an entire corner of the room, and it emitted a deep green glow. Fascinated, I reached out and laid a hand on the nearest branch. I felt it thrum with energy. “Oh my!” I gasped.

I spent the next couple of hours examining every plant in my house, touching and feeling them all. I could tell, just by touch alone, which one was which by the way it hummed in my hand. I was stunned and amazed, and scared. By the time I called a taxi to take me to the doctor’s office I was convinced I was either going crazy or had a brain tumor. But what I was experiencing was so incredible I was no longer completely freaked out by it.

Taking a shower and getting dressed proved to be trials all on their own. The water sang to me. I swear it did, like random chimes making chaotic music. Nearly every fabric in my closet felt harsh underneath my fingers, and just as bad against my skin. I changed clothes at least ten times before finally slipping into a loose, calf-length cotton knit jersey dress that didn’t drive my senses up the wall. The taxi honked, and I rushed downstairs. Opening the front door, I was nearly blinded by the intensity of the sunlight, so I grabbed a pair of sunglasses and headed out.

Dr. Pedersen leaned back in his stool finally. “Well, Rhiannon, I can’t find anything wrong with you.”

“But Doc,” I protested. “Shouldn’t you scan for a brain tumor or something? I know something’s wrong!”

He patted my knee in a comforting way only doctors with good bedside manner can do. “Now Rhiannon, let’s not jump to wild conclusions. You had a rather nasty car accident, and you hit your head. I spoke to Doctor Mason from Swedish Medical Center and he and I both concur: you have a mild concussion, which probably explains why you’re experiencing strange sensations. Brain injuries, even mild ones, can be very confusing.” He pulled out his prescription pad and a pen. “I’m going to prescribe some mild sedatives for you, but give it a week. If you’re still experiencing problems then, come back and see me.”

I left the doctor’s office, grumbling about another useless doctor’s bill.

Grant was in the lobby waiting for me. He stood up with a smile when I came out. I sighed miserably, and let him wrap his arms around me to hug me comfortingly. “Walking through the park again, I see,” he murmured. “You smell like spring.”

Startled, I just shrugged. He took me to a grill on the corner for lunch.

“What’s the doctor’s diagnosis?” he asked me over the salad appetizer.

“A concussion,” I said, tapping my forehead with my finger. “My senses have just been going crazy, it was freaking me out. Thought I was losing my mind or something.”

He laughed gently. “Rhi, the doc’s probably right. I’m sure it’s nothing.” The waitress brought us our steaks and I dug in with relish.

“I was so freaked out I couldn’t even eat breakfast this morning,” I told him around a bite of my steak. “And then I was nearly mugged last night,” I added on.

“What?” Grant exclaimed.

I shrugged and swallowed. “I said nearly.” I shouldn’t have mentioned it, I decided. I took another bite. It was a damn fine steak, tender, juicy, grilled to perfection, it needed no special sauce to enjoy. “God, everything tastes so good lately!” I exclaimed.

“Did you file a police report, at least?” he pried.

“Grant, relax. It was no big deal,” I said dismissively, downplaying the incident. “A nice guy came to my rescue and scared the punks off,” I lied. I didn’t want to even attempt to explain the truth.

He looked worried. “Near death experiences two days in a row,” he sighed. “That’s more stress than anyone needs. Take a week off. Milly and Ida and I can handle things, alright?” I grumbled, but agreed.

“Since when do you like medium rare steaks?” he asked, watching me eat.

I shrugged. “Since yesterday. Best way to eat a steak. I had no idea how much flavor I was missing.” He looked at me oddly, but I ignored him. I savored every bite before he took me home.

I puttered around my house for a bit, cleaning up. There wasn’t much cleaning to do, though. I flipped on the television in the living room, which was dusty with disuse since the end of football season, but nothing sounded interesting, and watching a recorded image all of a sudden just paled in comparison to the reality of the newly vibrant world surrounding me. I turned on my computer and checked my email. I tried reading a book.

I was restless, and bored, and being indoors was making me feel cooped up. I grabbed my bag, threw on some flats, and skipped out the back door to wander through the park. I kept a canoe in my backyard because I often liked to paddle around the small lake on slow days, but not today. Today I strolled around the shores, instead. On a whimsy, I kicked off my shoes to feel the ground beneath my feet. The grass sparkled and shimmered. The trees amazed me. While the leaves were just beginning to pop on most of them, the pines glimmered with a deep green glow. I laid a hand on the trunk of a blooming birch, and I felt vibrations that I swear came up straight from the roots. It hummed underneath my hands, quiet and deep with majesty. I sighed, and leaned my head on its trunk, marveling in the feel. I caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eyes, but when I turned to look, there was nothing.

I shrugged and continued navigating the shores. It was the middle of the day, and most of my neighbors were still at work. The lake was peaceful and quiet. In the summer, it was filled with lily pads, ducks, and frogs, but for now, on this early March day, it was still. The grass and twigs crunched satisfyingly underneath my bare feet, still wet with dew.

Something flashed on the edges of my vision, and I turned again, in alarm. No one was there. My heart sped up a hair. What if there were unsavory characters out there waiting for me again? After last night did I really want to take any chances? I quickened up my step and rushed back to the safety of my house, deciding I ought to start carrying pepper spray with me or something. I locked all the doors and checked all the windows.

My cell phone rang, a happy zydeco tune. I brushed my hands off on my pants and flipped it open. “What’s up, kitty cat?” I answered.

Her digitized voice seemed so mechanical today. “So how’d last night go?” she asked. I could practically hear her smile knowingly on the other end of the line.

“Just fine,” I lied. “He’s picking me up at 6:30.” I decided to keep my mouth shut about the attack. The less people that knew, the better. I was still freaked out enough about it on my own, I didn’t need more people freaking out about it. I had four drinks and a lot of adrenaline, I was sure my brain was exaggerating my memory of it. I didn’t just beat up four guys, did I?

“What’ve you been up to? I tried reaching you at the greenhouse, but Grant said you were taking a week off.”

“Yeah, I figured after the accident I deserved a little break,” I explained evasively. Why worry Kat about my concussion? I was just starting to enjoy the newly sparkling world, I didn’t want to ruin my temporary insanity experience by having more people worry about me. “I’m home repotting some of my plants. They weren’t happy, needed better light, fresh fertilizer, and they’d outgrown their pots.”

She laughed. “You’re so weird sometimes. I swear you treat your plants better than most people do their children.”

I shrugged. “They complain less than children, so I reward them accordingly.”

“Well, have a great time tonight, and call me tomorrow to tell me all about it, I’m jealous!”

I chuckled. “Don’t go saying that too loud, Rob might hear. Talk to you later.”

I wrapped up what I was doing swiftly, and cleaned up the mess I had made on the floor of my living room. It was dirty times like this that I was grateful to have hardwood floors. Soil was easier to sweep up than to vacuum.

I went upstairs to get ready for my date. I grinned, giddy. A gorgeous specimen of maleness was taking me to the opera. Who would have ever thought? I rephrased that: A gorgeous specimen of smart and charming maleness, who oozed sex appeal the way some people oozed body odor, who said I smelled like sunshine, and found me fascinating for some strange reason. I nodded at myself in the mirror, with that statement. That seemed to sum him up in a nutshell. My heart skipped a beat just thinking about him.

I piled my hair carefully on top of my head, pinning it there with two glass hair sticks. I left one lock down to flow over my shoulders, and set it with a loose curl. I put on makeup carefully, going for a bit more than my bare minimum, making my green eyes smoky – smoldering, I hoped – and topped it off with deep red lipstick. Satisfied that from the neck up I now looked opera-appropriate, I stepped into my closet to find an appropriate dress to polish the look off with.

That was where the real struggle began. I pulled on dress after dress, only to veto them for making my skin crawl. Whatever bruising my brain had received I sure hoped went away soon, because it was making everything I own obnoxiously uncomfortable to wear! I sighed in frustration. I finally settled on a deep maroon silk halter dress that hung loosely from my petite frame. I tied it behind my neck, leaving the gauzy chiffon trails of the bow to dangle down my back. It showed a bit more skin than was probably appropriate for an opera, leaving my back exposed nearly to my waist, and it was on the short side, with a bottom ruffle of satin ribbon brushing a couple of inches above my knees, but it would have to do. I didn’t even bother with nylons, knowing without trying that it would be an effort in futility. I slipped into a pair of strappy black velvet stilettos, and eyed myself in the mirror. I have to admit, I thought I looked pretty good, sophisticated and sexy. I gave myself a grin. I packed a small clutch purse and grabbed a shawl and headed downstairs just in time to catch the doorbell ringing.

My stomach fluttered in anticipation, as I stepped outside.

Lucas stood on my porch, cutting quite the fashionable figure in a sharply cut two-button deep black wool suit. A rich blue silk tie created a vivid splash of color in between the crisp white shirt and soft black wool. He ran his eyes up and down my body with languid slowness, as his mouth spread into a lush smile of approval. “You smell like an orchard.” He took my arm and escorted me.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I must have put too much perfume on.” I shook my head, trying to remember what, if any, I had applied.

He laughed. “No, it’s lovely.” He took my arm and escorted me to his Porsche, and we set off for the Seattle Center. He held my hand as he drove, speeding across town with abandon. His hand was cold on mine, but swiftly warmed against my palm. I twined my fingers through his, enjoying the contact. We chatted along the drive. He asked me about my family. I told him I was born in Seattle, that I was an only child, and that my parents had been killed four years earlier, and their murder was still unsolved. I told him about my greenhouse, and about Grant. I asked about his background, but he was amazingly evasive, and managed to charm his way out of my questions with aplomb. We didn’t talk about last night, and for that I was glad.

He took me by the arm after we parked, and escorted me inside the Seattle Center, leading me towards McCaw Hall. Hundreds of people were milling about in the grand lobby. Most wore semi-formal dress. I saw a handful of ball gowns and tuxedos, and I even saw some people in jeans and sneakers. I pointed them out to Lucas with a laugh. “Have I mentioned how absolutely perfect you look tonight?” he bent down to whisper in my ear. I blushed. He slipped an arm around my shoulders and guided me towards the wine bistro. He ordered us two glasses of syrah. They handed him a ticket voucher, and we wandered off again. “For during intermission,” he murmured to me, and I nodded.

He led me inside, and an usher escorted us to our seats. We were in box seats just off the left-hand side of the stage. “Wow,” I gasped, taking in the entire scene.

He sat down and chuckled. “I take it you’ve never been to the opera before.”

I leaned forward, peering over the edge of the railing. Hundreds of people were filling up the seats. The curtains were drawn across the stage. Musicians were filling the pit below me. I realized that I could probably spit and hit the grand piano. I turned toward him and grinned. “If this is your idea of brownie points, consider them earned.”

He laughed uproariously. “But the show hasn’t even started! Take a seat.” He pulled me down into my chair by my hand. “See that screen up there?” He pointed up to a narrow wide screen stretching across the ceiling above the stage. “That shows the English translation in case you need it. But take my word for it, you probably won’t.”

And with that, the lights dimmed, the conductor came out from behind the curtains, and the production began.

I was in awe. We watched Don Giovanni. It was composed by Mozart (I learned something new). The music, the voices, the entire show, gave me goose bumps. Lucas was right, I didn’t really need to view the English screen. I was enthralled watching Giovanni seduce, lie and murder his way through three women’s lives. I, too, wanted to cry out for vengeance with them, although not in a soprano aria, of course. By the time the first act ended and intermission arrived, I was hooked.

“Oh my,” I whispered to Lucas as we sipped our wine out in the lobby, “If I had known opera was like this I would have come ages ago!”

He smiled knowingly. “All women love the opera.” We wandered over to the balcony to watch the other patrons. I leaned up against the ledge. He leaned up behind me. His chest pressed up against my back, the wool and cotton blissfully soft against my overly sensitive skin. I pressed up against him, enjoying the feeling.

He bent his head down to whisper in my ear. “Look at that couple,” he said, pointing down below us to an elderly couple seated on a bench. He wore a classic tuxedo, and she wore sequins. “They haven’t missed an opera in Seattle for twenty years.” His breath was warm in my ear, and gave me goose bumps.

“How do you know? You’re not old enough to have witnessed them in the act for twenty years,” I chided.

“Mmm,” he murmured, brushing a hand down my arm. “Maybe I’m just very well preserved for my age.”

I laughed at that. He pointed to another couple, this one young and trendy. “He’s hoping to get lucky tonight, but she’s mad at him for some reason.”

I laughed again. “How can you tell?”

“See the way her arms are folded tightly, and her clenched jaw? She reeks of anger. And him… look at his neck,” he prompted.

I nodded my head, and focused on the poor gentleman’s neck, wondering what his date was so mad at him about.

“Can you see the pulse, the way it races?” He trailed his fingers across my neck as he spoke.

I furrowed my brows, and refocused, and suddenly, yes, I could. The man’s skin nearly glowed with a blood red light, and I could see his arteries pulsing blood. I gasped. “Fast and fierce,” I whispered, nodding. My eyes were wide with surprise. His date pulsed slow and steady.

He stepped back and spun me around, surprise in his eyes and triumph on his face. “That, my dear, is desire.” He bent down and lightly brushed his lips over mine. He smelled like iron and musk. My heart raced. He buried his face in my hair, inhaling deeply. “There it is again,” he whispered. He pulled back and stared at me with fascination, his dark brown eyes peering into my face. “You’ve changed.”

I looked at him, confused. The house lights dimmed briefly. Lucas cursed under his breath. “Intermission’s over,” he breathed.

I’d like to say that I know how Don Giovanni ends. I’d like to say it was a grand finale, filled with pomp and circumstance so gorgeous it would bring tears to the eyes of a blind mute. I’d like to say that, honestly. But in reality, I must confess I paid scant attention to the second act. Watching the audience with newfound eyes was far too distracting.

Whatever tricks my concussed brain was playing on my eyes were opening up a world of sensation I had never before imagined. I swept my gaze across the audience below me, my vision was tinged red with their heat. Fascinated, I watched their blood flow. Their skin was nearly translucent to my eyes. I swallowed hard. When the music swelled to great heights, I could see people respond in sympathetic emotiveness, as faces flushed and hands grew warm with blood. I was no longer terrified as I was this morning with my new vision, I was enthralled.

I turned to look at Lucas, and caught him watching me watching everyone, a secretive smile on his lips, but his eyes dark and unreadable. He, alone, was unaltered in my twisted eyes, a bastion of normalcy in an otherwise red and pulsing world. My mouth was dry. I licked my lips. I reached out to touch him. His hand was cool and firm. I laced my fingers through his, gripping tight throughout the rest of the show, as if to anchor myself to reality, as the fantastical audience shimmered red below me.

Finally the show ended, all too quickly, it seemed to me. We stood up to applaud with everyone else, and I felt dizzy. Lucas wrapped an arm around my shoulder possessively, and I let him lead me out of the theater. My mouth was so dry, and I was so thirsty. I paused to quench myself at a drinking fountain, enjoying the feel of the cool water traveling down my throat. The one glass of wine at intermission wasn’t enough.

Once back outside he turned me in the opposite direction from where he was parked. We headed East on Mercer for a few blocks, and then turned North. It was a chilly evening, and I was glad I had brought the shawl. Although Lucas still had an arm around my shoulder, he seemed to impart no warmth to me. The sky had clouded over earlier, and it smelled like it might rain. “Where are we going?” I asked him, as we walked, hoping rain wouldn’t fall before we reached our destination.

“Time to hold up your end of the deal,” he said, gripping my shoulder tightly. “Something you might not like, but I’m going to love.”

“Ah,” I said, remembering our bargain. “Brownie points.”

He turned his head and grinned wickedly at me. “Something like that, yes.”

The streets were fairly busy with cars and pedestrians, but it was only ten p.m. on a Friday night in Seattle – the night was still young. The Space Needle rose off in the distance, just a few blocks away. The city was vibrant and alive, with shimmering reds and greens; I had never seen anything like it before; it was beautiful.

Our trek took us to a nondescript single-story brown brick building next door to a natural foods store. He led me down a side alley around to the back. I hesitated at the beginning of the alley, looking at him fearfully.

“Come on, Rhiannon.” He forced me forward. “No one is going to mug you here, I guarantee it.” I swallowed hard, my throat parched again, but let him lead me onward.

We reached a steel door on the back of the brown brick building. The heavy steel door seemed inconsistent, out of place and modern next to the aged bricks. There was no handle, just a security sensor with a red light next to a numeric keypad. The ultra modern lock was even more out of place than the door. He pulled a card out of his wallet and waved it in front of the sensor. The light flashed green, and with a snap, the heavy door swung inward, revealing nothing; whatever was on the other side of the doorway was encased in utter blackness.

I gulped and licked my lips, hoping that there was at least a drinking fountain somewhere in that ominous blackness. Lucas forcibly shoved me forward with a hand to the small of my back. “Down the rabbit hole, Alice,” he whispered in my ear, as we stepped inside.

The door slammed shut behind me, and dim lights kicked on, illuminating a narrow stairwell that ended in another steel door. A man stood at a counter next to the door behind a grated window, bald, and sporting a black leather vest. The sounds and vibrations of thumping music came from beyond the second door. It looked like any ordinary club entrance, for all intents and purposes, and my tension eased a bit with the familiarity.

“What is this place?” I whispered to him as we descended the stairs.

“A private club I own,” he said softly. “I think you’ll find it… illuminating,” he finished enigmatically.

“Evening, Lucas,” the man behind the counter said, nodding his head at us.

“How’s business tonight, Nathan?” Lucas rested his hand on the counter. His other hand was tight around my waist.

“Typical Friday night,” Nathan nodded, as if that explained everything, which it probably did to Lucas, at least. I, however, was clueless, and thirsty, and nervous, and still a little dizzy. At least Nathan wasn’t glowing. Maybe my senses were returning to normal. “Who’s this?” he said, waving a hand towards me.

“I’ve brought a guest,” Lucas informed him. His hand tightened around my waist. “I do expect everyone to mind their manners, you know the rules.”

Nathan nodded his head, and pressed a button. The door popped open, and Lucas escorted me inward, into the unknown.

We rounded a corner and emerged onto a rectangle mezzanine that wrapped around a large and open interior. The walls were a deep black. Below the balcony, which was bordered by waist-high gun metal grey piping, was a dance floor. Somewhere below us, an unseen deejay spun tunes, and the base rhythmically thumped an intoxicating beat. Colored lights pulsed above in rhythm with the music, creating a dizzying display as the lights shifted chaotically. He led me forward, and I looked down. The floor was literally packed with dozens of people, gyrating frenetically to the music. The mezzanine was lined with plush benches, some of which held people, packed in couples or in groups.

He led me down the mezzanine towards a wide set of stairs. At first glimpse it seemed like an ordinary club, until I watched the people closer. Most were scantily clad in leather or vinyl, with black being the predominant color. I watched the dancers groove, moving and contorting wildly with a sensual grace that seemed almost inhuman, although none of them glowed with that unnatural redness I was getting used to. I spotted a couple off in a corner of the mezzanine. The man wore nothing but leather pants. I could see his heart beat strong and steady, a faint red aura emanating from him. The woman was dressed like some dominatrix out of a porno, wearing a tight corset and thigh high black boots, but otherwise appeared blessedly normal to my strange eyes. He was on his knees, and as she loomed over him, I saw his pulse race, exuding desire just as the man Lucas pointed out during intermission.

A light dawned in my head, and I stopped in my tracks and turned towards Lucas. “This is one of those BDSM sex clubs, isn’t it?” I accused him, poking him in the chest. While I maintained the opinion “to each their own” and tried not to judge, that really wasn’t my scene.

He let out a peal of rich laughter. “Not exactly,” he said. He put his hands on my hips and pulled me against him. He backed me up until I hit the balcony railing, and I was pinned between him and it. His body was a solid expanse of masculinity against mine. I gripped the railing hard with my free hand, clutching my purse tightly with the other. He bent down until his face was just inches away from mine. My heart raced. His breath was hot on my cheeks. I gulped. My mouth was hot and dry. His eyes bore into mine, and the world seemed to melt away. He brushed his lips against mine, so lightly it couldn’t even be considered a kiss. He wrapped his hands around my neck and tilted my head up towards his.

“You can feel it, can’t you?” His eyes tore into me, stripping my soul bear. I let out an involuntary shudder. My mouth was a parched desert; my tongue was thick and clammy, and I couldn’t think straight, and my pulse was racing faster than I thought possible.

“What are you?” he hissed, gripping my face tight.

“I’m… thirsty,” I moaned. I inhaled sharply, trying to clear my head.

Lucas let me go, and stepped away, looking at me with furrowed brows. He took me by the hand and led me downstairs. The walls surrounding the dance floor underneath the mezzanine were mirrored. A bar lined one wall. The other three were lined by mirrors. He cut straight across the dance floor, dragging me behind him, as dancers bumped and gyrated into and around me, mindless to our presence. I was surrounded by the smells of iron and musk, and my head was reeling, and I was so very thirsty I couldn’t think straight. He opened a door in the far corner, led me inside, and closed the door behind us. I found myself in an office. A large pale blonde wood desk wrapped the far corner, and a plush couch lined one wall. The other held a long side board that matched the desk. The dance floor mirrors were one-way mirrors; from this side, the entire joint wall was a floor to ceiling window opening up onto the dance floor.

“This is my office,” Lucas said, picking up a crystal decanter off the side board and pouring me a glass of wine. I gulped it down voraciously. My mouth was wet again, although I was still thirsty. I turned around, and leaned my forehead up against the window, feeling a bit disoriented. This place – this man, had me all confused, and I didn’t know what to think anymore.

He was standing right behind me. I could feel the fabric of his suit brushing against my back. He pulled the sticks from my hair, and my brown locks tumbled down my back. He combed his fingers through my hair, and talked to me soft and low. His voice was soothing, almost hypnotic.

He laced a hand through my hair, tightening his fingers firmly at the base of my scalp. “See that woman?” He directed my gaze with his hand, turning my head with my hair. My scalp tingled. “Watch her heart beat.” There was only one woman in my line of sight who carried that red glow of energy. It pulsed slow and steady with her heart. She was tall, with long red hair that blended in with the redness surrounding her. She stood against the far wall of the dance floor, embracing a dark haired man, who, next to her brilliance, was dark and still, like a picture frozen in time, like nearly everyone in this strange club of Lucas’; like Lucas himself.

I let out a small moan, and licked my lips. I was so thirsty. I let go of my purse, and it slipped to the floor.

“You can feel it, can’t you, my little mystery?” His breath was hot against my ear. I shivered. “A thirst, a need…” His teeth grazed against my earlobe. I leaned back into him with a moan, thirsting, and yearning, and hungering for… for something. Every nerve burned as my heart raced.

“Yes,” I hissed, closing my eyes.

He tightened his fingers through my hair. “Watch,” he directed. With a groan, I opened my eyes again. The dark haired man stroked her neck, and her pulse accelerated, thumping out a high speed rhythm of red. “He feels it too,” Lucas sighed. He wrapped one hand up across my chest, holding me tight against him, as I watched the couple across the dance floor, entranced. My heart seemed to race in time with hers, and my stomach churned.

The dark man wrapped his arms around the red headed woman tenderly, firmly. “He hungers for her.” His lips trailed across my neck, causing goose bumps to course down my flesh again. “She has what he wants, and she wants him to take it.”

I licked my lips. My arid mouth burned. My head burned. My body burned. I watched as the dark man lowered his mouth to the woman’s neck, and she arched her back in absolute ecstasy as his lips sealed onto her flesh. I watched, enthralled, my eyes wide, my breath ragged in my throat, as her red glow grew to encompass them both, and suddenly my dry spell ended as my mouth watered uncontrollably.

Lucas spun me around and slammed me up against the glass wall. He looked at me fiercely, his eyes burning a hole straight through to my core, his face filled with hunger and need, and I was lost. “You smell like us, but you taste like an angel,” he whispered harshly. He kissed me then, hard and fierce and brutal. His lips spoke of dark desire and hunger. He pulled away and my lips felt beautifully bruised. I gasped for breath, and groaned. “Oh, Rhiannon,” he breathed, dragging his lips across my neck, “I want…” he nipped at my skin. “I need…” his teeth scraped my flesh. I gasped helplessly, lost in the whirlwind of sensations, wanting something I couldn’t even comprehend in my addled brain.

With a moan, he pulled my head back by my hair and bit my neck. I felt only the slightest twinge of pain as his teeth parted my flesh. I gasped, as fiery ecstasy spread out from his mouth, through my vessels, thumping with my heart into every fiber of my being, and I cried out with the terrible pleasure of it. I felt him suck, and every suck sent waves of pleasure coursing through my flesh, and I shuddered and moaned in his arms.

I wanted… I needed… I opened my mouth to bite him in return.

But when I ran my tongue along my teeth, and felt two razor sharp fangs, reality instantly came crashing back down. In horror, I flung him off of me with inhuman strength. He slammed onto his desk.

“What the hell are you?” I shrieked in panic. “What have you done to me?” I hastily bent down to grab my purse, and fumbled blindly for the door knob. I had to get out of this crazy hell hole. I twisted the knob and shoved the door open. I made a mad dash for the stairs as Lucas jumped up and lunged after me. I jumped away from him with all my strength, and scrambled up the stairs in three leaps, covering more ground faster than was humanly possible. I didn’t look behind me. I didn’t want to look. I tore through the door, up the stairs, and slammed open the main door, running into the alley.

I didn’t think, I just ran, with inhuman speed. I didn’t know what direction I was running, or even pay attention to what I was running past. It was raining, but I barely noticed it. I raced down the streets faster than most of the cars, and the sidewalk was a blur. I was terrified. What was happening to me? What was Lucas? What did I let him do? Why could I run so fast and throw people across alleys?

My head was a bundle of terrified questions with no answers as I ran through the rain. I ran until I ran out of speed finally, slowing to a human pace. I found myself in a park, surrounded by trees and grass, that glowed a faint green under the night sky as the rain fell down. I collapsed below a pine tree, leaning up against the trunk, and my chest wracked with sobs. I cried until I didn’t think I had tears left to cry. The world had gone insane.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more insane, a pop of light startled me. I looked up to see a man appear before me, like a flash of lightning, radiating a bright halo of white light.

I gasped in shock, and uncurled myself, standing slowly. “You’re the man from the accident!” I cried. He was gloriously handsome, in an unearthly glowing sort of way. His pale blonde hair floated about his head with a crackle of static electricity underneath a beige cowboy hat. His blue eyes, an impossibly bright shade, glared furiously at me. His wide jaw was shadowed with a dusting of blonde whiskers, and boy did he look pissed. He stared furiously down his straight nose, his thin lips curled back in a growl. A black leather duster fell from his shoulders to his ankles, and he topped off the ethereal cowboy look with the boots to match. He must have been at least six feet tall, if not taller.

“You impossible woman!” he boomed. “What in all that is wild and free have you done to me, woman?” he accused. Blood dripped down his neck from two small wounds. Unconsciously I reached up to touch the identical wounds on mine. “Have I saved a moron who is incapable of surviving anyway?” he snarled.

He stepped toward me. I stepped back, only to crash into the tree trunk behind me. He reached a hand out toward me, and I cried out in fear.

“I won’t be vampire fodder,” he growled. “This ends here.” He grabbed my wrist forcibly.

With an audible pop, the world disappeared.

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