Here’s something I wrote last fall, a dramatic departure from what I usually write. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t accepted for publication, or perhaps it’s because I’m a better novelist than a short story writer (they are vastly different skills). Either way, I rather like the story, so I present it here.
being too smart. She sat with her new boyfriend—at least, she seemed to think that’s
what Tip was—in Sorenton’s swankiest restaurant—a rundown diner—and failed to notice
the shudder vibrate the shoulders of his suit jacket.
the air the way Audrey Hepburn’s didn’t. “You really think I’m perfect for the
better days, and so had Lisa. Somewhere in her forties, time had left her with
a body shaped like a fireplug and a face ravaged by tobacco and a heavy hand
with make-up. Painted-on lips curved in a perfect cupid’s bow at odds with her
mouth’s natural shape, and drawn-on eyebrows climbed her forehead toward
bottle-black hair topped with yellow ostrich feathers. A matching sequined
flapper costume emphasized each lump and roll and revealed legs one would
expect on a much slimmer woman.
didn’t slip. “I don’t,” he continued, “expect you sign tonight, of course.
You’ll want to speak with your lawyer—you do have a lawyer?” He didn’t wait for
an answer. “What I want to do tonight is introduce you to some people you’ll be
working with, if you have no prior engagements?”
as a bird.” Then she laughed, and a glass or two on the counter trembled.
for her. She scooched out of her side with a kind of bouncing motion that
revealed to casual observers she went commando. Smiling, she thrust both arms
into the jacket.
shoulders and pulled a thin wallet from an inside pocket of his jacket. He
tossed a bill on the table. “A very exclusive
appropriated his left arm as they walked toward the door to the street.
next to the entrance. Unable to extricate himself from her grasp without using
force, Tip pushed the door open with his free hand just as a chattering mob of
costumed children filled the sidewalk in front of the diner. Lisa gasped and
dropped his arm to clap both hands over her mouth when they passed. At the curb
sat Tip’s shiny black Lincoln stretch limo.
discoveries. Did you doubt me?”
but only because you wouldn’t give me any names.”
out of the way. Tip helped Lisa in and followed, pausing long enough to murmur,
at a tone just loud enough for her to hear, “The party, James.”
plugged herself into the end of the salon seat and stared at the minibar with
and poured. Lisa snatched the glass closest to her.
slid out of the shadows in the rear of the limo. Tip nodded.
find her?” Anton asked.
“What do you think?”
Aged to perfection, with a nicotine tang. If he could salivate, he would have;
instead, his fangs ached. He ran his tongue over them.
“No reason you can’t have a taste.”
took the offered hand. He examined the plump fingers, flicking them until they
reddened. Then he glanced back at Tip. Predatory interest lurked in his human
friend’s gaze. Anton locked eyes with him and sucked Lisa’s middle finger into
his mouth, running one fang into it.
closed his eyes and groaned.
words. Continuing to suckle the finger, he opened his eyes on Tip’s brilliant
grin. “Don’t let it go to your head.”
intercom with it. “Driver, how much longer?”
back into the upholstery. Anton popped another finger in his mouth and
Snoring began to vibrate the finger in Anton’s mouth. “Did you give her
patted a breast pocket and lifted his voice to be heard over the catatonic din.
“I have the antidote. It’ll leave her alert but suggestible. Convenient, since
I haven’t your… talent.”
finger. “I could change that.”
banking hours in your new ‘online’ world.”
business such as ours requires face-to-face connections, preferably over a meal,
frequently over lunch.”
continued snacking on Lisa’s fingers while the silence stretched. Tip seemed to
fall into a meditative state, staring at the lights on the mini-bar. Anton ejected
the finger from his mouth.
patrons asked if I would open a restaurant in Paris.”
light in his eyes. Anton regretted the question the moment his friend began to
outline a complicated business plan. Thirty minutes later, a faint vibration
signaled tires on gravel, and Tip interrupted himself to swivel his head.
“We’re there,” he said, his gaze traveling out the windows.
restaurant shone with light and hopped with costumed arrivals. The limo turned
to follow a private drive around the back of the mansion-turned-steakhouse.
James drove the vehicle into a purpose-built garage.
laid Lisa’s hand at her side and returned to the shadows. Tip dropped onto the
floor beside her, a small bottle in one hand. He dribbled a few drops of its
contents into her mouth.
her cheeks. “Lisa!”
fluttered open. “Wha? What am I doing down here?”
“You should have told me you don’t hold your liquor well.”
“Sure I do.”
ever had champagne?”
It only takes one exposure. Don’t ever drink champagne again.”
disappointment. “That’s too bad. It was real good.”
Madame require assistance?”
but she didn’t seem to notice.
French can-can girls approached—a blonde in pale blue, and a brunette in dark
costuming room,” Tip ordered as he supported Lisa to her feet, “and help her
find something to wear better suited to someone of her importance.”
protested. “I like this dress.”
well you should, my dear, but I want to see you in the very best money can buy.
Francoise and Melanie will take very good care of you, and you’ll see me again
at the party. Off you go.”
one of Lisa’s arms, murmuring to her in accented English. Lisa flounced out of
the garage between them.
brushed imaginary lint from his jacket lapel. “I shall attend to my meal and
meet you later.”
the head of his mahogany cane. The melodious giggling filtering through to the
hall stopped. Lisa’s increased in volume. Francoise opened the door and met him
with a curtsey.
could do little about the hair color on short notice, but she had transformed
Lisa’s face into something an aging starlet would be proud to see in the mirror
and dressed her in an empire style Regency dress that somehow managed to
flatter her cylindrical figure. The inky black hair swept upward and cascaded
in ringlets which didn’t… quite… reach her neck. He laid his cane aside and
bowed over her hand, fangs aching again.
breathing in what of her delicious scent could leak through the cotton fibers of
her gloves. “Melanie has merely begun your transformation. I am here to
around and noticed the French girls had absented themselves. “Where did Fran
and Mel go?”
longer require their services.” The words reverberated into her.
flirtatious shoulder toward him. “And what about your services?” She threw her head back and laughed. Crystals in
the chandelier tinkled.
them, he slipped an arm around her waist. “You have nothing to fear from me.”
grinned. “Of course not! I could never be afraid of you!”
her neck where an artery throbbed. She moaned and tilted her head, exposing it
even more. His fangs throbbed in time to her heartbeat.
lowering his head. She squeaked and began to struggle as his fangs pierced her
skin, and then he didn’t care. Clamping his arms around her, he lost himself in
the sweet, smoky drug of her blood and the music of her racing pulse.
and her heart slowed, he withdrew his fangs and lifted his head.
voice thick with blood. “Would you like to be immortal?”
nodded, jaw slack.
pulled up a sleeve and bit into his own wrist. “Drink.”
face to his dripping wrist. He pressed it against her lips.
wide, and the sucking turned greedy.
as you need.”
blood, after all, was very potent. It
was all a matter of diet.
from her throat. He dragged her around a screen and muscled her onto the
hospital bed hidden there. As Lisa began to thrash, he used straps attached to
the bed to restrain first her ankles, then her wrists, and then her chest and
through a different door. He gave the final strap a tug and turned to face her.
meal?” she asked between screams.
The chandelier resonated.
tell you he can be found in the Blue Room.”
screech, Lisa arched within the restraints and collapsed. The thundering
silence that followed encompassed only young Francoise’s gentle breathing. She
curtseyed again and left.
examining Lisa as her body settled into the mattress. When her face relaxed and
the wounds on her neck sealed, he consulted a pocket watch and nodded to
pat. “Now, sweetling, it is time to wake up.”
restraints.” He began unbuckling the straps. “We have further use for them.”
him. “I’m a vampire?”
have the potential. But no, you are not stronger than I am, not at present.”
that shortly. Until then, I expect you to behave appropriately.”
and put a hand under her shoulder to encourage her to sit. Lisa sat up, rubbing
vampires and stakes and sunlight and all?” She swung her legs off the bed.
Those can kill you.”
windows. An ultrasonic alarm went off. “Oh, I’m looking forward to this!” She
laughed again, louder.
security guards ran into the room from the private door, stakes in hand.
said. Then, to the security men, “Leave. Now.”
the men hurried out the way they came.
Behave now, or I will stake you myself.”
come with me. You have a screen test to perform.”
real? How many stars are vampires?”
hallway. “There is a little vampire in all of them to begin with. Now—take my
arm. When we reach the end of the hall, there is a broad staircase down to the
restaurant foyer. Smile, be gracious, and do
not try to eat the patrons. Do you understand?”
smell so good.”
see me trying to eat them.”
He patted a side pocket containing a distinctive bulge.
hall, athirst from the scent of gathered humanity wafting up from the lower
floor. It gave even Anton itchy fangs, well-fed though he was from feasting upon
Lisa. When they emerged at the top of the staircase, a crowd in the restaurant
foyer broke into cheers and wild applause.
over her face. “Oh!”
your face. They want to see you.”
performed a creditable curtsey. He proffered an arm.
arm, and they descended into the babbling, camera-flashing crowd. A few humans
reached out to touch Lisa; when the hands belonged men, she touched back,
farther south. Anton captured the roving hand.
Lisa’s eyes locked on a face any woman her age would recognize.
from her. It seemed she still went commando. “All right. Let’s get this over
with. Then I’m going to make Geor—”
because it featured walls painted midnight blue—had once been the mansion’s
private theater. A handful of chairs and lounges faced the far end of the room,
where a screen filled the wall on the other side of a gleaming floor decorated
with concentric circles. Tip stood on the carpeting just short of it.
ravishing,” he announced, as the door latched behind her with a solid click.
Anton to rush toward him. Anton smoothed his jacket.
said, repairing to the control booth while Lisa attempted to use her newfound
skills on his friend.
said, his voice tinny in the booth’s primitive speakers.
of dismay. “Oh, never mind then. What do you want me to do?”
indicated spot. She stooped down to examine the floor, the inside of her knees
knocking the outside of her shoulders. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “This floor sure
through the thick, protective window, he winced at the full-spectrum light
flooding the room outside.
is complete,” Anton said to himself. He returned the switch to its original
position and waited a slow count of ten before leaving the booth.
when he emerged. The human pointed at an impressive pile of dust in the middle
of the shiny circles. “She’ll last for weeks!”
and several workers in protective coveralls, carrying a covered crystal bowl
and a variety of spoons, spatulas, and brushes, headed toward the now-dusty
“The table is already set, and Francoise had orders to bleed the winner of the
donation lottery the moment you and Lisa entered this room.”
“Such a talented young woman.”
persuaded to take up smoking?”
time. A table set for two occupied the middle of a private dining room. One
place featured a salad, a goblet of water, and a glass of red wine; the other,
a wine glass filled with thick, red, foamy liquid. Anton licked his lips and
chair and tucked into the salad.
and picked up the wine glass. He tilted a sip into his mouth. “Italian.” He
took another small sip. “And American.”
of leaves. Anton shuddered and concentrated on the blood. He swirled a tiny
amount around his mouth.
in and stuck a tablet in front of Tip’s nose. Tip reared back and glared at the
photographer, then focused on the tablet.
it with a finger.
it toward Anton. A smiling image of Lisa gazed out at him.
lighter. Dark brown with red highlights.”
like a mouse. “Hang it in the usual place?”
“Gets plenty of sun.”
more leaves, nodding.
rare, wafted under the door. Moments later, the door opened, and the restaurant
maître d’ brought in a covered plate. A faint sizzling emanated from it. He
placed it before Tip and removed the cover to reveal an inch-and-a-half-thick
cut of filet mignon.
appreciative sniff. “Now we see what we have wrought, my friend.”
wine glass and took a sip of blood, watching Tip crosscut a small piece of
steak. His companion wrapped his mouth around the fork and groaned in much the
same way Anton had when he tasted Lisa.
stop nibbling on her.” Anton swirled the blood in his glass.
vampire-seasoned meat. “This is the best yet.”
red wine. “To Sweetling Steak House and Grill. Best steaks anywhere.”
glass. “To Paris.”