I woke to my cell phone playing that wretched Madonna song. I picked it up to check and saw it was Karla. Gawd, Karla before coffee.
“Hello?” I knew my voice sounded groggy and I squinted at the clock. It said one in the afternoon, I had slept all morning.
“Hey, Sleepyhead. Did you see the headlines in the paper?” Her voice sounded like she'd just discovered gold or something.
“Yes, I saw it. What about it?” I decided to feign ignorance. No sense fueling her suspicions any more than I had to.
“Well, did you see where that missing guy's car was found?” Before I could even answer, she gushed on. “It was on the same road we were on. Do you realize Duncan probably saved our lives?”
“Well, since you got a gash on your head and the other one grabbed me, I pretty much figured they meant us no good will.” Really, how hard was that? She ignored me and rambled on anyway.
“Duncan is our hero. I'm feeling fortunate he likes us so much.” Likes us? I didn't have the heart to tell her she might not have gotten saved had she not been with me. But then, I might not have been in that situation, had I not been with her either. I just let her ramble on while I tossed in an occasional grunt to acknowledge I heard her.
“Do you think Duncan has anything to do with that guy disappearing? I mean, he took pretty good care of them, from what you said.”
“I really don't know. Duncan said those guys took off. Maybe they pissed someone else off and got done in. They are ex cons after all and up to no good that night. Could have been anyone they made mad.”
“Yeah, I guess you're right. So how did his meeting your family go last night? They like him, he like them?”
“Karla, I have to go. I haven't even had my shower yet. I'll call you later. Byeeeeeee.” I decided I didn't want to deal with her without a cup of coffee first at least. But I couldn't get what she said out of my mind. She was just voicing everything I had been thinking. Could she be right?
I went to the kitchen to make coffee since no one seemed to be home. I looked at the calendar. Just the weekend and spring break would be over. What would I do in school? I felt like the events of meeting Duncan, nearly being killed and wanting to make love to him, had matured me way beyond my 17 years. I felt like I'd outgrown school and school friends, just over break. I definitely felt like I was outgrowing Karla.
The smell of coffee was so inviting. I figured I may as well shower while I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. The wall phone rang, it was Duncan.
“Hey, want to do something today?” He sure sounded bubbly today.
“Sure, what you have in mind?” I really wanted to say, yeah let's sleep together, but I kept my cool.
“There's a great exhibit at the local art museum. Wanna go see it? They're featuring some great street artists.”
“You mean like Banksy? That sounds like fun. Sure, what time will you pick me up?”
“How about you pick me up in the Mustang? Say, around 2:30?”
“Sure, give me the address again? I'm not sure I remember it.”
“Come on, you were here. You said you put it in the GPS, I'm sure it's still there. If not, call me on your cell and I'll guide you.”
“Okay. I'm going to take my shower. I'll be there by 2:30 then.”
I enjoyed the hot water running over me. I wondered if his house was visible today or not. I couldn't see it the other day from the road. Strange, to say the least.
I dried off, got a cup of coffee and it tasted so good when I sipped it. I searched the cupboard and found a do-nut, so I consumed that too.
“Well, Sleeping Beauty, you finally woke up?”
I jumped a foot. “Gee, Rachel, you sneak around much? You nearly gave me a heart attack. I thought no one was home. Where did you come from?”
“I was in my room, working on my laptop. I have a term paper due after break. Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. You have plans for the day?”
“Yeah, Duncan is taking me to the art museum. There's a new exhibit there.”
“He's a fine young man. It's nice to know he's in to culture too. He's good for you. Don't mess it up.”
What in hell did she mean by that? She think I was going to make the same mistakes she did? I instantly felt guilty for thinking that way. I felt my face flush hot.
“Yes, he's a good guy, I agree. I like him a lot.”
I looked at Rachel to see if there was any disapproval on her face. None. Usually she would give me a stern warning about the 'evils of men' if I said I really liked a guy. But this time, nothing. I found that to be quite odd, for her especially.
By one, I was dressed and ready to go pick up Duncan. I decided to wear my jeans and a sweatshirt. I guessed it was good enough for the museum art show. I followed the GPS directions I already had in there and sure enough, there was Duncan's house. On the hill, just as I remembered it in the moonlight. Why could I see it today, but not the day Karla and I drove here? I decided I was going to ask Duncan and wait for a decent answer this time.
I drove up the winding driveway and up to the front door. Duncan came dashing out of the house to the driver side window.
“You want to come in? You can meet the friends I live with here.”
I was hesitant, but I admit I was dying to see what the house looked like inside, so I agreed. I climbed some huge steps leading up to a wrap around porch. The front area of the porch was held up by two massive pillars. The front door swung open and the girl I first met at the ice cream stand was standing there, smiling at me.
“Come in, welcome. Duncan has told us a lot about you.” she reached out and hugged me, her skin felt like Duncan's, cool and soft, like a salamander's. “I'm so happy you decided to come in.”
The inside seemed dark, not completely, but like the outside looks at twilight, just before the sun sets. I had to adjust my eyes. I saw three guys standing there. The same three who were also at the ice cream shop when I first met Duncan.
“Oh, I'm forgetting my manners. I'm Ophelia, this is Blue, that's Drake and that solemn looking young man over there is Blade.”
I smiled and said: “Hi, I'm pleased to meet all of you.” Everyone came over to give me a hug. Everyone that is but Blade. I smiled at him and said I was pleased to meet him too.
He looked at me, lowered his head and said: “Yeah, whatever.” Then he turned and left the room.
“Don't mind him, he's been grumpy for a few days. Off of his feed I suppose or something.” Ophelia chimed in when he left.
“Is he on a special diet or something?”
Duncan laughed out loud. “I guess you could say that.”
“Well I suppose we need to be going. They're serving sandwiches and tea if we are among the first museum visitors. You ready to go?”
“Uh, yes, okay, let's get going. I hope the sandwiches aren't those nasty little cucumber thingies.”
Duncan smiled and placed his hand in the small of my back to guide me to the car. Once inside I decided to ask: “So how come I can see your house now, but the other day it was invisible?” There, I worked up the nerve to ask him.
“I'm not sure what you're implying. It looks fine to me.”
“Duncan, come on, stop acting like I'm a fool or crazy or something. It's pretty insulting you know, when you do that.”
He frowned and reached for my hand. “Come on, Cheryl. Is this really that important?”
“Yes, it is, to me anyway. We aren't leaving until I get a satisfactory answer to my question. I hate feeling like I'm going crazy.”
“Okay. But this is another area you have to promise not to freak out on me. Agreed?”
I shook my head, “Agreed. I promise. But I have to know.”
“The house, mostly in the day time, is invisible to most humans.”
“Humans, what in hell do you mean, humans? What in hell are you then?” I waited for an answer, wanting to know and not wanting to know at the same time. But I had asked, so now I waited for an answer.
“We sleep a lot during the daylight hours. We're most vulnerable when we are asleep. We have to protect ourselves from an assassin who has been hunting us for a very long time now.”
“Assassin? What kind of assassin? Why would this assassin want to kill you? I still don't understand.”
“I'm a vampire, we're all vampires. We share this house because all of our families have been killed by an assassin who has been chasing us for over 300 years now.”
I blinked, looked at him and tried to wrap my mind around everything he was telling me. Vampire? Duncan? Everyone in that house? I didn't know if I should run or just continue to listen. I decided to continue to listen.
“Years ago we lived pretty much in peace, in another country. But there is a family of assassins who have dedicated their lives to killing all of us vampires. The assassin’s families were killed by vampires. Not by us, but that doesn't matter to the assassins. They hate us all. They have vowed to kill us all. Good vampires and bad ones.”
“There are good vampires? So you and your friends are good ones? How can that be, don't you all suck blood from people?”
“Well, yes we do. But we good ones don't just kill in order to kill. We don't kill just anyone. We feed on the bad people, the scums of the earth. Those who really deserve it.”
“You telling me some people deserve to die? How can you just decide that?”
“I'm telling you some people don't deserve to live. Some people, like the two guys who tried to kill you and Karla. Those guys were let out of prison, but they did kill innocent women, for a long time.”
“But if the courts decided they were not supposed to stay in prison, how can you just determine they are guilty, they deserve to die?”
“They were let off easy, for lack of evidence. They had smart lawyers. Courts and juries don't see all of the evidence. They cannot read the heart.”
“But you can?”
“Yes, Cheryl, we can. Remember you asked me and I told you about my ability?”
“Like knowing Rachel's past? Yes, I recall.”
“Those two men had left a string of dead women across 4 states. Most of the bodies have never been found. Those two guys were good at hiding evidence.”
“So you killed them?”
“Well, I killed one of them. The other guy got away. He's still out there someplace. But trust me on this one. Both men are terrible people, nothing but evil on their minds all of the time. They'd have killed both of you and then kept on killing. They had to be stopped.”
All of this was almost too much to absorb. Duncan, my Duncan, a killer. A blood thirsty vampire. No, vampires only exist in horror films and books, not in real life, not in my city. But here he was, sitting next to me, explaining he is one.
“Why haven't they found the guy's body? Won't you just get caught one day?”
“I told you those guys and many like them, are good at hiding evidence, but I'm better at it. So, no, we won't get caught by the police, but the assassin, well, he's entirely another matter. A force to be reckoned with.”
“I think I want to go home now. I don't feel like going to the museum after all. I'm not sure I'm feeling all that well. Is it okay if we just skip the museum and I go home?”
“Cheryl, are you going to be okay? Do you hate me now?”
I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but I said: “No, Duncan, I don't hate you. But maybe it's best we don't see each other for a little while. I have a lot to think about now. I'll call you sometime. Okay?”
He had a disappointed look on his face. “Sure, Cheryl, you do what you feel is best for you. I've lost a few wonderful friends, who were human over the years, once they found out. I understand.”
I felt like a total creep, but I just left once he was out of the car. I could hardly see to drive. I started to cry and I cried all the way home. I had to have some space between us. Space and time to sort out all he said to me just now. I parked the car and went straight to my room. I suddenly decided that the remaining two days of spring break would be spent in my room, in bed, sleeping. I didn't care to think about what Duncan had told me. I just felt confused and depressed and I wanted to sleep.
The weekend seemed to creep by slowly, too slowly it felt like, until it was Monday, time to return to school. Dragging around, getting ready for school, made me realize the weekend had gone too fast, not too slow. I looked in the mirror, I just didn't care how I looked.
At my locker, Karla found me, as always, and tried to start up a conversation. She told me I had dark circles under my eyes and I looked like hell. I didn't care, I couldn't find any interest in her teenage prattle anymore. My first class, science, held about the same interest as Karla's incessant talking.
By lunch, Karla was getting fed up, losing patience with me and so, of course, she said so. I must have not shown much interest in that fact, she said I seemed different, and she also said something about giving up on me.
Different? Did she say, different? I wanted to yell at her how she didn't know from different. I just found out my boyfriend, maybe the guy I loved, is a killer, a vampire who sucks blood from people. Yeah, yeah, granted from only bad people, but he still is what he is. I was glad when the school day was over. I couldn't have taken much more of it.
My life went on pretty much like this for two weeks. I was getting skinnier and Karla asked me if I was Anna or MIA because I was getting too damned skinny. I told her neither one, which was true. I was getting skinny simply from worry.
One evening, at about eleven at night, my cell rang. I picked it up, it was Duncan.
“You still mad at me? You hate me now? I miss you so much, please, please let's talk.”
Texting back: “I don't hate you, honestly. Do you want to get together sometime soon?”
Duncan: “Soon? How soon? What about, now?”
I heard tapping on my bedroom window, I pulled back the curtain, it was Duncan. I opened the window. “What in hell are you doing here? How did you get here so fast?”
“I was just outside anyway, hoping you'd say you want to see me.”
Seeing him made all the fears and doubts of the past two weeks melt away. I ran into his arms, hugging him as if we'd been apart for months. What in hell had I been thinking? I did love him and I needed to stop fighting my feelings for him.
“You want to do something tonight?”
I looked at him and I smiled. “Yes I do. You know what it is I want to do?”
He said: “Here?” I laughed a small little laugh, not wanting to wake anyone in the house.
“Can we go someplace else? Maybe someplace more romantic, a place where we won't be interrupted?”
“We can go to my house. Everyone else is gone for two days. They have some business to take care of, we'll be alone in the house, just the two of us.”
I reached for the car keys. “No, not the car. You might wake everyone up when you start the engine.”
“You got a better idea? You have the hearse down the street?”
Holding out his arms for me to climb on; “Here, I didn't use the hearse. Come fly with me.” He was smiling and out the window we went. We sailed far above the city, kissing each other along the way. The night breeze was blowing in my hair and softly across my skin. I felt like I could do anything at that moment.
I could see the rooftop of his house. We landed, gently, on the veranda outside a bedroom window. “This is my room. Come on in.”
He opened the double glass windows, we walked inside and I gasped. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw his room.
“What is it? Are you okay? You seem frightened.”
“I'm not frightened. On the contrary, I feel like I've come home. I know this room.”
“You do, how?”
“I saw it in my dreams. You were making love to me, in my dreams, in this very room.
There it was, the four poster bed, the satin sheets and velvet blankets. This room is exactly as it looked in my dreams when we were making love. I couldn't believe it.
Duncan took me in his arms. We kissed, that long, sexy, electrifying kiss just like the night he kissed me in the car. I kissed back, remembering the last two weeks of hell without him.
“Do you want to take a swim? We have a heated pool on the rooftop. It's very pretty in the moonlight and very relaxing.”
“I have no suit, nothing to wear but my underwear.”
“We can swim nude. You have a beautiful body, just take off our clothes and swim.”
So we did. He led me to the rooftop pool and I stripped off my clothes, so did he. Strangely enough I didn't feel the least bit embarrassed to be naked in front of Duncan. When I mentioned that, he laughed. “It's because we're really soul mates you know. You and I. It's why you knew what the bedroom looked like even before you set foot inside of it. We were meant to be together.”
I floated on the warm water, lying back looking at the stars in the black sky. They shone brilliantly and I had never felt so alive in all of my life. I could get used to living like this, with Duncan, being his soul mate forever and ever.
After a long swim, Duncan climbed from the pool. He held out a soft looking purple, velvet robe. It was exquisite looking, with a lovely white sable collar and cuffs. I climbed out of the pool and he wrapped my body in the robe. He placed his arms around me and held me for a while, kissing me with so much passion I thought I'd faint.
“Shall we? Are you sure you're ready for this?” Duncan's liquid voice, reassuring, soothing.
“Yes, I'm ready. I've been ready for a long time now.” I meant that too. I'd been dreaming about this for a long, long time. I was not only ready, I was eager.
He picked me up as if I weighed nothing at all and carried me to the big bed. “It's not too late to change your mind. I will understand, you know.”
I answered his remark with a kiss, a very passionate kiss, letting him know I had no intentions of changing my mind.
“Are you going to bite me? Will I become one of you now, when it's all over?”
“Is that what you want? To become as us? To live forever as we do?”
“I don't know, no, maybe, I'm not sure.”
“Shhhhhh. Don't worry about that. I know how to be careful.”
I closed my eyes, letting this moment, the feelings, wash over me. Duncan kissed my neck and then a small sting and then a feeling I'd never felt before. I felt like I was floating, floating above the earth, seeing things I'd never seen before. They say your first time hurts and isn't that pleasant. But with Duncan, no pain, only pleasure. Pure, unadulterated pleasure like I had never imagined. Afterward, I felt weak, I fell asleep and was glad my first time was with Duncan. It was like I'd been saving myself for him all these years.
When I woke up, I smelled bacon, and coffee. I sat up in bed, taking in all the aromas. Duncan came through the door, pushing a cart covered with a white linen tablecloth. On the table was a silver cover and a wine glass, some juices, and a beautiful black rose in what looked like a crystal vase. I was impressed.
“Your breakfast awaits, my beautiful one.” Duncan approached the bed, offering me a hand. I grasped his hand and he led me to a Victorian-looking table by the window overlooking the most beautiful garden I had ever seen. Duncan seated me, bent down for a kiss and removed the silver lid from the platter. On the platter was bacon, eggs and sweet rolls galore. I looked at him and smiled.
“You never eat, so why do you have food?” I was curious.
“I took the liberty of shopping for some food. Yes, I was hoping you would come with me last night, here, to spend the night with me. I admit it was a bold move on my part. Are you upset with me?”
How could I ever be upset with Duncan? He was treating me like a queen. Treating me like I'd never been treated before. “No, I'm really very flattered. No one has ever called me beautiful before. No one has ever treated me like this.”
He took a seat across from me and watched me eat. “So, now, am I like you are?” I remembered him gently biting my neck and I recalled the feelings I'd experienced. Recalling those feelings actually made me blush.
He smiled. “Do you really want to be like us? Truly?”
“I, I don't know. So much has happened. I just know I've fallen in love with you and want to be with only you, forever and ever.”
“No, you aren't like us. I would not want you to be anything but absolutely certain. Do you realize all you would be giving up to become like us, like me?”
“But you bit my neck, those feelings, I assumed that well, maybe.”
“Let me explain about vampires. What you don't know would fill a book. What you don't know is a lot. Yes, I bit your neck, but gently, a love bite, not enough to turn you into someone you aren't ready for yet. It's tricky biting someone enough to turn them. Too long and the person is dead, not a vampire. Do you understand? Explaining this to a human isn't easy you know.”
“I think I understand. So last night's biting was just affection, vampire style?”
He laughed that wonderful laugh again. “Yes you could say that. Just enough to make your experience enjoyable, not to hurt you, not to turn you into anything but my love slave.”
I looked up. “Really?” I must have had an astonished look on my face, because that question made Duncan laugh out loud.
“No, that love slave part, I just threw in for good measure. To see your reaction. I like how you assign me powers I really don't possess, yet find it hard to accept those I do. I find it refreshing and very cute.”
I have to admit he had a good point. I had been catapulted into a world I knew nothing about. A world I never knew existed, except in fairy-tales and horror stories. But here I was, smack dab in the middle, up to my neck in this strange new world. Odd as it seems, I wasn't frightened, not with Duncan as my guide to it all.
I ate breakfast and Duncan suggested I should probably get back home. I knew I couldn't just walk in the front door, since my family, specifically, Rachel, would probably be up by now. So Duncan delivered me to my bedroom window, as mysteriously and quietly as I had left it.