- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Lying in his bed he could hear them, violating the sanctity of his Lair. Heavy furniture scraped across the floor, jarring him awake.
With a deep sigh, he forced his frayed nerves to relax. And for a moment silence and darkness reigned in his private space. Rudi dozed, reaching after that elusive tendril of sleep. Then something heavy fell over in the house next door, startling him back to awareness.
His hands clenched in anger. He was Vampire, Lord of Darkness. He shouldn't have to put up with this. But even vampires had to contend with their neighbors in this modern world. Part of life in the new millennium and all that rubbish.
He'd never meant to sell the carriage house on his property. He loathed having neighbors in such close proximity. Originally built on the same estate, the foundations of the two buildings were connected. Sound carried like a drum in his basement bedroom. Leaving the estate in the care of his solicitor during an extended stay in Europe had been a huge mistake. But who could have foreseen how expensive things would get in the twenty-first century or how little his artist's salary would buy? His beleaguered solicitor had been forced to sell the carriage house to maintain the estate.
Since that misguided sale, the property had turned over several times, forcing him to deal with a constant stream of new neighbors. Another thud made him regret the situation even more.
Through a crack between the black velvet drapery on his four-poster bed, he could see the blinding glare of the sun still high in the sky. Nothing to be done about it, he was stuck there until dusk.
Curses! Heneeded his sleep. He had a review due this evening, one that had to be e-mailed before dawn to his editor.
The movers spent the rest of the afternoon thumping above his head, destroying the possibility of restful slumber. By the time the sun set in the western sky, he was ready to throttle his new neighbor.
Tori Mahoney stared across the sea of boxes crammed into the tiny house. The setting sun bathed the room in a feeble pink glow. She couldn't remember in which box she'd packed her flashlight. She rubbed a grubby hand across her face and tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. Her stomach growled in protest at having been deprived of food for most of the day. She should order pizza. But the phone company wasn't due until tomorrow. Even with night falling, the tiny house held on tenaciously to the late June heat. A walk in the cool air would do her good. She'd stroll down to the local convenience store and buy some groceries.
Set on the periphery of downtown, her new home offered all the convenience the big city could offer. Yet in her tiny backyard, she could almost believe she was in the country. The owner had failed to get the sale price he wanted and agreed to rent it for a reasonable sum. Things were definitely looking up, Tori thought as she rounded the corner, her arms laden with grocery bags. It was then that she noticed the red envelope sticking out of her mailbox.
Setting the groceries down on the porch, she reached for the letter. She hadn't sent out her change of address notices yet. No one except her mother had her new address. So the letter couldn't be for her. She peered at the writing in the twilight. Sure enough the address read 216, not 216A. The letter belonged to her next-door neighbor, Rudi Alexandrov, according to the scrawl on the envelope. Well, she'd have some dinner and then she'd return it to him.
Rudi arose, frazzled and wrinkled, looking more like something that had crawled out from under a rock rather than his suave and debonair self, and crept up to his kitchen. Avoiding the last crimson rays of the dying sun, he pulled a bag of blood from the fridge and stared across the two-foot expanse that separated him from his noisy cohabitant.
Bagged blood was a pathetic substitute for the real thing, he thought as he punctured the blood bag with the tip of one razor-sharp incisor. A few pints tapped directly from the jugular vein of his noise-polluting neighbor would suit him better. He glanced down at his wrinkled silk pajamas. He couldn't go next door looking like that. Lord of Darkness and all. He had appearances to keep up.
Her neighbor was probably eighty and grumpy. Tori trudged across the grass. Judging by the look of the house, he was already in bed. She hesitated at the front door. It was a little late to be visiting. Tori looked again at the strange red envelope in her hand. Then again it could contain something vitally important to its rightful owner. She might be doing the mysterious Mr. Alexandrov a favor by redirecting his lost correspondence. He might already have seen her loitering on his doorstep. He could already be en route to his front porch to demand what she was doing there. Well, here goes, Tori thought. And rang the doorbell. A huge echoing bong that sounded right out of a horror movie echoed throughout the house.
Blood dripping from his mouth, Rudi looked up from his dinner. Now what? First he'd been tormented all day while he tried to sleep and now some idiot disturbed his repast by leaning on his doorbell. His hand gave an involuntary spasm. Blood squirted from the bag he'd punctured, soiling his hopelessly creased pajamas. He looked down in disgust at the blood he'd spilled. He simply couldn't answer the door like that. It was probably someone trying to sell him something anyway. Someone taking advantage of the long hours of summer daylight by annoying him into the evening. He chose to ignore them.
Receiving no answer, Tori rang the doorbell again. She peered through the etched glass on the door into the cavernous darkness inside. The place looked as gloomy as a tomb. Perhaps no one was home. But as she was about to turn away, she saw a flicker of light near the back of the house. Maybe they just hadn't heard her?
The narrow alleyway between the houses couldn't be more than two and a half feet wide. And in the deepening shadows it appeared downright sinister. But it was the fastest way to the rear of the house. She stepped into the darkness, feeling her way with the tip of one sandaled foot. It was like stepping into a tunnel. She felt the press of old brick mere inches from her shoulders. The old cobblestone beneath her feet felt cool and damp, as if the sunlight never reached this narrow space, even in the summer. Choking down an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, she kept walking. Darkness cloaked her completely. Within a few feet all she could see was a spattering of streetlight from a neighboring street. Tori quickened her pace and tried to keep from screaming.
Suddenly, the alleyway belched her into her neighbor's yard. She dragged in a breath of cool evening air. A glance at the sky showed a dusting of stars. She turned toward the wan light coming from the kitchen window. Mounting a set of rickety old stairs, she raised her hand to knock on the back door.
A glimpse through the window froze the breath in her throat.
She stared unbelievingly, trying to make sense of the scene unfolding before her in her neighbor's kitchen.
Set against the glare of a candle hunched a dark haired man. Tied with a leather thong, his hair trailed down his back, thick like a horse's mane. He wore some type of loose shirt that draped exquisitely over a muscular chest. Dark brows framed even darker eyes. His straight nose gave him a serious expression that warred with his full sensuous lips.
But it was the pointed incisors peeking out from within those full lips that stole her attention. She watched, spellbound as he plunged those sharp teeth into something dark and squishy looking. Sucking sounds escaped from a window slightly ajar to catch the evening air. It took Tori a moment to recognize the thing in his hand. The last time she'd seen a plastic bag with a little tube at the end was ... when she'd given blood two weeks ago.
Her eyes widened. She sucked in a convulsive breath.
Sensing that small movement, her neighbor turned toward where she stood shrouded by the shadows in his backyard. His eyes caught the candlelight and glowed red.
Tori's scream burst free.
Blood absorbed Rudi's senses. Thick and coppery, it slid down his throat, blocking out everything except his hunger.
A piercing scream jolted him back to awareness. He suddenly realized he was sitting in full view of the back door hunched over a bag of blood like a hungry hyena. His head shot up, searching for the source of the intrusion. More blood pooled on his lower lip, then dripped down his chin to splash in his lap, staining his pajamas further. Another drop of it hit his ceramic tile floor with a splat. Rudi swore eloquently under his breath.
Just when he thought the evening couldn't get any worse, the woman in his backyard screamed again.
No matter, Rudi thought, gathering his wits. He'd capture the screaming maiden, hypnotize her and wipe all memory of his transgression from her mind.
Intending to do just that, he leapt from his chair, overturning the antique and ignoring its clatter to the floor. He wrenched the back door open and fell upon the damsel in distress.
With lightning speed, he seized her in his vice-like grip. She was pretty enough, he thought absently. Hair dyed the color of old blood by the wan light of the moon spilled over her shoulders. She wore only a dust-smeared t-shirt and shorts. In her hand she clutched a crimson envelope. He recognized his own address scrawled on the front.
Oh no. This couldn't be his new noise-polluting neighbor, could it? All the more reason to hypnotize her quickly.
He glared down into her wide, terror-stricken, gray eyes. She squirmed in his grasp, further heightening his hunger. He tightened his grip. She whimpered.
"Please don't hurt me. I didn't see a thing." Then, realizing what she'd just admitted, she added, "I promise I won't tell a soul."
Rudi increased the intensity of his stare. She stilled in his arms, waiting. But her gray eyes were aware, wary.
And she was staring straight at his fangs and his blood-smeared mouth, taking it all in despite his attempts to hypnotize her.
But he simply had to wipe her mind. He couldn't have her living next door to him, a mere two feet away, knowing what he was. She was still watching him with those wild, terrified eyes. Damn, he hadn't meant to frighten her, just to abort her imminent discovery.
He pitched his voice comfortingly low and said, "You are feeling sleepy." Carefully, he watched her.
Her bottom lip trembled. "No, I'm not. I swear, I'm wide awake."
Rudi frowned in annoyance. His tongue flicked out, sponging the blood off his chin, so she wouldn't be distracted by it. "Yes, you are," he insisted in that calm, inflectionless voice. "You're getting, very, very sleepy."
She fell silent and for a second, he thought he'd succeeded. Then she asked incredulously, "Are you trying to hypnotize me?"
Rudi sighed in exasperation. He was Vampire, Lord of Darkness. He shouldn't have to endure this humiliation. "No," he snapped. "I'm not trying to hypnotize you. But you are getting drowsy. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You are feeling very relaxed."
Annoyance flashed in her eyes. "No," she insisted. "I am not."
Posted January 12, 2011
No text was provided for this review.