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Victor Boudreaux followed the tall woman through the wroughtiron gate and up the steps to his townhouse. She wore a knit dress, short and backless. Wobbly from drinking, she stumbled. As Victor steadied her, he pressed his face against her bare back and inhaled the sweet metallic scent that oozed through her damp skin. Her blood aroused him as though it rushed from her veins to his crotch.
She jumped at the touch and then chuckled as if to apologize for the start. “God, Victor, you’re freezing.”
From behind, Victor brushed aside her hair and kissed her cheek. “Here, let me get the door.” He dug a ring of keys from the pocket of his leather pants, spotting the door key instantly, despite the faint porch light. Darkness only sharpens a vampire’s vision.
Inside, the unlit entry hall puzzled him. Where the hell was Paul? He wasn’t supposed to be out feeding on his own. They’d agreed that Victor would bring someone back from the club—someone for both of them to feed on. Paul’s new rebelliousness was growing tiresome.
“How beautiful,” the woman said when Victor clicked on the table lamp. She moved through the archway into the living room, where sconces glowed on either side of a life-size portrait above the fireplace. Victor followed her to the painting.
A Roman painter had finished the portrait of Paul just before their return from the Eternal City in April. Against the painting’s dark background, Paul nestled in a club chair, one lanky leg draped over the side, his arm crooked across the back, his head resting on his big hand. His hazel eyesgazed shyly at the viewer. An odd gap in his left eyebrow and a large nose marred otherwise classic good looks. But these flaws, along with long, sandy hair falling on broad shoulders, lent him an intense sensuality. He looked like the free-spirited artist that he was. His face and the patch of smooth chest exposed by his unbuttoned red shirt matched the cold marble of the mantle below the portrait. His complexion had grown paler and paler since the night of his transformation a month before the painting was begun, until it reached this pristine quality—like cloudy molten glass that had finally solidified into porcelain.
“Yes,” Victor said, with the pride of ownership. “He is beautiful.”
“Who is he?” The woman turned to him. Her features were large, but striking. Her slender throat seemed to throb audibly to Victor. She tugged at the purse strap on her shoulder and blinked at him drowsily, determined to maintain the coquettish air she believed had allured him. At the club she’d spread her fingers to display the rings she’d purchased at an antique store by the Georgetown canal. Victor’s breathing had quickened at the sight of the veins discernible beneath the soft skin of her hands. And her eyes had widened on registering his excitement.
“Can’t you tell?” Victor said. “It’s a painting of me.”
She flashed him a look of amused disbelief, then drew her lips into a pout. “Do you even remember my name?”
“Karen,” Victor said. He caught a whiff of Paul’s patchouli soap and glanced toward the entry hall. Paul had mastered the technique of moving through space at the speed of thought, evading even Victor’s seasoned perceptions. There was no sign of him now.
Karen smiled, flattered that Victor had paid attention to her name after all. “What a gorgeous place,” she said, glancing around the spacious room filled with custom designed Italian furniture in white leather, the walls raging with red and black swirls of the abstract paintings Victor had pillaged from the studio of a talented victim near the Piazza Navona. Paul confined his own art to the rooms on the second floor of the townhouse. He’d become protective of it since his transformation into a vampire, as his own creative vision also underwent transformation. “I don’t know where the work is heading,” he’d told Victor. He worried that it would reveal too much of what he was, at least to intelligent viewers. Victor humored him even though he found Paul’s fear baseless. Who could see the hand of a vampire in a painting?
“We both like it here just fine,” Victor said, nodding to the portrait.
“Oh, I see.” Karen smiled knowingly. “He’s your lover?”
“You obviously have an open relationship.”
“I do what I want.” Victor caressed her throat. The pulsing flesh made his fangs begin to descend, and he drew back his hand. He wanted to feed upstairs, away from the large bay window that looked out on the dark Georgetown street of townhouses riddled with windows for potential voyeurs.
But she grabbed his hand, kissed it, and started to kiss his mouth. He jerked away to keep her from the shock of the icy lips that marked all vampires and pulled her body to him. Her muscles relaxed in his embrace, her flesh softening and swelling as she pressed into him.
“So, where are the toys you told me about?” she whispered. “I’d love to play with you.”
Victor had nothing but scorn for the thrills sought by the bored rich who patronized the private club he ran next door. Some craved only the occult, crowding around a table for drug-induced consultations with the dead. But most needed the S and M instruments he stored for their amusement in the basement of the club and in the guesthouse next to it. He kept his own selection in the shuttered room upstairs for the guests he selected to bring into his own home.
He could show them real torture, if it weren’t so dangerous to kill guests. He and Paul had both come close to pouncing in the excitement of S and M sessions. But they’d always saved their lust for later when they could spend it on a victim. There was nothing more exciting than passion that climaxed in feeding. And, for them, all passion concluded that way. Even in their own lovemaking, they tore at each other’s throats, teasing themselves with vampire blood—recycled from their victims and chilled into a life source for the undead—blood that could only whet their appetite without sating it.
Karen’s hand on his crotch snapped Victor out of his reverie, and he led his guest up the narrow stairs to the third floor. He unlocked a door and drew her into a dark room where he kissed her until she panted, mumbling something about his cold skin. Then he lit a candle. The shadowy outline of a bed appeared, chains dangling from the ceiling above it. On a kitchen-sized table next to it, the steel of sex toys glimmered in the candlelight. The room smelled musky, and the sound of their steps was muffled by carpeting and heavy drapes.
Without a cue, Karen slipped off her dress and proceeded to the bed. Victor disrobed and followed her.
For half an hour, he used implements from the table according to her pleasure—nipple clamps, handcuffs, a studded dildo. She moaned and swooned, while he fought his impulse to attack and have done with it. When he turned her over, he found a crucifix tattooed on her left buttock and recoiled.
“What is this?” he said, squeezing the tattoo.
“You like it?” she said, her voice muffled by the mattress. “I think it’s the supreme act of S and M.”
“I think you’re full of shit.”
“Don’t tell me you’re offended, Victor.”
“He was a political prisoner. The Roman government made an example of him. Like it did with thousands of other rebel Jews impaled along the highway. It didn’t excite him.”
Two thousand years ago, Victor had stood at Joshu’s bloody feet after the crucifixion—Joshu, his name for Jesus of Nazareth. He had stood there hating him for his mad rush to embrace a martyr’s death.
“Everyone gets off on it,” Karen said, reaching back to yank the engorged flesh bobbing over her.
Enraged at her, enraged at Joshu, he entered her from behind, the crucified Joshu flashing before his eyes. As he rammed her, he nuzzled her neck, inhaling her blood, and finally flipping her over for better access to her throat. Against her shuddering belly and warm breasts, he fought to remember his new rule: no draining to the point of death, only some blood from several victims, no corpses to dispose of and police investigations to circumvent. Losing only an ounce or two of blood, the victim lived—and forgot everything.
But Victor’s desire flared uncontrollably and his mouth sought the woman’s pulsing jugular. Then, just as his fangs descended, he heard Paul’s voice in his mind: Remember what you said, Victor. Remember our agreement. And then he felt Paul’s cold presence behind him, and thought, illogically in his state, that he’d teach him a lesson for his rebelliousness. As he thrust more deeply into Karen, Paul approached the bed. He touched Victor’s shoulder. He kissed Victor’s head.
“Who is that?” Karen blurted. “My God, you scared me. Are you the lover?”
Sensing a disturbance in Paul, Victor stopped pumping, now able to concentrate. “What’s the matter?” he said.
“Hey, boys, the more the merrier,” Karen said, squirming beneath Victor. The pungent scent of her aroused body hung heavily in the air. “It’s all right, lover boy.”
“Victor,” Paul whispered.
Victor climbed off Karen. He clutched Paul’s arms and tried to read his pained eyes, perfectly clear to him in the darkness.
“I fucked it up,” Paul said. “I went too far, and then I couldn’t finish him.”
Victor stroked Paul’s cheek. “Why did you wait so long to tell me? Where is he?”
They left Karen behind to find her own way out of the house. Paul lacked the concentration now to fly to the spot so they walked down Q Street, past Tudor Place, the Georgian mansion built by Washington’s granddaughter. They crossed quiet Wisconsin Avenue, where traffic had buzzed until two a.m.—an hour ago—and where shop lights still glowed in the Georgetown retail area. The muggy August air rose like a wall before them. To their keen senses, the nearby Potomac reeked of sewage and decayed fish.
They followed a cobbled section of P Street to the edge of the university. The familiar Gothic spire of Healy Hall jutted into the yellowish night sky painted by the city lights. Along the stone wall demarcating the campus, beneath an oak, the boy lay unconscious. Victor glanced up at the row houses across the street. The windows were all dark. He knelt down to examine the victim. His throat oozed, but he still breathed, as impossible as it seemed after losing so much blood. He was twenty or so, a pretty boy with white-blond bangs. His T-shirt, embossed with a decal of the rap singer Eminem, was sopping with blood.
“I followed him from a pub back to campus,” Paul said. “He’s probably a new freshman.”
“Why did you go this far?” Victor peered up at Paul, who stood against the tree, unable to look at the boy. He was dressed in a black tank top and black jeans, good camouflage in the night, but probably useless since his broad, bony shoulders were so white they seemed to glow.
Paul shook his head. “It felt like a seizure. Just like the old days. I lost control. I thought they were history, Victor. I thought you said . . .”
“I didn’t make any promises. What do I know about epileptics who become vampires?” Victor turned back to the boy. “Let’s finish the job.”
“I can’t. The seizure . . .”
“You can. Come on.” Victor grabbed Paul’s hand and pulled him down.
For a moment Paul squirmed. Then he seemed to gather strength. He stared serenely at the young face, as though it were a mountain spring, and stooped with Victor to drink from it. They alternated in siphoning the jugular, first Paul, then Victor. Hearing the boy’s heart slow to the danger point, they stopped.
“We don’t have a choice now,” Victor said, his lips stained with blood. “Here.” He lifted the boy’s wrist to Paul’s mouth. “Get the last trickle.”
Paul pierced the wrist, savoring it, then lapping contentedly while Victor sucked at the boy’s throat. Both stopped just short of the final dull beat of the boy’s heart. Blood from a corpse would poison them.
Hot and excited from feeding, they knelt over the body and kissed, their lips wet with blood.
“I guess we leave the body here,” Paul said, glancing around the dark street.
Victor nodded. “Moving it would be risky. We’d draw attention.”
“I’m sorry, Victor. I fucked up.”
Victor kissed him. “Let’s get out of here.”
They hurried down the dark sidewalk along the wall, crossing the street at an unlit corner. A lone car whizzed through the intersection, the bass of its stereo booming. Victor turned back to look at the driver, a man with some kind of cap. He seemed oblivious to them.
They didn’t talk until they’d cleared Wisconsin Avenue and turned down Q, their street, lined with trees and dotted with the charming streetlamps on all the residential streets of Georgetown.
“I don’t get it,” Paul said. “I thought with the transformation, the seizures were over. Especially after all these months.”
Victor shrugged. “We’re in new territory.”
“You don’t know anything?”
“How could I know anything? I’m not an epileptic. I only know what happened to me after the transformation.”
“You don’t get sick,” Paul shot back. “Your wounds heal instantly. What do you mean you don’t know? Vampires aren’t supposed to have seizures.”
Victor stopped walking and turned to Paul. “What happened?”
Paul shrugged. “I grabbed the boy. I covered his mouth and started feeding. These voices started, I don’t know, chanting or screaming, and I lost control.”
“Voices. A whole chorus of voices. I couldn’t stop drinking. Then I froze. I couldn’t take in another drop. But I’d gone too far. If someone found him, he could regain consciousness long enough to talk.”
“Did you ever have seizures like that before the transformation?”
Paul shook his head. “No. But it felt the same as a seizure. Like I was outside my body or something.”
They found the front door unlocked when they arrived home. Karen was probably too angry or drunk to care about protecting their property. She’d printed a sloppy note in lipstick on the mirror above the entry hall table: “Let’s do it for real next time, boys.”
After inspecting the house to make sure she was gone, they unbolted the basement door and descended the stairs. The radiation of the approaching dawn tightened their skin and drained them of energy. They needed their tomb.
A single lightbulb dangled from the rafters. Around the brick walls stood metal cabinets filled with flowerpots and bags of potting soil. They had been left by the previous owner, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s whose children had put her in a high-dollar nursing home. They waited until she died to sell Victor the townhouse at the hefty price of 2.5 million. But what was money to someone who’d amassed a fortune from the victims of two millennia?
The old woman’s husband had built an oblong room in the cellar for wine. Brick walls and a steel door secured the store of vintage bottles and kept the temperature constant to preserve their flavors. Victor unlocked the door, and they entered the chamber without turning on the light. Even meager artificial light stung their sensitive skin as daylight approached. Side by side in the chamber rested two sarcophagi, the lids sculpted with the images of the noblemen who’d lain in them. Victor had hired thugs to steal them from the crypt of a medieval church in Florence, discarding the dusty remains. The ordeal in getting them shipped to the States was well worth the effort. The alternative was two modern coffins, whose accidental discovery by a curious guest would draw attention. No one would blink an eye at exotic collectibles imported by two rich fags. Besides, after centuries of sleeping in monastery crypts, Victor felt secure in the stone casket. And Paul didn’t know the difference.
Victor bolted the door. Then he took Paul in his arms. “Are you feeling better now?”
“Fine. Just the usual predawn jitters.”
“The seizure’s probably just residual. Something that has to work its way out of your system.”
Paul shrugged as though he didn’t doubt it for a moment.
“Why did you go off alone? After we agreed to feed together.”
“I couldn’t wait, I guess. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.”
Victor let the comment go, despite his irritation. Maybe this rebellious phase was part of the process. How would he know? He’d never had to assert his independence because he’d never lived with another vampire. The rules didn’t permit it. The rules they had broken.
“It’s been wonderful,” Paul said drowsily. “Everything you said it would be.”
“This life. Everything.”
“The world’s at our feet.”
“I don’t want the world. Just you.”
With a vampire’s ease, they lifted the stone lids from the sarcophagi and hoisted them back over themselves once they’d crawled into the tombs. Victor pressed his hand against the side near Paul’s tomb and sensed Paul returning the gesture. Within moments, they both slipped into a sleep that carried them far beyond the fierce reach of dawn.
Copyright © 2006 by Michael Schiefelbein