The city night lay before me, naked, splayed, open and wet, its gray, stinking, rotted skin painted in gold, waiting for me to taste it. Its flashing neon eyes held a practiced naivete with a predatory gleam.
I was all too eager.
The lights beguiled me with their changing colors, hypnotic patterns of strobe light pulsing to electronic rhythms of pumping humanity, feral pheromones permeating the air of hollow festivities that accompanied their mocking gyrations of mating.
It was all they thought of, all they pursued, and their souls were still black with empty longing.
It was a void I would fill to their heart’s content, and then, its demise.
Her name was Valerie, and I didn’t know whether she was brave or stupid for coming out alone, though some say they’re one and the same.
Sadness seeped off her in a plum colored aura, loneliness so profound I almost felt it.
“Anyone sitting here?”
She looked up from sipping her drink. “No.”
“Do you mind?”
“Yes, I do actually.”
“You don’t want me sitting here?”
“I picked the corner of the bar for a reason. I don’t want to be surrounded or cornered, and annoyed. Okay?” The sad loneliness had cloaked the bitterness.
I smiled, spreading my hands in an ‘as-you-wish’ gesture, and started to walk away.
“Hey,” she said.
“Sorry. That was extremely rude of me. Sit here if you want.”
I smiled again, not letting it reach my eyes. “I no longer want.”
I moved to the restaurant section, feeling her eyes track me as I went to get a table, running a gauntlet of young women chatting me up, flirting, openly staring, but I rebuffed them all, biding my time.
The waitress didn’t seem to want to leave me to get my order, and wrote her number on a napkin that was already there. I turned it over after she went to place my order.
I didn’t look at the dance floor or the bar, but the air began to reek of desperate sweat as voices grew louder, the rhythms grew more primal, the lyrics lewder, and the hour late.
I didn’t look up as she slid into the seat across from me, sliding a drink across the table. I took it between my hands, twirling the glass, studying the liquid inside.
“You’re gonna make me work for it, huh? Okay. Fair enough.” She settled back. “I’m really sorry.”
I looked up, but said nothing. She smiled at my mock-hurt silence. “I thought I was being a bitch…”
I laughed then, and she brightened up, taking advantage of the opening. “You probably think it’s stupid to come to a public place to be alone. It is, but after a while, you get the hang of it.”
“Has it been that long?”
Her smile sobered a bit. “Longer.”
“I’m sorry. No hard feelings.” I took a sip of the drink so she’d stay, then put it down. “Long story?”
Her eyes glimmered, and she nodded as I gave her the napkin. “It’s clean.”
She took it, saw the number written on it, and tried to give it back. “You have a number on here.”
“Don’t need it anymore.”
She wiped her eyes as the waitress came back with my drink, and narrowed her eyes at Valerie’s sudden presence, saw the napkin in her hands, then shot me a look as well.
I shrugged, looked over at Valerie. “Order whatever you want. Long tales require large meals.”
She ordered, and the waitress flounced off in a huff; Valerie made an ‘ah’ face, realizing whose number it was, wriggling her eyebrows at me.
I was beginning to like her.
“Fast worker,” she teased.
“Sometimes it just falls into my lap.”
She laughed. “Not touching that.”
I let the innuendo pass; didn’t want to overdo it.
“So, tell me,” I said.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Why not? You came all this way, and you’re getting a free meal; you owe a guy.”
She smiled and shook her head. “All right. Remember, I tried to spare you.”
He didn’t think I knew what he was, but he had no idea I knew from the first.
The scent of him wafted over to me long before he reached me; it was stale, not exactly foul, but old, like newspapers left too long in a moist basement.
Smooth, well-dressed, and actually handsome, had he been human I might have played a different card, and things might have gone much differently.
I was lonely, and tired of hunting these things. They always managed to get to ground somehow, and I was off again. Too many flights to count, too many hotels to remember. More than once, I wanted to throw it all down and walk away, but something wouldn’t let me.
Damned if I could name what it was.
I made my sob story about my career, brought the loneliness into the picture, purging my world-weariness into his seemingly waiting ears, when the whole time he’s staring surreptitiously at my throat.
My dinner was filling, but not too much so. I wasn’t prepared to take all night. He was overconfident in his ability to read me, but I’d been at this much longer, and gave him nothing that would arouse his suspicion, just his curiosity.
He bought it all, wiping my eyes, making his voice low and comforting, but I found that I did have to avoid his gaze. There was a power in it that registered, which was rare on hunters like me. I said some silent curses, hoping I wouldn’t have to be careful, and now I would.
He might have noticed I didn’t look long at him, or thought it was just me being ashamed of my inglorious past, a decades-long walk of shame and failure, one after the next.
Having poured out the last of my highs and lows, he cupped my cheek, a slight chill to his hand, and straightened up in his seat, finishing his drink.
“You’re a marvel, Valerie.”
I blushed dutifully. “You’re just saying that.”
“I am, but you are. I wish I could’ve been there for you.”
I flipped the hair, composing myself, leaning across the table as I risked a stare. “Why would you want to share my miserable existence?”
“To cut it short.”
A little thrill of panic went through me. “Which one: my misery or my existence?”
He shrugged. “Feeling adventurous?”
“You’re serious?” I was still in character.
I shrugged, finished my own drink.
He paid, and we left.
This time I won the perpetual game of hide-and-seek. There were moments through the years it had been closer than I’d like. This one was old, and strong, and I felt the thrum of power whenever he looked at me.
My wards held, but barely, and he never guessed my true motive, but there was no denying my need, and certainly no denying his; we stripped each other like whittling knives, rough and uncaring, rolling along the wall as the clothes came off, then the floor. He picked me up and dumped me like a grain sack, twirling his fingers in slow circles, his tongue teasing me with all his experience as I held him pulsing in my hand.
It was more like a fight than sex.
Each of us unleashed on the other with our bodies, leaving bruises, scratches, bite marks, as we made each other scream and grunt like the rutting beasts we became.
In the end, he bit deep as I stabbed him, and the rush was so powerful it almost knocked me out.
When he felt the silver blade go in, he bit harder, releasing into me.
We held on for dear life, seeing who would die first; I thought he would crush me between his powerful hands. To say he was taking everything from me into himself wouldn’t be wrong. I’d never felt so helpless, and so possessed. So fulfilled.
My heartbeat was loud in my ears even as it softened, fading with every pulse, even as my passion heightened, seeping with his every thrust.
I ground out what would be the last of my pleasure, and felt the cold creep up my limbs, his seedless semen coating my barrenness, as I released on him, a primal scream wrenched from my bleeding lips as I bucked against him, my vision exploding with countless stars.
Being Old World, I had no one to walk the day for, no reason to indulge in experimental talismans and new treatments; they left me agitated, still affecting the bloodstream, all the more because the blood wasn’t mine.
The silver dagger was cold in my chest, twisting where my heart used to beat; unsuspecting, I’d wrapped her hair around my left fist, keeping my mouth busy on hers before the end, her sounds mingling with my own to create something ancient as the act itself, and new as springtime. She’d slipped the blade underneath, and into me.
Her blood tasted of the Spanish Ports I remembered from long ago.
Her nails were like firebrands down my back, scarring as they clutched me.
I was helpless to defend myself as I sucked harder at her throat, neck muscles taut as she gurgled, blood bubbling on her full and tender lips between gasps.
She arched against me, even as I bore her down, our bodies insatiably lusting for their last sensations; we wound up suspended off the bed as we wrangled, fighting for control even now, wanting it to end, and wanting it to go on forever.
All these years later, I’d let my guard down on a night I felt indestructible, and this vampire hunter, lovely, lonely, and formidably vulnerable, put an end to my immortality. I wouldn’t enter eternal glory, but if this was what it felt like, even for a moment, it was enough.