Madeleine loved the feel of her sheets beneath her naked body, how they cooled her as she slid beneath the quilt. She remembered pretending when she had first been turned that she was still human, that her quiet moment in this bed was waking, not one step away from slumber. She could feel the sun outside the double thickness of her blackout curtains, and it made the thought of waking slip most definitely into sleeping.
It had been two weeks since the bonfire, and she could still smell the fire on her skin. His voice had faded to a dull whisper, a buzzing white noise, no longer the steady stream of screams that had haunted her dreams. Good riddance.
She turned on her side and poked at the keys on her netbook. Over the years, she had found technology intriguing and more than a little useful. It allowed her to keep connected to the world around her and gave access to an assortment of services that once had required minions and Renfields. Now her basic necessities could be delivered to the doorstep of this humble abode, and she could talk to humans without wondering if her fangs were showing or eyes gone black.
Or if she should eat them.
Ah, the internet! Saving one human at a time.
She had been more than a little surprised how easily she had managed to adapt to the new tech—Internet for Vampire Dummies, anyone?—as 330 years was a long time to get into the groove of things. But perhaps that was part of the issue. 330 years was also a long time to get really bored of the status quo and stereotypical permanence of her condition. It gave her impetus to get out there, so to speak, and get her hands dirty in something other than blood and fear.
Madeleine yawned. She was just stalling against the need to rest now, as most of her ‘friends’ were just waking, getting ready for their normal, mundane day. There would be coffee and fattening fast food breakfasts to be had, children to be kissed and sent on their way, and lovers to bid adieu as they left for work. No time for a sleepy vampire.
That left her with the latest in a long line of online obsessions, answering more of the gazillion personality questions on a networking website. The idea was the more questions you answered, the more you rated in importance, the better your matches. Not that she was looking for anyone in more than a friends-only capacity, but it always amused her the kinds of people who were deemed her match by a giant server system in a building somewhere in California.
A pop-up blinked in the lower right corner of her little screen. She had new email from the site. Hm. She scrolled to the top of the screen and the site’s internal mailbox system and clicked on the little blinking envelope icon.
The topmost email was from a member named WastedWraith, the subject line a simple “Hello”. She maneuvered her mini mouse over the word and clicked again.
I’m new to town and you seem interesting. We should talk.
She smirked. He got brownie points for ‘interesting’ and ‘talk’ versus the normal ‘you’re hot’ and ‘hook up’ that she had received from so many of the apparently sexually deprived human males roaming through cyberspace. And they wondered why they could not plug and play…The number of brownie points he got on this first impression grew a tad more once she clicked on his profile and saw that he was smart, tall, bald and handsome. The goatee did not hurt either.
Then she scrolled through his stats and saw his age.
Granted, being a vampire pretty much meant any living human was technically too young for her, but she had decided that if she was going to play one online, she needed a way to recalculate her age. So she had taken the easy way out and simply divided her actual age by ten. She could pass as 33 easily, but that still begged the question of how young was too young for her online friends?
It had taken about five years for her to realize that the best formula for her was four years younger, seven years older than her pretend age. Kept the adults who were not quite mature enough out and those old enough to collapse beneath her of her net. She smiled, half-embarassed at the thought that she was already considering this human as a bedmate.
She shook her head. He was 24, entirely too young to be involved with her. Despite the fact that—her eyes skimmed through his interests—he liked the same authors, movies and had a fascination with vampires. She shook her head again. Too young, too easy, too, well, corruptible.
She made her way back to the email screen and typed out her reply:
Thank you, but you’re simply too young for me. Welcome to Sierra Vista, though.
She hit ‘send’, closed the netbook and rolled over. She attempted to blink the image of this young stranger out of her head, but his blue eyes followed her into the depths of sleep and her dreams.
Her face felt warm, and she pulled the sheet up higher to block the sun. Her eyes fluttered open. She scrambled backward against her headboard in a panic. It would not due to burst into flames in her own house, after all. Not again. The heat remained, bright and yellow against the paleness of her skin, but she did not burn. There weren’t even wisps of smoke rising from her pedicured toes. And her headboard, well…she looked up and gasped at the twinkling leaves above her.
She was outside.
But not alight.
What the hell?
“Take my hand if you want to live,” a rich baritone said from behind the tree at her back.
Madeleine crooked an eyebrow, her frantic fear giving way to mild amusement. She pushed against the trunk and stood up. “Classic movie lines?”
WastedWraith peeked around the broad tree and smiled. “Would you prefer ‘I think you’re hot, want to show me your tits’?”
She shook her head. “No, but you’re just a figment of my imagination, so really, those words would never leave your lips.”
He shrugged. “Perhaps. But I think you’ll find that I’m something more.”
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. “An enemy?”
He shook his head. “No, not an enemy. An ally, maybe. Though I think I would prefer an alternate option.” He held a hand out to her, but she hesitated.
“How do I know you’re not like the rest?”
“You don’t. I guess you will have to decide whether or not you want to find out.”
She stepped closer and slid her hand into the great expanse of his, the coolness of her meeting the heat of him, the human heat of blood pulsing beneath his skin and the tingle of…what the hell is that?
Madeleine woke up with a start, sitting upright, sweat beading across her brow. She held the fabric of the sheets in tight balls in each hand, and her breath, the breath she did not even need to take outside of force of habit, was shallow and haggard. She blinked until her eyes adjusted to the dark and she made a mental note of all of her bedroom furnishings. No longer in that copse from her dream, she sighed in relief and released the bedclothes.
It had been just a dream. But she could not shake that feeling, that sense that something else had been going on.
“This is ridiculous,” she snapped into the darkness. “Just a dream, Maddie, just a frickin’ dream!”
She slid her feet off the side of the bed and into her marabou house slippers, vintage replicas of her favorite shoes from the Roarin’ 20s. She snagged the velour burgundy robe off the hook on the back of the door, grabbed her netbook and wandered into the rest of the house.
On the outside, she had intentionally left this four bedroom two bath monstrosity unkept and abandoned looking. She was aware of the ‘witch on the wash’ reputation she had in the neighborhood, and she had done a good deal to cultivate it over the years. It ensured she was left alone for the most part, aside from the brave teenagers who occasionally took the Halloween dare to ding-dong-ditch. And she gave them enough of a scare--fangs and wings out, eyes aglow—to let the stories do the rest of the work.
But inside, oh, inside how she loved her house. All the windows were double-paned with the interior wooden blinds and covered with double-thick blackout curtains. The floors were all bamboo—even vampires could be green—and all her furniture custom made for a pretty penny by up-and-coming designers. The kitchen, however, was the crowning gem.
From the silver-flecked black granite countertops and recycled glass back splashes, to the stainless steel major appliances and gas four burner with center grill stove, she had created her own personal corner of Nirvana. No, she did not actually need to eat, though she could, but she loved to cook and bake and, well, the local soup kitchen was never hurting for donations to say the least.
She also liked to entertain her small circle of friends, of whom only one other was a vampire. Speaking of which…she was half-tempted to call Abby, her psychic medium friend, to ask about the dream, but her human friend had very human responsibilities at this time of night, putting to bed her four children, and the last thing she needed was Madeleine’s paranoid ravings. It could wait. She could do her own investigating in the meantime.
She set up her netbook on the counter of the breakfast bar. (Oh, the joy of a wireless router!) The small machine came to life while she got a mason jar of blood from the fridge and popped it into the microwave. It was not the same as fresh, of course, and while she envied the darling vampires on television with their access to blood banks and synthetic blood replicates, her supply was all donated through an intricate line of willing donors, doctors and even a few mages.
Mason jars were best, because they kept the blood vacuum-sealed and microwaved well and held up in the refrigerator. And they passed through the mail like jams and jellies. No one questioned it, and those that wanted to either found themselves very rich or unfortunately very dead.
The microwave beeped, and she grabbed the jar out with one hand. She flipped the netbook around as she settled onto a barstool. A couple of clicks and a few sips of her brew du jour and she made her way to the networking site. The little mail icon was blinking again, and with a little maneuvering, she saw that WastedWraith had replied.
Age is just a number. Aren’t you the least bit curious?
Madeleine smiled and leaned on the counter. She was curious, she had to admit, between the responses and the dream…and that aftershock she had felt in the dream that had left a familiar buzz she could not quite put her finger on. But what to reply? What could she say that would leave her aloof and uninterested, yet continue this interesting, albeit odd, conversation? Another mouthful of blood, and she set her fingers upon the keyboard:
While I admit you’ve piqued my curiosity with your lack of stereotypical boyish interludes, I think I must be upfront, perhaps brutally so, in where I stand.
One, I am not interested in sex. I am not seeking out new partners, nor do I wish to ‘hook up’ for a booty call. I have, quite frankly, had enough bullshit from the past few men in my life that I would rather, at this point, remain celibate and alone than involved with another asshat who finds fault in everything I do.
Two, in kind, I will not be sending, nor am I interested in receiving, pictures, videos, verbal or textual descriptions of body parts. I am very much of the mind set that such things are given once trust is established, and I am rather paranoid. Not to mention, in my experience, the size of one’s male member does not in any way correlate to either brain size or level of common sense.
Third, I have so much emotional baggage I could fill the baggage claim at LAX three times over. You don’t really want to be involved with me beyond the most tenuous of relations.
She thought about adding in that she was, in fact, a real vampire and apt to eat him alive, but she felt that might be taken the wrong way. Not so much that she might actually be considered a fang-wielding fiend, but instead a goth wannabe. Equal parts angst, yes, but her pretend was simply going vamp to human, not the other way around.
But if you are just looking for someone to go see a movie (I prefer midnight showings) or grabbing a late night bite to eat, then maybe we could come to an arrangement. Just consider yourself forewarned.
Madeleine hit send before she could delete the message in a fit of self-imposed self-consciousness. Would it come off completely bitchy? Unapproachable? Had she waved enough red flags in the poor boy’s face to make him reconsider? More importantly, did she care?
Sitting there, sipping her drink, she found that she did.
Continue to 03