My number is 555-555-5555. Text me. Call me. Let’s talk and take it from there.
WWMadeleine had been staring at the small netbook screen for a good fifteen minutes, one hand tapping the touch screen of her cell phone. Calling would be a commitment. A little one, yes, but a commitment nonetheless that she was not entirely sure she wanted to make. After all, the last man she had talked to post-bonfire fun had acted like such communiqué had been an instant invitation to her bed.
She pushed aside the cell phone and the sense of giddy bubbling up inside her. How long had it been since she had been this excited about meeting someone? How much was she hoping that there really no strings attached? Two years and a thousand yeses, was that enough to get on this ride and possibly get off at disappointment again?
She rubbed her forehead and slipped down off the bar stool. She needed to think about it, to clear her head, to figure out what she wanted, if anything at all. She wandered into her bedroom, wanting to get dressed, get moving, get out of the house, maybe delight in something divinely vampire. She caught sight of her mirror and paused.
It was always curious to her how they could not be seen in reflective surfaces. Her Maker had it explained as their lack of life, how what animated them did not expend the energy necessary to force a reflection, the possibility that they, as the undead, did not have souls, such things lost sometime between a vampire’s death and rebirth. The mythos of vampirism was an amazing thing, but sometimes Madeleine would kill to just see if her hair was sticking up.
She ran her hands over the possibly offending locks. “I’m over thinking this,” she said to the empty looking glass. “It’s just a phone call. And I could hear his voice and it could grate on my ears. I mean, that would save me time, right?”
She hated that she sounded so human. Especially over another human. Surely there was a vampire or werebeast or hell, even a well-preserved ghoul out there she should try before going down this road again. She sat down on the foot of her bed and sighed.
The worst of it, the absolute worst of the entire mess was admitting that she was scared. Scared of being let down again. Scared of not being enough again. Scared of being replaced or neglected again. Betrayal, she had learned all too quickly in her undead life, did not necessary means at the hands of another woman. No, cheating just meant that her lovers’ attentions held sway elsewhere.
“I’m a big, bad ass vampire,” she muttered. “I’m not afraid of anything. I’ll call him, if I want to, because I want to.”
With that declaration out in the empty room, she busied herself with her normal beauty routine, all curling irons and product, make up and perfume. Again, a mirror would have proven most useful, but she had had good teachers back in the day who taught her how to apply each item by feel. Plus she had modern friends like Abby who would keep her from walking out in public looking like a hooker.
Madeleine grabbed her purse and stopped just before dropping her cell phone in. She walked over to the kitchen counter where her netbook still hummed with life and looked at his email again. I should put his number in my phone, she thought, just in case I want to call him while I’m out.
She typed the number in and contemplated sending him a reply, but in truth, she knew in her heart of hearts that she would give in to her curiosity and call Wasted Wraith.
Curiosity killed the cat, yes, but then again, wasn’t she already dead?
What was a vampire to do in a sleepy little villa like Sierra Vista? Why, karaoke, of course! Late nights in smoky bars bored her after a century of bar brawls and notorious gangsters, but the Japanese art of singing your own cover version of popular songs enthralled her. Better yet, she had found she was rather good at it.
Sure, she loved the spotlight as much as one of her favorite literary vampires, but there was something very cathartic about dealing with your chaotic emotional angst via the Billboard hits of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and today! And the karaoke diva that she was, she even carried her own CDs with her on these little jaunts.
Tonight she had decided would be some hard 80s tributes to love. She followed up Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” with Bon Jovi’s “(You Give Love) A Bad Name”. A little Heart’s “Alone” gave way to Sade’s “Your Love is King” and a little Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers”. When she was not belting out her song list, she was chatting up the regulars who frequented the bar as often as she did.
As much fun as she was having, in the back of her mind was that tall, dark handsome stranger from cyberspace. About ten-thirty, she excused herself from the throng, signaled the karaoke dj to hold her songs with one wave of her hand, and slipped out into the cool night air.
There were a few smokers out, given the law in Arizona banning smoking inside public establishments. She stepped around them with several head nods and quiet hellos. Once she made it around the corner of the building, she pulled her cell phone out of the small space between her breasts—no need for a purse!—and tapped the screen until it lit up. Madeleine chewed on her bottom lip, that giddiness returning like so many bubbles in her stomach.
His number was there, dark characters against the bright screen. All it would take is one push of one button. “Come on, chicken shit.” She pushed the button, and the dialing icon blinked in the corner of the phone. She closed her eyes and waited.
The phone rang once, twice… “Hello?”
She exhaled as slowly and quietly as she could. His voice was like velvet against her ears. That warmth coaxed a smile from her lips. “Hi.”
“Mayhem?” Was that excitement in his voice? “Magickal Mayhem?”
“Yeah, that would be me.” She could hear a bevy of noises through the phone. “Are you busy?”
“A little—Hey!!—sorry about that, finishing up my shift. Is there anyway I can call you later?”
She bent forward, eyes on the tips of her boots, a little disappointed. “Yeah, I guess so, now that you have the number. Whenever you want.”
“Hold on, okay?” He did not wait for her, and yelled, “Hey, I’m trying to have a conversation, Nate; could you hold it down?!” She heard a flurry of apologies that slowly faded into nothingness. “Hey, Em, you still there?”
Part of the disappointment disappaited. “Yes, I am.”
“Um, I really want to talk to you, but I just can’t do it on the phone right now. Can we meet?” She sighed, and he quickly continued. “I know, I know, it’s sudden, and it’s definitely not ‘taking things slow’, like I think you really want, but I want to talk to you and I need to eat, but then I need to go to bed, so I thought…two birds, one stone…you and me…bite to eat?
She cleared her throat. “Only if…”
“If?” His voice held a note of hope.
“Only if you tell me what your real name is.”
Wraith chuckled in her ear. “Milo. My name is Milo.”
She could not remember the last time she had been to Denny’s. She did not mind the food, as little as she might ever actually eat, but the service was consistently dismal. Somewhere between slow cooks and inattentive servers, she had lost interest. Or rather, her desire to eat the entire staff and buy the restaurant to run on her own had long waned.
But her late night visit had little to do with any of those things (though she intended to keep appearances with a piece of pie), and that giddy feeling had burst into full blown butterflies. What if Wasted Wraith, er, Milo, was not what she was expecting? What if she was not what he had expected? What if the tiny little spark she had felt over the phone earlier, in her dream the day before, popped like a giant balloon and sent clouds of her brain confetti all over…
“All right, Maddie, stop being a frickin’ moron.”
She pushed through the glass double door and after a minor wait, the hostess showed her to a table. They had agreed that she would probably arrive first, given that he had expressed a desire to shower before he showed up. So she was to get table, order her drink and just wait.
Madeleine, despite all three centuries plus of existence, hated waiting.
She felt him before she saw him, as wrapped up in a crazy little video game on her phone as she was apt to do when she was bored. It started as a tingle, a tiny little trickle, she dismissed as she smashed bricks. But the tingle turned into a buzz and then a warmth that brought her eyes up from the screen to sweep across the room.
Even without the chemistry, without the pictures, she could have picked him out. Milo was more than the tall man with broad shoulders and bald head she had seen online. He had a presence about him, a quiet sort of power she had seen in older vampires and other ancient kin without being either. He was human for all intents and purposes, but he was more, and it intrigued her.
His eyes met hers, and she turned away with a hot blush. Had she been staring? More importantly, had he caught her doing so?
She pretended to futz with her phone, as he followed the hostess to their table. The hair on her arms rose, electric and alive. She forced her eyes down and enjoyed the sensation of Milo’s approach.
“You know,” he said as he slid into the booth bench across from her, “you have me at an unfair advantage. You know my name, but I do not know yours.”
She took her time meeting his eyes again. “My name…” she pushed with a little vampire power, “is Madeleine.”
Milo wiped at his arm, like he was cleaning off her push. A look of confusion crossed his face to match the curiosity in hers. Definitely human with a familiar flavor of…
“You’re a mage.”
He gave her blank face. “Am not.”
She grinned and cupped her face in one hand, elbow propped atop the table. “You are.”
He eyed her, the confusion turning to curiosity. “I am, and that would make you…?”
“Starving.” She grabbed the menu off the tabletop and hid behind it with a mischievous upturn of her lips. Two fingers snagged the top of the menu and pulled it down.
“Being elusive?” he asked.
She looked around the menu. “Mysterious, maybe?”
Milo chuckled. “I like that.”