Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors)
She tried to be logical, for once. If vampires had no heartbeat then there was no blood flow, and without remarkable blood flow what she saw straining his jeans would be impossible.
“I’ve always had a thing for odd girls.” Simon collected her bouquet from the chair where he’d deposited it so indifferently. With greater care, he handed the flowers to her once again. She took them.
“I’m really not…well, maybe I am a little odd.”
Surely vampires didn’t smile that way. This look was definitely not evil. Then again, maybe she was quick to judge Simon not a vampire because he’d just had his very talented hand in her panties.
Claire twitched and then jumped. “My sauce!”
“You left it on the stove?”
“Yes!” Claire ran to the door. “When I…when I heard that noise I had just put it on to simmer.”
“It’s probably fine.” Simon followed her, and while they were in the hallway Mrs. Tillman’s door opened a crack once again. Even though Claire couldn’t see the old woman, she heard a decided scoff from behind that door. Talk about odd.
At the doorway to her apartment, Simon hesitated. Without thinking, Claire gave a wave of her free hand and said, “Come on in.” So much for that test. She’d invited him in, and that was one of the vampire rules that seemed to be unbreakable. A vampire could not enter a home unless it was invited, and she’d invited Simon into her apartment without so much as a second thought. Darn. Too late to do anything about it now.
Simon studied her apartment as she had studied his, as she rushed to the stove and turned down the heat, then fetched a vase from beneath the sink and filled it with water. As in his apartment, there was a low, open bar between the kitchen and the living area. Simon could sit on the couch and watch her, and she could keep a close eye on him, as well. She had a small shaker of garlic salt close at hand, just in case he tried to move too close too fast. Besides, he wouldn’t be so foolish as to eat his next-door neighbor. Everyone would be looking at him for the crime if that happened. Mrs. Tillman had seen them together. No, she was as safe as she could be, given the circumstances.
If he’d intended to do her harm, he’d had his chance.
She had to admit, there was an inexplicable animal attraction about Simon Darrow that really got under her skin. Maybe it was because she hadn’t had sex in such a long time. Maybe it was because she hadn’t had really good sex for years. She didn’t count what had just happened as sex because, well, she’d come alone. That wasn’t the same, and of course, the evening was young.
Simon was extremely attractive, pale skin aside. At the moment he looked more beautiful than ever, but of course her vision had been temporarily affected. In truth he wasn’t horribly pale, just untanned. It was clear he preferred the night to the daytime, moonlight to sunshine. Maybe it was a musician thing, not a vampire thing. The same could be true of the black wardrobe and the odd hours he kept.
He turned his head to look at the stack of books on her end table. “Bite Me,” he read aloud, as he perused the titles. “The Return of Dracula. Night of the Undead. The Vampire Stan.”
“That one’s kinda funny,” she said, wondering how he would react to the collection of vampire novels.
“It’s a spoofy thing.”
“Intriguing reading material.” He looked at her again, and somehow those almost-black eyes darkened.
“Do you have an interest in vampires?”
Just as she’d been ready to dismiss her suspicions and simply embrace the man, he asked that question in a voice that was less than casual. Do you have an interest in vampires?
“I suppose I do,” she confessed. “Particularly vampire romance.” She shivered a little. It was the neck thing, she imagined. Her hand rose up and touched her neck, there where Simon had kissed her and brought her to the edge of paradise with his mouth alone.
Simon sighed. Claire tried to ignore his reaction as she put on water to boil and preheated the oven for the garlic bread, but in truth the fact that he asked the question made her wonder…why did he care if she read about vampires or not? Obviously he did care. He was actually annoyed by the books she’d left sitting out, and that put her right back where she’d started.
Still, he hadn’t bitten her when he’d had the chance. Maybe sometimes vampires needed sex, too—
lack of blood flow aside.
“You know,” Simon said after an uncomfortable bout of silence, “I’m really not very hungry. I should go.”
“No!” Claire left her not-yet-boiling water behind as Simon stood, unfolding his body with that unexpected grace that seemed only slightly unnatural. There was a mirror in her bathroom, another in the bedroom. If she could just get him to stand in front of one of those mirrors…if she could just be sure …“You need to eat something,” she said softly.
“I’m not going to starve,” he responded.
“What do you have at your place if you get hungry later?” she asked logically. “Frozen dinners? Soup and crackers? I make very good spaghetti.”
“I wish you would be honest with me,” he said, a touch of anger coloring his voice. There was a pleasant melodiousness to his voice, she decided, even when he was mad. “Something strange is going on here. There was never any earring in the hallway, there was no noise from my apartment, and I’ve never heard of any Southern Women’s Code. I think yesterday you were following me, and tonight you were snooping.”
He moved in very close and placed one finger over her lips. “I talk, you listen. You’re much more transparent than you intend to be.”
Claire couldn’t move. Somehow he held her in place with that one finger on her mouth, and with his eyes. His magical, mesmerizing, unbelievably dark eyes. Her heart beat too hard. He knew that she’d discovered his secret, and now he was going to kill her. This time when he lowered his head he was going to bite down on her neck and feed and that would be the end of everything for her.
Claire Murphy was found dead in her apartment. The body was discovered by a nosy neighbor, Mrs.
Iris Tillman, who was bothered by the gross smell. Miss Murphy has no family and she will not be missed by anyone. Oh, and by the way, it seems someone had taken all her blood, but who cares?
“Maybe I am transparent,” she whispered, angry at the knowledge that she could die here and now and no one would care. “You didn’t seem to mind a few minutes ago.”
“No, I didn’t mind at all. I’ve been dreaming about getting you in that particular position for weeks.
I’ve been dreaming about more, Claire. To be honest, I’ve been watching you since I moved in,” he said in a lowered voice. “There’s no boyfriend, and you’re in bed every night very early and very alone.”
“If you work at night how do you…”
“Shhh,” he ordered gently. “I know. I’ve also known all along that if I touched you just right you’d come apart, and you did. Before tonight, when was the last time you came, Claire Murphy?”
She swallowed hard before answering half-heartedly, “Does it count if I was alone at the time?”
“No. That most definitely doesn’t count.”
“Hey, wait,” she said indignantly. “You’ve been stalking me! ”
“Just a little.”
Claire was frozen in place as Simon lowered his head to her neck. His lips pressed there at the place where neck became shoulder, and a rush of sensation shot through her. She shouldn’t be so easy, what had happened in his apartment aside. Her insides clenched and her knees went weak, and all he had done was lay his mouth on her throat. The kiss was gentle, and yet it made her feel as if she were melting.
“I know what you want, Claire Murphy,” he whispered against her flesh, “and it isn’t spaghetti or a fictional earring.” His hand slipped beneath her shirt and raked against her back until he found her bra clasp and very easily unhooked it. “I want the same thing you do. I have since I first saw you in the hallway, more than a month ago. Does that surprise you? It surprises me. I don’t normally want things I shouldn’t have. I learned better long ago.”
Claire wanted to believe that what had driven her to suspect her neighbor of horrible crimes and unnatural abilities was nothing more complicated than her overactive imagination combined with the need to be touched and an undeniable attraction, which was apparently reciprocated. Her reasons for suspecting Simon of being an unnatural being were loneliness, boredom, and the craving for what he was offering her at this very moment, as he removed her tangled blouse and bra and tossed them to the floor.
He lowered her to the sofa. This time there would be more than a heated sexual moment that came and went too quickly. This time they would be naked and he would be inside her, and…oh, my. His mouth was warm on her breasts, and vampires were not warm. They were dead and cold. Unless they’d just fed and he’d picked up something besides flowers while he was out. Simon was not at all cold. In fact, his skin was hot, and she was almost certain she could hear the beat of his heart against her belly, where his chest rested as he sucked her nipple deep into his mouth. She wanted him at her neck again, but certainly didn’t complain. He would return there soon enough, she imagined.
He didn’t move back to her neck, not right away. Instead he unfastened her skirt and began to shimmy it down.
“Not so fast,” she whispered. “Not this time.”
“Trust me, this won’t be fast.”
She found comfort in those words, comfort from this man she had suspected of being a vampire moments earlier. What silly thoughts, thoughts she easily dismissed as he kissed his way down her body, which was naked but for the gold cross she’d taken to wearing. He didn’t seem to mind that tiny piece of gold, which was another point in his favor.
It was not the only point in his favor. Simon Darrow had a fine, sensuous mouth that was determined to explore every inch of her body. Where she was ticklish, where she was sensitive, where she had never been kissed before, he tasted her. He even lifted her leg and kissed her behind the knees, introducing her to an unexpected burst of joy. She felt that surge of joy everywhere, and yes, if he’d touched her where she was wet for him she would’ve come. She would’ve screamed. Again.
It occurred to her, as Simon trailed that lovely mouth very slowly up her inner thigh, that he was still completely dressed. That was so wrong.
“Take off your clothes,” she whispered, her voice raspy and demanding.
He laughed lightly, and his breath was warm against her skin. “Not yet.” He spread her thighs and touched her intimately with his tongue. He flicked his tongue, he teased her with light strokes and flickers, and then he moved in and rasped against her harder, fiercer. Claire came so hard she screamed and her back arched up off the couch. She grabbed Simon’s head and pulled him closer, and he did not fight her but pressed harder and deeper, slipping his tongue inside her as she shook.
And he hadn’t bitten her once.
“You said it would not be fast,” she said breathlessly, delirious and sad, shaking and satisfied, needy and happy.
“It’s not over, Claire,” he promised as he crept up and over her body and finally, once again, placed his mouth at her throat and sucked against that sensitive skin. “Women are wondrous creatures who can come again and again and again in a very short period of time.”
“I’ve heard that’s true,” she said as she turned her head more to the side to allow him the greatest possible access.
He nipped at her skin, but just a little. Naked, entirely vulnerable and recently satisfied, her mind began to work somewhat properly. What if she only imagined that Simon was warm and that his heart beat? That could be part of the spell he had cast on her. Why else would she be so, well, easy? Not that she was complaining. Far from it. In all the books she read vampires were sensuous creatures who wallowed in intense sexual encounters. She certainly felt as if she were wallowing, at the moment.
She no longer thought Simon was a vampire. Not conclusively. There was one other test she could try tonight, just to be certain. The sun had already set so she couldn’t study what happened to him in the daylight, but there was a mirror in her bedroom and if she could just see his reflection in it she’d be satisfied.
Claire took Simon’s head in her hands and drew his wonderful mouth away from her neck. “You have to be at least six foot two, and this sofa isn’t more than five feet long.”
“I can manage.”
“I have a perfectly good bed.”
“Beds are boring and ordinary. Everyone has sex in a bed.” His eyebrows lifted slightly. “What about the kitchen counter? The balcony? The elevator.” He grinned quite wickedly.
“I know you prefer odd, but I really am boring and ordinary,” she said as she reached down to fiddle with and then unfasten his belt buckle. He strained the denim with his erection, and she could not wait to have him in her hands, to touch him, to arouse him the way he’d aroused her. She gently forced him up and back, and placed her mouth on his neck. Yes, he was most definitely warm. His heart pounded.
He shuddered, and she was glad.
“You’re neither boring nor ordinary,” he said. “You just haven’t discovered that for yourself yet. I see it, even if you don’t.”
Claire knew the truth about herself. She was nothing if not pragmatic. She was average looking, and her hair was an ordinary dark blond that rarely did what she wanted it to do. She was usually between ten and fifteen pounds overweight, and there were a variety of clothes in three different sizes in her closet. Fat clothes, ordinary clothes, and a handful of very nice I have a dream clothes.
She was a failure where men were concerned. More rightly, they had always failed her, which was why she now satisfied herself with reading on weekends instead of dating or painting her toenails or shaving her legs for some man who in the end…
But now was not the time for that old tirade. A very handsome man who was hard for her had just promised her again, and again and again. And maybe another again. She’d lost count. If she could just prove to herself decisively that he wasn’t a vampire, he might be the perfect man. At least for a while.
No man was perfect forever.