Authors: Elizabeth Donald
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Nocturnal Urges Copyright© 2004 Elizabeth Donald.
Edited by Mary Moran.
Cover art by Syneca.
Electronic book Publication: December 2005
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, 1056 Home Avenue, Akron, OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
The silk scarf pressed lightly against her eyelids, forcing them to close. Isabel tried to blink, her lashes twitching against the smooth, taut fabric. When she tried to open her eyes, to sneak a peek down the sides of her nose, she found that he had let the lower part of the scarf fall over her face, obscuring anything from view.
“Trust me.” Duane’s hands fell away from the scarf.
Isabel reached out, trying to sense where he was. Her hand encountered a broad chest, a muscled arm, and then he guided her hands back to her lap.
The bed shifted, and she sensed him kneeling behind her. “Remind me why we’re doing this?” Isabel asked.
“Just as a warm-up,” Duane said, his breath gliding over the back of her neck.
“Tease,” Isabel said, and caught her breath as Duane’s fingers skated lightly over the line of her shoulder, bared in the light sleeveless top she wore.
Duane kissed a gentle line along her shoulder to the place where her neck lay bare. The moist tip of his tongue teased her neck, high up where the pulse beat quickly. Shivers ran through her skin and she exhaled, slightly dizzy. “If you’re trying to get me to stay in tonight, you’re succeeding,” she said.
He whispered in her ear, in between light, quick darts of his tongue. “No,” he said. “But I’m not pushing. If you really don’t want to, we won’t.”
Isabel couldn’t see, couldn’t tell where he would kiss her next. A touch on the shoulder, a lick at the back of her neck, his hand gliding along her thigh. She felt the warmth expanding between her legs, and suddenly going out didn’t seem like such a great idea. “What I’d really like to do is get naked with you, right now,” she said, smiling.
Duane pressed his teeth lightly against her shoulder. “Baby, I can’t wait,” he said. “The first time is the best.”
Isabel laughed a little. “But will they blindfold me?”
Duane’s hand glided up her leg, along her side and brushed lightly over her breast as it wandered up to the blindfold. She gasped just a little when he pulled the scarf free.
“Too kinky?” he asked, his brown eyes amused. He had a classic face, with a square chin and chiseled nose, sandy-brown hair that he let grow a little long, curling a bit around his face.
Isabel smiled. “Oh, no,” she said. “Let’s keep it in mind.”
Duane smiled back, but this time his face was serious. “Are you okay with this?”
“I’m twenty-five years old and I’ve never been bitten,” Isabel said firmly. “Frankly, I’m annoyed I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
Duane’s eyes cleared. “Great. Then we should get going.”
He stood up and walked over to the dresser, where his jacket lay. Isabel sighed just a little—she was turned on, tuned to a high pitch and tense with anticipation. She’d really rather just grab Duane and throw him down on the bed, but he’d planned this to celebrate six months together, and she didn’t want to disappoint him.
Isabel stood up and checked her appearance in the full-length mirror beside her bed. Her cheeks were a little flushed, and she had to tuck a black lace slip strap back under her sleeveless navy top. Her black hair was a little out of place, and she smoothed it back from her face.
“Is this all right?” she asked, indicating her casual shirt and short denim skirt.
Duane glanced over at her. “It’s perfect,” he said. “Besides, you won’t be wearing it that long.”
Isabel followed him through his apartment and downstairs to the street. The night was clear and cool, a sure sign that Memphis summer had finally waned into the few scant weeks of fall before the winter cold struck. Duane lived right on Main Street, the only downtown street blocked off from auto traffic, except for the trolley that tourists rode from Beale Street to the Pyramid.
They walked under old-fashioned shepherd’s-crook streetlights, and in between the buildings, they could see glimpses of the Mississippi River.
“Isn’t it a little weird? You know, doing it with
in the room?” she asked.
Duane shook his head, but she couldn’t see his face. He always walked a step or two ahead of her. It was one of his quirks that drove her crazy. “Not really,” he said. “It’s not like they’re people or anything. Think of them as oversized marital aids.”
Isabel couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. “Marital aids with teeth? Is that on the brochure?” she asked as they crossed a street, heading toward the music district.
Duane laughed with her. “It would be if Miss Fiona could get away with it!” he said.
“I know this is silly, but…” Isabel’s voice trailed off.
Duane stopped, and turned to face her. “You can’t catch it, Isabel. I’d never even consider taking you if it was possible. I’ve been bitten at least a dozen times, and I’m as human as you are. You’ve had the vaccination, so you’re safe. I promise.”
Isabel nodded, feeling silly for even asking it. “You just hear all these horror stories,” she said.
Duane shrugged, walking up the street again. She had to hurry to keep up with him. “That’s the religious crazies, saying they’re demons sent to steal our souls or whatever. They’re not evil; they’re just animals, doing what they do.”
“But not people? It’s not like sex with people, like a four-way or anything?” Isabel asked.
Duane snorted. “Hey, if you’re into that stuff, you should’ve mentioned it before, baby,” he said, and she could actually hear him waggling his eyebrows, it was there in his tone, although she couldn’t see his face.
“In your dreams, darlin’,” she replied. “Is it close?”
“Just a few blocks past Beale,” Duane said, turning a corner. “They have a hell of a band.”
Up ahead, Isabel saw the club, large and recessed from the cheerful, artsy shops of the tourist streets and the pounding jazz of nearby Beale Street. It was on the south side of the street, but Duane led her to the north side to walk up the sidewalk.
“Why are we…” Isabel began, but then she saw them. Four young people in clean, collared shirts and blue jeans stood just beyond the club’s property line, wearing placards that read FANGS ARE WORSE THAN GANGS and YES, THEY DO BITE.
One of them saw her looking at the signs and waved his tracts at her. He was a tall one, with a dark beard and intense eyes. “Miss! Don’t go in there! It’s not worth your soul!” he shouted.
“Just keep walking,” Duane muttered.
But Isabel couldn’t help it—she risked another glance back. The young man saw her and loped across the street toward her. Her heart started beating faster.
Duane hurried them along, but the young man caught up to them. “You’re not going in there, are you?” he asked, almost conversationally.
“Back off, buddy,” Duane said, his voice noncommittal.
The man then dismissed Duane, focusing on Isabel. “The leeches steal your soul,” he said, his eyes burning into hers. “You will think of nothing else. It’s worse than drugs, worse than sex. It’s your soul, miss. It’s not worth it.”
“That’s enough,” Duane barked, and the man backed off a step. He quickly shoved a tract at Isabel, who took it without thinking. Then he ran back across the street to his friends, who began chanting, “Humans aren’t food! Humans aren’t food!”
Isabel absently put the tract in her pocket. “Sorry,” she said.
“Don’t encourage them,” Duane said. “If they think they’ve got a possible convert, they’ll be all over you.”
They were directly opposite the club now, and the music pounding from inside the building seemed to beat through her very skin as they crossed the street toward the entrance. The club seemed as though it had its own shadows, cloaking it from the clear light of the streetlamps. The design played up the Gothic angle, with ersatz gargoyles along the roof and “stone” outlines painted on the walls. The doorway was arched with torches on either side, and above it was a sign with NOCTURNAL URGES painted in blood-red dripping letters.
“Subtle,” Isabel said.
Duane shrugged. “We don’t come here for the décor,” he said, paying the bouncer. Isabel tried not to be obvious about staring at him, trying to see his teeth. The bouncer was tall and somewhat slim, but when he handed Duane his change, Isabel saw that his nails were long and pointed.
Duane led her through the arched doorway into a huge, darkened hall filled with smoke that smelled oddly like incense, rather than cigarettes. The light was dark and red, lit from flickering electric “torches” in wagon-wheel chandeliers high above their heads. The walls and floor were painted red, with black curtains on the walls and black swirls painted on the dance floor.
The band up on the stage was playing loud and fast, with pounding drumbeats and an electronic rhythm that seemed without word or plan, just pounding on and on. There were at least a hundred people out on the dance floor, gyrating to the music, and many more at tables around the edge of the floor, each with a black lace tablecloth and small candles—red, of course—casting shadows between them. Beyond the ring of dance-floor tables, a few steps up led to another level of tables, all filled with couples.
All through the club, small recessed doorways were closed, nearly hidden in shadows.
Duane led her through to an empty table near the dance floor. Isabel sat down gratefully, preferring to watch the room for a moment or two. She didn’t try to talk to Duane—the enormous sound coming from speakers all around them made any discussion impossible.
The music never seemed to end. It pounded on, and Isabel could feel the vibration of it rolling through her skin, through the chair in which she sat, beneath the soles of her feet. Although the people on the dance floor were of every age and background, somehow the music rolled over them and made them into one, as if they each knew how to move without disrupting the rhythms of the others. It was fascinating to watch, in the flickering candlelight and the shadowed glow from electric torches high above them.
Duane was writing something on a piece of paper. Isabel touched his hand, and he looked up at her, leaning over so she could shout into his ear. “What are you doing?” she nearly screamed.
He turned to shout into her ear. “Our order!” he yelled. “You’re still up for it, right?”
Isabel nodded quickly, and he returned to the paper, marking X’s on the form. But the butterflies in her stomach were fluttering quickly now, and she was less sure than ever that she wanted to try this. It was nothing, everyone had done it—but she was unnerved by the protesters outside, by the dark shadows in this room, by the muted mystery of the closed doors.
But then there was the music. It rolled through her, making her heart beat faster for reasons that had nothing to do with fear. On and on, quickening her pulse, sending shivers down her spine if she concentrated on it.
Isabel glanced up at the stage, and noted with no real surprise that each of the band members had pale skin and long fingernails. A small placard before the drummer read CREATURES OF THE NIGHT.
, she thought.
She turned back to Duane. “Want to dance?” she shouted, and had to repeat herself twice before Duane understood her.
“No time!” he shouted back. “No waiting list tonight! We’re up next!”
Isabel nodded, biting the inside of her lip to keep from being nervous. It didn’t work. She fought the urge to grab Duane and take him back home with her, away from this strange place, back to his quiet, modern apartment where a blindfold suddenly didn’t seem that kinky.
A hand rested on Isabel’s arm and she jumped a little. “Don’t worry,” said the red-haired woman beside her. “I’m not going to bite you.” She was shorter than Isabel, with generous curves readily visible beneath artfully draped, shimmering green robes. Her pale skin was nearly translucent, and a flood of dark red hair curled around her shoulders.
“Hey, Fiona!” Duane shouted.
The red-haired woman smiled, and Isabel saw the pointed teeth. She tried not to stare. “Mr. Russell, welcome back,” Fiona called. “And you have brought such a lovely companion with you.”
“First-timer, so make it a good one,” Duane yelled, smiling.
Fiona rested a hand on Isabel’s arm, and Isabel tried not to flinch. Fiona seemed to speak in a normal tone, but Isabel heard every word nonetheless. “Don’t worry, my dear,” she said. “At Nocturnal Urges, we are here for your pleasure.”
She released Isabel’s arm and handed her a form. “Please ask if there’s anything you don’t understand,” she said, and tapped the form.
Isabel nodded, and looked at the form. CONSENT AND RELEASE, it read at the top. The letterhead read NOCTURNAL URGES VAMPIRE SERVICE, FIONA KNIGHT, PROPRIETOR.
She scanned through it—a lot of legalese, indicating she was there of her own free will, that she had not been bitten in the past two weeks or given blood in the past six weeks, that she was over twenty-one, that she had had her immunization at the age of two along with everyone else in America.
She filled out her information, and when it asked which gender she preferred, she checked MALE.
“What does this mean?” she asked Duane, tapping the pen against the line that read LEVEL OF SERVICE.
“They want to know how far you want to go,” he shouted.
Isabel frowned. “What do I put?”
“Level one,” he yelled. “Bite only.”