? MaryJanice Davidson, 2002
From the private papers of Richard Will, Ten Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts.
"Becoming a vampire was the best thing that ever happened to me. The very, very best. Which is why I don't understand all the literature, how the vampires are usually these moody fellows who rue the day they ever got bitten, who pray for some illiterate European to plant a stake through their ribs. Rue the day? If the mob hadn't torched my killer the
next night, I'd have kissed his feet. I'd even have kissed his behind!
"After all, what else was there for me? Take over the farm when my father died? No, thank you. Farming is back-breaking work for very little reward, and even less respect. And I could hardly endure being in the same room with my father, much less work for him the rest of my life. (Punch first and punch second, that was my dear departed papa's motto.)
"Lie about my age to join the army, and get my head blown off? (All so sixty years later we can ignore the Holocaust and pretend the Germans are good guys?) But back then, if you didn't fight you were a coward. Of course, two wars later the young men were encouraged to go to Canada, to avoid responsibilities to their country. If they fought, and lived, their reward was to be spit upon at the airport. It just goes to prove, nothing changes
faster than the mind of an American.
"No, life wasn't exactly a bowl of fresh peaches. I was in a box, and each side of the box was equally insurmountable. I wasn't the only one, but I was the only one who noticed the shape and size of the prison. I was always different from my chums. At least, I think I was…it was a long time ago, and don't we always think we're different?
"So when Darak—that was his name, or at least the name he gave me—bought
me a drink, then two, then ten, I didn't turn him down. What did I care if a stranger wanted to help me forget about the box? I was big—twenty-three years working on a
farm made for a big boy—and if he wanted to get inappropriate, I was sure I could handle it.
"Yes, there was homosexuality in the forties. People like to pretend it's a modern invention, which always makes me laugh. Anyway, I figured Darak wanted to see what I had inside my drawers, but I had no intention of showing him—what men
did with other men was none of my concern. Of course, my drawers weren't what held his interest at all.
"I'd been supremely confident I could toss Darak through a window if I needed to, which just goes to show I was something of a naïve moron when I was a boy. Darak took what he needed from me, and never mind pretty words or even asking permission. He stopped my heart and left me on a filthy floor to breathe my last. The last thing I remember was a rat scampering across my face, how the tail felt, dragging across my
"I woke up two nights later. It was dark and close, but in a stroke of luck I
hadn't been buried yet. I didn't know it then, but the town's only mill had blown up, and there were forty bodies to be interred. Plus they'd cornered Darak and set him on fire. Yes, things had been positively hopping in the small town of Millidgeville, pop. 232 (actually 191 now). They were in no rush to get me in the ground. They had more
important things to worry about.
"I was thirstier than I had ever been in my life. And strong…I meant only to pop
open the door to the coffin, and ended up ripping it off the hinges. I lurched out of the coffin and realized instantly where I was. And I knew what Darak was…I'd read Bram
Stoker as a teenager. But even through the mad haze of my unnatural—or so it seemed
to me then—thirst and the disbelief of my death, the main thing I remember is the relief. I was dead. I was free. I silently blessed Darak, and went to find someone to eat.
"Being a vampire is wonderful. The strength, the speed, the liquid diet…all solidly in
the plus column. The minuses—no sunbathing (so?), sensitivity to light (sunglasses
fixed that nicely), no real relationships other than those of a transitory nature (callgirls!)—are bearable.
"I miss women, though. That's probably the worst of it. No more sunsets? Phaugh. I saw plenty of them on the farm. But I haven't had a girlfriend since…er…what year is
it? Never mind.
"I can't be with a mortal woman, for obvious reasons. She'd never understand what I was, what I needed. I'd constantly fear hurting her—I can lift a car over my head, so being with a mortal
woman is not unlike being with a china doll. And being dead hasn't affected my sex drive one bit. I was a young man of lusty appetite, and while I still look young, my appetite has increased exponentially with my age.
"I've only met six other vampires in my life. Of the six, four were women, and let me tell you, they were complete and unrepentant monsters. They ate children. Children! I killed two, but the other two got away. I could have gone after them, but I had to get the child to a hospital and—well, I wouldn't have wished their company on my fiercest enemy, much less welcomed them to the marriage bed.
"Yes, I'm lonely. Another price to pay for the eternal life and the liquid diet. But I'm young for a vampire—not even close to a hundred yet. Things are bound to look up.
And even if they don't, my patience—like my thirst—is infinite."
A monkey. A fucking monkey!
Janet Lupo practically threw her invitation at the goon guarding the doors to
the reception hall. Bad enough that one of the most eligible werewolves in the pack—
the world!—was now off the market, but he'd taken a pure human to mate. Not that
there was anything wrong with that. Humans were okay. If you liked sloths.
She stomped toward her table, noticing with bitter satisfaction the way people jumped out of her path. Pack members walked clear when she was in a good mood. Which, at the moment, she was not.
Bad enough to be outnumbered a thousand to one by the humans, but to marry one? And fuck one and get it pregnant and join the PTA and…
The mind reeled.
Janet had nothing against humans as a species. In fact, she greatly admired their rapaciousness. Homo sapiens never passed up prey, not even if they were stuffed—not
even if they didn't eat meat! They'd kill each other over shoes, for God's sake. They had fought wars over
shiny metals and rocks. Janet had never understood why a diamond
was worth killing over, but a pink topaz was hardly worth sweating about. Humans had fought wars over the possession of gold, but iron ferrite, which looked exactly the same, was worthless.
And when humans started killing, watch out. Whether it was "Free the Holy Land from the infidels!" or "Cotton and Slave's Rights!" or "Down with Capitalism!" or whatever was worth mass genocide, when humans went to war, your only chance was to get out of the way and keep your head down.
But marry one? Marry someone slower and weaker? Much, much weaker? Someone with no pack instincts, someone who only lived for themself? It'd be—it'd be
like a human marrying a bear. A small, sleepy bear who hardly ever moved. Fucking creepy, is what it was.
And there was Alec, sitting at the head table and smirking like he'd won the lottery! And his mate—uh, wife—sitting next to him. She was cute enough if you liked chubby, which the boys in the pack did. A bony wife wasn't such a great mother when food was scarce. Not that food was scarce these days, but thousands of years of genetic conditioning died hard. Besides, who wanted to squash their body down onto a bundle of sticks?
Okay, there wasn't anything wrong with her looks. Her looks were fine. So was her smell—like peaches packed in fresh snow. And the bimbo knew what she was getting into—her old lady had worked for Old Man Wyndham, way back in the day—so the
whole family had experience keeping secrets. But to call a sloth a sloth, the new Mrs. Kilcurt was not pack. Wasn't family. And would never be, no matter how many cubs Alec got on her.
Jesus! First the pack leader—Michael—knocked up a human, and now Alec Kilcurt.
Didn't any of her fellow werewolves marry werewolves anymore?
"I'd rather eat my own eyeballs," she said moodily, not even looking to see who asked. Why was she going to her table, anyway? The reception wasn't mandatory.
Neither was the wedding. She'd just gone to be polite. And the time for that was done.
She turned on her heel and marched out. The goon at the door obligingly held it open. Which was just as well, 'cuz otherwise she'd have kicked it down.
* * * * *
Janet vastly preferred Boston in the spring, and as cities went, Boston was not awful. Parts of it—the harbor, the aquarium—were actually kind of cool.
Thinking of the New England Aquarium—all those fish, lobsters, squid, and
sharks—made her stomach growl. She'd been too annoyed to eat lunch, and when she had walked out of the reception, she had also walked out on her supper.
She turned onto a side street, taking a short-cut to Legal Sea Foods, a restaurant that did not suck. She'd
have a big bowl of clam chowder, and some raw oysters, and a
steak, and a lobster. And maybe something for dessert. And a drink. Maybe three.
A scent caught her attention, forcing a split-second decision. She turned onto another street, one much less crowded, curious to see if the men were going to keep following her.
They were. She hadn't seen their faces, just caught their scents as they swung around to follow her on Park Street. They smelled like desperation and stale coffee grounds. She was well dressed, and probably looked prosperous to them. Prime pickings.
She turned again, this time down a deserted alley. If the two would-be robbers thought they were keeping her from supper, they were out of their teeny, tiny minds. She could easily outrun them, but that would mean kicking off her high heels. The stupid pinchy shoes cost almost thirty bucks! She wasn't leaving them in a Boston alley. If push came to shove, she'd bounce her stalkers off the bricks. Possibly more than once, the mood she
Janet jumped. There was a man standing at the end of the alley, and she hadn't known he was there until he spoke up. She hadn't smelled him, even though he was upwind. When was the last time that had happened?
He was tall—over six feet—and well built, for someone who wasn't pack. His
shoulders were broad and he definitely had the look of a man used to working with his hands. He had blond hair the color of wheat, and his eyes—even from fifteen feet away
she could see their vivid color—were Mediterranean blue. He was wearing all black—
dress slacks, a shirt open at the throat, a duster that went almost all the way to his heels.
And—what's this now? He was squinting in the poor light of the alley, and slipping on a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses—how weird was that, at ten-thirty at night?
"I have business with the young lady," Weirdo continued, walking toward
them. His hands were open, relaxed. She knew he wasn't carrying a weapon. He moved with the grace of a dancer; if she hadn't been so fucking hungry she might have liked to watch him prance
around. "Much kinder business, I think, than you two. So be on your way, all right?" Then, in a lower voice, "Don't be afraid, miss. I won't hurt you. Hardly at all."
"Stand aside, four eyes," she snapped, and with barely a glance, she stiff-armed him into the side of the building and hurried past. She had no time for would-be muggers, and less for Mr. Sunglasses-At-Night. Let the three of them fight it out. She had a date with a dead lobster.
Behind her, Sunglasses yelped in surprise. There was a flat smack as he hit the wall, then slid down. She'd tossed him a little harder than she meant—oopsie—and then
the other two jumped him, and she was out of the alley.
She could see the restaurant up ahead. Just a few more steps and she could order. Just a few more…
Don't you dare!
C'mon, enough already! They're human…it's none of your business.
She started back toward the alley. Sunglasses was a weirdo, but he was vulnerable to attack because of what she had done. Yeah, they were human, but it was one thing to mind your own business, and another to turn your back on a mess you helped make.
You moron! Who knows when you'll get to eat now?
"Fuck off, inner voice," she said aloud. People thought the outer Janet was a bitch; God forbid they should ever meet the inner Janet.
She stepped into the alley to help, and was just in time to see the second mugger crumple to the filthy street. The first was half in and half out of the dumpster. And Sunglasses was hurrying, hurrying toward her, licking the blood off his knuckles. "As I was saying before you tossed me against the wall, I have business with you, miss. And where on earth do you work out?"
She was so surprised she let him put his hands on her shoulders, let him draw her close. He smiled at her and even in the poorly lit alley she could see the light gleaming on his teeth. His very long canines. His fangs, to be perfectly blunt. He had fangs, and it wasn't even close to the full moon.
"What the hell are you?" She put a hand to his chest to keep him from pulling her closer. His heart beat once. Then nothing.
He blinked at her. "What? Usually the lady in question is halfway to fainting by now. To answer your question, I'm the son of a farmer. That's all."
"My ass," she said rudely. "I came back to give you a hand—"
"—but you're fine, and I'm hungry."
"What a coincidence," he murmured. He tapped a sharp canine with his tongue. Beneath her palm, his heart beat again. "My, you're exceedingly beautiful. I suppose your beaux tell you that all the time."
"Beaux? Who the hell talks like that? And you're full of shit," she informed him. Beautiful? Shyeah. She wasn't petite and she wasn't tall—just somewhere in the middle.
Average height, average weight, average hair color—not quite blonde and not quite
brown—average nose, mouth, chin. She could see her average eyes reflected in his sunglasses. "And you'd better let go before I hit you so hard, you'll spend the rest of the night throwing up
He blinked again, then smiled. "Forgive the obvious question, but aren't you a little nervous? It's dark…and you're quite alone with me. Why, I might do anything to
you." He licked his lower lip thoughtfully. "Anything at all."
"This is really, really boring, fuck-o," she informed him. "Leggo."
She brought her foot down on his, felt his toes squish through the dress shoe. Then she knocked him away from her with a right cross. This time, when he went down, he stayed down.
Twenty minutes later, she was happily slurping the first of a dozen oysters on ice.
He knew he was lurking like a villain in a bad melodrama, but he couldn't help it. He had to catch her when she came out of the restaurant. So he was reduced to watching her through the restaurant window from across the street.
Richard rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. It didn't hurt anymore, but if he'd been mortal, it likely would have shattered from the force of the woman's punch. She hit like a Teamster. And
swore like one, too.
She was stunning, really very stunning with those cider-colored eyes and that unique hair. Her crowning glory was shoulder length and wavy, and made up of several colors: gold, auburn, chestnut…even a few strands of silver. The silky strands
gleamed beneath the streetlight and made him itch to touch them, to see if they were as soft as they
She had been fearless in the near dark of the alley, and he'd become utterly besotted. He had to see her again, take her in his arms again, hear her say "fuck" again.
Ah! After a five-course meal, here she came. And look! She had spotted him instantly, and was now stomping across the street toward him. Her small hands were balled into fists and her lush mouth was curled in a snarl.
"Fuck-o, you don't learn too quick, do you?"
"You're marvelous," he said, smiling at her. There were few people on the street at this hour, but the ones who were around caught the tension in the air, and did a quick fade. Most mortals had zero protective coloring, but something about the proximity of a vampire put their
wind up, even if they weren't consciously aware of it. "Just charming, really."
She snorted delicately. "I see you're heavily medicated, on top of everything else. Get lost, before I belt you in the chops again."
"You came all the way over here to tell me to go away?"
A frown wrinkle appeared on her perfect, creamy forehead. "Yeah, I did. Don't read anything into it. So blow, okay?"
"My name is Richard Will." He held out his hand, hoping she wouldn't be startled by his long fingers. Most people—women—were.
"Yeah? Well, Dick, I don't trust people with two first names." She stared at his outstretched hand, then crossed her arms over her chest.
He let his hand drop. "And you are…?"
"Tired of this conversation."
"Is that your first name or your last?"
Her lips curled into an unwitting smile. "Very funny. You never answered my question."
"What are you? Your heart…" She started to reach for him, then let her hand drop.
"Let's just say you should get your ass to a doctor, pronto."
"You know what I am." He bent toward her, and was thrilled when she didn't back off. "In your heart, you know."
"Dick, as my family will tell you, I don't have a heart."
He rested his palm against her chest, feeling the rapid beat. "Such a lie, dearest." She knocked his hand away, and sounded gratifyingly breathless when she said, "Don't call me that."
"I have no choice, dearest, as you never told me your name."
"Smith," she said rudely, and he chuckled. Then laughed, a full-blown guffaw that sent more stragglers hurrying away. "What the hell's so funny?"
"Don't you see? We simply must get married. Richard and Janet…Dick and Jane!"
She gaped at him for a long moment and then, reluctantly, joined him in laughter.
* * * * *
"So you don't like the new wife?"
Janet moodily stirred her coffee. It was after midnight, and they were the only couple in the coffee shop. "It's not that I have a personal problem with her, she's just…not our kind, is all."
She snorted a laugh through her nose. "Nothing like that…I'm not that big a
bitch. It's hard to explain. And you wouldn't believe me anyway."
He grinned, flashing his fangs. "Try me."
"No way, José. I want to hear about you. I didn't know there were such things as vampires. Assuming you're not some pathetic schmuck who filed his teeth to get the girls."
He considered lifting her, in her chair, over his head, but decided against it. Among other things, it was unnecessary. She knew what he was, oh yes. She had felt his heart. And he had felt hers. "I didn't know there were such things either, until I woke up dead."
She leaned forward, which gave him an excellent view of creamy cleavage in her wine-colored dress. "How old are you?"
"Not so old, for a vampire. Not even a hundred yet. And as it's not polite to ask a lady her age—"
Perfect. Giggling girlhood was left behind, she was closing in on her sexual peak, and the best was still ahead. He tried very hard not to drool.
"I'm the old maid of the family," she was saying. "Most of my friends have teenagers already."
"You have plenty of time."
She brightened. "See, that's what I always say! Just because we're trapped in this damned youth-obsessed society doesn't mean we have to do everything in our twenties. What's the fucking rush?"
"Exactly. That's what I—"
"Except my family thinks totally differently," she said, her shoulders slumping. "They're very in-the-now, if you know what I mean. Sometimes there's…there's fights
and stuff and you never know if today's your last day on earth. There's lots of pressure to make every
single day count, to cram everything you can, as often as you can. Nobody really stops and smells the
fuckin' roses where I come from, you know?"
"That's fairly typical of…of people." He'd almost said 'of mortals', but no need
to push things. As it was, he had a hard time believing this conversation was taking place. She'd insulted him, pounded him, knew what he was, and was now having coffee with him. Amazing! "If your life span is so brief—what? Seventy years or so? Well, of
course you want to make every minute count."
"My family's lifespan is even shorter," she said moodily.
"Ah. Dangerous neighborhood?"
"To put it mildly. Although it's better since…well, it's better now, and I just
hope it lasts."
"Which is why you can take care of yourself so well."
She cracked her knuckles, which made the lone counterman cringe. "Bet your ass."
"Indeed I would not." He stirred his coffee. He could drink it, though all it would do was make him thirstier. Instead he played with it; he enjoyed the ritual of cream and sugar. "How long are you in town?"
She shrugged. "Long as I want. The wedding's over, so we'll probably hang out for a couple days, then head back to our homes."
"And home for you is…?"
"None of your fucking business. Don't get me wrong, Dick, you seem pleasant enough for a blood-sucking fiend of the undead…"
"…but I'm not opening up to you with all my vitals, no matter how good-
looking and charming you are."
"So my powers of attraction aren't completely lost on you," he teased.
She ignored the interruption. "And if you don't like it, you can stop dicking around with your coffee and get the hell gone."
"I cannot decide," he said after a long pause, during which he guiltily put his spoon down, "if you're the most refreshing person I've ever met, or the most irritating."
"Go with irritating," she suggested. "That's what my family does." She glanced at her watch, a cheap thing that probably told time about as well as a carrot. "I gotta go. It's really late, even for me." She laughed at that, for some reason.
He leaned forward and picked up her warm little hand. The palm was chubby, with a strong life line. Her nails were brutally short, and unpolished. "I must see youagain. Actually, I
would prefer to spirit you away to my—"
"Creaky, musty, damp castle?"
"—condo on Beacon Hill, but you're quite a strong young lady and I seriously doubt I could do so without attracting attention. So I must persuade you."
"Damned right, chum." She jerked her hand out of his grasp. "Try anything, and—"
"I'll vomit my teeth, or be split down the middle, or my head will be twisted around so far I'll be able to see my own backside—" She giggled. "—yes, yes, I quite
understand. Have dinner with me tomorrow night."
"Don't you mean 'let me watch you eat while I play with my drink'?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Why?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because," he said simply, "I've decided. You're refreshing because you're irritating. Do you know how long it's been since I've had a nice conversation with a lady?"
She stared at him. "You think this has been a nice conversation?"
"Nicer than 'Help, eeeeeek, stay away you horrible thing, no, no, noooooooooo, oh, God, please don't kill me!' I can't tell you how many times I've had that conversation."