Vampires aren’t supposed to submit to mere mortals, but Doreen is no ordinary vampire. When Charles asks for a week of her submission in exchange for a taste of his blood, she accepts.
But as far as he’s concerned, a dominant protects his sub -- even if he’s a human and her enemies are mages and vampires. He has to find a way to keep her alive long enough to keep her promise -- and long enough to see what love has in store for them when the week is over.
Just past three on a Friday morning, Charles Keller heard the knocking. He almost missed it. He was wiring up a new set of speakers, and had been about to test them on full volume to see how they filled the space when he heard the tap-tap on the metal door. Dark Xanadu’s acoustics were challenging at best, the result of a square-shaped space with a little chunk taken out of it to make the reception and coat check area, but he wanted to make it as good as humanly possible.
When he was halfway across the floor, the knocking became more insistent, the tapping turning into a pounding. A two-hundred and fifty pound angry man might make such a noise. Maybe the husband of some woman who came to the BDSM night at Dark Xanadu, or more likely one of the swingers’ nights on Saturdays, had come looking for trouble. Whoever it was, he wasn’t looking for Charles—he didn’t play with married women, no matter how much they insisted their husbands didn’t mind. He wasn’t part of the swinger crew, either. He’d talk the angry man down and that would be that. More than a decade of dealing with musicians had made him pretty good at calming the high strung.
“Coming,” he yelled.
He opened the door. The person there was shorter than the man he’d envisioned. She was decidedly female, and not especially big either. Oh, there was enough of her to create lovely curves against the soaked clothing she wore. The way it clung to her breasts, each nipple outlined against the fabric, made it hard to avoid dropping his eyes and staring. His first thought was he’d seen her before, somewhere. But if he’d seen her, there was no way he’d have forgotten her. She had deep brown eyes and brown hair a shade lighter than midnight, and when he stared at those eyes, he thought he could be lost in them forever. Her skin was the palest he had ever seen.
She turned her face away suddenly and quickly, breaking his gaze, and the spell was broken. Yes, she was still gorgeous, but for a moment, a haze had come over his mind like the one he’d felt when he was fifteen in the back seat of a station wagon with Jean McAndress, and now his brain was back in control.
“Oh good,” said the woman, “it’s you.”
So he had seen her before, and she’d seen him. Strange. “Anything I can help you with?” he asked.
“Please. I’m so cold.” For October, the night was a positively balmy sixty-five, but the rain made things feel colder. She wouldn’t die of exposure, but she’d still be better off once she got out of those clothes. He tried to convince himself his motivation was pure. She kept her face turned, so he couldn’t see her eyes anymore. What was she hiding?
He hadn’t noticed any trace of dilation in the eyes, but still, she was probably on drugs. Running around in the rain on a night like tonight, the evasiveness, the loud pounding with a strength belying her size: it all fit. Poor girl. He reached out to touch her forehead. He was so startled he almost yanked his hand back. She wasn’t a little cold. She was a lot cold, barely warmer than the air around her. But that wasn’t possible. She should be dead by now being that cold.
He pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll get help,” he said, stepping out into the cool air. He started dialing 9-1-1. He got as far as the 9, when she swung and knocked the cell phone from his hand. It flew against the wall and made a sickening crackling noise as it broke.
“No. They won’t understand. I need you.”
What the fuck? He glanced over at the remains of his cell phone. She was strong. He was still taller than her, and presumably stronger, although in her current hyped up drugged state he couldn’t be sure of the latter. And she definitely needed medical attention. He should invite her in. The warehouse wasn’t warm, but he had a space heater near where he was working; it was at least warmer than the stoop.
He looked past her. Beyond the concrete block in front of the door on which they stood was the club parking lot, shielded from the street. She hadn’t come in a car. His red Porsche 911 was the only one in the lot.
Something gnawed at him though, as if there was some reason not to let her in tucked away in his memory somewhere. He frowned. He knew plenty of Doms who were cold-hearted bastards, but he wasn’t one of them. He backed up. “Come on in,” he said.
Even with her head bowed downwards, he spotted a flash of teeth. Was that a grin on her face? Was she playing him all this time? Quite possibly. She hurried inside, taking the few steps over the threshold quickly, and then slowing back to a walk. It wasn’t much warmer on this side of the door than the other. He’d get her near the heater, get her wet clothes off, and get some blankets on her. While he was using that as an excuse to get away from her, he’d call an ambulance on the landline phone. He remembered telling Kent, the owner of Dark Xanadu, that having a landline was a waste of money in the modern world of mobile telecommunications. He didn’t think so anymore.
He closed the door behind her, then took her icy hand in his and led her through the coat check room and across the main dungeon area to the heater. He pulled over one of the chairs from the ones lined against the wall for her to sit on. She sat down, keeping her head bowed.
“Strip out of those clothes. I’ll get you a blanket. I could promise not to look but...” he said. But I’d be lying.
“Getting those things won’t do any good.” Her voice was sweet and clear, even if she seemed to be talking to her knees.
He thought otherwise. There were some blankets in the medical room where men and women played some very kinky adult games of doctor on the club nights. But there wasn’t a phone there. The phones were in the coat check room and in Kent’s office. Kent probably had a blanket in there—they were pretty standard after-scene care, and he knew Kent had done a few scenes with his submissive Angela in the private confines of his office. He walked quickly, not wanting to startle her, but not wanting to waste any time, either.
“Don’t even try to call on the phone,” she said. “I’ll hear you. I have very good hearing.”
What is she, a mind reader? Or smart enough to figure out how my mind works? He could almost certainly push three buttons for 911, whether she heard him or not. And Kent’s room didn’t leak much sound, unless he and Angela were incredibly quiet. Charles chuckled. He’d heard Angela when Kent had played with her on the main floor, and she was not quiet. He kept right on going, through the door, under the great curved Japanese sword Kent had hung on the wall above.
He was almost to the desk where the phone sat when he heard a rat-a-tat-tat. He turned and saw her standing right next to him. “No phones,” she said. “Please. Please help me.”
“How the hell can I help you?” He was losing patience, and not being able to reconcile the fast little sound he’d heard instead of the sound of squishing wet Converses didn’t help. “You need to get warm. You’re so damn cold I don’t know why you’re still alive. You need to have blankets on you and you need to see a doctor who can do something about it, or you’re going to die.”
She giggled, and for a moment, he thought she was going to lapse into hysteria. “It’s a little late for that. All they are going to find out is that I’m already dead. Don’t you remember, Charles?”
She knew his name, but he didn’t know hers. What was she going on about, anyway? “I’m sorry,” he said. “I really don’t remember who you are, or have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“Wow. Pemberton did a really good job. He’s so powerful. So strong. I can’t go against him, Charles, and he’s going to kill me. I need help. And if you help, I’ll do anything, anything at all, you name it.”
He wouldn’t be male if he didn’t have a reaction to such an offer from such a beautiful woman. But he wouldn’t be the man he wanted to be if he took her up on it.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, hoping she’d say something sensible.
“Let me drink your blood.”
So much for that hope. “Sorry, I have this thing about safe sex.” He found a green army blanket neatly stowed on the top shelf of a bookcase, and he turned his back on her to get it.
“I could just take it.”
“Do you think you could?”
“I’m stronger than you. Faster than you.”
Crazier than me, he thought. But her coldness was still real. He wrapped the blanket around her. “I don’t think you’re that kind of person,” he said.
“You’re wrong. I’ve done things to survive you wouldn’t believe.”
He put his arm around her waist and tried to walk her over to the space heater. “Right now I’m going to work on getting you warm. You can tell me all about it.”
“Look at me,” she said.
He did, and this time, she met his gaze.
“I’m a vampire.”
He didn’t know what she’d done to him, but somehow he believed her, even though what she told him was beyond belief. He felt as if he’d known it all along. Where did he know her from? He knew instinctively that he’d be lost completely if he stared into those eyes any longer. That was a strangely seductive fate—but his mind rebelled at the thought. Still, he couldn’t turn away. She was stronger and faster, and she could hold him captive with her eyes if she wanted to. So why hadn’t she done so before now?
A sad little smile passed over her face. “I shouldn’t have done that,” she said, her voice shrinking to a whisper. “Didn’t really have the strength, anymore. Don’t hate—“ But she didn’t get the rest out, because she fell to the floor, cold, pale, and dead. He knelt down next to her. She wasn’t breathing. Had she been breathing earlier? He didn’t remember it, if she had. It was the sort of thing he took for granted.
He quickly put his mouth over hers and tried to resuscitate her. His fingers couldn’t feel a pulse on her wrist. He put his hand on her heart, and it was beating, but weak. How long could her heart beat without her breathing? And she was still ice cold.
Vampire. He didn’t like vampires, he knew, even though he had no rational reason to feel one way or the other about a creature of myth he hadn’t believed existed until moments ago. He should do something. Take the sword hanging over the door to Kent’s office and chop her head off, maybe. Vampires were predators, unnatural creatures.
He frowned. Why am I thinking of chopping off her head, rather than driving a stake into her heart? In any case, he wasn’t about to do either. And conventional attempts to start her breathing weren’t working. At least with her unconscious, he could get her wet clothes off and get the blanket wrapped tightly around her. And call 911.
Her body was beautiful in a strange, almost alien way. Her nipples were nearly as pale as the rest of her skin. He didn’t turn a blind eye but didn’t waste any time gawking either. He wrapped her up in the woolen blanket. If she ever regained consciousness, it would be itchy against bare skin, but it was warm.
He touched her cold dead hand. Maybe she was supposed to be cold. She was lying so still. She was dead. Vampire. Maybe she should stay dead.
He opened her mouth again and looked inside. Her canines were sharper than a normal human’s, perhaps, but they didn’t extend any farther. Someone with an obsession might sharpen them, he supposed. Even the inside of her mouth was pale. The only reason her lips weren’t was because of the lipstick she wore, some of which had rubbed off onto his finger.
He remembered her saying the blanket wouldn’t do any good, and that the wet clothes didn’t matter. Yet she wanted his help. She needed his help. What could he do?
Let me drink your blood, she had said. He’d thought she was talking crazy, but now he was inclined to take her literally. There was no way any paramedics could get there in time, anyway, as cold as she was. But he’d have a heck of a time explaining what he was about to do to them when they finally did get there.
He reached into her mouth and ran his index finger hard across one of her sharp teeth. Blood flooded the line across his finger, and he squeezed the base of it until the first drop fell into her throat. A second followed, and a third, as he searched her face vainly for some sign she was going to wake up. Yet the more he watched her, the more he believed her. It was a crazy thing to believe, but for some reason, he didn’t just think she might be a vampire, he knew. He remembered how she had known who he was, even though he’d never met her before.
At last, after the first wound on his finger had started to seal up and he’d had to slice himself once more, her eyelids fluttered, and then opened.
I’m probably best off if she wakes up too weak to do anything. He didn’t like thinking that way, not about a helpless woman lying on the floor, but she was a vampire in need of blood. What she would do to him, if she could, he didn’t like to think about. She’d already told him she could be violent and could overpower him. And yet, when she had the chance, she hadn’t.
He lifted her head and let it rest in his lap, cushioning it from the hard warehouse floor. Her lips closed around his finger, and she sucked at it. His debate about pulling it away from her reached no resolution. He couldn’t leave her to die. He couldn’t let her suck on him until she was strong and he was weak, either.
Her lips parted. “Thank you,” she said. Her eyes stayed open this time, although her unnatural stillness made him wonder how awake she was. No, not how awake. How alive. It was the lack of breathing that made her so still.
He drew his hand back. She made no protest. She felt warmer than she had when he’d first touched her, but there was still no mistaking her for human. But human or not, she was lovely, curved where a woman ought to be curved, not half-starved in the pursuit of some odd notion of beauty.