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A Kiss of Sunlight by PythonPrincess

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A Kiss of Sunlight


It was a cool summer night like many others in Santa Carla, and David was restless. He had fed, and his belly was content; his skin retaining the temporary warmth from the victim’s blood he had drained. Tonight he would stay this way. He could pretend to be alive. Tomorrow, he might not feel the ache to feed, but he would no longer be warm. He would need to don his gloves again just to do simple things if he were to touch human flesh. One would be surprised at how often one came into casual contact with human skin; shaking hands, exchanging currency, passing tickets for amusement rides, swinging fists…

Rarely, in his case, were his hands ever used for the gift of giving love, or holding hands, or any other tender mercy. The last time he’d touched a person, he’d delivered them to the angel of death. That had just been scant hours ago. The corpse of the hobo was now bobbing somewhere in the sea. David felt nothing but a gnawing emptiness since he’d lost everything.

He’d lost his boys. Marko, his most trusted companion was now just a dusty corpse in the cave, yet still perfectly preserved as the day he’d been staked. Sometimes, David still talked to him. He curled up next to him and cried empty tears. Yet Marko was colder than he was. Marko never responded. David dared to hope that someday, Marko could be returned to him, so he couldn’t bring himself to burn his body and set his soul free. There, he remained in the cave, where David had a silent shrine set up for him.

But his other boys were gone to him. Dwayne, his silent sanity; forever lost. The tall brunette, his first Childe, had never spoken much, but he’d had a zest for his undead life and had laughed quite often. David missed his laugh. He missed everything about him, from his quiet insights and his rationality, to his nurturing loyalty and unerring judgments. Dwayne had never done wrong by him.

Then there was Paul; the youngest Childe of his pack. David felt his loss as deeply as he felt any other. He’d been attracted to Paul at once, and knew he’d fit in the minute he saw him. Paul was like the sun. Everything revolved around the sun. Yet Paul never demanded much. He just wanted a good time, and he was easy going about following orders, just as Marko had been. He’d died a hero’s death, protecting the young, defenseless Laddie, too. David hadn’t expected that. He’d underestimated Paul. Paul had taken the upper quarters on his own and faced down two challengers by himself. David should have known…

Paul’s blood was on his hands.

All of their blood was.

David missed his Sire, too. Maybe Max was to blame for all that had happened in the end, for it was Max that had wanted David to induct Michael, and then later, Sam into the pack in order to force Lucy to be his bride….

Yet David was the only one left standing when all was said and done.

He was utterly alone, and he knew what his chances were from here on out.

Soon, other vampires would come and try to challenge him for his territory. He would have a choice. Surrender to them, or die.

Yet, it had been such a long time, and no one had come. Perhaps, they thought him dead. He hoped so. He’d laid low, only killing out of necessity. Sometimes, he purposely went hungry to keep the death count down. Santa Carla was slowly losing its reputation as the Murder Capital of the World.

Time passed. Eventually, twenty years passed. Twenty years was nothing to a vampire, but to the rest of the world, it mattered. People stopped fearing Santa Carla.

One day, a young woman from England decided that she wanted to visit this small seaside town that used to have such an ominous reputation.


^..^

The first thing Claire did when she drove past the ‘Welcome to Santa Carla’ sign was search for the spray painted writing that was rumored to be on the back of it. Supposedly, there was graffiti that said ‘Welcome to the Murder Capital of the World’. She was disappointed when she didn’t see it. Someone must have cleaned it off. With a sigh, she flipped on the radio, searching for a decent station. There was some talk radio she wasn’t the least bit interested in, a commercial about hemorrhoid cream…

“Keep going,” she thought to herself.

The next station was some hip hop garbage she could do without. Finally, she found a nice rock station and settled on that. At last, she was able to concentrate on the scenery that she was driving past. Multimillion dollar houses that had the sparkling sea as their back yard were spaced along the curving road. Claire wished she had that kind of money. Even in the U.K, administrative assistants didn’t pay anywhere near the sort of wages required to own houses like these. As it was, she barely made enough to cover the rent in her flat in a decent part of town, without requiring a roommate to split expenses.

At least she’d socked away enough to make her overseas vacation come true. Claire was to meet her parents and her siblings in San Francisco in a week. But, she wanted to spend some time in Santa Carla, first. It had the reputation she was interested in. In addition, Claire wanted to check out the Powder Mill up past Empire Grade, the Chinese Mining Camp at the old Spreckles Sugar Refinery, and the Legend of the Blue Lady at Moss Landing. Her family was only somewhat aware of Claire’s extracurricular interests, but she truly planned to spend an entire extra week basking in America’s supernatural culture.

The super rich houses gave way to flatter, less spectacular part of town littered with convenience stores, cheap motels, pizza by the slice joints, T-shirt shops, and finally, an amusement park that was several blocks long one side of the street. On the other side of the street were several parking lots filled with cars. Claire had heard of this place. It was the famed Beach Boardwalk. She made a mental note to return here at some point, even if it wasn’t her primary destination. There were actually two houses here she meant to check out. Both were rumored to be haunted. But first, she needed to find her hotel.

Claire had booked her room at the Holiday Inn. It was a well recognized name, even if it wasn’t the cheapest place to stay. Once she unpacked her belongings, she realized she was tired and jetlagged, but the thought of napping on a stiff hotel bed seemed unappealing. She only had a limited amount of time to enjoy herself here, so she might as well take advantage of all the best Santa Carla had to offer. Knowing that she’d be vacationing near the California coast, Claire had packed all of the necessary equipment. Out came her black, slinky two piece bathing suit, her sun tan lotion, her after sun lotion, her beach towel, her flip flops, her beach towel, a pair of shorts, her tote bag, and the two real estate listings for the haunted houses she planned to explore. Once upon a time, both residences had been up for sale, but had never sold. Eventually, they had been taken off the market. Now, they were both falling in disrepair. In her tote bag, she stuffed all of her beach paraphernalia, the real estate listings, the jeans she was wearing now, and a long sleeved T-shirt. After noticing the chill of the sea breeze, she figured she might need something warmer to change into once the sun went down, and she didn’t know if she’d feel like driving all the way back to her hotel room to change or not. When she’d passed the beach, she’d noticed some outdoor showers and bathroom facilities conveniently located for people to wash the sand from their bodies and change their clothing. Perhaps, if she still felt adventurous enough to explore the amusement park later on, she’d take advantage of the facilities there. Just in case, she packed her wallet down in the bottom of her tote bag, too. She didn’t have much in the way of American currency on her person, but she did have a bank card and some traveler’s checks to get by with.

Once she had changed into her suit and her shorts, Claire grabbed her bag and the keys to her rental car and was ready to set off. It was mid afternoon by then. Finding a spot on the beach on a weekday, in mid summer, when the temperature was pleasant wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible, either. Soon, she settled herself on her towel, removed her shorts, lathered herself in her suntan oil (to hell with skin cancer warnings…her oil was SPF 4..She wanted a decent tan to show for her time in Sunny California! How many times did a girl from the U.K. get to come to California?), put on her shades, and set about studying the old real estate listings. Claire knew little about the layout of Santa Carla, and knew that she’d have to find internet access so that she could get directions to these two locations on MapQuest. Maybe she could find access the internet at the public library or an internet café…

Before long, the jet lag caught up with Claire, and she fell asleep beneath the warm sunshine. She stayed that way until the cool breezes of sunset stroked her body and chilled her, waking her up. By then, the beach was considerably less populated. With a start, she sat up and gathered her things, wincing at the sudden sting where her straps dug into her sunburned shoulders. Ohhh, this was going to hurt!

Quickly, she gathered up her things and headed to the showers and rinsed off. There was no line at this hour. The restroom facilities were empty, too. Quickly, she stripped out of her sodden suit and changed into fresh clothes, praising herself for remembering to bring the after sun lotion with aloe vera. When she smoothed it on her reddened shoulders, the sting faded to something tolerable. For some reason, her shoulders and her cheeks had taken the brunt of the sun’s glare. The rest of the front of her body that had been exposed had pinked up some, perhaps, but she didn’t really feel the sting. Still, she rubbed the lotion everywhere the sun had hit, just in case, knowing she might feel quite mummified in the morning if she didn’t. Once she dressed in the long sleeved T and jeans, she was glad she’d brought them. Evenings were indeed nippy in Santa Carla, especially after a quick shower. Claire even found herself wishing for a light jacket.

Despite the sunburn, the nap had done her a world of good. She felt rejuvenated and ready for some fun. Her car was in the parking lot across the street, so she returned to it and dumped her heavy tote bag inside after she’d removed her wallet from it. In the trunk, she had locked a small fanny pack that contained just some bare essentials, but nothing valuable. She extracted it and put her wallet inside. Then, she pulled out a small comb and used the rear view mirror to groom her light brown hair. Next, she applied a neutral shade of lipstick and some spice colored eyeliner. With the sunburn on her cheeks, she now had no need for blusher. At last, she was ready to go. Her stomach rumbled, telling her that it was now or never. She locked her car up securely and made for the boardwalk and the exciting sights and smells that awaited her.

^..^

Another night like a billion others, and they all seemed to stretch on into eternity. Once again, David found himself on the boardwalk. He’d fed, as usual, and was warm for another night, but he was empty as always. Empty and dead. Dead and lonely.

He was a creature of habit now, frequenting the places he always used to go, for lack of any other places to go. He retraced the steps he took with his boys, and rode the same paths he’d ridden with them. Sometimes, he imaged that he could hear their voices carry on the wind. He heard them in his dreams. David wondered where they were now. Did they see the sunlight? Would they burn if they touched it? Once he’d had the guts to take Marko’s body out of the sanctuary where he’d died and lay it outside the cavern just to see what would happen. The next night, he’d tiptoed out to see if his friend’s body was ashes. Nothing had happened. Marko’s remains were as pristine as ever. Now, he imagined all of his friends walked in the sunlight.

David missed the sunlight, but he knew what would happen if he touched it. His hand had flamed up once. He still had the scars to prove it.

He smelled it before he saw it. He smelled sunlight. It radiated from the carousel in little waves that rotated round and round. David was mesmerized, and his feet carried him in that direction before he had a chance to think about where he was going. The smell was just as hypnotic as blood. Strangely, he could smell blood too, just beneath that fragrant smell of the sun…Pulsing…beckoning him…

So mortal, like Paul had once been. Paul had once exuded an energy so much like this, reminding David of the sun’s brilliance. At first, his heart hammered in his chest and a lump formed in his chest as he wondered if one of his long lost Boys was alive somehow…

But as he drew closer to the source, he realized that this time, the anime was feminine, not masculine, as it had defiantly been in Paul’s case.

Still, it mattered not. Someone who possessed this sort of energy was someone David had to know. Paul had come to matter a great deal to David. Perhaps the owner of this anime would come to matter a great deal to him, too. Maybe his lonely nights would come to an end. He could feel the touch of the sun in his life again. And, maybe, some day, he could find some sanity and some humanity in his life again, too. Peace could finally be restored….

David didn’t wait for the carousel to come to a stop before he hopped aboard. His long, black duster coat swished behind him, and many people stopped and stared at his bravado. He paid them no mind. Gone were the days of the ‘Surf Nazi’s. They had been replaced by ‘Gang Bangers’; sullen youths in droopy pants at least two sizes two large, with their boxer shorts showing out their waistbands, and bandanas around their heads displaying their gang’s colors. Even they knew to give David headway. Slowly and purposefully, he circled around the platform, examining each patron on a horse or in a carriage, or each individual standing beside a rider. His boots thumped softly on the wood as he walked, keeping an odd rhythm with the calliope music. Finally, his eyes settled upon a young woman seated upon an ornate white horse with rearing front hooves and a blue and gold painted saddle. *She was trying vainly to toss one of the gold rings at the target; a novel little distraction. Outside riders could grab a ring on one rotation, and toss it at the target during later a rotation to make a buzzer sound. David edged closer to this woman, and realized at once that she was the one he was looking for. With a smile, he boarded the black horse in front of her, knowing that she’d see him. Then, he craned his head and watched as she tossed her ring. She missed, as he knew she would. The carousel made another rotation, and he grabbed for a golden ring. Then, on the next pass, he tossed it, and grinned widely when the buzzer sounded. Craning his head again, he judged her reaction. She looked mildly impressed, so he disembarked from his horse and stood beside her. On the next pass, he grabbed a ring and handed it to her.

“It’s all in the timing,” he told her, “Toss it just a bit before you get to the target, and you’ll have it made.”

She acknowledged his remark silently, and waited for the carousel to swing back around. Just before it was time, David stretched up and whispered into her ear…

“Now!”

The woman tossed her ring, and the buzzer sounded. She gave a triumphant smile, and David watched as her brown eyes lit up. Her cheeks were colored by the sunlight, and he could smell the sun on her skin and in her hair….

He could drink it up….

“What’s your name?” David asked her.

“Claire,” she replied softly.

Did he detect an accent?

“Claire. Well, Claire, I’m David. Nice to meet you. Good throw, by the way.”

“Thank you,” she answered, biting her lip.

It seemed that maybe Claire was shy, too. Or, maybe she was a prissy Brit with a stiff upper lip…

The carousel began to slow, and finally, it stopped.

“So, Claire, have you had anything to eat tonight?” David asked.

“No, I was going to, but I saw this old round about and I had to come take a ride. It’s so pretty,” she answered.

‘It’s one of the few things around here that’s older than me,’ David thought to himself, but he didn’t say this aloud.

“What do you like to eat?”

“Just about anything, really. I’m not choosy. Actually, I’m really quite hungry.”

“Well, the food around here isn’t too bad, but it’s horribly overpriced. I know some places where the food is cheaper and it tastes better. Are you afraid of motorcycles?” David asked.

“Are you inviting me to go with you?” Claire asked.

David smiled.

“Well, if you’d rather, we could go separate…”

“That might be better. I don’t know you that well.”

“Do you like Chinese?”

“Yes.”

“Chinese it is, then. There’s a nice place called the Jade Dragon. Where are you parked?”

Claire gave David directions to the parking lot where she’d left her rental car, and they parted ways. He was relieved to see that the girl didn’t stiff him with false directions. It wouldn’t have been a problem even if she had, though. He had his methods and could have followed her anyhow. Soon, they met up at the restaurant David suggested, a few blocks away from the boardwalk.

^..^

Claire was nervous. She hadn’t expected to meet anyone, let alone go out on a dinner date. Still, she was on vacation, and who said she couldn’t have some fun? Besides, this David was certainly handsome! There was no denying that! There was something so intense about his powder blue eyes, and something so intriguing about the softness of his pale skin…She had to stop herself from reaching out and stroking his cheek…

And the way he said her name gave her chills up and down her spine. He said it like he was trying it out on his tongue, slowly tasting it; maybe savoring it…

‘Stop it!’ she demanded of herself, ‘You’ve only just met this guy! You hardly know him!’

Claire was glad she had enough sense in her head not to accept the invitation to ride on the back of his bike. She wasn’t that crazy. After all, Santa Carla once had the reputation of being the Murder Capital of the World. It didn’t get that rap for no reason.

David was a gentleman and held the door open for her as they entered the small restaurant. They were shown a small, cozy booth where a candle was lit for some intimate illumination. Once they made their orders, it was time for some more ‘getting to know you’ talk.

“So, Claire, you’re not from around here, are you?” David asked, stating the obvious.

Claire shook her head with a smile.

“Are you going to keep me guessing, or are you going to tell me where you’re from?” he asked, taking a sip of his complimentary green tea from its impossibly tiny cup. He managed to look so cultured while he drank it, too.Claire avoided pouring herself any, thinking she’d look silly. Though tea was a common beverage for her to take, she didn't usually drink it in cups this small.

“England,” she replied, Bristol, to be exact.”

“Wow. You’re a long way from home. What would make a girl like you travel all this way to come to an armpit like Santa Carla?”

Claire let out with a quick laugh.

“I’m on holiday, but you’d laugh if I told you why I really came here. In a week, I’m supposed to meet my family in San Francisco.”

“San Francisco. Now, there’s classy tourist trap. But here…come on, Claire. You’ve got to tell me. I’m dying to know!”

Claire blushed, and David could see her cheeks flame even through that lovely sunburn she sported.

“There’s some…haunted places here and in some places nearby that I want to see. I like to do ghost hunting,” she finally confessed.

“Haunted places?” David echoed.

“Yes. I know, it sounds dumb. There’s some places here, one in Moss Landing, one in Empire Grade, and a Chinese Mining camp near the old Spreckles Sugar refinery. I want to check them out before I go to San Francisco.”

“Where are the places here?”

“I’ll show you after dinner. I have the listings in my car. Maybe you might know where they are if you are a local here,” Claire told him.

Soon, two steaming dinner plates arrived, and Claire was overjoyed. By now, she was starving. She was amazed at how well David was able to manipulate chopsticks, even while eating rice. Every once in awhile, he would gaze up at her with those amazing eyes and give her a soft smile that always managed to draw a smile out of her. She found herself wondering how old he was. His skin was perfectly unlined; he could be anywhere from his early to mid twenties, yet he possessed a quality about him that made him seem ethereal and ageless. A shiver shot up her spine. With skin and eyelashes so pale, what if she was dining with a ghost? It was a silly thought, and she nearly laughed aloud.

At last the check came, and David’s hand shot out and grabbed it before Claire even had a chance to see the bill.

“Ah-ah,” he tisked, “My treat.”

“Are you sure?” she asked uncertainly.

“I invited you, didn’t I? It would be rude of me to expect you to pay.”

David paid the bill as promised, and they stepped outside. The night had grown considerably cooler, and Claire shivered.

“So, what about these haunted places you were telling me about?” David asked. For some reason, he wasted no time getting to the point they had discussed earlier. Suddenly, Claire remembered the listings she had in the tote bag in her trunk.

“I have the information in the car. Hold on for a minute. Let me get it,” she told him. She unlocked the car, popped the hood, and rummaged through her tote while David waited patiently. Finally, she retrieved the listings.

“It’s these two houses I want to see,” she explained, “They used to be up for sale, but both have been taken off the market and are now uninhabited. I don’t know where in town they are, but both are rumored to be here, and both are supposed to be haunted.”

David took the listings from her and examined them carefully. Claire watched his expression change. Suddenly, he went from cheerful and charming to sad looking and lost.

“You really want to see these places?” he asked her. His voice was rough edged with an emotion she couldn’t understand.

“Well, yes. I’ve come a long way to study them.”

“I suppose I could show you where they are. But I….Well, I can take you to them,” he told her.

Then, he gazed at her car.

“The first one is in town. It’s not horribly far away. But, the second one is up in the hills. The area is kind of rugged. Your car might have some trouble up there. We might want to take it to your hotel and go on my bike,” he suggested.

Claire gazed at David. Then she eyeballed her car, the listing, and then David again. If worse came to worse, she did have some pepper spray and a cell phone in her fanny pack.

“Okay,” she finally agreed.

^..^

Claire dropped off her car and her tote bag in her hotel room, while David waited in the parking lot with his bike. She grabbed her windbreaker while she was at it, and her digital camera. Then, she made her way back down to the parking lot. Together, they tore through the night towards the first of the houses on her listing.

A long wooden walkway, barred by a splintered white gate, led to the door. The paint was long since withered. Claire had no idea what had made the sizeable hole in the front gate. A rusty padlock prevented anyone from opening it, but without asking her, David just boosted her up and effortlessly assisted her over. She was able to drop over to the other side at least somewhat gracefully, but not as gracefully as David was somehow able to hop up onto the gate unassisted and swing down himself.

There were no porch lights to guide them up the long walkway anymore, so they navigated their way in the dark. Of course, the front door was locked. But, David asked if Claire had a credit card. She produced her bank card, and David set to work sliding it between the locks in the door. He also rubbed his hands over the locks in a queer fashion that Claire had never seen. Moments later, she heard a pop noise, and David was able to open the door. He then handed her bank card back to her.

Claire peered inside the darkened entrance hall to the house. David stood beside her, holding the door open as a gentleman should, looking at her expectantly. She gazed once into his enigmatic eyes. Then, she took a deep breath and proceeded inside.

Obviously, no one had been in here for an age. It was very dark. Windows had been boarded up, and the only light was the thin sliver of moonlight that was allowed in from the open door frame. Then, she heard the noise of something flick behind her. David had fished a Zippo lighter from his jacket pocket and lit it. Meager light flared in the darkness, and he took the lead, assisting her so that she wouldn’t trip over any odd stair or debris lying in the path ahead. Strangely, he was either very surefooted, or he knew his way around this place. Perhaps he’d busted in with his friends when he was younger and had a couple of ‘haunted house’ parties.

Claire’s imagined suspicions were confirmed when David led her in to what looked to be a dining area. She noticed, for the first time, that there was still furniture in the house. A table was set up in the middle of the room, with four chairs around it. Two candle sticks were set in the middle of the table, with long, cream colored tapers inside them. From the looks of them, they’d been lit at least a few times before. David ignited them both, grabbed them, and handed one to Claire. He kept the other for himself and blew out his lighter.

“Welcome to the house of Maximillian Irving; former Santa Carla business owner. He bit the big one in the summer of 1986, and it’s rumored that his ghost still roams this place. I beg to differ with that. He had a dog, too. No one knows what happened to the dog. Some say old Thorn bought the farm…died from neglect, chained up right out front. It’s believed his ghost still haunts the yard. I say bullshit. Rumor has it that Thorn was meaner than a rabid junkyard dog, and if Max kicked the bucket, Thorn would have chewed that chain away and trotted off into the sunset to go maul alley cats somewhere. Besides, if that rumor is true, where are the dog bones?”

David gave a sudden, amused sounding laugh, as if he was snickering at some private joke Claire didn’t quite understand.

“Frankly,” he continued, “If Max’s ghost is still rattling around; I don’t think he’d be here. I have another theory where he’d be. This place is as empty as a coke addict’s skull. Feel free to investigate and prove me wrong, though. My opinion is, people don’t want to buy a house with a bad reputation. And, the older it gets, the more likely it will need repairs they don’t want to invest in. So, here it sits…”

He spread his arms wide in demonstration, inviting Claire to look around, which she did. The furnishings were defiantly not her taste. Whoever owned this house before had strange ideas in décor. Wanna be post modern…

Appliances which had likely been state of the art back in ’86 when David said this guy died were outdated relics now. The place smelled must, and the paint was starting to peel in areas. Claire could only imagine the pest problems and the dry rot. David was right. Still, she pulled out her camera and snapped pictures anyways, wondering if she’d get any proof of the supernatural…like orbs or vortices.

David took her carefully through each room while she took pictures. Obviously, this Max had been a neat freak, unless the realtors had gone through and taken pains to really clean things up prior to showings. They even wanted it to look like someone still lived here. Some of the man’s personal effects were left behind, like his toothbrush and shaver in the master bath. Claire thought that was creepy. The guy had been dead for 20 years! Still, she had to think…it had been at least 5 years since the house had been shown to any prospective buyers. At least, that’s how old the last real estate listing was for this place was.

“So, what do you think?” David asked, pausing behind her. She could feel his presence so closely, like a dark, unseen shadow.

“I-I don’t know. There’s something not right about this place, but…I don’t know that it’s haunted. Just…not right. I can’t really say why, though,” Claire replied.

It was true. There was an odd feeling that had settled over her. She felt like she was being watched; like she shouldn’t be there. Frankly, she wanted to leave.

Claire turned around and glanced at David. He looked none too comfortable either.

“Then let’s go,” he told her.

They set the candles back on the dining room table and blew them out. When they walked outside, David had enough common courtesy to twist the bottom lock on the front door handle before closing the door. Then, they made their way down the long wooden pathway towards the gate.

“How do you know so much about this place?” Claire asked him, curiously.

“Local legends,” David replied with a small smile.

There was something of a sadness behind his smile that Claire didn’t understand. She didn’t have a chance to ask him about it before they reached the gate. Once again, he helped her over it, and climbed over it himself. Then, they boarded his bike.

“It’s a bit of a ride to the next place,” he told her.

Claire didn’t mind as long as they were leaving here.

^..^

David leaned into the wind, feeling it bite into his cold skin as he tore down the asphalt road. Past, present and the unknown were melding into one frightening, yet exhilarating blur. He hadn’t planned a trip down memory lane tonight, yet in a way, what had he expected when he’d first smelled that whiff of sunlight and pursued it to the carousel? At first, it had reminded him of someone he’d loved and lost….and a sensation he had once known and could no longer touch. Now, it was reborn in a new soul, with a new face…

Yet, to know these joys again, David would have to face the past. All the pain, all the sorrow, all the heartache, all the anger, all the blame…

Was he ready?

He had only been to his Sire’s once house since his death. He’d lied to the girl about there not being death at that house. He didn’t want to frighten her, because he sensed that despite her curious nature, she was a creature that could and would frighten easily. She didn’t know what she was really dealing with. Claire didn’t know that Thorn hadn’t been just any dog. When Max had died, Thorn’s heart had stopped beating, and he passed into the shadows to be ever loyal to his Master. David found Thorn’s body and buried him in the back yard. Then, he locked up the house and never returned again. Until tonight.

Yet, like Claire, he sensed a presence at Max’s house, and knew that it was the ever watchful spirit of the Hellhound. The dog would let no one invade his Master’s refuge. No wonder Max’s home hadn’t sold.

He could feel the press of Claire’s body against him as he rode. She was so warm; so alive. To feel that again…How long had it been? Her arms clung so tightly around him, so trustingly. If only he could feed from this feeling…

It made knowing what lie ahead a little less intimidating. At least until he saw first glimpse of the house around the bend as they approached the road that led to the long, private driveway that once belonged to Old Man Martin, Michael Emerson’s grandfather.

Tonight, there were no cars parked in the driveway. The old ’47 Army truck was gone, as was the 60’s era recreation vehicle that belonged to Michael’s mother, Lucy. The ’57 flip that Michael bragged about his grandfather having was long gone, too, although David suspected that had been kept in the detached garage. Michael’s rice rocket was nowhere to be seen, either. Of course there were no cars around. The place was abandoned, and had been for at least 2 years. Gus Martin had finally taken a dirt nap. He willed his house and it’s trove of stuffed animal treasures to his only child, Lucy, who didn’t want to live there anymore after all of the terrible events of the Summer of ’86. Neither, of course, did Michael or Sam. Lucy opted to sell the house. Unfortunately, she had a hell of a time finding a buyer. Then she’d tried to rent it to some tenants about 4 years ago. That’s how the house became famed for its haunted reputation. The last tenant moved out around 2 years ago, and the house had been vacant ever since. Of course, around town, Lucy blamed the sudden downturn of the real estate market for her house’s failure to make it on the market, but in reality, everyone in town knew something bad had happened up at the Martin place about 20 years ago, and the ghost stories were just too tasty to ignore. Especially since the stories linked the Martin house with the Irving house…Maximillian Irving supposedly met his untimely demise in an accident caused by Old Man Martin, who drove his car through a wall in his house. Strangely, no investigation was ever conducted by the police, and Old Man Martin was never brought up on any charges.

And no one ever mentioned the other lives that were lost that night.

David parked the bike near the front porch and took a deep breath out of habit rather than need. Then, he held out his hand and assisted Claire from the back of his bike. He noticed that she was looking around curiously. If only she could have seen the weird carvings and decorations the old man had stashed everywhere when he’d been alive!

“I call this the Emerson house, but you’ll see in your listing that it’s actually called the Martin house. I knew someone that used to live here some time ago. His name was Michael. Michael Emerson. It was his grandfather, Gus Martin that owned this place, until his number flipped about 10 years ago. The place was willed to his daughter, Lucy, and technically, it’s still hers,” David explained.

Claire nodded, soaking it all in. As far as getting information on these houses was concerned, she couldn’t have asked to run into a better person! He took her by the hand and led her up the short flight of wooden stairs to a double set of glass French doors. Then, he paused and looked inside, contemplating all he could see of the darkened interior through the glass panes. Everything was changed, yet it was all familiar. The prior renting tenants hadn’t liked the grandpa’s stuffed statues, so down they came. The walls were mostly bare. There was a little bit of furniture, but not much, as far as he could see….

Stealing himself, he held his hand out to Claire, communicating to her that he would need her bank card again. He didn’t need to try the door to know it was locked. Lucy Emerson wasn’t the sort to carelessly leave doors and windows open after the experiences she’d endured.

Claire handed the plastic card over, and David jimmied the lock. This one was easier than the one at Max’s place. The door popped open easily. It wasn’t dead bolted, surprisingly. But then again, living this far out in the sticks, he supposed dead bolts really weren’t necessary. Besides, no dead bolt in the world would keep a determined vampire out. When he finished he surrendered the card and crossed the threshold into the empty house. Nothing barred his way. His Sire had been invited in once; and dead or not, the invitation would never be revoked. He supposed if new owners took possession of the premises, the rules would change, but Lucy’s son had made the invitation on Lucy’s behest, without the interference of the then owner’s protests, and the house was now in Lucy’s name. Therefore, David could enter at will, just as he’d been able to enter his Sire’s home, regardless of Thorn’s dead wishes.

Claire followed David inside, feeling the coolness and the darkness of the house reach out to her from all corners. It was a big place, done in a crude cabin style, like a big hunting lodge. She could tell that renovations had been made to some of the woodwork in the main rooms and to the front doorway and the fireplace. How long ago, she had no idea. But, some of the stones at the fireplace didn’t quite match the age of the others, and the some of the wood on the stair banisters and around the front of the house looked a little newer than other areas. Though paint and stain did much to hide the fact, Claire could still see the repairs. It was odd how her eyes detected it; almost as if some unseen force was guiding her eyes to see it.

“There’s death in this house, Claire. Feel it. The old man that owned this place before his daughter died in that room with the sliding doors…just keeled over one day while working on his ‘pet projects’, I hear….”

“Pet projects?” she echoed.

“He was a taxidermist. His damn stuffed animals were displayed all over the place. Disgusting.”

Claire wrinkled her pert, slightly sunburned nose. David smiled. She was the only warm spot in this entire room.

She noticed how David shivered slightly when he gazed into that room. His eyes had some sort of undisguised look of pain and fear that was impossible to decipher. Claire took her camera from its strap around her neck and began to snap pictures.

“Maximillian Irving died right over here, it’s said. There was an accident while he was bringing Lucy Emerson home from a date. Lucy’s father accidentally drove his car through the front of the house, mortally injuring Max and shoving him into the fireplace…What a way to go.”

Once again, David’s face reflected pain. Why? Had he personally known Max? Claire pursed her lips and took some more pictures, feeling somewhat ghoulish. Yet, she was only here for a week. This was what she’d come here to do after saving up tons of money. She couldn’t let some handsome guy with a personal problem stop her from her dream, now could she?

Then, he led her to an adjoining room. From here, she could see two double doors with twin diamond windows leading into what appeared to be a kitchen. David looked around this room, once again experiencing some sort of profound, private pain. He gazed at the beams of the high ceiling, and at the dusty hardwood floor. This room was devoid of any furniture. Slowly, he went to a spot the near the wall and slowly traced a spot in the floor with his gloved hand. Then, he gazed up at Claire with sad eyes that nearly broke her heart.

“Someone else died here. He was my friend. He was electrocuted by a stereo one night…”

Claire gasped involuntarily, dropping her camera. The strap around her neck saved it from falling to the floor. Yet, somehow, the flash went off by itself, and she jumped nearly 10 feet, making a mad dash for the safety of David’s body.

“It’s okay,” he whispered, taking her into his arms in a gentle embrace, “Your camera just went off because it bumped against you….”

Yet he didn’t sound completely convinced of that.

When she caught her breath, David released her and took her hand. Then, he led her up the stairs. She poked her head into each bedroom once they reached the second floor, and noticed that David didn’t offer any commentary. Most of them still had beds and other furniture, but all were lacking any personal touches. When they passed the bathroom, David visibly recoiled. What was he, a spook magnet? With interest, Claire poked her head inside. All she saw was a normal looking bathroom with newer looking fixtures, but no towels, soap, or toilet paper. Obviously, it was not set up to accommodate guests for the time being.

“Did someone die here too?” she asked out of curiosity, snapping a few pictures anyways. Why not? Just because a room looked normal didn’t mean it wasn’t haunted.

“Yes. Someone drowned in the bathtub,” David answered shortly. His face was pinched and his jaw was set tightly, and his voice rumbled painfully in his chest.

“Another friend of yours?”

David could only nod in reply. Suddenly, he started shaking so violently that Claire was frightened. His face was even paler than usual, and quickly, she ran to the nearest bedroom and snatched the quilt from the bed. She didn’t know what else to do. Then she rushed back to her companion and wrapped it around his shoulders. Maybe it was time to leave. This time, she took the lead, tugging his hand and pulling him down the stairs with her. He cast one baleful look at the room with the sliding doors….the ‘taxidermy’ room, as she thought of it now. Then, she closed the sliding French doors behind them and took a seat on the wooden porch steps, pulling David down beside her.

“I-I’m sorry. I just couldn’t stand to be in that house one more minute….,” he stammered.

“It’s okay. I understand. Your friends how….terrible. You must miss them. Do you want to tell me about them?” Claire asked.

David shook his head.

“I can’t. Not now. Not tonight. They were a part of me, Claire. They were a part of me in a way that you wouldn’t understand….”

Then, he turned his pale gaze towards her. His shaking had stopped, and he stared into her brown eyes unflinchingly.

“They were a part of me in a way that I’d like you to be,” he whispered.

“How is that?” Claire asked softly. She felt her heart start to flutter in her chest like a caged bird protesting against its little barred prison.

David slipped off his gloves and lifted a finger to Claire’s cheekbones. Softly, he traced the places where the sun had kissed her earlier that day. He could feel the warmth still, radiating through the coolness of his fingertips. Ah, to touch the sunlight again! The mortal girl shivered beneath his touch, her brown eyes growing large. David brought his lips to her face and kissed her cheeks lightly, savoring the feel of her flesh against his mouth. Then, he buried his nose in her dark tresses for a moment. Oh, the sun had stoked her hair, too. Jealous of the sun he was, but now she was his tonight.

Claire didn’t protest as he tipped her chin and brought her lips to his. They were soft, warm and sweet, like a mortal’s ought to be. David tasted them hungrily but gently, feeling his prize respond to his kisses eagerly. Then, he parted her lips and slid his tongue between them, exploring the warmth of the inside of her mouth. There was no hesitation on Claire’s part. She responded in kind with hungry kisses of her own. Soon, they were entangled in each other’s arms, kissing with wild abandon.

The warmth of Claire’s skin and the smell of her blood and the sunlight that had played upon her flesh earlier caused an arousal that David could hardly contain. He moaned as his manhood strained against the denim of his tight, black jeans. It wasn’t often that he got so hard without the taste or the sight of blood. He broke the kiss for just a moment to remove the quilt from his shoulders and spread it out on the front porch. Then, he cradled his mortal treasure to him and spent more time kissing her neck; torturing himself with the erratic beat of the pulse beneath her tender throat.

Claire’s breath was coming in ragged gasps. She craned her neck for David and clawed at the back of his leather jacket, finally having the guts to attempt to work it off of him. Then, she heard David chuckle lightly in her ear. As he kissed her earlobes, he removed it himself, casually tossing it aside. Before she knew it, his skilled hands were lifting her T-Shirt up over her head, exposing the simple peach colored bra she wore over her nice, medium sized breasts. Honestly, she hadn’t worn anything racy, as she hadn’t planned for a night like this…yet, David treated her lingerie as if it were a delicacy, stroking at the silky fabric tenderly. Partially because the chill hit her skin, and mostly because of the attention David paid them, Claire’s nipples rose up hard and pert. David moaned and lowered his face to her breasts, sucking each nipple in turn through the fabric of her bra. Claire moaned at the tease.

One of David’s hands supported her back, bringing her breasts closer to his sucking lips. The other traced light circles upon her sunburned shoulders. The cool touch of his fingers soothed the reddened skin there better than her after sun lotion had. Gently, he pulled the straps of her bra down, unclasped the back and pulled it free from her body. Finally, David was free to take in the sight of Claire’s breasts, unclothed. Lovely they were; and they were waiting for more attention from his eager mouth, too. He renewed his efforts, kissing and stroking them. Claire arched her back, offering up to him all she had.

David finally knew he wanted to feel her bare, warm flesh against his. With a soft sigh, he parted from her and stripped his black T-Shirt off. Then, he pressed his hard, muscled chest against her soft, feminine one for a moment, allowing for that needed body contact. Their gazes connected, and he could see the passion in her eyes as he worked to nimbly kick of one boot braced against the porch, assisted with his other foot…and then he repeated the process with the other boot. Then, to Claire’s surprise, he was able to remove her shoes without using his hands, the very same way. Of course, she had no idea how nimble a vampire’s feet were, and he wasn’t about to explain this to her. Better just to let her think he was talented…

It left his hands free to pursue other tasks, like unbuttoning her jeans and sliding them down her long, lean legs. Then, he removed his own and tossed them aside in the heap of their co-mingled clothing. He was now completely nude, and she nearly was, but David had to stop and admire her simple, satin, peach colored bikini panties. Simplicity was nice. They matched her bra. He could just barely make out the color of her sex through the fabric of her panties, and it drove him mad. With a low groan, he rubbed his erection against the soft silk of her undergarment. He could already feel wetness seeping through. Warm, mortal wetness. God, she wanted him!

“Claire, do you want me to stop?” he whispered to her, filling her ears with the passion roughed sound of his voice.

“No! Please don’t stop! Don’t stop, David!” she begged.

“I won’t, then. You’re mine,” he told her.

David cupped her buttocks firmly in his hands and rolled over with her until she laid atop him. Claire’s warm weight felt delicious upon his body. He worked his fingers beneath the elastic of her panties and lowered them, easily helping her out of them. Then, he rubbed his hands up and down the length of her body. She was conducting her own exploration of his shoulders, his neck and his chest; touching him here, kissing him there…

He throbbed beneath her as he slid himself between her legs. There was a nice, soft spot to rub her and make her nice and ready. David found it with ease, but laid still for a moment, just feeling Claire’s warmth against his erection, and reveling in their kisses. Then, he rolled her to where they both now laid on their sides. He took one of her thighs and draped it over his hip. Finally, he rubbed the length of his hardened cock against her throbbing clit. Instantly, Claire jerked her hips and arched her back. David moaned and pulled her closer to him. His hands were still cupping the warm flesh of her buttocks, teasing them with massaging circles and tight squeezes.

“Oh, God, David!” Claire cried.

“Baby likes that,” David gasped redoubling his efforts.

Claire could only close her eyes and groan in response.

He could feel a climax building in her. The muscles in her lower stomach were bunching up in that particular way, and her blood was reaching the boiling point. David so wanted to taste it, but he didn’t dare. No, he didn’t want to frighten her…or kill her. One taste of human blood was rarely enough. No crushed flowers tonight…

Strangely, he didn’t care if he climaxed or not. He didn’t suppose he would if he had no blood to go with the love, but yet there was a feeling building in his stomach, too. Maybe because he’d fed earlier; and because she smelled of warm blood and sunlight…he could….

“Oh, God, I think I’m going to….”

“Are you going to come, Claire?”

“I-I..” she stammered through her passion.

“I’m going to make you come,” David told her with a feral growl.

Two more strokes set her on the edge.

Then, he entered her. She gasped in surprise, moaning out. He wasn’t sure if he detected pain in her cry. Maybe she was too over sensitized. She was tight, too. So tight; and so warm. It was a hard push, but he was finally inside her depths, and her wetness allowed for easy passage. Claire’s face was flushed, and David kissed her. Before long, he felt those sensations building up in her belly again. He rolled her onto her back, draped both knees over his hips, leaned over her, and pushed deep.

“Oh..David!” she cried.

Her eyes flew open in surprise as passion washed over her body in waves of ecstasy.

“Mmmm, good,” David murmured, before the spasms hit him. Without warning, he exploded inside of her, moaning out his pleasure before he collapsed atop her in a drained heap.

They laid there floating in bliss for some time, soaking up the joy of each other’s nearness. After a while, Claire turned her head to the side and noticed something. She could see her own reflection in the glass of the double French doors. But where was David’s? It looked as if she was lying on the front porch on a quilt, naked, and utterly alone!

But David was noticing something, too. It was stirring up a fresh arousal in him. He smelled blood. Not a lot, but enough. It was coming from Claire. It was fresh blood; spilled blood, freed from the confines of a vein. His need was rising fast, and he had to find the source. He had to stop it, or he would shift, and he knew how to stop it. One swipe of his tongue could stop bleeding as surely as one slash of his fangs or nails could cause it. God, had he caused it? Had he inadvertently hurt her?

They were laying spooned in each other’s arms now, but he rolled her on her back and began a careful investigation of Claire’s body. That’s when he noticed the seepage of a tiny amount of blood on the quilt beneath her bottom. He knew she wasn’t on her cycle. He could smell that on a woman from a mile away…(quite irresistible, too). Menstruating women were frequent feed targets of vampires. Yet, there was blood. That could only mean one thing.

It had been Claire’s first time.

His eyes sought hers quickly. He only had moments to take care of this.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded.

“Because then you would have stopped and questioned me to death. I was sure. I knew what I wanted,” she replied.

David couldn’t argue. There was little time. He looked down. The changes were starting. He laid butterfly kisses on her belly. Thankfully, she couldn’t see him face down. Then he nudged her thighs apart and lapped at her wetness. Claire tried to jerk away at first, surprised at his actions. He could feel her tension….but then; she had no choice but to surrender to the passion that quickly began to build. Bloodlust built in David as he tasted what Claire had given to him first. Excitement rose in him, and he came when she began to buck wildly against his tongue in her sudden orgasm.

David made sure there was no more blood. He cleaned her up completely, licking away every last trace and healing all that he could. Hopefully, his companion wouldn’t be too sore tomorrow due to his careful consideration to the matter. When he finished, he kissed his way gently back up her belly and found his place beside her on the quilt.

“How was that for a first time?” he asked her with a sheepish grin.

“You’re amazing,” she whispered to him.

He took her into his arms to feel the beating of her heart. Maybe, for a moment, he could pretend it was his, too.

“David, what are you?” Claire asked, suddenly.

“What do you mean, what am I?” he asked her softly.

“Are you a ghost?”

David pulled away and looked at her with some amusement.

“Really, Claire. What would give you that idea? Could a ghost take you around on a motorcycle, out to dinner or make love to you like that?”

“No…but why can I see my reflection in the windows, but not yours?”

“You know I’m not like everyone else, don’t you?” he asked her.

“I think I’m figuring that one out. But, why? What makes you different?”

“How much do you wanna know, Claire?” David asked. Suddenly, his voice was filled with challenge.

“I’ve just slept with you. I think I should know something,” she replied.

David pulled her to him and kissed the back of her neck.

“Does it feel normal when I do this?” he asked.

“Yes…it feels good,’ Claire replied.

“How about when I do this…”

Claire couldn’t see his face shift in the glass. She couldn’t see his fangs as he pierced the skin, just below her hairline, on the back of her neck. David felt her jump in his arms. Droplets of blood dribbled into his mouth, and he lapped greedily with his tongue. But, instead of drawing more from her like she was a victim, he pulled away and sealed up the wounds by licking them shut.

“You bit me!” she cried.

“Join me, Claire. Come away with me…”

Then, he let her see his features. Only he kept his eyes closed so she wouldn’t be truly shocked by his blazing eyes.

“David, you’re a…

“Yes, Claire. I’m a vampire,” he told her.

“Oh, God. Please…”

“I won’t hurt you. I just want you to join me…I’ve lost my pack. Most of them died here. My Sire, too. I’m alone until I met you. There’s something about you, Claire….you’re like the sunlight in a dark cave…”

Claire was trembling, but David could tell she was thinking. He dared to hope. He dared to open his eyes. They now had that wild look between glowing and half human.

“David, I can’t make a decision like that right now. I have family and a life back home to consider….I’m supposed to meet them in a week! It would break their hearts…and mine too if I never got to say goodbye! I would kind of feel like you do now, I think…”

“So, then, is this a maybe…for now…” he said. His voice reflected the first spark of hope he’d felt in an age.

“Yes, a maybe,” Claire replied.

“I’ll expect you to come back some day…”

“Yes. I will. I promise.”

“Soon.”

“As soon as I can. I swear…”

She smiled a real smile that almost went from ear to ear.

And David knew she would keep her promise. Claire would dream of him.
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