I can do this.
You’re standing on the sidewalk, trying to psych yourself up, as you’ve been doing for the past week or so. Your cab is gone, and you suppose you could call another one, but it’s not always easy to get one in this part of town, especially after sunset. Still, maybe you could convince one to come out.
But you don’t.
You know it’s safe, technically. Or, at least, the agency had told you so. It’s a simple enough exchange, without any real stigma (unless you ask your mother, which you don’t plan to do) or risk. You place with the agency. The agency makes arrangements. You make a visit.
Easy enough, right?
Most of the houses in this part of town are extremely old, and extremely expensive. Well, they would be, right? The people who live in them, if “live” is the right term, are themselves very old, and well—money adds up, after a while, doesn’t it?
I can do this, you say again, and your fingers curl around the brass doorknocker. You knock once, twice, a third time, and let your hand drop. You shift from foot to foot, and wonder again if you should go. Everything is bathed in gold from the setting sun.
The door opens. Outside it’s getting dark, but inside seems darker. You can make out the shadowy shape of a person, and nothing more.
“Enter,” says the shadow, and what else can you do? You step over the threshold.
The door closes behind you, and your eyes adjust. There’s a man there, a bit taller than you, dressed in black—black cravat, black waistcoat, black cape. Of course there’s a cape. They supposedly wear them to protect against sunlight, but your contact at the agency claims it’s a drama thing. You can’t really say one way or another: he is the first vampire you’ve met in person.
He’s looking at you, and too late you realize he’d asked you a question while you were contemplating his sartorial choices.
“I’m sorry?” you say politely. “I didn’t catch that.”
“Your name, please,” he says, too-patiently, like he’s considering calling you a cab already.
Right. You know that one. You tell him your name, and he nods.
“That is as they said,” he tells you. Not pleased, exactly. Satisfied is probably the best word for it. “Come in. You have eaten?”
“Yes,” you say, and follow him from the foyer to the living room. Well, maybe not a living room. A parlor, you suppose, with all the Victorian associations, not to mention the funereal vibe. His parlor is decorated in grays and whites, dove-gray wallpaper, ivory couch, white carpet. When he turns to you, in all his black resplendence, it rather puts you in mind of a spider among cobwebs.
So what does that make you?
“I assume you have done all the things you were told,” he says. His voice is deep, and harbors no room for excuses if you didn’t.
“I’ve been eating a high-iron diet for the past two weeks,” you recite obediently. “And taking supplements. And avoiding alcohol, drugs, and garlic.” The last was the most annoying. Garlic bread is hard to resist, and you hope he appreciates your sacrifice.
“Good,” he says. “You will likely be weakened, and you will stay the night, of course. I will be asleep in the morning, but I have some food in the refrigerator that will, I hope, be suitable before you leave.”
You nod. You’d brought a bag with clothes and toiletries, which you hold awkwardly for a moment. He holds his hand out for it and, after the briefest hesitation, you hand it to him.
“Thank you,” he says, politely. “I will bring this upstairs. You may make yourself comfortable.”
Yes, very comfortable, you think as you sit on the spotless white couch, though to your surprise it is actually quite comfortable. The cushion is soft, and the backrest has just enough support. You look around the parlor a little more, expecting ancient portraits, or maybe a church organ, but instead you see a flat screen TV, and a desk with a laptop.
Well, that makes sense, you suppose. Vampires need to do something during the day.
You aren’t exactly sure what you’re afraid of. Pain isn’t something you fear, and you know death is unlikely, in this day and age. Vampires don’t kill their prey. They’d run out of volunteers pretty fast if they did, and hunting is illegal for them now. This is their only chance at fresh blood.
And this is your chance at something very strange, and very appealing, that you’ve wondered at for a very long time.
He returns soon after, and tucks his hands behind his back. “Are you ready, then?” he asks. Great. Your first job as a bleeder and you get the blunt guy.
Ready, he’d asked. Are you ready? Were you ever ready?
But this is what you came for, isn’t it?
“Yes,” you say, a little hesitantly.
He does not approach.
“I still have some artificial reserves,” he says. “Like most of my kind, I prefer fresh blood, but if you do not wish to, I will not starve. You may back out if you like, and still leave safely in the morning.”
That’s heartening, and you consider it for a moment. But you’ve been heading towards this for weeks—for longer, if you’re honest with yourself. Like so many things, it had started as curiosity, and had become a plan. And now?
“I—I can do this,” you say, surprised to find your mental pep-talk coming out of your mouth. “I would like to do this.”
He studies you for a moment, and you aren’t sure how to read his expression. You don’t know him, and your nerves add nuances that are probably not there.
But then he nods. “Very well,” he says, and comes over to sit on the couch, loose and graceful. “Then we shall begin. Where would you prefer?”
You raise your arm, not as gracefully as his movements. You can see the vein pulsing in your wrist. “Here, please,” you say, voice as strong as you can make it.
He looks at it, then takes your hand, cupping your knuckles against his palm. “You are trembling,” he remarks, and yes, of course you’re trembling, what does he think would happen? You half-expect him to ask you again if you’re sure.
Instead, though, he strokes his fingers over those veins, very lightly. It’s slightly ticklish, but not unpleasant. He bends his face to your wrist, and you close your eyes, steeling yourself.
But instead of teeth, all you feel is a light, light brush of lips to your skin, and you open your eyes again in surprise.
“You don’t need to be afraid,” he says softly, and you can feel his breath as he speaks, soft as another kiss. “It will hurt only for a moment, and then—and then, pleasures few of your kind know.” He looks at you, and there’s the faintest hint of a smile on those staid features, and something else in his eyes, something dark and glittering that sends a shiver down your spine.
You’ve heard of this, before, that they treat this like a seduction. They say it’s one of the reasons hunting has been outlawed, that it makes it too hard for humans to defend themselves. You don’t know if that’s true, but you know this: it’s not ineffective.
Your hand is cradled in both of his now, and he strokes your palm with his cold thumbs. You take a deep breath. You’d never thought of your hands as a particularly erogenous zone, but here you are, drawn in and more than a little turned on.
Your hand has stopped shaking.
“That’s it,” he murmurs, and he bends to kiss your wrist again. His lips are cold, too, but not unpleasantly so. More like a cool hand on a too-warm forehead. “Just think of how you’ll enjoy it, once it’s truly begun.”
“Yes,” you say softly. You’re breathing harder now, but not him. He’s still cool, in control, with a hint of coaxing in his words and a hint of a smirk on his lips, like he knows best, and all you have to do is listen to him. You know it will hurt, but you also remember, now, that pain can be pleasure. You know that fact well, and it keeps rolling around in your head, pain is pleasure, over and over, until it mixes itself up into pleasure is pain and that’s true, too.
He pulls your wrist down and drags his tongue over that pulsing vein, and you let out a sound, half-surprise and half…something else. His tongue is cold, too, but it leaves a tingling heat in its wake, spreading to your fingers, and up your arm, warming the rest of you.
And then he covers that spot with his mouth, and this feels warmer, somehow, and you close your eyes. This is intimate, too intimate, maybe, a stranger’s mouth on such a vulnerable part of your skin, and perhaps it should be unsettling. Strangely, it isn’t. Perhaps it’s the surprising tenderness with which he holds your hand in his, or perhaps the attention; perhaps it’s the fact that you wanted this, that you want this, that makes your skin suddenly hunger for this touch.
Your eyes are still closed, and you’re still thinking about tenderness, and his soothing voice. And perhaps that’s why it’s such a shock when soft heat turns to searing pain.
Your eyes snap open, and you gasp, like you’re waking from a nightmare. But you see what you expect to see: him, pulling away after the first bite, and blood blossoming, and a glimpse of pointed teeth. And then he clamps his mouth down over it. A trickle of blood seeps past his lips, glistening black in the dim light.
And he begins to drink.
At first it’s uncomfortable, too, his venom and your blood, itching and burning. No one had warned you about this—you’d expected pain from the initial puncture, but not this. You want to squirm, to pull away.
But before you do, the pain shifts to something else. Your eyes fall shut again.
You’ve heard it compared to orgasm, and you suppose that’s true. There’s a pulsing pleasure, originating not in the usual place but at your wrist, pulsing in time with your heartbeat, and for a moment your whole world is taken up with that rhythm as it courses through your body. But orgasm is brief, a climax and then a drop to catch your breath and collapse where you are.
This seems to last, stretching out into eternity, the rhythm and pleasure surging through your veins and into his mouth. You let out a sound, your free hand clenching in the air as you try to grab onto something—the couch, your clothes, anything—until you bring it up to your mouth and bite down on your wrist, a parody of his actions, silencing yourself.
He keeps drinking, and your pleasure keeps spreading, until you think you might have orgasmed for real, you aren’t even sure anymore. You aren’t shaking, but you feel dizzy, riding this high for too long, maybe, like humans aren’t supposed to do.
It probably lasts only a few moments, but it feels like forever, and it feels like not long enough. And then he pulls away, and he drags his tongue over your arm, catching that escaped rivulet of blood, and then you gasp again and collapse back on the couch.
You feel amazing. It’s like the peaceful glow after orgasm. It’s like subspace. It’s like every comforting, dizzying high you’ve ever imagined, and you’re almost giddy with it, would be if you weren’t suddenly spent and exhausted.
“You felt it, didn’t you?” he says softly.
His lips are flushed now, and so are his cheeks. He strokes his thumbs over your palm again, and when you look down, there is no sign of what he’d just done. You know it will bruise by morning, but until then, you might well have imagined it.
“Yes,” you breathe, and you bring your hand up to wipe your forehead, surprised to find that it’s not sweaty at all. Your heart is pounding, and you remember that sensation, shiver at the memory of such heightened pleasure.
“Come,” he says, but before you can rise, he lifts you up. He doesn’t look strong enough for that, but he does so, easily as a sack of flour. “You’ll need to rest now.”
He carries you upstairs, to a resplendent bedroom that you barely notice. He tips you onto the bedspread, and that’s it. With a pint of blood gone and a lot of energy spent, you fall fast asleep, and if you dream at all, you don’t remember it. You wake long enough, late that night, to find a cookie and some juice on the nightstand, and you consume both without tasting them, then go back to sleep.
In the morning, you wake to a house that seems empty, with brilliant sunlight spilling in through a gap in the curtains. You rise, dry-mouthed but well-rested, and look down at your wrist.
There’s faint, mottled bruising under the smooth skin, no puncture wounds or even a scar, and a few flakes of dried blood caught in the crease of your wrist. You wash your hands in the attached bathroom, and the dried blood is gone. You go downstairs, eat the breakfast he’d left for you in the fridge, and call a cab.
In a few hours, even the bruising is gone. It’s as if nothing had happened at all.
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