Blood Ties: Neither Here Nor There
From where he stood in the shadows of that dingy workout room on the wrong side of town, Henry Fitzroy smiled and felt the tips of his fangs with his tongue. He would love to sink them into the soft, warm flesh of the woman he had been watching exercise, sweat glistening on her body, determination shining in her eyes. But he wouldn't, not now – not yet. There would be a time for that, a time when she would want that as much as he did. But that time was yet to come. And Henry could wait, because some things were indeed worth waiting for. He just wouldn't wait forever.
"I didn't take you for the voyeur type," Vicki Nelson called out between panting breaths. She'd just finished pounding one of the punching bags, and she was pretty close to exhausted. She wasn't really in the mood for a hassle from Henry.
"I like to watch sometimes," Henry said. He didn't move from where he stood lounging in the far corner of the room. "And you don't need to shout. My hearing is very good."
"Right," Vicki said. She picked up the white towel that she had left on the ropes of the nearby boxing ring and started wiping herself off. "That's one of those vampire things." She could feel his silent smile, and it made her skin tingle. How could she be attracted to this man who wasn't really a man at all but some kind of horror movie creature? It didn't make any sense. She was smarter than that. She looked up and was stunned to find Henry less than a yard away.
"Another of those vampire things," Henry said smugly.
"Right," Vicki said again, sounding stupid to herself, so she figured he must be thinking she was a real dimwit. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
Henry looked around the dimly lit one-room training gym used by two-bit boxers and thought about the expensive – and exclusive – health club he sometimes frequented on the very-rich right side of town. "Hanging out," he said.
Vicki stopped herself before she said "Right" a third time. "Uh huh," she said instead, and that wasn't much better. She looked at his black silk shirt and pants and the long coat he wore. There was no way in the world someone like him hung out at a place like this. A vampire like him wouldn't even be caught snacking at a place like this…she was pretty sure of that anyway. "Why now?" she asked.
Henry smiled and took a step closer. "I followed you," he said.
"I'm not looking for a stalker, Henry," Vicki said. She glanced at the clock on the wall; it was after 10 o'clock. She hadn't intended to be there so long, but once she got into the zone working out she lost track of time. It wasn't until she had started wearing out that she had sensed his presence. And she had a feeling that might not have been the case if he hadn't let himself be sensed. Vicki had the distinct impression that Henry had some pretty strong defense mechanisms.
"I was concerned," Henry said. He slid a lock of hair behind his ear. It was easy for him to charm mortal women; his looks and his vampire persuasion skills made him irresistible. And yet…Vicki had resisted him. He sensed some level of attraction, but that wasn't the same as things usually were for him. Women would literally throw themselves at him, begging for his attentions – both sexual and supernatural, though they didn't consciously know about the supernatural part. He didn't tell women he was a vampire; he didn't let them know who he really was. But he had told Vicki. He had needed her to understand just exactly who and what he was. He still wasn't entirely sure why.
"Really," Vicki said. "Concerned about what?"
"This isn't a good neighborhood for…"
"A woman?" Vicki said.
"Anyone," Henry said. "It's a desperate place. And desperation is always dangerous."
"I don't need you to protect me, Henry," Vicki said. She went over to her black gym bag and threw the towel in before turning back to him. "I've asked for your assistance in professional capacities some of the time. That doesn't mean I can't take care of myself."
"I know that," Henry said.
"I'm not looking for a vampire bodyguard," Vicki said. She hoisted the straps for the bag over her shoulder, and then she walked back over to him. "And I'm not looking for anything other than a professional relationship with you, Henry," she said. "Is that clear?"
Henry smiled. His senses were extremely sharp, and he could always tell when his presence was desired, especially by females. And yes, all the signals were there now, in her eyes and the set of her lips, the way she gripped the strap of the bag and stood with her weight tilted slightly into her right hip. He could hear it in her voice and the surge of her blood beneath the surface of her skin, and he wanted to answer it, take her to him and hear her say the words to him and show him how much she wanted him…but he held himself in check. "It's perfectly clear," he said quietly. "Though I thought we were at least friends to some extent."
"Friendly colleagues," Vicki said, not taking her eyes from his, although she wanted to, because her hands wanted to follow and feel the that glorious body she was looking at. Good grief he was gorgeous. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone, and a silver chain with a gleaming black stone pendant hung against his flesh. Obsidian? she wondered. She wanted to touch it and touch him, undo the rest of those buttons and see that chest again. And she knew he was willing; she didn't need to have any supernatural powers to know that – he was broadcasting his signals loud and clear. But if coming to this seedy place was dangerous, getting sexually involved with a vampire was extremely high-risk behavior. And she was too smart for that. So when he took another step forward, coming within a foot of her, so close that she could see her reflection in his eyes, she knew she had to turn on her heel and go; she had to enforce what she had said about wanting nothing more with him. She couldn't let him think that she was one of the weak mortal females she had seen him toy with in one of the dance clubs he frequented. Yes, she had watched him too, and if she thought he knew about it she would never be able to talk to him again.
Henry paused, giving her the moment to choose. He could feel the turmoil in her, and if he wanted to he could reach inside her thoughts and learn just what it was that she was working through in her mind. But he chose not to, and that was different for him too, that respect for boundaries. He waited even past the moment when he felt the shift toward awareness that she wasn't going to deny this further and walk away; he waited to see if she would move toward him. There was something thrilling about that for him, to feel for the moment that he need not be the predator. "Vicki," he whispered, but he didn't move…and he was surprised when she did, letting her bag fall to the floor and closing the space between them, placing her hands on his face, and bringing his lips to hers. Henry let his eyes close, and he slid his arms around her and pressed her to him.
Vicki knew it was the wrong thing to do for so many reasons, but she was never one to run from a challenge – and he was most certainly a challenge. His lips were soft, like velvet, and she told herself just this, one soft, chaste kiss and nothing more, there couldn't be more with this…vampire. And his lips parted beneath hers, their tongues meeting before moving on, and she slid her hands into his hair as the kiss deepened. Desire burned in her, boiling her blood, clouding her mind, as she felt his hands moving on her, his clever fingers finding their way beneath her shirt to her back. She started to feel like she was falling, like the world was spinning and dropping away, and she needed more, much more, and then she felt his…fangs. Her tongue moved over the sharp points of his teeth, and a spike of fear tore through the web of her desire. And then she was stepping back, stumbling, her eyes still closed for a moment until she opened them to see the dark swirling vampire passion in his eyes. "I can't do this," she said. She shook her head and could only repeat those same words: "I can't do this." She tore her gaze from him and found her bag, then rushed out of the room, blindly heading to the showers where she closed and locked the rusty bolt on the door, knowing that lock wouldn't even slow Henry down if he came after her. But she also knew he wouldn't do that. The lock was for her, to keep her from going back to him.
It took all of Henry's formidable willpower to hold back the howl that he wanted to unleash on the world. No, he would not have her hear that. Instead he let loose a blow on the punching bag she had been using that sent the bag flying into the far wall where it exploded before dropping to the floor in a deflated heap. He tore his hands through his hair and fought to regain his composure. Part of him, the selfish beast that he had allowed himself to be for so long, goaded him to go and take what he could have, should have, and do it now, right now. He did not have to play these games – he did not need to play any games. His vampire hunger raged along with his passion, and he knew in the end that he would not be able to control it. He shot a look in the direction Vicki had headed and then followed her path to the door she had holed herself up behind. He could feel her there, her heart pounding, and he wanted to taste her blood almost as much as he wanted to be with her sexually – he wanted it too much. He laid his hand on the door. "Good night," he said quietly, and then he left to fulfill his need.
And on the other side of the door Vicki stood trembling, not from the fear of what he was – not entirely, anyway. No, that wasn't really what she was afraid of. What terrified Vicki down deep was that despite the clear physical proof of what he was and the undeniable knowledge of what that meant, her desire for him was still so strong that she could barely keep herself from going after him. She closed her eyes and held her bag to her chest while in her mind's eye she saw him, that unnatural darkness in his eyes as he pulled her to him and then sank his long, smooth fangs into the delicate flesh of her throat. She savored the fantasy for only a moment before shoving it from her mind. Then she opened her eyes and tossed the bag aside. That was something that would never be; it could not ever be. She undressed and went into the shower, turning the water on cold to shock herself back to reality.
And elsewhere Henry fed his hunger but not his desire. And he realized how much he hated this thing called love.