God, how he hated Halloween. All the ghouls hanging from trees and the painted faces that leered out from behind darkened windows. The vampires with their oversized fangs and the fake blood dripping from the corners of their mouths bothered him the most. Vampires did not look like that, nor did they waltz around in dark capes with thick Transylvanian accents. At least the ones he knew didn't. They lived among the population as normal human beings. They were accountants, lawyers, and criminologists. They worked in bars and bakeries, and no one could tell who they were apart from other vampires: a glance, a shadow of understanding, a hint of a snarl behind the complexity of their intentionally monotonous lives. It was all a façade to fool the living, a successful one, for his network saw to it that no one who ever found out lived to tell the tale.
He hated the holiday yet was out on this spectacularly chilly night because he could not stand to be at home. Carmilla did not mind the dozens of children that made the long journey up his winding drive to ring the doorbell. She greeted them with a smile and pumpkin-shaped bucket of treats so sickeningly sweet they turned his stomach. So he had left her there to fuss over the little monsters, the fairies, the princesses and the Jedi knights, the Harry Potters and the hobbits. He hoped by the time he returned the last of them would be gone, the drive solitary in the moonlight that shimmered over the tips of the trees in a harvest shade.
Everyone acted peculiar when it was a full moon, mortal and immortal alike. The new vampires were nervous and hormonal; the older ones wise enough to know eyes would be watching them in the darkness. Humans even exhibited certain changes, as did the animals that prowled the streets, mangy alley cats and stray dogs. Josef liked neither but preferred cats, agile and possessed of sharp teeth often used to make a point.
Anyone else would have been intimidated in this part of LA, but nothing would dare confront him. Not even for the expensive car that surrounded him, the chrome newly polished and the engine purring like a kitten. He shifted into a higher gear and allowed the wind to caress his chiseled features. Anyone else would have been shivering, but vampires gathered their strength from the cold. It reminded him of the north, and that bitter night in which he had escaped the mob. Only once had he truly feared for his life, the gleam of the torches approaching the barn where he had fled. Sophistication had come much later, but there was still the primal urge to hunt, to kill, that had been with him since his rebirth. There had been no such holiday as Halloween when he had been turned, but it was the same night of the year. Maybe that's why he hated it, because its commercialization and cuteness, its emphasis on cheap thrills, said nothing about the hours of torment and pain in which he had suffered before awakening to a new world.
Josef was not attempting to concentrate on the world around him so much as escape it, but into the beam of his headlights stumbled a figure. Slamming on the brakes, he came within inches of hitting her, but she seemed unaware of that fact as she collapsed onto the pavement, holding together her coat. It was apparent immediately, a scent that could not be mistaken; it filled him with interest, with desire, with something as ferocious and dangerous as his past. Blood. It coated her hands and dripped down the side of her face, shimmering against her pale skin. If she was even aware of it, she took no notice.
He acted more on instinct than compassion, getting out to approach her. "Help me," she whispered, her voice no more than a whisper as she reached out toward him. Her fingertips glistened with blood as they fell into his, the scarlet substance seeping into his skin. For anyone else it might have been too much to bear, but Josef had spent centuries becoming accustomed to his impulses, learning to control and manipulate them. He regretted coming down this road. He wasn't some pathetic savior like Mick was, determined to prevent mankind from becoming its own destruction. Mick was all about helping people. Josef was all about looking after his own best interests.
It would have been too easy to just leave her there, and he considered it. He actually had gotten back into his car and reached for the gearshift when he paused, staring at the woman now lying unconscious in the road. Some unfathomable impulse would not allow him to leave her. Swearing under his breath, he got back out and placed her into the passenger seat. He couldn't take her to the hospital. There would be too many questions, even for someone with his political influence. But if he left her here, she would be dead by morning. Why he even cared escaped him. Humans were of no importance to him apart from as a source of life, a source of the blood he needed for survival. But he did not feed off of street urchins and runaways like so much of the trash in this city. The blood he drank was blue. It came from the finest families.
There was nothing for it but to take her to Mick. He lived in a ramshackle apartment building with a surprisingly decent interior. He kept vials of blood behind a cabinet in his shiny and much unused kitchen. Occasionally, he replaced the food that rotted in his refrigerator, when it became obvious to strangers that he was not eating any of it. He even soiled dishes so his housekeeper, who came once a week and was meticulous in her duties, would notice nothing unusual. That he slept in a refrigerator was odd, but there was a bed with appropriately rumpled sheets and beaten down pillows just for show. There was even a television, even though he rarely watched it. Nothing interested him apart from the living.
Pulling up outside the building, Josef grimaced to see a line of kids streaming in and out, in their festive costumes with bags bulging with candy that would rot their teeth and put far too much sugar into their blood. There was nothing worse than high-sugar blood, although occasional, pimply teenage vampires loved it. Young vampires had a hard enough time adjusting without adding insanity to the mix, but most of them thought blood tainted with Mickey's were fun. From what he remembered of the experience the one time he had taken a sip of a drug addict, Josef did not find it fun. He had woken up six hours later in an alley missing his wallet and with a mother of a migraine.
Leaving the girl slumped in the passenger seat, Josef pushed through the kids and ascended the stairwell. Tigger had just reached Mick's door, along with a ballerina and a witch, and all of them stared at him as he nudged them out of the way with one polished shoe and rapped loudly on the door. Nothing. No movement inside. Josef noticed the kids' scowling at him and said, "Beat it. Go scare a nun."
He had done that once. Great memories.
He banged on the door again. Where the hell was Mick? No, stupid question… he was out roaming the streets or worse yet, saving someone. "Son of a…" Josef muttered, and the kids ran to the next open door, where an old woman was smiling through oversized dentures as she handed out mars bars. He had hoped he could leave the girl here, have Mick turn her in, or do whatever it was he did with the dazed idiots that came to him for help. That's what he was owed for eighty years of babysitting. But no, the one time he needed to ask Mick for a favor, he wasn't home.
Pulling an embossed pen out of his pocket, Josef scribbled a note and slid it under the door.
The girl was still unconscious when he returned to the car, either that or a damn good faker. The two teens that had been considering stealing his hubcaps thought better of it and backed off as he came out the side stairwell. Josef gave a melodramatic sigh as he slid behind the wheel. The moon shimmered above them as the pavement flew beneath the wheels, city lanes eventually fading into the foothills. There were little lights strung up the length of his drive, but he was relieved to see that most of the trick or treaters had gone home for the night, leaving candy wrappers and fake bunny ears behind in the shrubbery. His house staff would have to get on that in the morning.
Parking in the circular driveway next to the fountain, the creak of the gates automatically closing behind them, a faint ray of light streamed out across the rocks as Carmilla came to the door, her shapely form garmented in his favorite blue dressing gown. She was a beautiful woman, more intelligent than most. Perhaps that was why he liked her. Well, not so much her as her vintage. Mick always turned down the offer of a drink, but Josef had found no better tasting blood in the county, and she was more than willing to share it.
"I was wondering when you would come back," she sad as he stepped out of the convertible, her shadow molding into the doorframe. Only the diamonds around her neck sparkled in the gloom. The house behind them was quiet, most of the staff having been sent home. Her perfume followed her form as she came down to meet him in her high heels, slipping her arms into his jacket for warmth. "I thought you might like to try something new tonight. Do you like cinnamon?"
It was on her lips when she kissed him, teasing him with her taste. Her fingernails withdrew as she stepped away from him, having caught sight of the shadow in the front seat of his car. "Josef, did you bring home a stray to play with?" There was a tinge of resentment to her voice. Carmilla did not like the other girls he occasionally brought home, though she knew none of them were for much more than a taste. She had the finest blood in California, and knew it, although when he said it did not carry quite the same meaning as when her father boasted of it on the golf course. Her father hated Josef.
Taking her hand and kissing her wrist just above the neat puncture marks he had left behind, Josef replied, "Now why would I do that? I found this one in the street. I couldn't just leave her there, and Mick wasn't home. We can lock her up in one of the spare bedrooms and call him tomorrow." He playfully nibbled on her ear and she relented, allowing him to bring the girl into the house. The romantic atmosphere softened the sharpness of the girl's features. She was prettier than he anticipated, but looked as though she had been worked over with someone's fist. He laid her none too gently on the bed.
Carmilla stood over her with her head tilted to one side, examining her with an expression of distaste. No doubt in all her years of being the pampered daughter of a multi-million dollar CEO, she had never seen violence done to anyone. She was far more innocent than she liked to let on, a fact that never escaped him, for whenever he tasted her he sensed her true emotions. It flowed through her veins, her past and glimpses of her future combined; the fact that she found him mysterious and dangerous, that there was a thrill of being powerless in his presence, that she was pleased to be acting in defiance of her father. To her, vampires were the elite, the royalty of mankind, a step above most mortals, something she secretly aspired to, but Josef knew he would never turn her. Turning her would be a waste of her existence, even if she wanted to remain young and beautiful forever.
Tossing his jacket over the back of the nearest chair, Josef was glad to be home. He had not expected to be gone as long as he had been, and the exhaustion of caring whether or not someone lived had made him ravenous. The room around him shimmered, and his mood changed to more predatory instincts. Carmilla came slowly out of the bedroom and closed the door behind her. She came so near to him that he could taste her long before he did, placing one arm around his neck and offering him the wrist of her other hand. His lips caressed it and then lifted to find hers.
Her heart beat against his chest as he drifted her backwards, sliding his fingers beneath the lace of her dressing gown and sliding it to the floor. Her beautiful, perfect arms went around his neck as he kissed her, tasting the eagerness on her lips. She never resisted as he lowered her to the couch, sweeping aside soft locks of thick dark hair before caressing her throat. His hand slid beneath her as he gently bit into her neck. He could taste cinnamon and just a hint of brandy. She stiffened just for a moment and then relaxed, threading her fingers through his hair. The haziness of her mood caused him to forget all of his anxieties, the fact that it was Halloween, that he had a girl of barely legal drinking age in the house, that Mick had not been where he was supposed to be.
The candles burned low and he was drowsy when he finished, falling asleep entangled in Carmilla's arms.