This is my first attempt at writing for Sara Whitley. I love vintage Charles/Sara, and all the Sara stories finally inspired me to get my butt into gear and offer up my own take on Josef's long-lost love. Reviews are highly welcomed. I own nothing; Moonlight belongs to greater minds…

I'm Ready

I'm ready. Everyone thinks I'm just the silly daughter of a tycoon, that I wouldn't know common sense if it pinched my bottom, that I'm a real dope. Even daddy, as much as I adore the old dear, thinks that way. When I ask him about politics, when I ask about real estate, he pats my hand, and says: 'Don't worry your pretty little head, princess. Let daddy worry for you.' But I want to worry. I want to be a part of something. This isn't the dark ages! Women have had the vote for over thirty years, thank you very much!

Charles doesn't think I'm a dope. He might just be the first person that saw me, not John Whitley's daughter, not the princess of the Whitley kingdom, just plain ol' Sara. I figured out a long time ago that if my family only had two nickels to rub together, most men wouldn't know I was alive. I mean, let's face it. I'm not exactly a dead ringer for Lana Turner. Oh, I've been called a 'real cute kid' but that doesn't knock the socks off of the guys, right? Charles turned all that around. He wouldn't care if I was on skid row, it wouldn't be anything to him. Finally, the princess found her prince.

I have a tiny confession to make. It was no mere twist of fate that brought Charles and me together. I told a harmless white lie, pretended I needed a light. I had two books of matches in my purse, although my mother thinks that my habit of smoking is vulgar and generally shameless. (She thinks I gave it up ages ago.) Why the sham? Well, so I could meet him, of course! Like a scene from a movie, I saw him across that sea of hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station, and I knew. I just knew. Thankfully, the situation didn't call for any more crafty engineering, because my bag of feminine tricks is sadly next to empty. We started talking, and the rest just happened.

Who knows what we talked about? The topic could have been seafood, for all I can remember about it. I do remember being caught in his gaze, feeling as though I could drown in those enigmatic eyes. Gosh, it was exciting! He was so handsome…so sophisticated. And to think, he wanted to talk to me! I don't think my feet touched the ground the rest of the evening. I do remember I dropped the mention that I'd be at the museum the next day, trying to be very specific about location and time without giving myself away.

Let me tell you, I was as nervous as an expectant cat that next afternoon. I was sure he wouldn't pop up, but praying that he would. I stared blankly at art, didn't absorb a word of the guide's lectures as I fussed inside my head, about ready to scream. Then I saw him, gliding through the museum as though he owned the establishment, eying everyone with a self-assurance I envied. Then he saw me, and gave me a smile that warmed me from head to toe.

By the end of the day, I felt as though I'd known him always. He was so witty, I laughed so much my cheeks and side ached. He knew oodles about art and history, and he was much more fun than those stuffy old dinosaurs that taught at my high school. My mother would have been in hysterics if she'd heard the way I plied questions on him. 'Nothing's worse than a chatterbox, my pet,' she was always telling me, but phooey to all that. Charles says he likes well-informed women, and you don't get informed by keeping your mouth shut all the time. Charles answered every question, and it seemed like he was having every bit as much fun as I was, to my delight and shock.

We saw each other all the time after that, both of us jumping at any chance. Both daddy and mama were relieved, believing their wall flower of a daughter suddenly formed a social life. Maybe it was rotten of me, but I let them think that it was just new female friends. They would have both had a fit if they'd known about how much time I was spending with Charles…alone, like it was some crime or something.

They never would have believed he was a perfect gentleman, not like the boys from school who get fresh if you give them the slightest bit of encouragement. They never would have believed it was I who craved the feel of his kisses, who wanted to feel those strong arms around me. I may not have known much about the birds and the bees, but I knew Charles never would have compromised me, never would have broken the trust I placed in him.

Our first kiss was absolutely fantastic. He leaned slowly down, giving me time to think twice, I suppose. I could feel his cool breath against my lips, teasing the nerves, making me tremble lightly in anticipation. Then his mouth was actually on mine, and my head spun, everything going crazy inside me. His arms circled me, and I clung to him, letting myself get swept away in this new magic. When the pesky need for oxygen arose, he seemed to know, and pulled away, stroking my hair. It was my first kiss, and as far as I was concerned, no one else was getting a crack at it!

It's hard to say when I began getting that funny feeling. You know what I mean, I bet. It's the one in the pit of your stomach that tells you something screwy is going on. I was determined to get to the bottom of it, determined to worry my pretty little head. I was crazy about Charles, but there was more than met the eye, and you couldn't love someone in fragments. In fact, he was a regular puzzle, and I began slowly to piece the puzzle together.

Charles had a habit of taking me to dinner and dancing, but he never touched his food. He had a great weakness for champagne, the decadently expensive sort, and sometimes he indulged in stronger spirits, but couldn't be tempted to eat. Then there was his aversion to sunlight. While obviously he didn't stay under lock and key during daylight hours, there was no love affair with him and the sunlight. Actually, I got the impression it actually bothered him. In general, he seemed sensitive to the heat, while he seemed to thrive in the cold. When everyone else was frozen stiff, he'd be as snug as a bug in a rug. And his business was run on a bizarrely nocturnal schedule, one that seemed batty to me. How his poor employees could function like that was beyond me.

Eventually, the puzzle was complete. It seemed impossible at first; the very idea seemed to defy common sense at every turn. Charles couldn't be what I was beginning to suspect. Even if it was possible, the man I loved didn't resemble anything close to what the silver screen offered in the way of answers. I refused to believe he could be a monster. My Charles might have been ruthless in business, but so was my father, come to that. As naïve as daddy would have me, I understood that turning a profit isn't always a delicate business. Charles might have had an edge to his wit, but I'd never seen him be cruel, as he'd been nothing but loving with me. Surely, monsters couldn't love.

I kept quiet for a while, observing, trying to make sense about it all. No matter how much the facts didn't make sense, they were irreversible, final. My Charles was a vampire. I refused to let the discovery shatter the happiness we'd found together, the bond we'd built. All right, so he was a vampire. Really, what did those horror films know? Movies are hardly reliable sources to base life-shaping decisions on, right? I was determined to use the common sense I wasn't supposed to have.

Eventually, it dawned on me that I was hurting Charles by keeping quiet. He felt as though he had to hide who and what he was for me to be his girl, that I'd melt into a puddle of hysterics if I discovered the truth. So, I plucked up my nerve and tipped my hand. "You don't have to hide, sweetheart," I told him. "I know everything. I know you're a vampire." You could have knocked him over with a feather! Then tears-yes, tears, glittered in those fascinating eyes, and it was my turn to be floored. I have been loved all my life, but I don't think I've ever been needed. Charles needed me as much as I needed him, needed my acceptance as much as I needed his. That was miraculous in the extreme as far as I was concerned.

From that day forward, there were no more pretenses. He opened up to me in a way that he'd never opened up to anyone, I suspected. He told me about his poverty-stricken existence as a human, the early days of heady freedom as a young vampire, the loveless marriages he'd tolerated through the decades for fortune and status. Not all the stories he told me were pretty or always very flattering towards him. Charles wasn't some picture perfect prince on a white steed after all, with blankly simplistic virtue oozing off him in waves. He was complex, flawed, captivating, and I think I loved him more for it. Perfection is so boring. I've lived in a tower of perfection my whole life, and I've had my fill of it.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm sure he didn't tell me everything. I may be naïve, but I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. There's probably many things he'll never confide, not because he doesn't trust me, but because they don't matter. Some things are simply no one else's business but your own, and I'm no snoop. Charles has told me things he's never told a soul, vampiric or mortal, and that's more than enough for me.

It was then that Charles' generosity because outrageous. I'd been tickled pink by the bouquets he'd made a habit of giving me…cheerful daisies, elegant lilies of all kinds, lovely violets, and magnificent roses of all shades, except for red. I'd asked him why once, and he shrugged, saying blithely: "Too cliché, by far, Sara. A woman like you deserves something better than the obvious." I beamed, even more pleased that I was finally a woman than over the beautiful flowers. Once the cat was out of the bag, the gifts changed in nature. He presented me with delightful purchases from Saks, jewelry, and art. I had to keep the things at his home, because they would have exposed everything to my father, but that didn't diminish my pleasure in them.

My favorite gift was an exquisite locket he surprised me with one afternoon. He slipped it on, and I kissed him my thanks. That was one token of his generosity I never parted with. Luckily for me, daddy never even noticed. It was simple enough not to draw too much attention, and he was hardly going to take inventory. I lied to mother, saying it was a gift from daddy. I'd never told a fib before, never directly anyway, so it never even occurred to her to doubt me.

The secrets Charles told me, the generous showering of gifts, weren't the only thing that changed in our romance. Up until then, Charles had been the best boyfriend a girl could have had, and his kisses were the best thing I'd ever come across, but in hindsight, he'd kept an extremely tight leash on his control, carefully measuring his kisses, watching his every move, I'm sure. Once we kicked pretense to the curb, all that took a radically delightful turn. Bit by bit, more and more each day, he began to let himself go.

His kisses became more ardent, filling me with a desire that was alien and overwhelming, but irresistible and exhilarating. He never took more than I was willing to give, but didn't hesitate to tempt me to give him just a little more. Even more exciting, he made me feel as though I was an equal partner in this passion, not some little girl that was being seduced, not some twit who was being maneuvered into her lover's bed. My arm was decidedly not being twisted.

The night we consummated our bond was wonderfully spontaneous, a reckless impulse that I eagerly embraced. Charles had no big ideas; he'd just planned for a quiet evening in, watching Bette Davis films in his projector room, and dancing in his grand parlor. The dance started out innocently enough, but the feel of our bodies pressed so close together…the love and craving in his eyes made my legs feel like jelly, made my skin feel warm. I kissed him like a wild woman, throwing all caution to the wind. If anyone was seduced, it was the centuries old vampire. Hah! To tell you the truth, just thinking about that night makes me feel like the temperature's gone up ten degrees!

The only thing to mar our joy was the uncertainty of the future. Facts are facts. I was mortal, he wasn't. I was aging, he wasn't. That's an obstacle that can't be fixed with patience and determination. There wouldn't be any picket fence, and three adorable children to fill our future. Even in the most euphoric moments, a shadow of doom followed us. If I was aware of it, Charles must have been haunted day and night, having seen death endlessly, observing the cycle of human life. Yet, he tried to shield me, never letting on. This frustrated me. I didn't want to be spared; I wanted to be a part of finding the solution. I would not allow Charles to treat me like daddy had always treated me.

When I confronted Charles, demanded to be treated as an adult, he got angry. Not with me, but with himself. "Spare you? Spare you? Gee, I think I missed the boat on that one. If I wanted to spare you, I should have never started up with you. Now I've dragged you into something you don't have a clue about." He allowed me to glimpse his despair, allowed me to see beyond his powerful, confident exterior. Certainly, those qualities are no façade, but they're not the sum of his person, merely facets of his personality. It was another break-through in our relationship, another sign of his respect for me. I thought my heart would burst from loving him so much.

One day, the solution stared me right in the face. Mortals could be turned; they could shrug off the constraints of humanity, and join vampires in their power. I couldn't believe this hadn't occurred to Charles. Of course, the most obvious answers often elude us. I was further stumped when he rejected my idea. He acted as if I suggested he slit my throat or something!

"We don't exactly have a boatload of other options," I pointed out.

"Forget it, precious. Nothing doing."

"We'll see about that," I countered. I wasn't going to let Charles' petty concerns stand in the way of our future. I knew that a part of Charles was tempted; I knew that the thought of me withering away, lying cold in the ground, was his greatest dread. I knew he could be convinced, that this particular obstacle could be overcome with patience and determination.

I won't bore you with the details, but eventually, I got through his amazingly thick skull. In the end, we have no choice really. Charles is smart. If I know it, so does he. I'm ready.