Antecedent by Susan Stumpf

This isn’t a love story. This is the story of how I die. I guess I should start at the beginning. My name is Emina Marigold Polanski; horrible I know. I was named after my grandmother. My friends, the very few I have, just call me Em. My parents died in a car crash when I was thirteen. I spent the next six years living with and caring for my aunt before she died of cancer. That was seven years ago, and I’ve been on my own ever since.
Antecedent by Susan Stumpf
Let’s skip ahead to when my life really changed. My life was boring, mundane even. Things started changing last fall. It had been a horrible week. My boyfriend Charlie dumped me on Tuesday, and I had gotten fired on Thursday. Friday, I spent the whole day moping around the house. After feeling sorry for myself most of the day, I decided to go out and drink my cares away. I went to Outer Moon, a local dance club. I didn’t want to go to a smoky old bar and listen to sappy country music. There are plenty of those kinds of places here in east Tennessee. I wanted something high energy. I put on my black leather pants and a burgundy peasant shirt. I put on a little more makeup than usual then tied my long, brown hair into a loose messy bun. I definitely wasn’t looking to pick up anyone, but I didn’t want to look out of place either. I took a cab to the club because I had no intention of coming out of there able to drive. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a line to get in. I paid the cover then fought my way through a sea of scantily clad girls who looked like they were still in high school and middle-aged men fighting for their attention. I’d been here a few times. It was your run of the mill dance club, black walls with stars, planets, and colorful swirls glowing in the black lights. The music was always upbeat, on the verge of techno. I made it to the bar and ordered vodka shots with a Pepsi chaser and told the bartender, a woman about my age with short spiky blonde hair, to just keep them coming. I refused drinks from a few men. I don’t know why guys always think you owe them something if they buy you a drink. Like a five-dollar beverage should pay the price for sex. Did that ever work? Is anybody really that cheap? After half a dozen drinks, I got up the courage and coordination to dance a few times. Drinks and dancing, dancing and drinks. This consumed my whole night, I’d almost forgotten about being dumped and fired in the same week. That job sucked anyway. What person my age works at a video game store? I definitely wouldn’t miss all the pimply faced little teenage boys staring at my boobs the whole time I talked to them. Most guys felt intimidated that I knew more about their favorite games than they did. Yep, I was feeling good. Who needed Charlie or Game Junction. I was free now. Yeah, free…free and alone. No family, very few friends, no boyfriend, no social life. I spent most weekends eating junk food and playing video games. I’m really going to be in trouble if my metabolism ever slows down! Luckily I’ve always been skinny no matter how poor my diet. Around 2 a.m. Mr. God’s gift to women himself declared that I was far too pretty to be sitting there alone and if I played my cards right he’d honor me with his company. He didn’t take “buzz off” too well and started mouthing off, wondering why I thought I was too good for him. Now in the fairy tales, this is where my prince charming would come swooping in and tell this guy that was no way to speak to a lady….that didn’t happen. After a few choice words for each other, the bartender told the guy if he didn’t leave me alone she was going to call the bouncer over. After he left I thanked her and asked for the total on my tab. I’d decided it was time to leave. She told me it had already been taken care of. “Really, by who?” I asked reluctantly. “Mr. Tall, dark, and grouchy over there,” she said and nodded her head toward the corner. “He insisted,” she added apologetically. He was tall, dark, and grouchy looking. At least six-foot tall, dark hair, dark eyes, clean shaven. He was wearing a black button-down that looked smooth like satin or rayon and black dress pants. Somebody just hopped in his Volvo and drove on over here from Douche Bag Boulevard. He had a smoldering too cool for the atmosphere look going for him. Oh boy, here we go, it’s the drink man. Any second now he’s going to come over and lay on some cheesy line that he thinks is smooth and try to collect his payment for not only one drink but all my drinks. It had to have been around fifty bucks worth of alcohol. Yeah, he’s really going to think I owe him something. Time to go! “If he follows me out the door, send one of the bouncers to the parking lot please,” I requested. I may be drunk but I’m not stupid. “Will do. Be careful, hun,” she said with a wink. I pushed my way to the door occasionally glancing back to make sure tall, dark, and grouchy was staying put there in the corner. He stayed there leaning against the wall watching me so precisely that it almost felt like he was a predator watching his prey. I felt relieved when I reached the parking lot. I hadn’t realized how stuffy it was in there until I stepped out into the cool September air. I was headed for the street to get a cab when guess who stepped in front of me…yep, tall, dark, and grouchy. Crap! There must be a back door to the place. “Look, dude,” I started, but he cut me off. “I can see you’re drunk, so we won’t discuss it now but, I have a proposition for you. Meet me at this address tomorrow night at eight p.m.” Then he slipped a business card into my hand. “Thanks, buddy, but I’m not into propositions,” I answered. “It’s not what you think,” he said. “I’d like to offer you a job.” “Yeah, well I don’t do that kind of work,” I said as I walked past him hoping he’d get the hint. “You may wanna try Julia Roberts over on Hollywood Boulevard,” I added and laughed a little too hard at my own joke. I didn’t look back as I hopped into a waiting cab. They were always waiting around here on the weekends to pick up anyone who had a few too many drinks. Resting my head against the seat, I looked at the card he handed me. There was no name, but it said Forever Young Antiques and gave an address on Rieber Street. Some rich creep looking to buy a girlfriend was my guess. I’d almost fallen asleep in the cab when we pulled up to my two story brownstone. Aunt Eileen had left it to me when she died. It was a quiet neighborhood of mostly older people, and the houses weren’t too close together. When I got inside, I stumbled up the steps to my bedroom and managed to undress before falling into bed. I woke up in the early afternoon feeling like something the cat dragged in. I showered and went downstairs to find something to eat to calm my stomach…there was nothing. There was no food in the house, I needed to go shopping. I found half a pack of saltines in the cabinet and settled for that. They were only a little stale, and of course, I was out of Pepsi. After a comatose afternoon in front of the TV watching Friends reruns and another nap I felt halfway decent, good enough to get dressed and go to the store at least. I drove down to the market across town to gather the essentials: Pepsi, chips, frozen pizza, and a few other tidbits. At the checkout, my total was sixty-three dollars. I looked in my wallet and only had fifty dollars cash. Crap, I was going to have to use my debit card. I’d exceeded my self-imposed allowance already. I reached for my card and it wasn’t there. Double crap! I’d forgotten to put it back in my wallet. Whenever I went out like I did last night, I always left it at home to ensure no drunken spending sprees or in case I lost my purse in a drunken stupor. I was going to have to put some stuff back. Oh, how embarrassing! I admitted to the cashier that I was a little short on the cash, and he shot me a look that made me want to just crawl under the counter and die. Before I could decide what to put back, an arm reached in front of me and handed the cashier a credit card. It was none other than tall, dark, and grouchy. Oh boy, now I’m really going to owe him. He probably thinks I owe him a whole night of sex and my first born child now. “That’s not necessary,” I protested. “Swipe it!” He told the cashier who did so, probably just to get rid of me and get through his line of customers. “You were supposed to meet me thirty minutes ago,” he said. “And I told you, you’ve got the wrong girl!” I fired back. “Will you not even let me tell you about the job I am offering?” he asked, grabbing my bagged groceries before I could. This guy just didn’t know when to quit. “I don’t need a job,” I lied. “Clearly,” he said and raised his arms full of groceries I couldn’t pay for. He turned and walked toward the exit. Maybe I could just let him walk out and steal my groceries…well…his groceries since he paid for them. No, I’d eaten all the saltines and there wasn’t much else in the house. “Come on,” he said without looking back to see if I was following him. We walked to my car, an old, gray Honda civic so old you had to hand crank the windows down. I told you nothing in my life was interesting. He grabbed the keys from my hand then walked ahead of me and loaded the bags into my trunk. “How did you know which car was mine?” I asked a little freaked out. “I know a lot about you, Emina Polanski,” he said as he shut the trunk. “STALKER!” I shouted and jumped into the driver’s seat and locked the door. He walked up to my door swinging my car keys on his finger in front of the window. “I’m not a stalker, I just wanted to know if you were right for the job before I approached you.” “What’s the job?” I asked rolling down my window just a little. “Personal assistant,” he answered and dropped my keys in my lap through the slightly open window. “Not interested,” I replied. I rolled the window back up and put my key in the ignition, but the car wouldn’t start. I rested my head on the steering wheel. “…can’t be happening,” I breathed. I rolled the window back down a little. “So what would I have to do, like follow you around all day and take notes or what?” “No, nothing like that. I’m a very busy man, and I need someone to take care of the day-to-day things. Run errands, ship and receive packages, etcetera.” “Yeah, not interested,” I said. “Pop your hood,” he ordered and rolled up the sleeves of a button-down shirt. It looked to be the exact same style as the one he was wearing last night, except this one was a dark bluish green color. I popped the hood, and while he was doing God knows what under there I asked, “Do those errands involve anything creepy like having sex with you?” He laughed. He actually chuckled, Mr. Tall, dark, and grouchy was amused. “Absolutely not, actually you won’t see much of me at all,” he answered from behind the hood. “Why me?” I asked, shouting through the cracked window so he could hear me. He shut the hood and walked back to the window. “I told you, I need someone right for the job. I’ve been watching you, and I think you’ll work out fine.” “Yeah that’s creepy and kinda stalkerish, so I’m gonna pass,” I said and rolled up the window again. “Your terminals are corroded,” he said. “You need a new battery, but I think it should start now.” “A battery? How much will that cost?” “About a hundred bucks,” he said wiping his hands on a handkerchief he pulled out of his pocket. Who carries a handkerchief anymore? I sighed in defeat and rolled my window down again. “How much does this job pay exactly?” “Name your price,” he said. Was this guy for real? I’d been making a little above minimum wage at Game Junction and was barely getting by. Sure the house I lived in was paid for, but there were a lot of other bills that needed to be taken care of, and apparently my car needed a little work. “I want twenty dollars an hour,” I stated firmly. “That won’t work, he said. “I need you on-call around the clock. Would you agree to twelve-hundred a week salary?” Now, my Aunt Eileen always said if something sounded too good to be true it probably was. “Yeah sure, but I’m gonna need my own flying pony,” I said as his phone rang. He gave me a dull look—unamused at my humor—as he pulled his phone from his pocket. “Meet me here tomorrow at 8 p.m.” He handed me the same business card that he’d given me last night and walked away talking on his phone. Luckily my car started, and I made it home just fine. I was glad because I was starving. It was nearly ten o’clock now, and all I’d had to eat was some crackers this afternoon. My sweatpants and Stouffer’s mac and cheese were calling my name! The next morning after breakfast, I opened the door to get the paper. I rarely read them, but my Aunt always had. I went out and got it every morning mostly out of habit and because it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. I would cancel the delivery if I knew who to call to do it, but it was always on the bottom of my priority list. Instead of adding this one to the tower of them in the den, I stripped it from the plastic and read it while I had another cup of coffee. I was perusing the classified ads when I heard a knock at the door. I never had company. I waited a minute then got up and peered out the window. I had no intention of opening the door. Seeing no one, I opened the door and saw a car battery sitting there on the porch. This dude was just straight up whacko crazy. I’d have to stop calling him tall, dark, and grouchy and start calling him Daddy Warbucks. Whatever, I’d take the battery because I couldn’t really afford a new one. Then, I would go to his little antique shop tonight and tell him I didn’t want the job and to leave me alone, forever. I went back inside to my coffee and newspaper. The classifieds were a bust. There were a few receptionist jobs and quite a few waitress jobs, but that was about it. I’m not a people person and never had been. I was an only child and never had many friends, but I kind of preferred it that way. I just wasn’t a social person, so being forced to make small talk to people while I brought them food sounded torturous. I knew nothing about cars, so that afternoon I googled battery installation for dummies on my laptop and managed to get the old one out and the new one in without killing myself. It took me about an hour, but I did it. I was proud of myself. I’d always taken my car to a garage, but this I handled on my own. The rest of my evening was totally depressing, however. It consisted of writing bills and balancing my checkbook. At this rate, I would run completely out of money in about three weeks. Maybe working for Daddy Warbucks wasn’t such a bad idea, but he would definitely have to dial down the crazy. Finding something to wear tonight would prove difficult. I wanted to look professional because this was a job interview of sorts. On the other hand, I was headed into an unusual situation with a creepy and mysterious man, so I didn’t want to look the slightest bit sexy. I wanted to lessen my risk of being raped and murdered, if possible. I chose dress slacks, the biggest, frumpiest blouse I could find, and flats in case I needed to run away from the situation. I went for the no makeup look except for a little eyeliner so I didn’t look half asleep. I tied my hair into a granny bun and headed out. Luckily, I was able to find my destination before it got completely dark. I hated looking for places I’d never been before in the dark, but thankfully I already knew where Reiber Street was. Forever Young Antiques was a gray cinderblock building with a pale blue awning. I parked in the small parking lot next to the building and got out. Daddy Warbucks startled me as he came walking out of the alley beside the shop. “Emina, I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “Call me, Em,” I corrected. I hated being called Emina. “Come on in,” he said, opening the door to the shop. I noticed the sign on the door said closed and hours posted were 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The shop was already closed which made me nervous. Inside, it didn’t look the way I imagined an antique shop to look. I’d imagined shelves and shelves of dusty junk and useless crap. This place was very elegant. It was open in the middle with mirrored shelving all along the walls. There were a few interesting pieces of furniture scattered in the middle, but the place wasn’t by any means cluttered. Yes, very elegant, except for the hounds from Hell! Here came two Dobermans coming toward me. “Thor, Loki,” he said and they both sat down where they were. Thor and Loki, really? I rolled my eyes and patted one of them on the head. They were beautiful and sleek, well-groomed and well-behaved. Back behind a glass counter were two men, both oriental looking. One was much older, probably in his seventies with long gray hair. The other looked maybe a little older than me with shaggy black hair not quite as long as the other one’s. We walked over to them and Daddy Warbucks introduced us. I wasn’t sure when he was going to introduce himself, though, maybe I’d just call him tall, dark, and grouchy or Daddy Warbucks forever. “Emina, this is Li Tang and his grandson, Wu.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Your name is Wu? Wu Tang?” Of course, I busted out in a rap from the eighties. I couldn’t help myself. “Swinging through your town like your neighborhood spiiiiiderman. Yo, you best protect ya neck.” They looked at me like I had three heads and maybe had sprouted a fourth. “Wu Tang Clan? No? Not a fan? Well, alright,” I said a little embarrassed now. Wu laughed. I reached out my hand. “Hi, I’m Em, I’m socially awkward.” He laughed again and shook my hand. “Emina is my new assistant,” Daddy Warbucks announced. “Whoa, whoa, whoa cowboy, I haven’t agreed to anything yet!” “She’s perfect,” Wu said with a smile. “Well let’s go talk business then shall we?” he asked. He gestured toward the open staircase toward the back of the room. “My office is upstairs,” he said leading the way. There were three floors. The bottom floor held furniture pieces, vases and such. The second floor looked to be books and paintings, and the top floor was a lot of weaponry. There were swords and daggers hung on the walls and even more in glass showcases. There were actually two suits of armor on either side of the door of his office. I’d only ever seen those in movies. His office was just as elegant and spacious. A big desk, a few chairs, a leather sofa, and beautiful paintings on the walls. He closed the door behind us and sat down behind the desk then gestured for me to take a seat. “I think I’ll stand thanks,” I said. “Relax, Emina.” “It’s Em!” I corrected, “…and by the way, you haven’t even told me your name yet.” “My apologies, I’m Bohuslav Pavlok, but you can call me Bo.” “Geez Louise. I thought my name was bad, but I think you take the cake! Another member of the horrible name club.” “Actually,” he said, “I’m quite fond of my name. I shortened it to Bo when I moved to America for many reasons. “Where are you from?” I asked, curious. I had noticed that he had a bit of an accent but didn’t think much of it. “Lithuania, but let’s discuss business for right now.” “Ok Bo, tell me…how do I know you’re not a psycho who’s been following me around with plans to rape and kill me?” I asked frankly. “Would you relax and sit down if I told you I was almost completely impotent?” I choked. I literally just choked on my own saliva. Well ok then, he’s tall, dark, and flimsy. No wonder he looks so grouchy. It did make me feel a little better, though, IF he was telling the truth. But why on Earth would you lie about something like that? I sat down but there was an uncomfortable ambiance to the room now…TMI, Daddy Warbucks, TMI. “Look, Em, I’m not much of one to beat around the bush…” “Clearly!” I interrupted. “So let me just put all the cards out on the table here. I’m a vampire.” There was a long uncomfortable silence. “Ooookay, well I need to be going now,” I said slowly getting up from the chair. “I think I’m gonna pass on that job, but it was nice meeting you.” I turned around to head for the door, but Bo was up out of his chair and across the room, standing in front of the door in an instant. My mouth dropped open. I stood there staring at him for a few minutes. He stared back at me, neither of us saying a word. “Don’t go,” he said finally. “I’ve handpicked you for this job. You’re a loner, you have no family or friends, and you’re dependable. It’s a good job, and I’ll pay you well.” “Aaaand if I refuse?” I asked. “If you refuse, you know too much. I’m sorry, but I will have to kill you.” He took a step toward me, but I backed away. I didn’t know if I believed what he was saying, but I knew I didn’t trust him. Vampires weren’t real, but how did he move so quickly and quietly? “You’re crazy, vampires aren’t real! You’re crazy.” “Am I?” He smiled a broad smile to reveal fangs. I took two steps backward. Ok, so maybe that’s why he always looked so grouchy. He couldn’t smile or he’d reveal his teeth. I thought they’d be where his canines were, but they were one back it looked like. My eyes narrowed as I squinted to see, then I took another step forward. For Pete’s sake, Em! That’s the thing to be wondering about right now. There’s a lunatic in front of you claiming to be a vampire, and you’re wondering about his teeth. “What must I do to be believed?” he asked. “How about you turn into a bat and fly away,” I said mockingly. “A body cannot change its form, that’s impossible. Society has transformed what we are into something different altogether. Myths and legends have skewed what we really are.” “That’s all vampires are, myths and legends,” I stated. “But where do myths and legends come from?” he asked. “There must be a truth there somewhere that snowballs into what they become.” That sounded logical. “So are you really impotent?” Again, not the thing I should be focusing on, but if it’s in my mind then it’s usually out of my mouth before I know it. He chuckled. “I said mostly impotent, and yes, all vampires are.” “Huh?” Vampires were known for being smoldering sexual creatures I thought. “Sit down, Em, please, so we can talk about it. You’re in no danger,” he said and gestured to the chair again. “Yeah, unless I don’t want the job then you’re gonna kill me, turn me into one of you, or feed me to your dogs, or something like that!” “Firstly, I don’t WANT to kill you. I spent some time looking for someone like you, someone who would be right for the job. Secondly, I can’t turn you into a vampire.” Again all I could say was “Huh?” “I’m not an Antecedent,” he said. “You’re not a what?” “Sit down please,” he said again. This time, I sat. He obviously wasn’t going to let me leave, so I might as well listen to what he had to say. “I am not an Antecedent. Only Antecedents can make vampires. I am what is called an Ectype. I was made but cannot make others. I told you, society and legends have skewed the truth and muddled it with bits and pieces of fact and fiction.” “So what is an Antecedent?” I asked. “Antecedents are the sons of Cain, the father of all vampires. They are of his blood; his lineage.” “Like the guy from the bible, Cain and Abel, Cain?” I asked. “Yes, he was the first to be cursed. After he killed his brother, three angels came down from Heaven and each asked for his repentance three separate times. When he refused, they each laid a curse upon him and his descendants. The first cursed him to only walk the night, never again seeing the light of day. The second cursed him to only consume the blood of animals. The last, took from him his mortality, so he would live with the consequences of his actions for all eternity.” “But wait, you said all vampires were impotent. How can they have a lineage?” “I said mostly impotent. Our blood doesn’t flow like a mortal’s does. It is slower and colder. My heart beats but slowly, and the blood does not circulate like a mortals. Tell me, Em, what causes an erection?” Did he really want me to answer that? Whoa, junior high health class flashback. “Ummm, increased blood flow to the, ah, um, to that…area,” I answered. “Ohhh ok, I get it. Since your blood is not hot and doesn’t flow you can’t, um…yeah, got it. Then how does Cain have descendants?” I repeated my original question. “That’s where the “mostly” part comes into play. When a vampire feeds the surge of warm blood to our system creates the circulation we need to perform and now with medical advancements, there is the little blue pill that can also get the job done.” “Ok so, Cain found him a little vampire wife and hatched a bunch of little blood suckers.” “No, a female vampire cannot sustain life, she can’t carry a child. That circulation problem again. An Antecedent must find a mortal to carry his child.” “Oh my God!” I interrupted. “That’s why you want me? …to make you some vampire babies!!!” “No! I told you, I am not an Antecedent. I cannot make vampire offspring. Just listen. An ant-te-ceee-dent,” he emphasized, “finds a mortal woman to carry his child. That child is born half vampire half human. They are called seeds. When that seed comes of age, preferably between twenty and thirty years old— but it can be done at any age— that child drinks of his father’s blood and like that, another Antecedent is created. “Ok, I’m confused. So what happens if you have a baby? Is it not a vampire?” “That child would also be half vampire half human, but I am not of pure blood so he could not drink from me and become a full vampire,” he answered. “So how were you created?” I asked. “You drank from an Antecedent?” “Yes,” he answered. I sat there thinking about all of this for a few moments. “Do you believe all that I’m telling you now?” he asked. “It’s almost too crazy not to believe,” I answered. “So let me see if I’ve got it straight,” I said. “Ants are the descendants of Cain. They can make other Ants by having offspring, but can make vampires like you out of any ol’ Joe Shmo, and they are called etypes?” “Ectype’s,” he corrected. “…and you guys can’t make vampires or have full vampire children?” “Correct,” he confirmed. “So do Ectypes like you just raise normal children?” “We do not raise our children at all, usually. We rarely form bonds with the mother or the children. When you become a vampire your feelings and emotions are muted and your physical attributes are heightened. You don’t feel love, pain, or anger very strongly, but you have a keener sense of sight, strength, speed, etcetera.” “So you don’t feel anything at all?” “I feel, but not very strongly to any emotion. I still have good moods and bad moods. I can be amused or disappointed, but I have no extreme of any emotion. I don’t feel, love, hate, or rage. Hybrid children do grow up mostly normal. This is usually where you get your athletes and serial killers. Ectype offspring being half vampire have slightly heightened physical abilities and slightly lessened human connections. They tend to be a little cold-hearted.” “Wow, I think I’ve dated some hybrids,” I said with a laugh, and Bo smiled back showing his fangs just a little. “So what about Ant offspring? What if they never drink from their fathers?” I asked. “Then you get people like Li and Wu,” he replied. “They are seeds…unfertilized?” He laughed at my reference. “Yes.” “Wow, I guess Wu really does need to protect his neck,” I laughed. “Li is eighty-six years old and Wu is forty-five, they both look almost half that. They will both probably live to be at least one hundred. Their strength is impressive also, but they are mortal and will die eventually. “So what about you, how old are you? Do you just keep living until someone drives a stake through your heart?” “I’ve honestly lost track, I’m approximately two hundred and seventy. A wooden stake will incapacitate a vampire, but will not kill it. More mixed in myth.” “Holy water?” “No.” “Crucifix?” “Rubbish.” “Dismemberment?” “My bones cannot be broken.” “Do you sparkle in the sunlight?” “That’s insulting,” he said. “Sunlight is deadly, however,” he added, “and fire. That’s the only true way to kill a vampire….a burnt offering for the sins of our ancestors.” “Does the sight or smell of blood drive you into a frenzy?” I asked. “Does the sight of a steak send you into a frenzy?” he shot back. “Sometimes,” I laughed. “How often do you eat people?” “Well, I don’t ‘eat’ people. I drink their blood, but it doesn’t have to be human. I can drink blood from anything: dog, cat, human, deer. Blood is blood. It just all tastes a little different. We try to stay away from consuming humans as much as possible because it draws too much attention. People are usually missed when they disappear.” “So you can’t just drink a little, you have to kill them?” “A whole human is a lot of blood, the equivalent to a five-course meal for a mortal. What would happen if a human was bitten and lived to tell what happened? Also, if I only drank half, a human would die from losing that much blood anyway. So you may as well drain them dry.” I don’t know at what point I believed him, but I did believe him. The speed and fangs were there, and it was just all too in depth to be made up. A psycho wouldn’t have so many details about the life and history of vampires. He somehow made it all sound logical. I was still scared of him. After all, he could rip my head off and drink me down at any moment. “So what now?” I asked unsure of what to say or do. “Now, you say that you’ll work for me,” he said with a smile, the bottom of his fangs peeking out. “I don’t really have a choice, do I? Ok, I’ll do it.” “Great!” he said and clapped his hands together which made me just about jump out of my skin. “Go home, Em. I’ve thrown a lot of information at you tonight. I’ll be in touch.” “I can go home?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. “You’re an employee, not a prisoner.” He had me stop and see Li on my way out, who had me fill out a W4. Which seemed wildly normal considering the conversation I just had upstairs. It was only ten-thirty by the time I got out of there, and I wasn’t tired at all. Actually, I was pretty sure I was in a little bit of shock. So I stopped by the liquor store on my way home. It took about five Vodka and cranberries before I could even think about sleeping. Still then, I didn’t sleep very soundly. The next morning was Monday, and I woke up early; eight o’clock. Yes, that’s early for me. I just couldn’t sleep. Last night had blown my mind. It was the craziest encounter I’d ever had. It was the start of a brand new week, and I was employed. I had no idea what I would be doing, but it was nice knowing there would be money coming in. It felt strange just waiting around. I didn’t know what exactly I was waiting for. I guess it was technically my first day, and I didn’t know what to do. Should I drive to the antique shop? No, I didn’t get the impression that I would be working there since I was Bo’s ‘personal assistant’. Would I only be working at night? I assumed Bo was asleep in a coffin or something somewhere. I had no idea. I nearly went crazy that morning. Since I was being paid salary, I knew that I was getting paid right now to sit and do nothing. I paced the floor, and I cleaned. I painted my nails dark purple, and I plucked my eyebrows; anything and everything to keep busy. Around noon, a courier knocked on the door with an envelope for me. I opened it to find a note from Bo and a to-do list that made me feel a little better. The note read: Miss Polanski, I don’t know how familiar you are with eBay, but please familiarize yourself with the process as I’d like for you to take over the sales on that venue. Enclosed is a thumb drive with a list of items, descriptions, photos, and asking prices. If you have any other questions about the items call, Wu or Li at the shop and they will help you. Please pick up my dry cleaning at the address noted at the bottom and bring it to the shop. Also, I’d like for you to feed and walk the dogs while you’re there. Then be ready tonight by 8:30. Wu and I will pick you up at your house. We are going to Knoxville for the evening. EBay, dog walking, and dry cleaning. That was sure easy enough. I left right away for the dry cleaners. I picked up half-dozen of those silk and satiny shirts that he always wore then headed over to the shop. Li was talking to some customers, and Wu greeted me happily. I told him I had Mr. Pavlock’s shirts, not knowing how formal I should be addressing my new boss on my first day. Wu escorted me through an ‘Employees only’ door that led to a store room. We rounded the corner and in between two very tall wooden crates was a metal door with a keypad. Wu entered in a code and the light on the keypad turned green. He opened it and then turned to me. “Call the dogs by name!” he said seriously, “Thor and Loki, got it? Otherwise, you’ll be puppy chow. Put the shirts in the armoire, you won’t need a code to get out, it’s only to get in.” “Speaking of puppy chow, I’m supposed to feed and walk the dogs. Where are their food and leashes?” I asked. Wu looked at his watch. “They usually don’t eat this early, but I guess you could go ahead and feed them while you’re here. Their food is in the fridge, and you’ll see their leashes hanging on the wall. You can take them out the service door right back there.” He pointed. I walked through the door, and Wu shut it behind me. I felt like I was walking into a dungeon. Oh, I really hoped there weren’t coffins and dead bodies down here. As I walked down the stairs, I was pleasantly surprised that the basement of the shop had been transformed into an apartment. It was really nice! There were giant throw rugs, really comfortable looking leather furniture, and the biggest big screen TV I’d ever seen. There was a large vault on the inside wall with another keypad. I guessed it was where they kept the really priceless antiques and maybe money, too. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, the dogs were both standing on edge growling at me and looked like they were ready to pounce. “Thor, Loki,” I said nervously. “It’s ok boys, I’m here to feed you and walk you.” At the sound of their names, they relaxed and lay back down on their giant fluffy beds. I put the shirts in the armoire amidst the many others. They were all the same type of fabric—satin, silk, rayon—all silky smooth materials. “What a weirdo,” I said to myself. I looked around a little bit. I guessed this is where Bo stayed when he wasn’t sleeping, or whatever it was that he did. I saw the dogs’ leashes hanging on wooden pegs above their beds. They were the big retractable spool kind. I clipped the dogs in and took them upstairs. I didn’t know the code to get back in so I left the door cracked and took the dogs out the service entrance. Not far behind the shop was a stretch of grass with some trees. After they did their business, we walked around a little bit and I let them sniff things. They were very well behaved and didn’t tug or pull at their leashes at all. We headed back to the shop, and once inside the service entrance Wu nearly scared me half to death. He had gently grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side. He hadn’t made a sound; it was the vampire in him I supposed. “Em, you can NEVER EVER leave that door open! EVER!” He said in a harsh whisper. “…especially when you’ve taken the guard dogs with you! If Bo knew you left him unprotected, he would kill you.” I wasn’t sure if he meant literally or figuratively, but I didn’t want to find out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know the code so I wasn’t sure how I would get back in. So Bo is down there right now? Where?” “Behind the vault door, that’s his bedroom. I won’t say anything about this if you promise never to do it again.” “Thanks, Wu. I won’t. I promise!” “Good girl.” He winked at me, and we walked over to the door so he could put in the code and let me back in. Wow, that could’ve been bad. I’d hate to be fired or killed my first day on the job. I hung the leashes back on the wall, and picked up their empty food bowls then walked over to the small kitchen area. There wasn’t much there. After all, what would a vampire need with a kitchen? It had a sink, a full-size fridge, and a long counter. That was about it. I set the bowls on the counter and opened the fridge. There was nothing in there but some liquor and packages of steaks. Did he feed the dogs steak? Really? Yeah, that’s not weird at all. Ok, well I pulled out a package of two steaks and opened it…was I supposed to give it to them raw? I pulled out my phone to call the shop instead of having to walk upstairs. Wu answered and confirmed that the dogs did indeed eat raw steak. I fed the dogs and left. I had enough weirdness for one afternoon. At home, I killed time by brushing up on my eBay skills and finding something to wear that night. I had no idea what we were going to be doing in Knoxville, but I assumed if it were a black tie affair they would’ve let me know. I chose a low cut blouse that matched my purple nails exactly and a black lacey chemise to wear under it. I didn’t want to show too much skin, especially in the neck area. I set out my nicest pair of jeans, the kind with rhinestones all over the back pockets. Butt bling, I called it. Then, I dressed the outfit up a little bit with my ‘Barbie’ shoes, what I call platform heels. I thought it was perfect— not too casual, not too dressy. It looked professional yet sexy. I was ready for anything. When eight thirty rolled around I admit I half thought the guys would roll up in a limo or at least a BMW. No, they pulled up in a big black or dark blue box van. Wu got out and walked up to the door in a pair of khakis and a tight black t-shirt that showed off his muscles. He wasn’t buff but very toned and had an insane definition on his chest and arms. I bet that man didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. I swear I could see his abs through his shirt. It was crazy to think he was nearly fifty years old because I seriously wouldn’t guess he was a day over thirty-five. The black shirt made his shaggy black hair really stand out in a boyish charm kind of way. Yeah, I was definitely overdressed. I had pinned my hair up to look more professional, but as I watched him walk up to the house, I pulled the pins out and let it fall back down to my waist. Wu knocked and when I opened the door I couldn’t help but say “Wu Tang in the hoooouse,” when he stepped inside. He laughed and looked at me wide-eyed. “You look amazing!” he said. “Am I overdressed?” I asked. “Where are we going?” “Bo didn’t tell you?” He laughed. “We’re going to an auction. Your outfit is fine, but you may want to put on some more comfortable shoes. We’ll be standing for awhile.” I hurried upstairs and slipped on some cute black slipper flats then met Wu at the door. “Thanks for the tip,” I said. “And thanks for earlier…” I started, but he held his finger to his lips. Oh, vampire super hearing I assumed. “…for showing me where the dogs’ stuff was.” I finished instead. He winked at me again. Once in the van, Wu let me ride shotgun and he took the one seat in the back. The rest of the space was completely empty, but now that I knew we were going to an auction that made sense. I’d never been to an auction before. When I sat down I snickered when I saw Bo. “What’s funny?” he asked. He was wearing a chocolate-colored silk button down and his usual black slacks. “Nothing, Count Chocula,” I replied and Wu choked back a laugh. It was an hour drive to Knoxville, and the van was horribly quiet. I normally liked quiet, but this was an awkward kind of silence that I couldn’t stand. I fiddled with the radio trying to find something good and stopped on the best Bon Jovi song ever. I sang along ridiculously but I didn’t care, using hand motions and everything. This was my jam! Holding out my arm to Bo I belted “…take my hand and we’ll make it I swear…whooooah…living on a prayer!” Wu laughed and Bo smacked my hand away a little too hard. “Ow,” I said rubbing my wrist. “You guys really aren’t fans of the 80‘s, are you?” “I much prefer the music of the 1780’s, the Beethoven era,” Bo said. “Wow, Beethoven, I almost fell asleep just listening to you say that,” I said. “I like the 1960’s,” Wu chimed in. “I’m a huge Beach Boys fan.” We obviously weren’t going to agree on music, so I turned it down and asked the first thing that popped into my head as usual. “So, are you rich?” I directed at Bo. He pondered for a second then answered. “No, if you were to liquidate my assets then yes, I suppose you could consider me quite wealthy, but all my money is tied up in my merchandise. We make enough to get by comfortably.” “Enough to feed your dogs fifteen-dollar steaks,” I added. “Yes,” he said like that was the most normal thing in the world. There wasn’t much more conversation than that the rest of the way to Knoxville. Once at our destination, Wu stopped at a table to register. Bo and I went into the gallery room where all the stuff to be auctioned was displayed. He walked me over to a large glass case. “This is what I’m after tonight,” he said. There was a Chinese looking outfit inside the case. “An old dirty uniform?” I asked. He shot me a look like I’d just called a diamond a rock. “This is Samurai armor from the Meiji period,” he stated. “Oh,” was all I could say. I didn’t have a clue what any of that meant. He stood there staring at it, and I quickly lost interest and moved on to look at other things. I stopped to admire a painting of a meadow. It was beautiful. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever stood in front of an honest to God painting before. It looked all bumpy. I reached up to touch it, and Bo quickly grabbed my hand. I hadn’t heard him walk up behind me. He leaned in and put his hand on my back between my shoulder blades and whispered into my hair. “You don’t know much about antiques, do you? You have destructive oils on your hands. Touching that painting is a good way of getting us kicked out of here.” “Sorry,” I said. His breath smelled like blood and it gave me the willies. I think he felt my skin prickle under my blouse. “Am I frightening you?” he asked. “No. Your breath smells like blood, it’s creepy,” I whispered in case anyone was close enough to hear. “And yours smells like pesto, so what,” he fired back. I did have a frozen dinner with a pesto sauce on it, but that was hours ago. I was a little impressed and a little embarrassed. I reached into my purse to get a piece of gum and Bo began stroking my back. When I shot him a look he told me he liked my blouse. Ah…satin, what was this man’s deal with satin. I popped in a piece of gum and offered him one. He curled up his nose as if I just offered him mangled animal carcass and walked away. I realized he probably would have preferred the latter of the two. During the auction, I was completely bored. One after another people held up their little sticks with numbers on them while a guy was spouting out numbers faster than anybody could possibly comprehend. I didn’t know why he needed to talk so fast, what was the point of that? Bo was sitting in a group of chairs in front of the display stage while Wu and I stood against the back wall. Somehow I thought working for a vampire would be more exciting than this. “I bet you had no idea that an antique auction would be a hot spot for vampires,” Wu said to me quietly. “Are there more here than just Bo?” I asked. “Oh yes,” he said and started pointing some out. “How do you know who is and who isn’t, they all look pretty normal to me.” “Vampire radar I guess,” he said with a smile. “Are there any Ants here?” I asked. “Antecedents? No. They rarely come out. If you thought Bo was big on security, you should see one of them. They usually have others do their running around for them, and a mob of Ectype bodyguards. They are like royalty, so they never travel small or expose themselves too much. Wu was pointing out more vamps to me when he gestured his head to the door to point out a couple more that had just walked in. They scanned the room and looked right at Wu and said something to one another. “Oh no!” Wu said. “Em, I’m going to stay right here, I need you to go tell Bo that the hunters are here. Quickly!” I didn’t know what that meant, but I assumed it was something bad. Vampire hunters I guessed. Was Bo in danger? I walked up to where Bo was sitting and weeded my way through the row of chairs with much protest from the people who were trying to follow the auctioneer. I leaned down to Bo to whisper to him which brought more protests and hisses from the people who were around and behind him. “Get your girlfriend out of the way,” one hissed. “Wu said the hunters are here,” I told him and his head whipped around quickly scanning the room and rested on the guys at the door then back at Wu. Bo grabbed me by the arm a little too hard and we hurried to the back of the room where Wu was standing. “Can you run in those shoes,” Bo asked me. “Yeah I think so,” I answered, and we sprinted down the hall and to the outside door. In the parking lot, both men gained speed and I had trouble keeping up. The van was parked toward the back of the lot. I stumbled a bit on the gravel and one of my slippers came off. I looked back and saw that the men were also coming out the door so I didn’t stop to pick it up. I just shed the other shoe and kept running. I stepped on something horribly sharp and screamed. In a split second, Bo was back to me and threw me over his shoulder and continued to the van so fast it made me dizzy. Wu was in the van behind the driver’s seat when Bo slammed us both inside. Wu took off before the back door was even closed. I could see the three men stopped chasing us and had turned in the other direction, I guessed towards their vehicle. As Bo closed the doors, I sat up to look at my foot. The whole bottom ring of a broken bottle was actually stuck to the bottom of my foot. “Wow, you guys sure know how to show a girl a good time,” I said as I peeled the glass from my foot. Bo got a roll of brown paper towels out of the glove box and handed it to me. I ripped off a large wad and held it to my bleeding foot. I sat there on the floor of the van while Wu drove at excessive speeds and Bo kept looking around to see if we were being followed. “We have no chance of outrunning them in this,” Bo said. “Our best bet is to hide.” Wu made a few turns and we ended up in front of a big factory. Wu drove around back and parked in a dark corner of the lot next to a dumpster. “So these guys are vampire hunters?” I asked. “No,” Bo answered. “Seed hunters.” “Ok, what’s a seed hunter?” “Vampires, true vampires—Ants as you call them—are actually becoming endangered. More and more seeds are choosing not to become Antecedents themselves and are choosing to live a mortal life. So the Ectypes who work for Antecedents go out hunting unchanged seeds. They bring them to their employers to be changed against their will.” “But don’t they need their fathers there to change them?” I asked, confused. Wu answered this time. “A father changing his son or daughter is a ceremonial affair—it’s a rite of passage— kind of like a Bar Mitzvah. It’s done by the father out of honor, but it does not have to be the father. A seed can drink the blood of any Antecedent and also become one because we are of the same bloodline.” “Why did you choose to be mortal?” I asked him. “It all started with my grandfather, I guess. He met my grandmother when he was quite young and they fell in love. My grandfather didn’t want to live forever without the woman he loved so they ran away and got married. My great grandfather tracked him down to turn him, but by that time my grandmother was already pregnant with my father. Great grandfather took mercy on them and didn’t turn him. In turn, grandfather gave my father the choice also. He could have taken my father to an Antecedent and had him turned but he gave him the choice. Unfortunately, my parents both died when I was young and my grandfather raised me. So he also let me choose if I wanted to be mortal or not. There are those out there who think it is a seed’s duty to be turned and turn their children and not be given a choice.” “I’m sorry to hear about your parents,” I said. “I lost my parents when I was young also.” Bo got out of the van to keep a better watch. Wu and I sat talking for a long time before Bo got back in and said he thought it was safe for us to leave. We took a different route home, along the back roads, which took even longer. We didn’t reach my house till almost two o’clock. Wu helped me inside since I had lost both my shoes and my foot really hurt. I did as little of my bedtime routine as possible and just went to bed. I had nightmares of being chased by vampires and dogs. My dream crossed over into reality as I woke up to what I thought was a dog licking my foot. “Bo! What the hell are you doing?!” I screamed. He was kneeling at the foot of my bed. He had pulled the covers back and was licking my foot. “I’m helping,” he said. “Ew!” I said and tried kicking him away. “My saliva has natural anesthetic and antibiotic properties as well.” “I don’t care!” I screamed. “You can’t break into a person’s house at…” I glanced at the clock on my nightstand, “…3:48 in the morning and just start licking them! It’s….disturbing!” “Fine,” he said dropping my foot to the bed. “Get gangrene then.” “What’s your problem?” I asked. “Are you mad? I thought vampires didn’t get mad?” “I’m not mad,” he said. “I’m annoyed. I came over here to help you, and you’re yelling at me!” My voice went an octave higher in defense. “You broke into my house in the middle of the night, came into my bedroom when I’m only half dressed, and started licking me without my permission! You don’t see anything wrong with that?!” He touched his hand to his chin, pondering the question. “No” he finally said. “Agghh!” I exclaimed and threw my pillow at him. This man was impossible. He had no filter of what was and was not over the line. “Well, may I have your permission to break into your house in the middle of the night and lick you?” he asked. “NO!” I couldn’t help but laugh, was he serious? “Not even if you’re injured?” “No! Get out, Bo, go home.” “Alright,” he shrugged and was gone in an instant. I guess that whole vampires have to be invited in thing was a myth as well. You can imagine how well I slept the rest of the morning. I kept waking up to make sure I was alone in my bedroom and no one was licking me. I got up and tried to manage my usual morning routine. I showered, got dressed, and bandaged my foot. It didn’t look too bad, and I wondered how much licking had been done before I woke up. I shivered at the thought. That was just gross and weird and gross some more. I hobbled downstairs to make some coffee and on my kitchen table were the shoes that I’d lost in the auction parking lot last night. Next to them was a note: “I am sorry I licked you without your permission. I will try to remember that you do not like that.” signed Bo. “He’s SO weird!” I said to myself. I was happy to have my shoes back, though. They were one of my favorite pair. I lounged around most of the day. Wu called that afternoon and said that he would take care of the dogs and that I was to take the next couple days off. I did work on the eBay postings so I wouldn’t feel like a total slacker. I did pretty much the same thing the next couple days. Not an ideal first week of work. Friday morning, I found an envelope sitting on my kitchen table when I came down. Oh lovely, Creepy McCreeperson let himself in again. I opened it. The envelope contained a note, a hundred-dollar bill, and a smaller envelope. I read the note first. Ms. Polanski, I hope you’re feeling better. I just have one task for you today if you can manage. Take this money down to the florist shop and have an arrangement put together— something yellow— and deliver it to the following address…and Em, stay for the drink. Also enclosed is your first paycheck. P.S. I came nowhere near you last night. Awesome! They weren’t going to withhold the first week like most places do. I opened the smaller envelope and there was a check, my first paycheck! I did a little dance in my kitchen. It felt great to have money. I would no longer have to strategically pay bills. Not bad for basically two days of work. I hadn’t done anything on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and honestly I wouldn’t have protested if he hadn’t paid me for this week at all since I hadn’t done much. After breakfast, I got dressed. It was a little chilly outside for sandals but with the bandage on my foot, I didn’t think it would fit into much else. At the florist, I picked out a beautiful arrangement of yellow lilies, with daisies and yellow poms. I drove to the address Bo had given and wasn’t sure what I would say as I walked up to the door. A very old lady answered, “Hi,” I said, “Bo Pavlock sent me.” “Oh yes, come in, come in,” she said. “Do you work for Bo?” “Yes,” I answered. “That Bo is such a gentleman,” she said. “He always remembers my birthday and remembers my favorite color.” That was funny, out of all the words I had to describe Bo Pavlock, ‘gentleman’ definitely wasn’t one of them! “Please have a seat,” she said. “Would you like some lemonade?” Bo’s note had said ‘stay for the drink.’ I wasn’t sure what he’d meant till now. He obviously knew this woman very well. As it turned out, Esther had managed the antique store before Li and Wu came along. She’d worked for Bo for thirty years till she decided to retire twenty years ago. She turned ninety-six today. She was a hybrid and in decent shape for her age, and she was a talker! I spent most of the morning there listening to her tell stories of Bo and the antique store. The name ‘Forever Young Antiques had been her idea and she’d helped Bo get it started. To hear her talk about him was a cross between a mother full of pride and a girl smitten with an older man. She was a sweet old lady but seemed so lonely. She didn’t want me to leave, and I saw my life flash before my eyes. Sixty some years from now would one of Bo’s employees be bringing me flowers on my birthday. Would I talk their ear off about the time we ran from seed hunters at an auction and I cut my foot? Maybe so… That afternoon I went to Game Junction, it was the first time I’d been back since being fired. Sanctum two had just been released and I was hoping that if Brian was working, maybe I could still get my employee discount. Brian was there but unfortunately so was Amanda, the jerk manager who had it in for me. I didn’t know why she hated me, but it was her who fired me for being late twice in one month. I guess it didn’t matter that I’d worked there for five years. Brian said it was because she was fat and ugly and couldn’t compete with my ‘rockin body.’ He was sure she was just jealous of me. “When we gonna have another game night, Em?” he asked as he was ringing up my purchase. “How ‘bout tonight?” I suggested. Bo said the flower delivery was my only job for the day, so I didn’t think he would be calling on me for the rest of the night. “I work till close tonight, can I come over after that?” “Sure,” I said. Brian was one of the few friends I had. “Can I bring Kyle, too?” “Yeah that’s fine,” I said. I didn’t particularly like Kyle. He was the know it all type, but I knew he was Brian’s best friend so I tolerated him. Brian was the cool laid back type. He was covered in tattoos and had blue hair. We got along really well. We hadn’t had a game night in awhile. Once every couple months, he would come over and we’d stay up all night playing video games. I wondered what the neighbors thought seeing a blue-haired guy leaving my house early in the morning, but it wasn’t like that with me and Brian. We were buddies, and when it came down to it, I guess I really didn’t care what the neighbors thought. I went home and straightened up the house a little since I’d let it go all week, trying to stay off my foot as much as possible. I’d already cracked open Sanctum to brush up on my skills before Brian came over. He and Kyle got there around ten thirty. We took turns battling zombies in teams. “So you find another job yet, Em?” Brian asked. I hadn’t prepared myself for questions about my new job. Not like I could say ‘yeah, I’m a personal assistant to a vampire’. “Ah, yeah, I got a job at an antique shop.” “Really, that doesn’t seem your style.” “Yeah, but the pay is good.” I was hoping he would drop it at that. He did, but of course, Kyle picked it back up again. “What kind of stuff do y’all sell? I’ve been looking to add to my collection of old knives.” “I work in the back, shipping and receiving; I don’t get into the showroom much,” I answered. “Where’s this place at?” Kyle asked. Agh, he was getting too nosey. “Hey, are you guys hungry? I think The Hut delivers till midnight.” “Oh yeah, I’ll throw in on that,” Brian said handing the controller over to Kyle. “Your turn, dude.” Good, that killed the subject. We’d just made the eleven thirty cut off when I called the pizza order in. Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door. I grabbed the cash and opened the door to see Bo holding our pizzas. “What are you doing?” I asked in a harsh whisper. “Tell me you didn’t eat the pizza man?” “No, I met him on the sidewalk. Who are these people in your home?” “They’re my friends, now go away,” I said harshly. “I thought you didn’t have friends.” “Brian is pretty much my only friend. Kyle is his friend, not mine. What do you want, Bo?” “Tell them nothing of me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to!” I said defensively. “Even if I did, it’s not like they would believe me anyway.” “Everything ok?” I heard Brian ask from the living room. “Yeah, fine,” I yelled back. I jerked the pizzas from Bo’s hands, told him to go away, then slammed the door. I carried the pizza into the living room and didn’t realize I still had the money for the pizza in my hand until Brian asked, “free pizza?” I considered a response quickly, “Oh yeah, umm, the delivery man was totally hitting on me, and gave ‘em to me for free.” We ate and played games for a couple more hours before calling it quits around 2 a.m. because Brian and Kyle both had to work the next day. I went upstairs and got ready for bed but suddenly heard something downstairs. I listened for a moment and realized the TV was still on. I could’ve sworn I turned it off. I went downstairs and there sat Bo on my couch playing Sanctum. “What are you doing?” I asked, tired and annoyed. “I wanted to see what the fuss was about. You and your friends played this for hours.” “Have you been watching us this whole time?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered. “Why?” “I was bored.” He held the other controller up to me. “Show me,” he requested. I just looked at him exasperated. “I’ll give you tomorrow off,” he said with a smile. “Oh, alright.” I yielded. There was no point in arguing with him. I knew there was no way I could sleep knowing he was downstairs. We played tandem for awhile then he played alone after he got the hang of it. I guess I fell asleep on the couch because I woke up in my bed around noon. I didn’t know if it was sweet or creepy that he’d carried me to bed, but either way, I didn’t like that he was able to do it without me waking up. The next couple weeks involved pretty regular stuff. Dry cleaning, running errands, shipping and receiving packages, eBay, and I helped Wu with inventory one evening. That was the evening I actually convinced Bo and Wu to come to an upcoming Halloween party at Outer Moon. They weren’t thrilled when I told them it was a costume party. They moaned and groaned the way men do, but I convinced them it would be a fun time. That Saturday Bo showed up at my house at ten o’clock just as we’d planned. He was dressed as none other than…you guessed it, a vampire. “Well that’s original,” I said as he walked in the door. “Hey, where’s Wu? Did he back out?” “He said he was running late and would meet us there,” Bo said as he looked me up and down. I was in a full black cat woman outfit, complete with black stilettos. Bo ran his hand down the fabric on my back. “I like this!” he said enthusiastically. “Hey, hands off,” I smacked his hand away. “…or I’ll claw your eyes out.” I held up my hands to show him my extra-long, fake black nails. “Might be worth it,” he said. Oh boy, I guess this plastic latex type material is on his little fetish list also. He was wearing a white satin shirt of course, his usual black slacks, and a black and red velvet cape, all his favorite fabrics. Outer Moon was packed, but we were early enough that we got in with no problem. We headed to the bar to get me a drink and I got a, “well, well, well,” from the bartender. She remembered me and Bo. “What can I get for you two lovebirds?” she asked. “Oh, we’re not lovebirds,” I corrected. I didn’t want her to think that a relationship with me was bought just by paying my tab one night. I don’t know why I cared what she thought, but I asked for a rum and coke. Bo, of course, didn’t have anything. I didn’t know how I would ever loosen him up enough to dance if he didn’t drink. I may just have to hold out until Wu arrived. An hour passed, and I’d given up on Wu joining us. I asked Bo if he wanted to dance and he declined. Fine, I’ll just dance by myself. I turned to Bo to tell him I was headed for the dance floor when my mouth dropped open mid-sentence. Bo turned around and scanned the crowd to see what had thrown me off. “What? he asked. “Charlie,” I said, disheartened. “He’s here…with a date.” My ex-boyfriend made his way through the mingling bodies of the club, looking sexy as ever in his pirate costume. He had on tall boots and a long Galleon coat. His face was shadowed with the perfect amount of sandy-brown stubble that gave him a virile edgy appearance. His date was dressed as a playboy bunny, wearing what was pretty much just a pink bathing suit with a big puffy tail and bunny ears atop her blonde wavy curls. I slumped against the wall. “Why did he have to be here?” I asked, sulking. “Why did he have to be here with a date when I’m here without one? Why does she have to be pretty and skinny and look amazing? Eggh.” Maybe with his eye patch, he won’t see me, I thought. They were coming closer to the bar and yep, there it is, he spotted me, crap! Just as his eyes fixed on me Bo slid his hand down my arm and intertwined his fingers with mine. Charlie noticed Bo’s subtle gesture, and his eyes flickered back and forth between Bo and me. Bo lifted my hand and pressed his lips against my knuckles, his eyes never leaving mine. “What are you doing?” I whispered. I pretty much already knew so I wasn’t even sure why I asked. “Just go with it,” he said. After getting a couple drinks Charlie led his date over to us. Why? Why would you walk over to talk to your ex with your new girlfriend? To show her off I guess? I don’t know, but I thought it was just uncouth. I squeezed Bo’s hand a little tighter as Charlie stopped in front of us. I’d dated Charlie for a little over a year, and we’d only been broken up about a month now. Seeing him still carried a sting, especially since he was with this blonde bimbo. “Hi Em, how are you?” he said. “Great, thanks,” I said, trying to seem as aloof and distracted as possible. “This is Bianca,” he added, clearly trying to get at me. “Hi,” I said and forced the most convincing smile that I could. Bo squeezed my hand. “Oh,” I said. “This is Bo, Bo this is Charlie and…Bianca?” I said her name questioningly making sure I heard it right. She nodded. “So how do you know Charlie?” She asked wrapping her arm around the crook of his elbow. Awkward! She didn’t know who I was. “Umm, Charlie and I use to date,” I said. You could feel the tension rising. “Oh,” she said. “We’ve only been dating a couple of months.” A couple of months? They’ve only been dating a couple of months? Charlie and I had only broken up a month ago! I wanted to kill him, and Bo must have known it because he pulled me away from them. “If you’ll excuse us,” he said, “we were just about to go dance. Nice meeting you both.” He pulled me close to him, and we walked across the club to the dance floor. “He was cheating on me!” I said, maybe a little too loud because a couple people turned to look at me as we approached the dance floor. “Let it go,” Bo said. “He’s her problem now.” But I couldn’t let it go; I was mad, really mad. We were on the dance floor now and had been dancing for a minute before I even realized that we were. Bo wasn’t bad. Better than I thought he would be. We were dancing up close and personal keeping up the façade of a couple. “If it makes you feel any better, she has an STD,” he whispered in my ear. “How do you know that?!” I asked— again, a little too loud. “I can smell it,” he said. “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard!” I said. “I can smell it in her blood,” he elaborated. “Vampires can smell blood that has been tainted by disease, it’s an evolutionary adaptation.” “No, that doesn’t make me feel any better! He started seeing her while he was still with me, what if I have it now?” “You don’t,” he said flatly. “How do you know?” He just tapped the side of his nose. “I need a drink!” I said, “…or twenty.” After the song ended, we pushed our way through the crowd and over to the bar. I ordered a couple shots of tequila and noticed Charlie and Bianca sitting in the corner still staring at us. Bo must have noticed also, because no sooner than I downed my last shot and placed the glass on the bar, Bo grabbed me… And kissed me. “Am I interrupting something?” someone asked. I pulled away to see a ninja dressed in red, head to toe, wearing a face mask. Only the eyes were exposed, but I recognized these warm almond shaped eyes, it was Wu. I was still a little dazed by what had just happened and could only get out uhh’s and umm’s. “Em’s ex-boyfriend is here making a show of his new girlfriend. So, we’re fighting fire with fire.” “Yeah,” was all I said. As the bartender refilled my shot glass, I heard a “mmhmm,” from her and she gave me a facetious smile and I blushed. I actually blushed. Not only had Bo kissed me, but we’d been caught by the bartender and Wu. I felt like a teenager doing something I shouldn’t. “Y’all want to get out of here?” I asked. “But I just got here,” Wu said. “Don’t let that guy ruin your night, Em,” Bo said. “You were looking forward to this party for awhile, stay and have fun. That’s the best revenge, having fun and not giving him a second thought. If you let him chase you out of here, he wins.” We stayed and I drank, and danced, and drank some more. I danced with both Bo and Wu. I usually put somewhat of a limit on my drinking, but tonight I didn’t. I always worried about safety and how I would get home, but tonight I was escorted by a vampire and a ninja. Both not too far from the myths they were portraying. I trusted them so I let my guard down and got knee-walking drunk. I don’t remember leaving the bar or the drive home. I only vaguely remember my actions once I got home. As Bo helped me into my house and up the stairs he got a long rant on how I was better off without Charlie. “Ya know what?” I said much louder than I needed to be speaking since Bo was right beside me. “I don’t need Charlie, I’m doing fine and dandy without him. Little Miss Implants can have him. I hope that hussy enjoys cleaning his apartment cause the man is a total slob!” Bo just nodded along with my drunken ramblings. “We sure showed him,” I said. “It probably drove him crazy seeing me there with such a hot guy.” Bo then chimed in candidly, “So you think I’m hot do you?” “Well yeah, you’re hot, but you’re sooo weird!” Bo laughed. “What makes me weird?” he asked. “Well, you have no concept of boundaries, and what on earth is your fascination with certain fabrics like silk, satin, and leather?” “I like the way they feel,” he said running his hand down my cat woman costume, “don’t you?” “Yeah I guess,” I replied. Bo reached up and started unzipping my costume and my heart pounded rapidly, crashing against my ribs. I may have been smashed, but I was fully aware of his presence, his actions, and the affect he had on me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Don Juan, I may be drunk but I’m not having sex with you!” I said as I smacked his hand away. “I have no intention of having sex with you,” he replied. “You don’t, why not?” I asked a little offended at his tone. “For one thing, because you’re drunk.” “…and you’re a gentleman.” I finished. “No, the alcohol is in your blood, therefore, if I drink your blood I will also be intoxicated and that’s dangerous for us both.” “Dangerous how?” I asked. “Well for you because if I’m inebriated I could possibly hurt or kill you. For me, because I could pass out and meet the sun, which would kill me. “Well if I wasn’t drunk would you want to have sex with me?” “Would you want me to have sex with you, Em? That means I would have to bite you and drink your blood?” I shivered at the thought. “Yes, that’s what I thought,” he said. “Also, females make sex complicated. You can’t do it without forming a bond, a bond that I physically cannot reciprocate. It’s much easier the way I do it.” “What do you mean, the way you do it?” I asked. “After I have sex with a woman I drain her; no muss, no fuss,” he said so matter of fact like it wasn’t a big deal. “You’re a black widow,” I said slurring my speech. “You sex ‘em up, then ya eat ‘em!” I said making fangs with my fingers. “Yes, I suppose I am,” he said reaching for my zipper again. He helped me out of my costume, and as I stood there in my undergarments I couldn’t help but wonder aloud. “So this doesn’t do anything for you?” I held my arms out swaying a bit as I tried to remain standing. “On the contrary, I find you very attractive. I never said I didn’t find women attractive or didn’t desire to have sex. It’s just physically difficult. The desire is there, I just lack the means.” “So you think I’m sexy then? Charlie is stupid right?” “Yes, you are very attractive,” he said helping me into bed. “Even my face, my face is pretty?” I rambled drunkenly. I always knew I had a nice body, but my face was an insecurity of mine. I had a masculine curve to my jaw and I thought that made me look a bit too manly. “Yes, Em, your face is pretty,” he coddled. “Do you want to kiss me again?” I asked. “Because I ain’t gonna lie, that kiss was amaaaazing!” I said stretching out on the bed. “That’s probably not a good idea,” he said. “Ok,” I pouted. “Will you stay for just a little while? Don’t you wanna staaay here a little whiiiile,” I sang the only part of the song I knew. I’d heard it on a commercial. “I’ll stay if you stop singing and go to sleep,” he said. His words gave a hint of frustration but his tone did not. He was exceedingly patient with me and my drunken shenanigans. He sat down on the bed next to me and I curled up next to him and laid my head on his lap. “Bo,” I said just before I passed out. “Yes, Em?” “Thanks.” I was rudely awoken by the need to vomit, and I barely made it to the bathroom after tripping over my bed spread and falling to the floor. Bo wasn’t in the bed anymore and I looked at my bedside clock, it was five a.m. After throwing up more drinks than I could keep track of, I crawled back in bed and ran the night’s events back in my head trying to recall if I did anything horribly embarrassing. Did I really stand in front of Bo in my underwear and ask if I was pretty? Oh, how needy of me. Ehhh, what a night. I went back to sleep and luckily didn’t throw up anymore. I didn’t get out of bed until late afternoon. I was slowly conforming to vampire hours, I think. I felt horrible all evening and vowed never to drink again but knew that wouldn’t last. I didn’t have much of an appetite, so I just camped out on the couch and watched TV. Bo came over after dark, he just appeared in my living room the way he does, scaring me half to death. “Geez, Bo! Don’t you ever knock? What if I was doing something really embarrassing?” “Like dancing around your room serenading me in your underwear? In that case, I’ve already seen it.” “Uhh, I was not dancing! ...was I?” “No,” he laughed, “but you were serenading me in your underwear.” “Don’t remind me. I don’t want to know anything I did, I don’t want to know anything I said, I just don’t want to know.” “Like how you yelled Charlie’s name across the bar, flipped him off, then stuck your tongue down my throat?” “Shhhhh…I said I don’t want to know.” I didn’t remember that at all, but it was quite possibly true. “Wu wanted me to bring you this, he said it would make you feel better, it’s tea.” He handed me a small paper envelope and sat down on the couch with a sigh. It was the first time I think he’d ever looked tired. “Hey, are you all right? You don’t look so good,” I asked. “I just woke up, but I’m still tired,” he replied. “Did I keep you out too late?” “No, not at all, I got back well before sunrise. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll just take it easy tonight.” “Sounds good to me, I was about to watcha movie if you want to stay.” Bo was a huge fan of movies. We’d talked about it before. There weren’t too many movies he hadn’t seen. I’m talking ever, like in the history of movies. “Ok,” he agreed, “what are we watching?” “Matrix marathon,” I sang. “One of my favorites,” he said. I managed to eat a few crackers and the tea Wu sent made me feel much better. I wished Bo could drink tea because by the start of Matrix Reloaded he looked even worse. I was glad I wasn’t feeling nauseous anymore because round about the time the big fight scene was over Bo stood up, swayed for just a moment, sat back down then a fountain of blood spewed from his mouth all over the couch between us and on the rug. It was like something out of a horror movie and it scared me to death. Bo was gone in a blur to the downstairs bathroom. I followed after him concerned. I knew he wasn’t dying—he was a vampire after all—but there was definitely something wrong. I was learning that vampires weren’t the bulletproof super humans they were in books and movies. Bo spewed blood into my toilet, and it was hard to watch. It was hard to watch a regular person throwing up, but I’d gotten used to that sight with my Aunt Eileen after all her chemo treatments. Seeing someone vomit up blood was extremely disturbing. I wet a washcloth and put it on the back of his neck like I always did for my Aunt. I didn’t know if that trick worked on vampires or not. I felt useless. It’s not like I could get him some medicine or a glass of water; he couldn’t take any of that. “Are you ok? What can I do?” I asked in desperation. “Get me home, Em,” was all he said. I helped him up and we headed for the door but didn’t make it there before he shot off to the bathroom again. I was getting really worried. What would cause this? Was he going to be ok? I finally got him to my car. I’m glad I grabbed the bathroom trash can to bring with us, can’t have my vampire boss filling my car with bloody vomit. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say. I drove as fast as I dared to the antique shop. It would be really hard to explain a trash can of blood to a cop if we got pulled over. I was hoping Wu or Li would still be at the shop, but they weren’t. I helped Bo out of the car. Vampires aren’t supposed to be weak and shaky. I dug the keys out of his pocket and opened the door. I got to the coded door inside and told him that I still hadn’t been given the code. I hadn’t pushed the issue, Wu was always there to let me in and I figured they would give me the code when I was trusted with it. Turned out today was that day. “140208” Bo muttered, and I entered it in the keypad. The light turned green and I opened the door and made sure to shut it behind us. As we descended the stairs, I called out to Thor and Loki, not sure if that command was really necessary with Bo with me. I got him to his bedroom vault door and expected him to enter in that code himself. This was the door to his sanctuary, but he said the code aloud for me to enter there too. “291613”…another green light. As many times as I’d been downstairs, I had yet to even see what was behind this door. “Where’s the light switch, Bo, I can’t see.” “I can,” he said. We walked to the bed and he laid down. “There’s a lamp on the bedside table,” he said. I reached to turn it on and with a simple touch of the shade a very soft glow barely lit up the room. The bedside lamp was the only source of light and it had a very dark burgundy shade on it that gave the room a bit of a red glow. The walls were dark, and there was a huge area rug on the cement floor. Bo lay on a very ornate, antique canopy bed. It was brass I think, with heavy dark red curtains pulled back and tied to the posts. It looked like something out of an old movie. Bo was up off the bed and a light came on across the room. He was throwing up again. He couldn’t possibly throw up much more, there had to have been about a gallon of blood so far. Then I remembered something he’d said to me before; “A whole human is a lot of blood, probably the equivalent to a five-course meal to a mortal.” I walked to the bathroom, “You ate a person didn’t you?” “Yes,” he said leaning over the sink. “Damned diseased prostitute, I should’ve known better.” He turned on the water. “And that should be the last of her,” he said rinsing his bloody vomit from the sink. “Wait, I thought you could smell disease in a person’s blood?” “I can,” he said. “There could have been some drugs in her system that I didn’t pick up on. There are certain kinds of cancer that I can’t smell. It could’ve been anything really.” “So why go to a prostitute? Wouldn’t it be safer to find someone…you know…cleaner?” “Because I wasn’t just hungry,” he said. It took me just a second to understand what he was getting at. “Oh.” Awkward. I wondered why he was throwing up in the sink, but then another awkward moment came. “Ummm, Bo?” “Yeah?” “I have to pee.” His bathroom had no toilet and that was something I’d never seen before. Did vampires not have to use them?? There was a sink and a shower, that was it. “You’ll have to go upstairs,” he said. I had him repeat the door codes to me one more time, and I repeated them over and over in my head the whole time so I wouldn’t forget. I did my business then made my way back to the stairwell, chanting the codes in my head with each step. I was so focused on not forgetting them that I forgot to call out to the dogs on my way down the stairs, and they both charged at me. “THOR, LOKI! STAY!!” I shouted. Both dogs slowed their charge to a walk and sat down at my feet. Holy crap that was scary! Good thing I already peed! I didn’t think the dogs would ever attack me since I had been taking care of them for weeks now. I guess I was wrong. My heart was racing as I walked past them without petting them as I usually did. Underestimating them was a mistake I wouldn’t be making again. “Are you feeling better?” I asked when I came into the room. “A little,” he said. “That thing you did with the washcloth at your house felt pretty good, will you do that again?” he asked. I got a washcloth from the bathroom and rubbed his face and then placed it on the back of his neck. “Some big scary vampire you are,” I said. “You got blood on your shirt. Take it off and I’ll soak it.” “It’s all over your pants too,” he pointed out. “Sorry, and sorry about your couch.” “It’s ok. Do you have something I can wear?” “Help yourself,” he gestured toward a dresser against the wall. He removed his own clothes and laid back down. I picked out a pair of silk boxers and turned around. “Are you going to serenade me this time too,” he asked smiling. He must be feeling better to be making jokes. I stuck my tongue out at him then went into the bathroom to change. His bathroom was beautiful, elegant like the rest of the building. There was a lot of stonework, and the design of the tub and sink were very unique. After I changed, I set our clothes to soak in the washer in the back corner of the apartment. By the time I came back, Bo was already asleep. I guess all that throwing up really took it out of him. I looked at my watch, it was almost 3 a.m. There really wasn’t much point in driving home, and I didn’t know if Bo would need me since he was so sick, so I lay down next to him and went to sleep. Sometime during the night, Bo put his arms around me and pulled me to him. He nuzzled his face into my hair and ran his nose against my cheek. I could feel his breath on my neck, and this sent chills down my body. He kissed my neck slowly then moved to my mouth. My heart pounded. Did I want him to do this? He’s my boss, will this make things awkward? He slid his body on top of mine and held my arms down to the bed. The bedside lamp with its dark shade gave a very sensual red glow to the room. “You’re so gorgeous, I could just eat you up,” he said. Then a sinister smile spread across his face as he lunged forward and bit my neck. Blood sprayed everywhere, spurting between my fingers, as I grappled at my neck urgently to stop the flow but couldn’t. I sat straight up in bed clutching my neck. I looked at my hands, no blood. Bo was still asleep… it was a nightmare. I jumped out of bed looking at Bo like he was a wild animal ready to attack. He lay there motionless still asleep, but in this moment, I was scared of him. I went to the bathroom sink and washed my face, trying to wash away the terror of the dream. I looked at my watch, it was a little past seven. I was still really tired, but I wasn’t going to get more than just those few hours of sleep it looked like. I decided to take a shower to wake myself up, besides I needed to pee again. I didn’t want to go upstairs without pants so yes, I peed in the shower, we’ve all done it. After the shower, I dressed in Bo’s boxers and put my tank top back on. I would stick around long enough to finish washing and drying my sweatpants then go home. I opened the heavy vault door as quietly as I could and slipped out, closing it behind me. As I made my way to the laundry room in the back corner, the upstairs door opened and Wu looked down from the top of the stairs. “Oh, Em, I’m sorry,” he said looking away like I was naked. “I didn’t know you stayed the night, there is a silent alarm on the vault door when it opens between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.” “It’s not what you think,” I stated. “I didn’t…we didn’t…Bo got sick,” I explained. “He asked me to bring him home. He threw up on my clothes. I was just going to wash them so I could go home.” “Oh,” he said. “How bad is he?” “Well I’ve honestly never seen a vampire vomit up a whole person worth of blood before, so I don’t know what to tell you.” “Ok, I’m going to need you to run an errand in that case.” “Really?” I whined. “Wu, I’m tired and starving.” All I’d eaten yesterday was crackers and tea, and my stomach was making its complaints known. “Ok,” he said, “go on home, eat, and get some rest, but be back here no later than three o’clock, ok?” It was eight o’clock by the time my pants were dry. I’d rushed out of the house last night wearing sweatpants, a tank top, and sandals. It was freezing out but when your vampire boss is puking blood everywhere you don’t really think about weather appropriate clothing. So, I grabbed one of Bo’s shirts out of the armoire to wear home. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, after all, I’d been wearing his underwear for the past five hours. I had on gray sweatpants, a pale purple tank top, a light blue, soft cotton button down, and my silver sandals. I think it’s safe to say I’d be going out the service entrance. I stopped on the way home to get something to eat. I wolfed down two bacon egg and cheese biscuits before I pulled up to my house. I forced myself not to look in the living room as I walked up the stairs, I was afraid it would induce more nightmares. I’d have to clean that mess up later. I was exhausted, and I only had about six hours till I had to be back at Bo’s. I slept solidly for the next five hours, got up and dressed, then reluctantly drove back to the antique shop to see what kind of errand it was that Wu had for me. When I got to the shop Wu was busy with some customers. Li handed me the keys to the van and told me it was parked around back in the alley. He also handed me a post-it with an address on it. That was it, no explanation of where I was going or what I’d be doing exactly. Li was a man of very few words. I only heard him speak a few times. He wasn’t stuck up or anything. He just seemed like one of those old, wise, Mr. Miyagi types that only spoke when it was required or he had something brilliant and enlightening to say. I was walking toward the back when Wu called to me, “Em, we need four please.” Then he went back to talking to his customers. Ok…four what? I got in the van and noticed there were four wire crates in the back. I didn’t like the looks of this. I drove to the address on the post it Li gave me and pulled up at an animal shelter. Oh no, no, no, no. I was making a food run for Bo! This was horrible! I sat there for a few minutes wondering what would happen if I refused to do this. Would Bo fire me, kill me? No, probably not. I figure if I didn’t do it he would just send Wu to do it. So it didn’t matter if I refused. I got out and reluctantly went inside. I walked into a very clean office area. There were posters all over the walls: spay and neuter your pets, heartworm dangers, and advertisements for different pet medications. I could hear a chorus of dogs barking, and I almost changed my mind. If I had to pick which dogs, I was going to leave. I couldn’t pick which dogs were going to die via vampire. Behind the counter was sitting a pretty middle-aged woman with short, reddish brown hair. She was wearing a tan uniform shirt with the name Angel embroidered on it. “Can I help you?” she asked. “Yeah, I’m here to pick up some dogs,” I said not really knowing what to say. Yeah, I need to feed my vampire boss, can you show me a tasty golden retriever? “Did Mr. Pavlock send you?” she asked. “Yes,” I answered nervously. “Great, how many are you taking today?” she asked with a smile. “Four,” I replied, Wu’s statement finally making sense. “If you’ll follow me, your dogs are in the back,” she said happily. She obviously didn’t know what Bo planned to do with these dogs or she wouldn’t be so happy about it. Well, at least, I didn’t have to pick them out. I couldn’t have done that. “Mr. Pavlock is such a saint,” she said as we walked through a door and down a long hallway. “He’s found so many homes for so many dogs, such an animal lover,” she said smiling. “Yeah, you have no idea,” I said as we walked through another door. We were in a small room with metal crates against the wall, there were half a dozen dogs locked away in here. She handed me two leashes from some hooks on the wall and took two for herself. We walked four dogs out to the van, and she helped me get them in the cages in the back. They were all medium sized dogs. I didn’t know much about dog breeds, but there was some kind of long-legged hound dog, two very plain looking ones, and one smaller shaggy one that reminded me of Benji but bigger. Looking at them put a lump in my throat. I shut the van doors and was about to get in and leave when Angel told me I had to go sign some papers before I left. “You’re new aren’t you?” she asked. “Did you take Jason’s place? I was so sad to hear about his untimely passing.” I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, so I just shook my head and followed her back through the front door. I signed the papers as quickly as possible and left. I wanted to get this done and over with. I wanted no part of it. I got back to the shop close to five o’clock. I parked around back and just sat there in the van for awhile not wanting to take the dogs inside. I finally went inside and found Wu. He looked at his watch. “Bo will be getting up soon. Will you go downstairs and see if he’s awake yet?” He was about to escort me back to the door. “That’s ok,” I said. “Bo gave me the codes last night. I still remember them.” Bo wasn’t up yet so I sat on the big leather couch and watched TV. I wasn’t sure what time Bo got up. I knew he didn’t usually go out till after eight, but I think he sometimes woke up before sunset and just stayed downstairs till the sun went down. Two hours passed and Wu came down stairs. He was a bit concerned that Bo wasn’t up yet. “Will you go get one of the dogs and I’ll check on Bo?” “No,” I said. “I know this door code as well. I’ll check on Bo if you want to go get the dog.” In reality, I didn’t want to pick which dog would die first. I couldn’t do that. “Ok, I’ll be right back,” he said and went back upstairs. I entered the code in the door and opened it. Bo was lying in bed awake. “How are you feeling?” I asked, not really concerned. I was mad at him and didn’t really care how he was feeling at the moment. “Tired,” he replied. “Don’t worry, I went and got a shipment of sweet, defenseless little puppies for you to slaughter,” I spat. Wu walked in to catch the tail end of my rant. “Oh, Em, don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Bo said. “Excuse me,” I said defensively. “My panties?!” “Yes, after all, it was your panties that caused all of this trouble in the first place.” He laughed. “What?! What trouble have my panties ever caused?” I asked as my mood worsened. “Well if it wasn’t for your cat woman costume and you taking your clothes off in front of me, I really wouldn’t have needed to visit that hooker, now would I,” he joked. “You have got to be kidding me!” I screamed. “This isn’t my fault! It was YOUR idea to pretend to be my boyfriend. YOU kissed me! YOU were the one trying to take off my clothes! So you see, Bo, I have no more control over your penis than you do!” I took a stab at his little circulation problem, but it didn’t seem to faze him. Wu, on the other hand, was standing there with that little Benji looking dog in his hands looking quite shocked at our conversation. I stomped toward him, grabbed the dog out of his hands and turned around “…and you’re not eating this one!” Then I stormed out and went home. About midnight my cell phone rang, it was Bo of course. My cell phone almost never rang. “What do you want?” I answered. “Wow… yes, Em, I am feeling much better. Thank you for asking,” he mocked. “What do you want?” I asked again. “Will you bring your games and come over?” he asked. “It’s midnight! What if I’m in bed?” “You’re not, you never go to bed before 1 am and not till about 2 a.m. here lately. “Stalker,” I accused. “Will you bring your games over? Bring those two that I like.” “I don’t want to,” I replied. “Well then don’t do it because you want to, do it because I’m paying you to.” “Ehhhh, I really hate you right now.” “I know,” he said pleasantly. “I’ll be right over.” He had a point. I wasn’t being asked to come over as a friend, I was his around the clock employee. The two games Bo liked were Sanctum and Outlaw. He liked the shooter games that had quests to them. I grabbed the console and games and drove over. I’d been given a key and now had the pass codes for the doors. I was a regular vampire henchman now. Bo was lying on his big leather couch topless with some silky pajama pants on. He wasn’t a muscular man, he wasn’t overly attractive either. He was very ordinary looking. His skin wasn’t milky white like the vampires in the movies. He was pale, but really no more than any businessman who didn’t get out in the sun much. “Here ya go, boss,” I said sarcastically, setting the box down and turning to leave. “Aren’t you going to stay and play?” he asked. “No,” I said flatly. “You’re mad at me, why?” he asked, eyeing me curiously. “Because you’re a jerk,” I said, and he laughed. “Well I won’t argue with that,” he said, “but why do you think I’m a jerk?” “You ate those puppies! Those poor, cute, little dogs!” “So you’re not mad about the human that I killed the other night, but you’re upset over the dogs?” He asked looking perplexed. That did sound backwards of me. Humans were mean and cruel, and really a hooker to me seemed a little less than human. That’s probably horrible of me to think, but it was true. “Yes,” I answered. “Em, you do understand that I am indeed a vampire, right? I mean, I don’t drink Kool-aid, sweetheart. I need blood,” he stated condescendingly. “I know,” I said. “I just hate that those dogs had to die.” “They were going to die anyway,” he said. “Huh?” “I only take the dogs that are on the kill list. Those dogs only had a few hours to live anyway. They were going to be euthanized after closing hours. If they are going to die anyway I might as well get a meal out of it, right?” “Oh,” I said. That changed things; he wasn’t a heartless monster then. I guess it did make sense that if they were going to be put to sleep, he might as well eat them. I stood there for a few moments thinking about it. “Was that all you were mad about?” “No,” I snapped from my thoughts. “I can’t believe you blamed this whole thing on me!” “Em…I was joking.” “Oh,” I said again. I guess I really didn’t have anything to be mad about then, but I’d been mad for long enough that it’d set in and the emotion wasn’t easy to shake. “Well, you’re still a jerk for eating a hooker and getting sick and making all of us worry about you.” He gave me a slightly amused smile. “So will you stay?” he asked. I had too much vampireness for the time being, I think. The nightmare, the vomiting blood, the dogs; the last forty-eight hours just made me feel queasy. “No, not tonight, I’ve got to stop and get some stuff for my new dog,” I said. “Have you picked a name for him?” he asked. “No, not yet.” “Well I was going to call him breakfast, but I think you should call him lucky,” he said and laughed, amused with himself. I hadn’t had a dog since I was very little. I was glad this one was already house broken because I had no idea how to go about it. He scratched at the door when he wanted out, then he went to the trees down by the road and always came right back in. I couldn’t imagine why someone would get rid of such a great dog. I bought him a bed, but Bacon always ended up sleeping with me. Yes, I named my dog Bacon. It only seemed fitting since he was almost Bo’s breakfast. Bo suggested I name him Lucky, but that seemed so cliché. My favorite thing about Bacon was that he let me know when Bo was in the house, always. He growled or barked and ran to me and jumped in my lap. It was almost like he knew Bo was going to eat him that day. Bo replaced my couch with a big comfy leather one just like his and also replaced the area rug with an intricately designed one in burgundy and tan. I didn’t really care for the rug but of course, Bo being Bo didn’t ask my opinion. It was all replaced while I was out running errands one day. I think he had my hardwood floors cleaned and polished as well. When I came home they seemed a little shinier and my living room smelled different, but that could’ve just been from the couch and rug. I wondered who he got to come in and do it since everything was stained with blood. I would think Merry Maids would report something like that to the police. I guess it didn’t matter I was just happy to have a new, big comfy couch. Bo came to pick me up for an auction— not in the van, but in his car— a black Mercedes. I guessed we were after smaller treasures. This time, for obvious reasons, we left Wu at home. As Bo walked up to my front door, Bacon barked twice and came to sit at my feet in the kitchen growling as Bo walked in without knocking, as usual. “That dog doesn’t like me,” he said. “Can you blame him?” “Ready to go?” he asked, dismissing my question. “Yep.” Bacon hated when I left anywhere with Bo. He sat on the living room rug and whimpered as we left. We weren’t going as far this time, but it still left us with some time to talk. I asked Bo about his life back in Lithuania. I was surprised at how much he didn’t remember about his human life. “How do you not know exactly how old you are?” “Em, that was almost three hundred years ago, do you remember your first day of school or the first time you rode a bike?” “I kind of remember my first day of school but not the bike thing,” I answered. “…and that was not even thirty years ago! How do you expect me to remember three hundred years ago?” “But it’s your birthday! Everybody knows their birthday!” “It wasn’t as big of a deal back then. We didn’t have parties and cake and all that. I remember almost nothing before I was turned. I’m not sure how old I was when I became a vampire, which is why I’m unsure how old I am now. I was turned in the 1770’s. I’ve been a vampire for about two hundred and forty years. I could have been anywhere between twenty-five and thirty-five when I was turned, so I am somewhere around two hundred and seventy years old. Depending on if you count my mortal life, if not then I am approximately two hundred and forty.” “Well,” I said. “In that case, you look great for your age; you don’t look a day over a hundred and thirty,” I laughed. At the auction, I registered for Bo. I’d learned that vampires avoid paperwork as much as possible. They have no birth certificate, they can’t pay taxes, etcetera. So they have mortals front their endeavors. The antique shop had once been in Esther’s name, and she signed it over to Li Tang when she retired. After I got signed in, I brought Bo his number paddle and he showed me the things he was after tonight: A rickety old red, green, and yellow flag with a knight on it that was encased in a picture frame, and a very pretty silver necklace with green stones. He told stories about them both in depth, but honestly, I zoned him out. I didn’t understand paying so much money for stuff that was so old and falling apart. I caught that the flag was Lithuanian and had been flown over some important building during some important battle and that the necklace was jade and had been worn by some important fancy lady. Bo knew a lot about history and it made me feel a bit inferior that I never knew what he was talking about. I always just nodded my head and tried to look amused. Bo ended up getting the flag and the necklace, so I thought he would be pleased with himself. But he seemed nervous the whole drive back. He kept glancing in the mirror behind us, and I just figured he was being cautious seeing how we were chased out of the last auction by the seed hunters. He didn’t seem to want to talk, so I fiddled with the radio and just sang most of the way home. We pulled up to the house and I was surprised that he didn’t want to come in. “I need to borrow your car,” he said, not really asking. I dug in my purse and threw him the keys. “I’ll be right back,” he said. “Um, alright,” I said, and he quickly jumped in the car and sped away. He was acting strange— but it was Bo— he always acted strange. I went inside and Bacon was happy to see me. It wasn’t too horribly late so we sat cuddling on the couch and watched TV. It was a chilly night so I clicked on the gas fireplace. I’m not nearly enough of a pioneer woman to start a real fire. About twenty minutes later Bacon stood up on the couch and looked to the door growling. Bo must be back already. It wasn’t enough time to drive to the shop and back, unless he was really flying the whole way. I was curious where he had gone. “Where did you go?” I asked, opening the door, but it wasn’t Bo standing on the porch. It was two men. “Where is he?” one asked pushing his way inside. I’d seen these guys before, but I didn’t know where. I was too scared to think. “Where is he,” the man repeated. He had dark, greasy, shaggy hair that just radiated a psycho vibe. “I don’t know,” I answered. “He didn’t say where he was going, he just left.” I stuttered through the words not knowing who these men were or what they wanted. “Not the vamp,” the other one said. This guy was really tall and stocky. Where had I seen that bald head before? Then it hit me, these were the two seed hunters we’d ran from on the way home from the last auction. They must have been at this auction also and followed us home, hoping we would lead them to Wu. That’s why Bo kept glancing in the mirror! But wait, if he knew they were following us, then why would he leave me here? “Where’s the seed?” the bald one finished. “I don’t know!” I said with all the attitude and courage I could muster. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you guys.” Greasy psycho backhanded me across the jaw before I even saw it coming, and I fell to the floor. I forgot I was dealing with vampires not your regular run of the mill thugs. Bacon was going crazy at this point barking and growling. “Where is he?” Baldy repeated. “Well, he’s not here!” I said, not quite so confident. Baldy walked through the house looking for Wu while the greasy psycho stood over me. I stayed right there in the floor. Bacon ran over to me and I tried to calm him down. Baldy, I guess had searched the whole house and came back even angrier than before. He leaned down and tried to pick me up by my shirt and I heard it rip. Ahh, seriously! This was one of my favorite shirts! It was a sheer black sparkly over-blouse that I wore with a purple tank top. As my outer shirt tore off, he got a grip on something a little more solid, my neck. Suddenly I didn’t care so much about my blouse. As he held me up, Bacon jumped on his leg biting him repeatedly. Baldy threw me against the back of the couch then picked up Bacon and in one smooth motion threw him into the window. The glass shattered as Bacon flew outside. “No!” I screamed. I stood up and ran at baldy beating him with both fists as hard as I could, but it didn’t faze him at all. Greasy psycho grabbed me by the hair and jerked me backward. “Tell us where he is, and we won’t kill you,” Greasy said. “I don’t know!” I said again. Then greasy hit me, I didn’t see it coming again. I don’t know if he backhanded me or flat out punched me, but it hurt. I felt the blow to my face and I hit the ground again. Just then the door flew open with a crashing thud against the wall and Bo and Wu stepped inside. Oh, thank God! I thought. I stayed huddled in the floor beside the couch as a full on battle broke out in my living room. Bo on one side of the room, and Wu on the other. It was like something you’d see in a movie. Wu was good, he looked like Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris or one of those guys. He flipped and twisted and kicked Baldy over and over. Bo had Greasy up against the wall by the hallway tearing him to shreds. It was the most brutal fight I’d ever seen. Most fights I’d seen in my life were punk guys fighting over girls or their ego and were fights with just pride at stake. This was a fight to the death. Bo and Wu were both taking some hits as well so I ran upstairs to get my baseball bat. I didn’t want to play the innocent victim and just sit there while the guys defended me. I was going to help. Back downstairs I ran up to ol’ Greaseball and slammed the bat against the back of his head. Bad idea. The bat broke against his skull, but at least, it seemed to stun him a little and Bo was able to get a few really good shots in. “I’m ok,” Bo told me. “Go help Wu.” He was ok, I was surprised that not long ago he’d looked so helpless lying in his bed sick. I guess he wasn’t so helpless after all. He looked fierce and deadly at the moment. I turned around and Baldy had pinned Wu in the corner by the busted window. I ran at him with my broken bat handle, and I rammed it into the side of his stomach. He cried out in pain and looked down at the bat then at me. He looked over at Bo who had Greasy down on the ground. I guess he figured out he was losing because he ran over to the window that he’d thrown Bacon out of and jumped out. “Bo!” Wu called out, “He’s running!” “Take care of this one,” Bo said to Wu before he jumped out the window after Baldy. Greasy psycho looked to be unconscious, and Wu locked his hands around the man’s ankles and dragged him toward the fireplace. “Help me, Em,” Wu ordered, motioning to the fireplace with a quick nod of the head. I knew in that instant what his plan was. “You can’t be serious! We are not burning a vampire in my fireplace!” Blue flashing lights distracted us both. Great, somebody called the cops! Wu and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. “I’ll get rid of him, you talk to the police.” “Wait! What do I tell them?!” I pleaded in a panic. “Anything other than two vampires broke into your house,” he said as he threw the guy over his shoulder. “Backdoor?” Wu asked. “Down the hall,” I pointed. “Good luck,” he said and winked at me. Two young-looking cops slowly stalked up the steps with their guns drawn. I walked out on the porch to meet them. Having two guns pointed at me surprisingly didn’t intimidate me as much as it should have. I’d just been in an epic battle between two evil vampires, my not so evil vampire boss, and a half vampire seed. So, two measly little mortals pointing guns at me just didn’t seem quite so serious. Once they determined this was my house, I was bombarded with questions. I had to think fast. I couldn’t say that nothing happened because the front door was wide open, my window was broken, and there was probably some blood on the floor. “A man broke into my house, but I was able to scare him away. He ran that way.” I pointed to the right side of the house, hoping they would go after him to buy me a few minutes to make sure there was nothing unexplainable in the house. “Go back inside, ma’am,” an officer instructed. “We’ll make sure he’s gone.” Good! I didn’t have long. I hurried inside to evaluate the destruction and mess left in the wake of the fight. There was a small pool of blood from where I stabbed baldy with the broken bat, and I knew I didn’t have time to clean it properly, so I threw Bacon’s bed on top of it. Bacon! In the commotion, I didn’t think to look for him. I hoped he was alright. I righted the table next to the couch and picked up my torn shirt. I wiped up a few spots of blood with the shirt then stuffed it into the couch cushion. I picked up the top half of my bat and tossed it into the fire. I was looking for the bottom half but couldn’t find it. The police were back by that point. “Did you guys see my dog out there? He chased the guy away and I haven’t seen him since.” I asked. “No ma’am, and it looks like the guy is long gone. Did he come in through the window?” the younger officer asked. This guy must be a rookie because he didn’t look much older than eighteen. Breaking in the window probably made more sense than him walking in the front door and throwing my dog out the window, then jumping out himself once things started turned bad. “Yeah, he busted my window and once we scared him off he ran out the door.” “Was your door locked, ma’am?” the other asked. “Ah, yeah, I think so, I don’t remember.” “He must have thought no one was home,” the rookie said to his partner. “Yeah, I hadn’t been home very long,” I said. I walked toward the kitchen hoping they would follow. I didn’t want them fishing around the living room in case I missed something. I didn’t want to have to explain the pool of blood the dog bed was hiding or the bottom of the broken bat— wherever it ended up— covered in blood. As they followed behind me, the older officer stopped suddenly and kneeled down. He’d found a drop of blood I’d missed. “My dog bit him. Then, he hit my dog pretty hard, that may be my dog’s blood. I’m very worried about him, you sure you didn’t see him outside anywhere?” “No, ma’am. The blood could be yours, also. Did the perpetrator hit you?” He gestured to my face. If they did think he hit me, would their protective instincts kick in and make them determined to catch the guy? A guy they would keep looking for but would never find? I wanted rid of these guys! “Oh no,” I said trying hard to make myself look embarrassed. “That’s actually kind of a funny story. When I heard the glass break I came running down the stairs and tripped. I rolled all the way down.” I forced a laugh. “I guess that scared the guy and then when my dog went after him he just ran away.” I continued into the kitchen and opened the cabinet, grabbing the first bottle I came in contact with and poured myself a drink. Turning around I noticed the officers were no longer behind me, then I heard their faint voices. The older officer was explaining to the younger one about dusting for fingerprints and taking photos. The younger guy was definitely a rookie. “Is all that really necessary?” I asked downing my drink and pouring another. They looked at me puzzled. “It’s been a really long day and a pretty crappy night. You just said yourself that the guy is long gone and really I can’t blame him—a crazy lady rolling down the stairs and being attacked by a dog. I really don’t think he’s going to ever come back, he didn’t take anything, and nobody really got hurt. Can we just call it a night, guys?” “That’s up to you, ma’am. Do you have a boyfriend or a family member who could come and stay with you?” “No, I have neither. I’ll be fine, really.” I forced a smile through my rattled nerves. “I suggest you get that window fixed as soon as possible, for your own safety, and cover it with something until then.” “I’ll do that, thank you.” I tried herding them toward the door. “We could help you find something right now if you’d like,” the older one offered. “Oh no thank you, you’ve done enough really. I’d hate to keep you from important police work just to cover a window.” The young officer walked down the steps to the police car, leaving the older man lingering behind. I held the front door open for him, silently pleading with him to leave. “It would be no trouble really.” “Hey Sarg,” the young cop yelled from the car, “we’ve got another call.” “Coming, Nate,” He yelled back. “Well, take care, ma’am, and be sure to lock your door.” “I will, thank you.” I shut the door, locked it, and breathed a sigh of relief. “I think he liked you.” I heard behind me, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Holy crap, Wu, you scared me to death! Now is not the time to be sneaking up behind me!” “Sorry,” he chuckled. “You ok?” “Yes, I’m fine. Are you ok?” “Yep, no worries,” he winked at me. “I’m going to go see if I can help Bo.” “Ok,” I said. “Be careful.” He left out the back door. I got a bowl of bleach water and a rag and started cleaning up the blood on the floor. Once the sticky stains were scrubbed clean, I covered the window with a thin piece of cardboard. It wouldn’t keep a vampire out, but at least, it would keep out the cold wind. I wasn’t sure if Bo and Wu were coming back, but I was still very much on edge and couldn’t relax. I jumped at every sound and was constantly looking around the house. I ended up sitting down in the living room floor with my back to the corner so nothing or no one could sneak up behind me. Finally, Bo walked in the door. “I’ll tell you what, I am so glad I didn’t eat this dog!” He set Bacon down and he ran and jumped into my lap. I admit, I may have cried just a little and had a Lassie has come home kind of moment. This dog may have very well saved my life! “I found him chasing after the seed hunter,” Bo said. “So you caught him?” I asked. “No, we lost him, but it was a valiant effort on Bacon’s part.” “You should’ve seen him attack the guy before you guys got here,” I said. “He was so brave. The guy threw him out the window! I was afraid he was hurt.” “He’s got just a slight limp, but he’s perfectly fine,” Bo said. “So what now, will those guys be coming back?” “Well, one of them is currently burning in a dumpster down on 5th, so I know he won’t be back,” Bo joked. “The other one, I’m not sure. He’s seen how well Wu can fight, so they are going to want to find him and turn him even more than before.” The thought of those guys coming back scared me. I knew Bo couldn’t stay here, but I didn’t want to be alone. What if those guys came back to kill me? “Where’s Wu, do you think he would stay here with me?” “He went home. Wu staying here with you would be a very bad idea. A human and the man they’re after…who would be protecting whom?” “I guess you’re right, he needs to stay hidden. I’ll call Brian to come stay with me. I don’t want to be alone.” “Two mortals? That’s even worse odds. You’ll come home with me,” he stated firmly. “I’m not leaving Bacon!” I protested. “Then bring him with you.” Back at Bo’s, it felt nice to be behind the locked door of the shop and the key-padded door of his apartment. I finally felt like I could relax a little. Bacon, Thor, and Loki were having a butt sniffing session in the corner, and I headed for Bo’s fridge where I knew there was a bottle of liquor. I poured myself a drink and sipped it with shaky hands. “Come here, Em,” Bo ordered. I walked over and he took my face in both his hands and examined it. “May I?” he asked. Ummm, may he what? Kiss me? Then, I remembered the police officer saying that my head was bleeding. I didn’t know where or from what. Bo was asking permission to lick my wounds. “Umm yeah, I guess,” I said. Bo leaned his head down and licked the side of my forehead above my temple a few times. This was odd, but I knew his spit had magical powers or whatever. He then tilted my head up and licked the side of my mouth. Ok, so that wasn’t so weird. That was kind of hot. “You can go ahead and have the bed, I’m going to be up for a few more hours.” I looked at my watch, it was 3 a.m. but it felt a lot later. This had been the longest night ever. I wasn’t sure if I could sleep after everything that happened. I finished my drink and hoped a hot shower might help me relax enough to sleep. When I got out of the shower my jeans were gone and the silk boxers I’d worn the last time I was here were lying in their place. Agh, Bo was in here…while I was in the shower… while I was naked? I wasn’t a bit surprised, but I was annoyed. “Bo, you didn’t look at me naked did you?” I accused once I was dry and dressed. “Does that sound like something I would do?” he joked. “Go beyond the limits of what is polite and proper, yes that sounds exactly like you!” “No, I didn’t, we don’t need another prostitute fiasco, now do we?” He smiled a broad fang-revealing smile. I rolled my eyes and went to lie down, but I couldn’t sleep. I laid there in Bo’s bed, tossing and turning on his black satin sheets. The bed was comfortable enough, but I just couldn’t sleep. I laid there thinking about the last time I was here. “Bo,” I called out the open bedroom door. “Yeah?” He was sitting on the couch watching a movie. “Why a hooker?” I asked. When he spoke again it was from the doorway. “I told you, I wasn’t just hungry.” “Yeah, yeah, I know, but if you were going to kill them afterward anyway, why not anybody? Why did you still choose a hooker?” “Well, rape really isn’t my cup of tea, Em.” He sounded offended, but I knew it took a lot more than that to offend him. “But murder is? So you will murder them but not rape them.” “Sex is a lot more fun when it’s consensual, don’t you agree?” “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never forced anyone into it,” I said mockingly. “So why don’t you find someone like me, that knows about you, that you can have sex with all the time without having to kill them?” He moved with his vampire quickness and sat on the bed next to me. He picked up my hand like he was about to kiss it. “Someone like you huh? Are you volunteering?” he asked facetiously. I freed my hand to palm his face and pushed him away. “You know what I mean, find somebody like how you found me. Why don’t you do that?” “Honestly,” he said. “It’s because women make sex complicated. Women can’t have sex without forming a bond and then things get complicated. I just don’t want to deal with that hassle.” Well, that was a very pig-headed thing to say. “I don’t think that’s true,” I protested on behalf of women everywhere. “Three-hundred-years experience over here…yeah you do.” He laughed. “Women over think things, they twist and even completely fabricate things in their minds. A woman can take a gesture and roll it over and over in her mind until that gesture means something completely different altogether. They search for meaning in every action and if there is no meaning they will create one. It’s just how you mortal women are.” “Well, why don’t you find a vampire girlfriend then? Their emotions are diluted, aren’t they?” “Yes but vampire women don’t make ideal sex partners.” “Well ok, Mr. Picky Pants, what’s wrong with them?” He thought for a moment before he spoke. “They are…umm…” He was struggling to find the right words. “…an unfavorable temperature.” I rolled my eyes at him and got out of bed. I didn’t like where this conversation was going, and I didn’t think I was going to sleep at all tonight. I went into the living room and flopped down on the couch. “You’re not sleeping?” Bo asked. “I just don’t think I can.” I was wrong. Bo sat down to finish his movie, it was one of those old black and white films from the 1950’s, and it put me right to sleep. I didn’t stay asleep long, though. The couch was comfortable for sitting but not for sleeping. I tossed and turned for about twenty minutes. I checked my watch, it was 5:45. Bo had gone to bed and there was fifteen minutes before the alarm on Bo’s door would activate. I entered the code, and went to sleep in his bed with him, hoping I wouldn’t have another nightmare like I did last time. I woke up on my back, and Bo was lying on his stomach with his arm across my chest. I didn’t know how anyone could sleep that way. How can you breathe with your face in the mattress like that? It was pitch black in the room so I touched the lamp to look at my watch. Holy cow, it was two in the afternoon! I’d slept like a rock! I squirmed out from under Bo’s arm and got up. I opened the door to his bedroom knowing I would kick the silent alarm, but I didn’t want to hang around in his bedroom for the next four hours. I had no idea where Bo put my jeans last night. Right on cue Wu opened the door at the top of the steps and looked in, not nearly as alarmed as he was the last time. I think he expected to see me this time. “Just me,” I said up to him. “Oh, Em, are you ok?” he asked, concerned. “Yeah, why?” “This will probably be the only time I ever say this to you, but your face looks terrible!” “Umm, thanks,” I said. “Let me go see if Umpa has something he can recommend for your bruises.” I hadn’t looked in a mirror this morning so it was hard to tell what I looked like. I couldn’t find my jeans anywhere so I borrowed a pair of Bo’s black slacks. I grabbed my sweater off the banister and called for Bacon. He’d slept on the couch, Thor and Loki didn’t care to have him for company and he’d spent the whole time pouting. I walked all three dogs before I went to see Wu about what vehicle I should drive home, I’d left my car at my house and rode with Bo last night. Li gave me an herbal concoction. He told me to add it to steaming water and put a cloth soaked in it on my face and leave it there for awhile. Wu drove me and Bacon home. On the way, I turned my cell phone on. I turned it off last night when the battery got low because I didn’t have my charger. I had eight text messages and two voicemails, all from Brian. They all basically said the same thing: Where are you? Are you ok? Call me! By the time I read all the messages and listened to the last voicemail we were pulling up to the house. Brian was sitting on my steps. “Emina Marigold Polanski, where have you been?” “Whoa, hey, why you full naming me, dude?” I asked. “I texted you like fitty times yo! Gern said the cops were out here late last night.” I’d forgotten that his grandmother lived on the corner down the street. “So I text and call, no answer, I come out to check on you and your car is here but you’re not home. Your window is busted in and I find this.” He held up the bottom half of my baseball bat the broken tip covered in blood. I hurried to his side and lowered his arm looking around to see if anyone was outside. “And now you roll up with Jet Li here and your face is all bruised up. I wanna know what the hell is going on!” Brian was the most laid back person I’d ever met, so I knew he had to have been seriously worried to be this wound up. I can’t say I could blame him from what all he just said. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s go inside.” “I have to get back,” Wu said. “There will be guys coming to fix your window before sunset.” Then he winked at me like he always did. “Thanks, Wu.” I gave him a hug, and when I pulled away he looked at me and said, “Emina Marigold??” “Oh you’re one to talk, Wu Tang.” I laughed. “Come on, Bacon.” Once inside, Brian took me by surprise when he grabbed me and hugged me hard and wouldn’t let go. “Umm, ok, you can let go now, Bri…umm, let go.” “I thought you were dead yo!” “I’m sorry,” I said. “So is Jet Li your new boyfriend?” he asked, finally letting me go. “Did he do that to your face? Cause I’ll jack him up.” “No,” I laughed. “I work with him. And yes, the cops were here last night. Some guy broke into my house, but I scared him away. Nothing was taken, nobody got hurt, everything is fine. I was just a little shaken up and didn’t want to stay here last night. My cell phone was dead which is why I didn’t answer your calls or texts.” “So what happened to your face?” I wish he hadn’t asked that. I felt bad lying to Brian, but I couldn’t tell him the truth for his own protection. “I fell down the stairs,” I tried to chuckle like I was embarrassed. “…and this?” He held up the bloody bat he still had in his hand. “Ummm,” I had no way to explain that. Brian stood there looking at me shaking his head. “You’re full of crap Em. You can’t lie to me. I know you too well. You didn’t fall down the stairs. Somebody was hurting you and you stopped them.” He held up the bat again. “So what I want to know is why you didn’t call me to help you get rid of the body?” I laughed. Before I met Bo and Wu, Brian would indeed be the first person I would call to help me get rid of a body, and he was the kind of friend that would do it. I’d entered into a different world now. A world I wasn’t allowed to share with him, and even though I trusted him completely, Bo didn’t. So I had to keep it all secret. “You’re right, Bri. I’m not being completely honest, but I need you to trust that I can’t be right now. I need you not to ask too many questions, ok?” He gave me a challenging look. “Dammit Em, what have you gotten yourself into? It’s this new job isn’t it?” “That’s not, not asking questions Brian.” “Yeah, ok. You know I wouldn’t care if you killed somebody right? …especially if they were hurting you.” Oh great, my friend thinks I’m a murderer now. “I know, but I didn’t.” “Alright,” he said. “I’m just glad you’re ok.” I went upstairs to change and finally saw what everybody was talking about. I knew my lip was busted and a little swollen because I could feel it. There was also a gash above my left eyebrow and bruising all around it. The bruising extended down my temple, and underneath my eye was also a little dark. I covered most of it up with concealer. It’s hard to tell how much worse it would’ve been if Bo hadn’t licked it last night. I wondered if my eye would have been swollen shut. Back downstairs I made some omelets, it was one of the few things I knew how to cook. Brian and I talked while I waited for the window guys to show up. By the time the installers were done Brian had to go to work and the power tools had made my already bad headache even worse. I boiled some water for the herbs Li had given me. I laid down on the couch with the soaked washcloth hoping it would ease my headache. I wasn’t laying there maybe ten minutes when there was a knock at the door. I thought about ignoring it but decided I better not. I opened the door to see one of the cops that was here last night. “Hello, Miss Polanski,” the older cop from last night said, smiling. “Hi,” I said nervously, wondering what he was doing here. I was glad I’d thrown the half of the bat Brian had found in the bushes into the fire just a little bit ago. “I see you got your window fixed already?” “Yes, the installers just left actually.” What did he want? I know he didn’t just come by to see if my window was fixed. I ran through a list of horrible scenarios in my head of things he could have found out or discovered about last night. “Well, I guess this is kind of useless then.” He handed me a business card of a window installer. “My brother just got new windows and they did a great job on his house, so I thought I’d get the info for you.” “Oh, thank you, Officer….?” “Mathews, but you can call me Phil.” “Ok, thanks, Phil.” I started to close the door but he started talking again. “There was another reason for me stopping by.” Oh boy, here it is, I’m going to jail. They found a body, they found the guy in the dumpster and found my DNA. One of my neighbors saw something; somebody saw Brian standing in my yard holding the bloody bat and reported it. “I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner some time?” He finished. My mouth dropped open. Not that the guy wasn’t cute, it just wasn’t what I expected. Ordinarily I may have said yes. The thought of having a boyfriend was nice, but a cop hanging around with my new job and all the crazy things that had been going on lately didn’t sound like a good idea and I’m sure Bo would strongly object. “I appreciate the offer but I actually just got out of a long, horrible relationship, and I really want to be single for awhile.” Lame excuse I know, but I wasn’t sure what else to say. I’m sorry, but I’ve got too many vampires hanging around to have a cop boyfriend. “Ok well if you get tired of being single give me a call,” he said. “My number is on the back of that card.” “I’ll keep that in mind,” I smiled sweetly so he wouldn’t feel too rejected. I shut the door and went to lie back down on the couch. What an insane twenty-four hours it had been! I was emotionally exhausted. I must have been physically exhausted as well because although it was only around dinner time I fell asleep on the couch. Bacon must have been tired too because he didn’t growl or bark so it scared me half to death when Bo touched my leg. I sat straight up on the couch and let out a half scream. “Jeez Em, relax, it’s just me,” he said. “Relax, RELAX? Two vampires broke into my house and tried to KILL me! You knew they were following us here and you still left me alone. They could have killed me before you came back!” I screamed at him. “I can’t relax!” I guess all the recent stress finally caught up with me because I started crying. “I wouldn’t let anything happen to you,” he said putting his arm around me. “A good day man is too hard to find.” I scoffed and smacked his chest a couple times, pushing him away. “You’re an insensitive jerk, Bohuslav Pavlok, and I really hate you right now.” He laughed. “You and I couldn’t take on two vamps just the two of us. I needed to go get help. If I’d have stayed, we’d both be dead.” “What if they killed me before you got back?” I asked, sniffling. “Honestly, I thought they would case the place a little longer, waiting to see if Wu was hanging around. I thought Wu and I would be able to catch them by surprise outside while they were watching the place.” “But now they know where I live and could come back whenever they want,” I cried. “I know, and I’m sorry. I really didn’t think one would get away.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to me. “Why oh why did I hire a woman,” he said to himself. “Hey!” I protested. That reminded me; the woman at the animal shelter had asked about a guy, the “day man” before me. I couldn’t remember his name. “What happened to the guy before me?” I asked. “Jason, he died,” Bo answered. “…of old age?” I asked. “No,” was all he said. Was he not going to elaborate? Does that mean something really bad happened to him? “Ah, you ate him didn’t you?!” “No! He died in a freak accident while he was on vacation. It had nothing to do with me.” “Oh,” I wiped my face and handed his handkerchief back to him. “Bo?” I asked after we sat there in silence for a few minutes. “Yeah?” “Do you think the seed hunters will come back?” “I don’t know,” he said. “I hope not. I hope they think one seed isn’t worth the trouble of having to fight off another vamp and a bat-wielding crazy woman.” “Any chance he died from me stabbing him?” I asked hopefully. “No, the wooden stake thing is a myth.” “Why are there so many myths tied in with vampire legend?” I wondered aloud. “People fear what they don’t understand, it’s human nature,” he answered. “I think the thought of a creature that can only be killed by fire or sunlight was just too frightening for people to handle so they made up other ways to destroy us just to make themselves feel better. Yes, we may be hard to kill, but we’re by no means invincible.” Talking with Bo made me feel a little better but I was still very much on edge. When a dog barking outside nearly made me jump out of my skin, Bo suggested that we go back to his place where I could relax since I was a “basket case”, as he called me. I admit, I spent every night for the next few weeks at Bo’s. I was so scared to stay at my place by myself at night. When I did finally stay I made Bo promise to stay as long as he could. Things finally calmed down, and I became occupied with Christmas preparations. I talked the guys into letting me put up a tree in the shop and decorating it with all antique ornaments for sale. I also talked them into having a company Christmas party. In the last several years I’d grown to hate holidays because I was usually alone for them. I spent last Christmas with Charlie and his sisters. He called it a disaster. His family fought the whole time, but I thought it was nice just to be in a house full of people for the holidays. They didn’t know how lucky they were to have a family to fight with. I had no one for so long. I was happy to have my new strange little family to spend it with. The tree with antique ornaments was a complete success, and Li and Wu agreed to do it every year. The Christmas party was also great. We had it on the main floor of the shop. I guess Bo didn’t like the idea of having it downstairs with all of us in his personal space. Bo invited Esther who came all dressed up like it was a red carpet affair. I guess she didn’t get out to too many parties and this was a very big deal to her. I also thought she wanted to impress Bo. I was still convinced she had a school girl type crush on him and probably always had. I felt bad, I didn’t know she was coming and I hadn’t gotten her a gift. I got Bo a newly released game that I knew he would love. For Wu, I had scored an autographed copy of a Beach Boys album—I’m talking LP— which he went crazy for. Li was a tough one, but I knew he would appreciate a gift card to Teavana. It was wonderful sitting around our antique Christmas tree exchanging gifts. Bo got Esther a beautiful necklace, and she blushed when he put it on her. He gave me a beautiful gold bracelet with caramel-colored stones. He said it was Baltic amber from his home country, and I was touched at such a sentimental gift. Wu’s gift for me brought a bout of laughter and a retelling of our epic battle. He got me a new baseball bat with the words “Vamp whacker” etched on it. Li enrolled me in cooking classes, which I had mixed feelings about. I’d love to know how to cook, but I was afraid I would be terrible at it. I didn’t want the evening to end. We sat for most of the night laughing and telling stories. I was hoping it wouldn’t be another year before we could do it again. The start of the New Year is when things really started unraveling. I remember the day clearly. I’d woken up in the early afternoon, it’d been a late night working so I didn’t figure I’d be called upon to do much. I’d just planned to catch up on some of my eBay work. I read the paper as I ate lunch. I was completely shocked to see Charlie and Bianca’s wedding announcement. “No freakin’ way!” I stared at the paper in amazement. He was going to marry that tramp after only dating a few months? We had dated for like a year and he cringed anytime anyone said the word marriage. Why was he going to marry her? What did she have that I didn’t have? Maybe she was pregnant, yeah, that must be it. I didn’t want Charlie back at all. Especially after learning he’d cheated on me with Bianca. He was her mess now, but how come a jerk like that was getting married and I was single? I decided to treat myself to a day out to feel better. I went upstairs, showered, shaved, plucked and polished myself. I did a face mask, hair mask, mani and pedi. I put on my favorite little black dress with my favorite heels and went out shopping. I always liked shopping but never really had the extra money to go. Now after working for Bo a few months, I was caught up on all my bills and had paid my credit card almost completely off. So, I was going to go all out this evening. I bought a tall pair of boots and some new perfume and went to get some clothes as well. I tried on some really cute jeans but the sizing must be a little off because my usual size eight didn’t fit. I tried on a few other things and got the same result. I guess that problem with my metabolism and my eating habits were finally catching up with me. I gave up on shopping; this was just going to be a bad day all around. So now I was single and getting fat. How depressing! I needed comfort food. I stopped at a restaurant on my way home to get dinner and the waitress greeted me a little too cheerily for my mood. “How many in your party?” Miss Perky Pants asked. “Just me,” I said. “Oh.” Little Miss Prozac thought I’d be more comfortable at the bar so they could save the tables for those who weren’t forever alone. Ok so, she didn’t say that, but she may as well have. This day was just horrible and was gradually getting worse. I had a few drinks with my dinner. I also ordered a molten chocolate cake and ate the whole thing. If I’m going to be fat and single, I might as well be fat, single, and happy. I probably had enough to drink that I shouldn’t be driving, but I wasn’t far from home and could probably get there before the last couple drinks really kicked in. Once I walked in the front door I kicked my heels across the living room and went to the kitchen for another drink. I downed a couple more and thought this day couldn’t get any worse so I might as well take a bath and go to bed. I stomped out of the kitchen and saw Bo sitting in my living room chair. He was in his usual black slacks and a black satin button down with the top couple buttons undone. He was holding one of my shoes, twirling it in between his hands. He looked up at me and did this super sexy one eyebrow lifted thing then stood up to walk over to me. Were all my drinks just finally kicking in or did he look especially gorgeous tonight? Maybe it was the drinks or just that the day had been so horrible and it was nice to see him. “You look amazing,” he said looking me up and down, then walking in a circle around me to get the 360 view. “Mmmh,” he breathed. Even though I knew I shouldn’t— in fact everything in me knew it was a horrible idea—when he came to stand back in front of me, I leaned in and kissed him. Not just a regular kiss, but a slow hungry ‘something is about to go down’ kind of kiss. I kissed him, but I didn’t just want to kiss him. I could blame it on the alcohol. I could blame it on the news of my ex-boyfriend getting married, on the crappy day I had, or the fact that he looked really sexy tonight. It was probably all of them combined. He didn’t push me away, he let me kiss him. After a long kiss, he leaned away from me. “You’ve been drinking,” he said. “I only had one or two,” I lied. Then, I kissed him again. I interlaced my fingers around his neck and his hands slid to the small of my back. “Don’t you think this is a bad idea?” he mumbled during our kiss. “Yes,” I mumbled back. “It’s a terrible idea.” But we didn’t stop kissing. “Then don’t you think we should stop?” he asked, pulling away slightly to get the words out. “I think you think too much,” I responded and pulled him even closer to me. I could feel him smile in the kiss, a big smile. “Well that’s the best damn answer I’ve ever heard,” he said. In my head, he swept me off my feet and carried me upstairs, cradling me like they do in a romantic movie. In reality, it was slightly less romantic. He threw me over his shoulder, knocking the wind out of me. He ascended the stairs with vampire speed. I almost fell when he set me down in my bedroom, but I’m pretty sure that was more from my alcohol consumption. “Are you sure?” he asked, eyeing me quizzically. I responded by removing my dress and giving him the sexiest look I knew how to give. “I don’t want this to make things complicated,” he said. I stepped toward him, my voice slow and demanding, “Shut…up.” With that he grabbed me and I’m pretty sure he lifted me off the ground a little and kissed me hard. I ran my tongue over his fangs. Caught up in the intensity of the moment we must have been kissing a little too hard because I caught the faint taste of blood in my mouth. I opened my eyes to see if Bo would go berzerk and try to kill me. I still had the movie induced misconception in my head of vampires going frantic over the taste or smell of blood. He didn’t go insane and try to kill me. Instead, he gently sucked on my tongue, and I watched his eyes roll back in his head in ecstasy. I’m not even sure how we got to the bed after that, but we ended up there. After our clothes were completely gone and some mind blowing foreplay, he whispered in my ear, “You know I have to bite you?” I felt his breath on my neck and it sent chills down my already humming body. “Yes,” I whispered back. He leaned up to look me in the eye. “Yes?” he asked. “Yes,” I repeated. There was no way on Earth I could say no, not now. My body was surging with electricity and I couldn’t stop now. I felt his fangs on me, where my neck met with my shoulder. I felt pressure, then my skin yielded to his fangs and I felt a twinge of pain that quickly gave way to a tingling sensation. I couldn’t feel his bite after a moment but my hands, my toes, my nose—they were all tingling— and it only seemed to heighten my arousal. I’d like to say we made love all night but about ten minutes later Bo was passed out on the bed beside me. I guess vampire men aren’t much different than mortal men. Vampires did have the whole circulation thing working against them, but what Bo lacked in that department he surely made up for beforehand. Decent sex and amazing foreplay wasn’t a bad deal. I imagine Bo, being of limited means learned to play to his strengths. A couple hundred years of practice in the foreplay department had definitely paid off. I was really lightheaded and dizzy. Drinking and blood loss probably wasn’t a good combination. You throw in multiple orgasms, and I was done for the night. I fell asleep beside Bo nearly as quickly as he had. “DAMMIT, EM!” I woke up falling onto the floor, what just happened? I looked around the room. There had been a blur as I was falling that I couldn’t make out in the early light of morning. Oh, crap! It was morning! Bo was still here! The blur, it was him running to the closet. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, I said to myself with every step to the closet door. “Are you ok?” I asked. “Em, it would be best if you didn’t speak to me at the moment because I’d very much like to kill you right now!” I didn’t know if he meant literally or not, but I pulled my brown comforter off my bed and hung it over the double window in my room. It was probably a good thing I kept the blinds shut. I looked at my watch, it was 7:30! Wow, that was the best sleep I’d gotten in a long time. Wu would be at the shop by now. The store hours were nine to seven but Wu pretty much worked sun up to sun down. I called the shop. “Ah, Wu…we’ve got a problem.” “Ya think!” I heard come from behind my closet door. “What’s wrong, Em?” Wu asked. “Um, Bo is kind of stranded in my closet.” “I’ll be right there,” Wu said and hung up. I got dressed. I was pretty much limited to jeans and a tank top since Bo was occupying my closet. Twenty minutes later Wu showed up and I met him at the front door. “Is he going to be alright?” I asked. “Yes, he’ll be fine as long as he stays out of the sunlight. He must have drank from someone who had drugs or alcohol in their system. Bo is usually more careful than this. He’s been a little reckless lately. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.” Oh no, drugs or alcohol in their system? This was my fault? I thought. No wonder he cussed me when he woke up. I bet I was going to get an ear full when he got out of my closet. He’d asked me about my drinking last night. I lied and told him I only had a couple because I didn’t want him to think the alcohol was affecting my decision. I hadn’t thought about it being in my blood and what would happen when he drank it. “What do drugs and alcohol do to him, is that a really bad thing?” “No, it has no lasting effects if that’s what you mean. Alcohol usually knocks him out cold. Drugs, depending on what they are, make him high, spacey, edgy, and unpredictable. What happened last night?” Oh, I really didn’t want to answer that question. I didn’t want to tell Wu I was lonely and desperate and threw myself at Bo and that we had sex. I didn’t want to tell him any of that! “Was he acting strangely or did he just pass out?” he added. Oh ok, that I could answer. “He just passed out,” I answered. “And you didn’t think anything was wrong?” “No, he wasn’t acting any different. I just thought he was tired.” Wu had brought Thor and Loki, much to Bacon’s dismay. He posted them in my bedroom to make Bo feel better. “Hey Bo, Em already blacked out the room, you should be ok there, just try to get comfortable. You’ve got about ten hours till sunset. “I’m…in…a CLOSET!” Bo didn’t sound happy at all. “I’m so sorry, Bo,” I said. “Emina you had better be far away come sunset,” Bo growled. “Oh, come on, Bo,” Wu said. “I know you’ve slept in worse places than this. Just hang out, you’ll be fine.” Bo said nothing else. Back downstairs I made Wu and I some breakfast. I’d been to a couple cooking classes now and I wasn’t bad. “Don’t worry, Em,” Wu said while we were eating. “Bo really cares about you. I know he wouldn’t hurt you. He’s just mad he has to sleep in the closet all day.” It was more my fault than Wu knew, though. I didn’t think Bo would kill me, I wasn’t afraid of that. I knew he was mad at me, though. Wu planned to stay here all day. I worked on the eBay stuff and he worked on his laptop also. After lunch Wu tried his hand at the games Bo and I played but didn’t care for them much. He sat in my living room reading a book. The day drug on, and I wondered how much Bo did care about me. I got to thinking about what Wu said about Bo being reckless lately. He was talking about last night and about the hooker thing. Last night was completely my fault, but Bo joked about the hooker thing being my fault as well. He said he was so turned on by what transpired that night that he had to go get a hooker. Was I the reason he was acting so reckless lately? Bo said that vampires don’t fall in love, but he also said they didn’t get furious either. He sounded pretty furious up there in my closet this morning. I wonder if the ‘we don’t fall in love’ thing was just part of his bad boy vampire persona. It was a good thing it was still winter and the days were so short. Had it been summertime Bo would’ve been stuck in my closet till 9 o’clock. Around 5:45 Wu and I heard a loud bang upstairs. We both went running up to my bedroom. Bo had kicked my door down off its hinges. Was that really necessary? I hadn’t thought about it but Bo’s clothes were still laying there beside the bed from last night. It got pretty cold on the top floor in the winter so Bo was standing there wearing my purple sparkly sweater and a long black skirt. I couldn’t help it, I busted out laughing. I heard Wu behind me laughing a little as well. My laughter was chased away when Bo moved swiftly over to me. He had his hand out like he was going to grab me by the neck, but he just held his hand there in front of my face. He looked like he was trying to calm himself down. “Don’t you ever lie to me again!” he yelled. “I’m sorry, Bo,” I said sincerely. “Do you understand you could have killed me?!” I didn’t say anything, I just hung my head. I felt awful! As usual, my mind drifted to the humor in the situation. I was being yelled at by a cross-dressed vampire in my bedroom. I never thought that would happen. I tried to fight a smirk, but Bo must have seen it. “You think that’s funny?” he boomed. “No, not at all, it’s just hard to take you seriously when you’re dressed like that,” I said. Bo grabbed his clothes in a blur and a few seconds later I heard the front door slam. Wu followed Bo out with the dogs, and I was glad, I didn’t want to answer any questions he might have. I found my sweater and skirt on the stairs ripped apart. Yep, he was mad. I didn’t figure Bo would come by that night, but he didn’t come by any night for the next couple weeks. I went about my usual schedule of running my usual errands. I’d been to the shop almost every day but only during daylight hours. I purposely picked up Bo’s dry cleaning and brought it by later than usual one evening but his bedroom door was shut. Either he was out and I’d missed him, or he was still sleeping. Was he still mad at me? It was a really long time to be mad for a guy who claimed never to get mad. That was it, I was going to confront him, so I sat right there on his couch and waited for him. I waited for hours. He finally came in around eleven. I stood up and got right to it. “Alright, why are you still mad at me? For a guy that claims never to get mad, you’ve been mad an awfully long time.” “I didn’t say I never get mad, I said I don’t get furious. If I’d have been furious, you’d be dead,” he said matter-of- factly. “So why are you still mad?” I asked. “I’m not mad,” he answered. This was getting frustrating. “Then what is your problem, you haven’t come by or talked to me in weeks!” “I’m just not sure I can trust you. You lied to me.” Ok, he was making me mad. “Alright, first off, it wasn’t a full on lie, I just under exaggerated. I had no idea alcohol had that kind of an effect on you! I said I only had a couple, but I really had five or six. It’s not like I was claiming I hadn’t been drinking at all. I only said I had less so you wouldn’t feel like you were taking advantage of me. Had I known that would happen, I would’ve told you exactly how much I had to drink!” I yelled. “Em, we’ve had this conversation. I’ve told you exactly what alcohol in a blood stream does to me!” “What! When?” “The night of the Halloween party, remember?” “Seriously, Bo, I was so beyond drunk that night, I don’t know what all I did, let alone a conversation that we had!” “I could have killed you, do you understand that?” “…and that’s my fault? Hey, you knew I’d been drinking, but that was a chance you seemed to be willing to take!” “Why are you yelling at me?” he asked. “Are you mad at me for being mad at you?” “No, well…yes. I don’t know.” “That’s a little irrational isn’t it?” he said. “Oh and I suppose you’re Mr. Sensible for not speaking to me for two and a half weeks because of something I had no idea would happen!” He didn’t say anything. Arh, sometimes he was so annoying! Bo was always right, no matter what. What he thought and what he felt was always the correct thing and everyone else was just wrong. He didn’t say anything else for another minute or two, so I just huffed and stomped up the steps. He was such a jerk sometimes. How could a man almost three hundred years old still act like a child? I was so aggravated I went home and did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I worked out. Brian had gotten me a kickboxing DVD a few years ago that was still in the plastic. I figured it would be a good way to work out my aggression and maybe if I kept it up I wouldn’t have to go up a jeans size. It was a tough workout but I was able to keep up. I definitely worked up a sweat. Bacon sure didn’t know what to think of me jumping and kicking around. He just looked out the window and barked at the dog across the street he’d formed a love/ hate relationship with. I went upstairs to shower. When I got out, I used my towel to dry off the mirror so I could see to untangle my wet mess of hair. I liked having waist-length hair, but it was a beast to untangle sometimes. As I looked in the mirror the reflection of Bo standing in the doorway nearly scared me to death. I grabbed my towel off the sink and covered myself with it. “What are you doing in here?” I screamed at him. “I thought about what you said, and I forgive you.” “Yeah that’s great,” I said sarcastically, “Could it not have waited till I was dressed?” “Why are you covering up? I think I pretty much familiarized myself with every inch of your body last time I was here, don’t you think?” he said with a smirk as he approached me. “So! Do you think that means you can look at me naked whenever you want now?” He grabbed the bottom of the towel with vampire speed and yanked it to the ground. “Yes,” he said with a mischievous grin that showed the tips of his fangs. “Well, it doesn’t,” I said with my hands on my hips. “…and I think you should leave.” “Really?” he asked with an even bigger smile on his face. I’m not sure how he even picked me up, but I was across the room and on the bed in half a second. Then Bo started in on those centuries old skills of his. It should be illegal for a man to be this good. A few minutes later he stopped and stood up. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said looking arrogant and smug. “You told me you thought I should leave.” “Well, not now!” I protested. “Hmm,” he said seeming very blasé. Then he turned around and walked out of the room. I laid there with my mouth open in shock. Did he seriously just do that?? Was he not going to come back and finish? Seriously? I grabbed my bathrobe and went downstairs thinking Bo would be sitting on the couch with that stupid smug look on his face, but no he really left. “Ah, seriously?” I said out loud to myself. I grabbed my phone and texted him - 12:35 What the hell was that? - 12:37 You said you thought I should leave. - 12:38 If you’d like for me to continue what I started I’ll be at my apartment…waiting. - 12:40 Wait all you want I’m not coming! I paced the floor, what the hell was that? What kind of game was he playing? Was he just trying to see how desperate I was? I was not going to drive over there! If he wanted me, he could’ve stayed. Why run off to see if I’d follow? I was furious! It was a good thirty minutes before I calmed down enough to even try to sleep. I laid there in my bed tossing and turning. I replayed the whole situation in my head over and over. I analyzed and over analyzed it. Then a thought hit me, what if he wasn’t being insolent? What if he wasn’t playing a game? What if he was scared, scared to stay at my house? It had to have been pretty traumatic to wake up and see the light of dawn. Maybe he was afraid it might happen again. Maybe he was afraid of being stranded here again and this little game was a way of playing it off like men do. They never want to seem vulnerable or afraid of anything. My anger melted away and sympathy took its place. Right on cue, my phone buzzed on the nightstand: -1:45 I’m waiting…. -1:48 Alright, alright I’m coming. -1:49 Good girl :) It was only a thirty-minute drive to Bo’s, but it only took about twenty minutes at this hour. When I got downstairs Bo was laying on the bed naked. “I was about to give up on you,” he said. “Ummmmm??” I said, pointing at what I thought was physically impossible for him without drinking blood. “I took something,” he said. “I thought you’d approve, I know you’re not real fond of the biting,” he said smiling. Just then he reminded me of a little boy who was all proud of something he’d built and was showing it off. I chuckled and had to push the thought from my head. “What’s funny?” he asked. “What would you have done if I didn’t come over?” “Find a plan B I guess.” He shrugged. What did that mean? Did he mean he would find somebody else to have sex with? That thought really bothered me. I had no claim over Bo, he wasn’t my boyfriend. He didn’t belong to me, but the thought of him being with someone else drove me nuts. Suddenly I was jealous of everybody he’d ever slept with. Over the course of a couple hundred years, I’m sure it was a lot, even though almost all of them he would have killed right after to preserve his secret. I didn’t want to give Bo the opportunity to need a plan B. It was selfish of me but being with him was so good, I wanted to have it all to myself. I didn’t want anyone else to have him but me. Bo did indeed continue where he’d left off at my place, but his exploits didn’t match my mood. Bo was passionate yet cold. We were having sex, but I was in a mood to make love. Was Bo capable of making love? He did everything right, but it was too rough and impersonal for what my heart needed right now. I was looking forward to sleeping beside of him when we were done. As luck would have it, the first time around, I would’ve liked to go all night and it only lasted ten minutes. This time, I wished it would only last ten minutes and it lasted much longer. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself, oh I did…repeatedly in fact. I just needed to be held. About an hour later— I’d lost track of time and space completely by that point— Bo got up. “Where are you going?” I asked. This was the part I’d been waiting for. “I’m hungry,” he said. “I’m going out.” Bo was about to break one of the cardinal rules of sex for guys. You can’t just get up as soon as you’re done and leave! You just can’t do that! “Can’t you stay for a little while?” I asked. “Nah, it’ll be daylight in a few hours, you understand. Go on home and get some rest, you’ve got a busy day tomorrow.” He leaned down and kissed me on the top of the head and was gone. Now, Cosmo magazine says that if a guy gets up and leaves right after sex, you’re to kick him to the curb immediately! No exceptions! I don’t think they accounted for vampires, though. Maybe he was just hungry. He certainly exerted himself enough to work up an appetite. But what about telling me to ‘go on home’? Why didn’t he want me to stay? True, I did have a busy day planned. Was he trying to get rid of me, or….Agh! Stop it, Em! I wasn’t going to over analyze it. I was going to drive myself crazy. But I couldn’t help feeling used as I drove home from Bo’s that night. He’d taken a pill to avoid biting me because he knew I didn’t like it. That meant he must care about me to consider my feelings, right? Even Wu said Bo cared about me a great deal and would never hurt me…but did he mean just physically? I was reading too much into this. I’m just feeling emotional; I’m going to stop thinking about it! The next morning there was a flower lying on my kitchen table with a note. I admit my heart swooned a little bit. The note just told me not to forget to drop off the rugs, but still the flower was sweet. I had to pick up some really old rugs from the shop and take them to a professional antique rug cleaner. The whole idea seemed ridiculous to me, but I did what I was told. I had tons of errands to run that day, and by the time I was done I was totally pooped. It was going to be a Lean Cuisine and an early bedtime kind of night. I had just put on my sweats and was nearly finished eating my dinner when I got the knock and enter you get from only people who know you well. It was Brian. He looked at me sitting there in my sweats with my frozen dinner. “You forgot didn’t you?” he said. “Forgot what??” “What day is it Em?” I grabbed my phone and looked at the date. It was Valentine’s Day. Brian and I had a ritual; since we were almost always single, we had a tradition of going to the Miniplex, a small, rickety theater the next town over, and watching a scary movie. They only played two movies at a time, but it was cheap and they always had the old horror movies we both loved. “I didn’t forget…I just didn’t realize it was today.” I scarfed down the rest of my dinner and ran upstairs to change. I kept it simple, jeans, t-shirt, and a jacket. I never felt the urge to impress Brian. I pulled my hair back in a ponytail and was ready to go in ten minutes. When I walked downstairs, Brian was sitting on the living room chair with something in his hands. “Emina Marigold, who have you been getting freaky with?” he asked. “Why are you middle naming me? I don’t go around Brian Nelson-ing you…and what are you talking about?” He stood up and held up my purple sweater and black skirt that Bo had ripped off himself after being stranded in the closet. “Where did you find that?” I asked shocked. “On the chair behind the pillow, he answered. “Who’s been ripping your clothes off, Em?” he asked jokingly. “Hmmmm?” “Nobody, shut up!” I couldn’t fight the blush that was coming to my cheeks. “Oh, I knew it! You and Jet Li are getting it oooooon.” “No, we’re not, it wasn’t him, and it’s not what you think anyway. Are we going to the movies or not?” I snapped. Brian dropped it, he knew when to quit and I was glad. We took Brian’s car to the Miniplex. He was hoping for a zombie movie; those were his favorite. I preferred the ax murderer, thriller type movies. We were both a little disappointed that the current showing was one about a vampire hunter. But given a choice between that and the romantic comedy, vampire hunting it was. I couldn’t help but scoff when the characters broke out their wooden stakes and silver bullets. The UV guns, I wasn't sure about. I wondered if they worked? I’d have to ask Bo. I had a little trouble staying awake through the whole movie. I was really tired. I tried to hide it from Brian the best I could. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings that I’d forgotten about our plans then was falling asleep the whole time we were out. It was only 9 o’clock but it felt like 2 a.m. as we walked outside. We were walking to the car when a man stepped out from behind one of the cars. “Hand over your purse, sweetheart,” he ordered. Brian stepped in front of me and pushed me behind him. “I don’t think so punk,” Brian said then told him to buzz off. Well actually his words were a little harsher than that, but I leave the cursing to other people. Aunt Eileen had always told me that curse words were for the small-minded who weren’t intelligent enough or had a broad enough vocabulary to find words that better suited the situation. Not that I thought Brian was small-minded, but I made a habit of almost never cursing in fear that someone might think I wasn’t very smart. We were about to step past the guy when he pulled a gun from his jacket pocket. “Hand over your wallet too, hero.” I handed him my purse and Brian had just reached in his back pocket to retrieve his wallet when suddenly I was pushed to the side and Brian was knocked to the ground. Oh Crap, there were two of them! No, there weren’t two of them, it was Bo. Bo pushed me aside and hit Brian then grabbed the guy with the gun…’my hero’ the voice of Olive-Oyl sounded in my head. Oh no, then I could see my hero chomped down on the guy’s throat while he dragged him away. The guy flailed and gurgled as blood spurt from his mouth. Well, that wasn’t exactly picturesque. Not a ‘riding up on a white horse’ kind of moment. That was morbid and horrifying to see. Then I realized why he’d pushed Brian to the ground, so he wouldn’t see. Bo was gone in just seconds, and I was glad. I knelt down to check on Brian. “Are you ok?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He stood up looking around. “What happened? Where’d that guy go?” “I’m not sure,” I answered. I leaned down and picked my purse up off the ground. There were a few drops of blood next to it, and I slid my foot across the gravel to cover it before Brian could see. “Maybe somebody came walking this way and scared the guy away,” I suggested. “Should we call the cops?” Brian asked wiping the blood from his lip where he’d hit the gravel. “And tell them what? That some guy was going to rob us then didn’t?” “True,” he said. “That guy was whack yo!” “Yeah, maybe he was just crazy and ran off,” I suggested. “Thanks for pushing me down, but next time some lunatic is pointing a gun at us, maybe you don’t push me quite so hard,” he said wiping the blood from his lip again. Huh? Oh…he thought I pushed him down because of the gun. Ok, we can go with that story. That made more sense than my vampire lover saving us. “Sorry, I guess it was just a gut reaction and the adrenaline. I’ll try to remember that the next time there’s a lunatic pointing a gun at us.” I laughed. “I need a drink, how ‘bout you?” He asked. “Definitely!” I answered. Brian really hated the club scene and he knew I hated the country bars so he drove us to a steakhouse where we sat at the bar since all the tables and booths were filled with happy couples on their Valentine dates. He ordered a basket of fries and we both ordered drinks. He started talking about what happened tonight, but I quickly changed the subject to the movie. Brian thought the concept of vampires was absurd, and I rebutted of course. I didn’t see how a man could believe that zombies were entirely possible but not vampires. He went on to tell me his theory on the possibility of zombies for the one-hundredth time. We didn’t stay long. I was completely exhausted! I wasn’t sure how I would sleep tonight though because every time I closed my eyes I saw that man gurgling blood and Bo sinking his teeth into him while dragging him away. A year ago I would have thought tonight was completely traumatic, but I had worse nights here recently that made this one look not so bad actually. I sat thinking about this as Brian drove back to my house. I felt something on my face, what was it? I kept trying to swat the thing away and look past it but I couldn't. I was looking for someone but I couldn’t see. Who was I looking for… “Bo.” I jerked and sat up as I said it. Brian sat next to me laughing hysterically. He had my scarf in his hand. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. I fell asleep on the drive home and instead of simply waking me up when we got to my place, Brian was tickling my face with the end of my scarf. “You’re a jerk,” I said grabbing my scarf from him. “Who’s Bo? Hmmm? Is that who’s been ripping your clothes off?” he joked. “You’re a jerk.” I repeated and got out of the car. “Ok ok, we don’t have to talk about your boyfriend,” he said following me to the front door. “I’m going to bed,” I stated, cutting off any assumed invitation for him to come inside. “Oh come on, Em, don’t be mad.” “I’m not mad, I’m tired.” “Well, are you ok after what happened tonight? Do you want me to stay with you?” “No, I’m fine, thanks. I just want to go to bed.” “Alright,’ he said. “Well, thanks for trying to save my life.” He hugged me. “…and thanks for trying to save mine.” I hugged him back and went inside. Bo, of course, was inside waiting for me. “Are you going to give me a hug for trying to save your life also?” he asked. “You really did save me so I’ll give you more than a hug,” I said smiling. I walked over and kissed him. I sighed and laid my head on his shoulder. All I really wanted to do was curl up next to Bo and go to sleep. “Have you ever given that Brian guy more than a hug?” “What? No. Brian and I have always been just friends. Aw Bo, are you jealous?” “No,” he said releasing me. “I was merely curious.” “Don’t be jealous,” I continued. “I don’t think of Brian like that, he’s always been kind of like a brother to me.” “I told you I’m not jealous. Vampires don’t get jealous. He can have you if he wants you.” “Well, that’s a horrible thing to say!” I raised my voice. “It sounds like you don’t care about me at all!” “What do you expect, Em? I’m a vampire. You know I’m void of emotion,” he stated frankly. “Do you think I’m going to fall in love with you and we’re going to live happily ever after?” “No, and you’re not completely void of emotion, you said they are just muted. So you don’t have to love me, but you can still like me, can’t you? You can at least not act like an insensitive jerk!” “I’m not going to have this conversation, you’re hormonal,” he said. “Excuse me!” I fired back. Oh no, he didn’t just tell me I was being hormonal. He didn’t just pull the PMS card! He sighed in aggravation. “Are we going to have sex tonight or not?” he asked sounding annoyed. “You HAVE GOT to be kidding me,” I yelled. “Ok, I guess that’s a no, I’m going to head out then.” I couldn’t remember a time I was more furious at a man. “So if I’m not going to have sex with you, you’re leaving? Is that it? Is that the only thing you’re here for? Is that the only thing I’m good for? Is that the only thing you want from me?” “No, you’re pretty good at running errands too,” he laughed trying to make light of the situation and failing miserably. I just glared at him, my blood boiling. “Don’t do this, Em. I don’t want to have this conversation. You’re getting your emotions involved. You’re going to make things complicated.” “Get out!” I yelled at him. He didn’t say anything else, he sighed and walked out. “Aaarrrgh!” I screamed once he was gone and I kicked the basket of magazines next to the couch. They scattered like paper birds flying across the floor. My foot broke through the basket and almost made me fall which made me even madder. I stood there hopping on one leg screaming, trying to kick the basket off. I kicked my foot a few times before the basket went flying. Bacon went running out of the room, his tail between his legs. I went through our conversation over and over again in my head as I took a shower and got ready for bed. ‘He’s not going to have this conversation. I’m being hormonal’, ‘are we going to have sex or not’? Agh! “I hate men!” I told my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. After I laid down in bed, I checked the calendar on my phone. It just added to my frustration that Bo was right, my period was due any day. I probably was PMSing. He was still being insensitive! ‘Brian can have me if he wants me’ what the hell was that? It really sounded like he was jealous or he didn’t care about me at all. How could it be one of those two extremes? How could him acting like that constitute that he had more feelings for me than he admitted to OR that he had no feelings for me at all? Men are complicated. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t feel any better. I was still mad at the whole world. Ok, so it was PMS. I’d been snippy with Brian and Bo last night; maybe it was me. I would avoid human interaction as much as possible today. I didn’t have much work to do since yesterday had been so busy. I didn’t get out of my sweatpants or leave the couch all day really. I worked online and watched movies all day. I was thankful that on days they weren’t busy down at the shop, Wu would text me and tell me that he had taken care of the dogs so I didn’t have to drive down there. I didn’t want to see Bo. I didn’t want to see anybody. That evening I picked up my phone every three minutes looking to see if I had a text, email, or missed call. Not that I would answer any of them. I didn’t want to talk to Bo, I just wanted to know that he wanted to talk to me. “He’s probably off with some hooker,” I told Bacon who just looked at me. It was very likely; I had turned him down last night so he could very well have gone out to find his “plan B”. “I really don’t care if I hear from him or not,” I told Bacon but I continually checked my phone all evening. It was the dreaded relationship standoff. But this isn’t a relationship. Was I expecting too much from Bo? Was I expecting boyfriend behavior from a man who wasn’t my boyfriend? What if he was with a hooker, he wasn’t mine. He didn’t belong to me. He didn’t owe any loyalty to me. Maybe I was making this complicated. Nobody wants to be sleeping with someone who’s sleeping with someone else, though. Sure I didn’t have to worry about disease because of Bo’s ability to detect stuff like that. I suddenly felt bad for the way I yelled at him. I picked up my phone and texted him - 9:45 I’m sorry I was so grouchy last night An hour past, and then two hours…. I was driving myself crazy looking at my phone every few minutes. Why didn’t he say anything back? If he would just come back with ‘I’m sorry I was being an insensitive jerk’ everything would be ok but no, nothing. I was offering the olive branch, and all that jerk had to do was take it. I wish you could UNsend text messages after you’ve sent them. The more I thought about it, the more it drove me crazy. Say something back to me…anything! Was he not talking to me now? Was he mad again? Why oh why did I ever sleep with him in the first place? I just want to go back to when we would just hang out and play video games. I just wanted somebody in my life. Somebody to care about me that wouldn’t leave me. After my parents and my aunt died, a vampire seemed perfect. I got to thinking about my parents and Aunt Eileen and how I was forever doomed to be alone. Yes, a regular pity party, I know. I cried myself to sleep. The next day I woke up feeling very sentimental. I planned on taking Brian some lunch. I would stop and see Esther, go hug Wu and Li, and I would make up with Bo. After thinking about the passing of my loved ones last night, it got me to thinking that life was too short not to show the people in your life some love. I also started my period so maybe I wouldn’t be quite so cranky now. Downstairs there was something sitting on my kitchen table. It looked like a small cookie tin. The lid said it was dark chocolate covered pumpkin seeds. Ok, I’ve never heard of that, but I’d give it a try. Anything chocolate covered couldn’t be bad. In my current mood, a gift from Bo made me tear up a little bit. I guess he had accepted my olive branch last night. I did my regular morning ritual: coffee, newspaper, and the internet. I tried one of the pumpkin seeds. These were awesome! I started eating them by the handful. I took Brian lunch and stopped at a bakery and got Esther a little something. I stayed for awhile and listened to some of her stories, some I already heard and some were new. I showed up at the shop just before sunset. I made sure to give Wu and Li big hugs when I saw them. I told Wu that I loved him and Li how much I appreciated him. Bo wasn’t up yet so I took care of the dogs then sat on the couch and waited for him to get up. I wasn’t waiting long when he emerged. He looked incredibly gorgeous. He was shirtless, in some dark blue satin pajama pants, his dark brown hair all a mess. “Hey,” I said smiling at him. “Thanks for the gift.” “You’re welcome, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds are supposed to be good for PMS,” he replied. “Em, I think we need to have a talk.” “Ok,” I replied nervously. “I think maybe we should cool it for awhile. I’m afraid you’re becoming too emotionally involved.” He was right, about me being too emotionally involved anyway. I realized I was totally nuts over him. I wanted to be with him all the time and when I wasn’t with him I was thinking about him. I didn’t want to ‘cool it’, though. “No, I’m fine really. You were right the other night. I was overly tired and hormonal and just plain grouchy. Being mugged does that to a girl,” I joked. “I don’t know,” he said, running his hands through his messy hair. “Us being involved is just a bad idea.” “Look, if you’re worried about me liking you too much, don’t. I think you’re a total jerk. I don’t even like you half the time,” I said jokingly, trying to act as aloof as possible. Inside, I was screaming for him not to leave me. “I just don’t want things to get complicated. I…” An alarm sounded that I’d never heard before cutting him off mid-sentence. “What’s that?” I asked but Bo was already gone. He was upstairs already. I followed quickly behind him. I didn’t know what the alarm was or what it meant. Upstairs the front door was open and one of the display cases had been busted. Oh no, I thought. We’ve been robbed. I didn’t see anybody, not Bo, Wu, or Li. Then…there, behind one of the counters I heard talking and like a flash Bo was running out the door. He ran outside in his pajama pants, no shirt, or shoes. I went to where he’d come from and Li was lying on the ground. He looked pretty beat up. “Are you ok? What happened?” I expected him to tell me about a robbery, instead, he told me a story so much more terrifying. He told me of how seed hunters came in and took his grandson. Wu! Oh no, Wu! I wasn’t sure if Li was badly hurt or not, so I dialed 911 on my cell phone and handed it to him. I ran out the door after Wu, the seed hunters, and Bo. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know which way they went. I couldn’t run as fast as a vampire and I knew that, but it didn’t matter. It was completely dark outside except for the light poles scattered down the street. I thought I saw Bo turn beside the country store down the road, and I took off after him. I turned the corner to find a dark alley. I didn’t care, they took Wu and I was going to get him back. I stumbled over a few obstacles on the ground that I couldn’t identify in the dim light. I was relieved when I finally made it to the end. The back sides of the stores were very dimly lit. I looked around and saw no one. I stood there in the dark not hearing anything but the pounding of my own heart. Then, the sound of a glass bottle moving across the ground; I took off after it. Four more stores down I stopped to listen again. I heard a rustle down the alley next to the abandoned shopette. This alley was even darker than the last, I couldn’t see anything at all. I tripped and bumped into things that I didn’t even know were there. My arm scraped against something course and scratchy. Something sharp caught my bracelet and it broke and fell. Oh no! That was the bracelet Bo had given me for Christmas. I bent down to find it and, of course, bumped my head on whatever it was that I scraped my arm on. I felt around like a blind person, my hands painting a picture of the things my eyes couldn’t see. Ok, it was a wooden pallet that I’d bumped into. I felt around on the ground… ew ew ew something slimy, gross! Then moving fur brushed my arm, and I screamed. It was something furry and alive, oh, it was a gigantic rat I just knew it. I stood up, stepped backward, tripped, and fell. My hand landed on a hard sharp object that punctured my skin. I kept feeling around for my bracelet, giant man-eating rat or not, I wasn’t leaving without it. I really wish I had my cell phone. I could have used it for light and found my bracelet in two seconds then been on my way. I heard a low growling sound, holy crap, giant man-eating rat was angry. I slowly stood up and backed away but backed into something, no someone. They reached out and grabbed me and I screamed again. “What the hell are you doing, Em?” “Bo?! Oh, thank God!” “Watch out, there’s a giant man-eating rat over there!” I warned. “Ahh yeah, Em, that’s a dog.” “A dog, are you sure?” Bo walked away from me and the growling got louder, more ferocious, then a whimper and silence. He walked back over to me, “Come on, let’s go.” “No, I dropped my bracelet, we have to find it!” Bo bent down then placed the bracelet in my hand. “What were you doing down this dark alley?” he asked. “I was coming to help you. I saw you run down this way.” “Well, that was really stupid, Em.” I ignored his insult “Did you catch them?” “No,” he said. “I lost them.” “Well come on, we have to find them!” I shouted. “Where are we going to go, Em? We don’t know where they are, we don’t know where they’re going. There’s nothing we can do!” “No! There has to be something we can do! We have to do… something!” I grabbed Bo’s arm and grazed his bare chest, I’d forgotten he was only half-dressed. He must be freezing. He didn’t have shoes on either. I guess he was as desperate to get Wu back as I was. We walked back to the shop and there were two cop cars parked out front. I knew Bo would stay clear until they left. One of the guys looked like Officer Phil ‘I wanna date you’ Matthews himself, so I thought it best if I stayed clear also. Bo was able to get to my car quickly and pick me up down the street without anyone noticing. We went to my place to clean up. Bo licked the cut on my hand from where I fell. It was small, but I wasn’t going to object. Something that seemed so strange before now had become something so sensual. I got chills as he licked my hand and sucked on my pinky and ring finger. “Oh Bo, your feet are covered in blood!” “Yes, I know. I wanted to tend to your wounds first,” He said. “Sit down, I’ll go get you a towel and water.” I went into the kitchen and got a bowl of warm water and a towel and came back into the living room. I was seriously turned on, but seeing Bo sitting in the living room chair licking his own feet really killed the mood for me. Then there was a knock at the door. I set the stuff down in front of Bo and walked toward the door. There was another loud banging knock before I got there. I unlocked and opened the door. It was Brian. “Ok Em, what the hell is going on, and don’t you dare say nothing?” He handed me a bag of Chinese food and I just looked down at it and started crying. I knew it was completely prejudice of me to think of Wu when Brian handed me the Chinese food, but I couldn’t help it. “You’re freaking me out, Em! There are bloody footprints leading to your door. Are you ok?” “I’m fine,” I said sniffing back my tears. I had no idea how to explain the bloody footprints away. As for how I was, I wasn’t sure how to explain that either. Usually, I can think quickly when on the spot, but this time, I had nothing. “My friend Wu…he, he’s…” “He’s dead.” We both heard from the living room. I thought for sure Bo would disappear like he usually did but he was still sitting there in the chair, at least he’d stopped licking his feet. “You don’t know that, we could find him,” I started. “We could…” “Em, keep your mouth shut,” Bo interrupted. “Listen here, pimp!” Brian said stepping past me. “I think Em can say whatever the hell she wants in her own house. And just who the hell are you anyway?” “Em, get rid of him please,” Bo said, looking annoyed. “Look, Brian, maybe…” I started. “Oh heeeell no,” Brian said as he sat right down on the couch and crossed his arms. Sitting there, arms covered in tattoos, blue hair peeking out of his hat turned backward in his heavy metal band t-shirt. Most people would find Brian intimidating, but I knew Bo didn’t. “So who is this cat and why are you letting him talk to you like that, Em?” Brian asked. “Brian, this is my boss, and Bo, as you already know, this is Brian.” “Whoa…this is Bo?” Brian asked. “I knew it! You’ve been bangin’ your boss.” Brian then turned to Bo, I guess taking on the brother role in my life… “Dude, do you love her? Cause if you break her heart I’ll jack you up.” “I highly doubt that,” Bo said arrogantly. “Listen here, pimp…” Brian started. “AAAAGHHH!!! Both of you SHUT UP!” I screamed. Both men looked at me like I might kill them both. “Just shut up!” I repeated, and I walked out of the room. “Geez, what’s gotten into her?” I heard Brian ask. “She’s just stressed out,” Bo replied. Seriously, they were going to talk about me while I was gone like there was something wrong with me. Five seconds ago they were arguing like they were about to take it outside and beat on each other like Neanderthals. I walked back into the room with a bottle of wine I had no intentions of sharing. “Hey listen, Em,” Brian said cautiously “I’m really sorry about your friend…that was Jet Li right? He was…” “No!” I interrupted. “No talking! Everybody just be quiet!” I knew I was being rude, but I didn’t care. I had a horrible headache from banging my head on the pallet earlier, and the guys had just made the bad situation of losing Wu worse by arguing and just being, well…guys. I turned the TV on and didn’t bother trying to find something good to watch. I just left it on the current channel and sat there drinking my bottle of wine. Brian and I ate some of the Chinese food he’d brought over. Bo of course refused. He excused himself to go upstairs where he managed to find some of his own clothes left here on occasion or borrowed by me here and there, but he was still shoeless. I ended up falling asleep before whatever movie we were watching was over. I never got into it, it was some alien sci-fi flick, but I was happy for the distraction. I’ve always reacted to depression with sleep. Anger and anxiety kept me awake but depression was a sleeping pill for me. When my parents died, I slept for almost a week straight. Aunt Eileen even took me to the doctor, who told her it was just shock. I slept for days when she died as well. Brian’s voice woke me a bit and had me teetering between the dream world and waking. “You never answered my question, Bo…Do you love her?” “I care about her,” Bo answered. “But you don’t love her?” “No.” I was fully awake now, but I kept my eyes closed so I could listen to their conversation about me. “Do you have any intentions of loving her?” Brian asked. Bo snickered. To Brian, this must have seemed a rude, contemptuous gesture, but I understood. Bo claimed to be incapable of love. “No, I guess not,” Bo answered. “Then why don’t you walk away,” Brian suggested. “Bow out dude. She’s had enough disappointment and heartache in her life, don’t you think? She lost her parents and her Aunt. She’s head over heels in love with you, you see that don’t you? Don’t be something else she’s going to have to survive.” I wanted to sit up and object. I wanted to grab onto Bo so he would never leave me, and I kind of wanted to smack Brian. I knew he was only trying to protect me because he was a good friend, but he didn’t understand I needed Bo. Bo was perfect for me, he would never die, he would never leave me like my parents or my Aunt. I wanted to say and do all those things but I sat there very still, listening to how the rest of the conversation would go. Had I known the conversation was over perhaps I would’ve jumped up and said all those things. I didn’t hear Bo get up but the next thing he said was: “Tell Em I borrowed her car, hmm.” I sat up at the sound of the door shutting. He was gone. “Hey, sorry we woke you. Seems like you’ve had a pretty rough day, why don’t you go on to bed and I’ll clean up down here.” “Ok Bri, thanks.” “Oh, and Bo said he was going to borrow your car.” “Ok,” I said as I climbed the stairs even more depressed than before. In bed, I let the sleepy cloud of depression envelop me. I slept all night and most of the next day. When I finally went downstairs there was a note from Bo. It gave the name of a local hospital and a room number. I assumed it was for Li. I wasn’t sure how badly he’d been hurt last night. I felt a bit guilty for leaving him and then not going back to check on him, cops or not. It would’ve looked quite suspicious for my house to get broken into then my place of business not long thereafter. The note didn’t say anything else, just the name and number. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I grabbed some gardening magazines I thought he might like, I picked up some tea egg ramen from Mama Santos’— which was his favorite—then headed to the hospital. I got there toward the end of visiting hours so I wouldn’t be able to stay long. He smiled when I walked in and handed him the white bag that I knew he recognized. I sat down in the chair next to the bed. “How are you?” I asked. “I’m perfectly fine,” he answered “They kept me for observation since I’m an old man. They are in the process of releasing me now.” “I could take you home if you like,” I offered. “That would be great, Em, thank you,” he said then winked at me just like Wu always did. I burst into tears and I wasn’t sure if he knew why or not. He patted my hand. “Don’t worry, he’ll be back, Em. He will just be…different.” Ok, so he knew exactly why I was crying. I looked up and also saw a tear in Li’s eye. Alright, I need to hold it together because if Li started crying I just knew I would turn into a total blubbering idiot. “I brought your favorite…” I said pointing at the bag, “…and some gardening magazines. I wasn’t sure how long you were going to be here. Were you hurt?” “Just bumps and bruises really. I’m a tough old bird,” he smiled. It was another hour before he was released. Li ate his food, and I sat flipping through a magazine. Li wasn’t much for chit chat. I’d never been to Li and Wu’s house before. It wasn’t at all like I thought. Honestly, I pictured a little cottage surrounded by trees with a big garden of flowers and a little pond with a waterfall in the yard. He directed me to a gated community which made sense with them both being seeds; security would be vital. Although a big iron gate and a security officer wouldn’t stop a vampire if he wanted to get in. It was dark outside, but there was enough outside lighting for me to see that his home was beautiful dark brick and cherry wood. His car was parked outside, and I figured Bo brought it by for him. “Be a dear and grab the keys from my car, would you.” I got his keys and brought them back to my car, a bit confused why he hadn’t got out yet. Li hit a button on a small black box on his keychain and the light came on inside the house. Well, that’s a handy little thing. I guessed it unlocked the doors as well. Li invited me inside then hurried very quickly to the door and went in. The keychain made sense now but not him practically running inside. He must have seen my confused look because he answered the questions in my head. “The motion lights are UV. They can be deadly to vampires, but just a bit irritating to us seeds.” “Can be deadly?” I asked. “Yes, with enough exposure they can kill one, but mostly they are used as a deterrence or torture.” “Torture?” “Yes,” he said but he didn’t elaborate. He showed me around the house. It was very neat and clean except for the pile of dishes in the sink. Their home was very light and cheery. The colors were mostly white and wood grain with gold accents here and there. The walls were sparsely decorated, but there were potted plants everywhere. I’d like to have more plants at my house, but I always forget to water them. I’ve killed every plant I ever had. “Is there anything I can help you with while I’m here?” I asked. “Would you put on some water for tea please?” he asked and excused himself to go upstairs. I filled up his teapot that was on the stove and put the dishes in the dishwasher. I stayed to have a cup of tea before I left. I wanted to talk to Bo, to see if there was anything we could do about Wu, and what we were going to do about the shop, Li, and everything else. Wu was the glue that held us all together. I felt completely lost without him around. When I got to the shop the display case was still busted and glass was still on the floor. Wu was always the one who handled these things. Had he still been here, he'd have a new display case in place of that one and the shop would be spotless. Downstairs there was a trunk sitting in the middle of the floor with a garment bag thrown over the top of it, but Bo wasn’t down there. I thought he may have been gone for the evening. Before I left I decided to sweep up the glass. As I was doing so Bo called to me from his office. He was sitting at his desk when I walked in. “What’s with the trunk and stuff downstairs?” I asked. “I’m going on a trip,” he answered. “Oh. Where to?” “Lithuania.” “Oh. Your home country, that'll be nice. Isn’t it difficult for you to travel? What, with the no sunlight and passport stuff?” “Paperwork can be acquired for the right price, and I’m traveling on the red eye to a safe house in Amsterdam. From there it’s a short trip the rest of the way.” “What do you mean a safe house?” “A safe house is basically a hotel for vampires. You can find them in many big cities: Amsterdam, England, Sydney, New Orleans, etcetera.” I walked over and sat on the edge of the desk. “I guess I’ll need to hold down the fort while you're gone? What are we going to do without Wu? Is he going to come back once they change him? How long do you think he's going to be gone?” I asked. “I don’t know, Em,” he said sounding stressed. “I just don’t know.” “It sounds like you need a vacation. When are you leaving?” “Tomorrow night,” he answered. “Oh, when are you coming back?” “I don’t know, forty or fifty years probably.” “WHAT?” I said standing up. “Is that a joke, Bo?” “No.” “You can’t leave for fifty years!” He looked at me like any man does when a woman tells them they “can't” do something. “…and just why not?” he asked. “We need you! I need you! You can’t leave!” Bo looked at me, calm and collected. “I’m not going to Mars Em. I’m not abandoning my business. I’ll call, email, I’ll be in touch. “Why?! Why now? We just lost Wu,” I said through streaming tears. “Why do you have to leave, too?” He didn’t answer but hugged me and let me cry on his shoulder for a long time. Vampire battles in my living room and being mugged at gunpoint I could handle no problem. Not this, not emotional distress. The men in my life that I loved dearly leaving me, that I couldn’t handle. Bo scooped me up into his arms and carried me all the way downstairs to his apartment. It was the most tender moment we ever shared together. He laid me on his bed and just held me until I fell asleep. I know he didn’t stay with me all night, but when I woke up he was laying beside me. I laid there next to him for awhile trying to take in as much of the experience as possible because there was a very good chance this was the last time it was ever going to happen. I didn’t want to get up, but I had to pee so bad I couldn’t put it off any longer so I went upstairs to use the bathroom. The shop still wasn’t open, and I wondered when it would be. Bo said he wasn’t going to shut down the business so he must plan on reopening it. Was he giving Li some time to deal with what happened or were we waiting for Wu to return? Could Li run the shop by himself? Would Wu come back? If and when he did, he couldn’t be in the shop in the daylight. I wonder what would happen if Wu refused to be turned. Could they turn him by force? Would they kill him? Surely not, they’d gone to all that trouble to get him. And why was Bo leaving now, when things looked so grim? I had a million questions. I didn’t want to bother Li with all my ‘what if’s’ and I couldn’t tell Brian all of this. He’d think I was crazy. The only other person I could turn to was Esther. I picked up some lunch and went to Esther’s house. She was thrilled to have company as always. She must get lonely because whenever anyone came over or invited her out she was thrilled. I told her about Wu while we ate. She didn’t have any answers there. She didn’t know how that whole process with seed hunters worked. When I told her about Bo’s plans to leave for forty or fifty years she dropped her fork and stared at me. “What?” she asked, stunned. “Yeah, he said that he’s going back to Lithuania tonight and not coming back for forty or fifty years!” She didn’t say anything. She just sat there blankly staring into space. “You love him don’t you?” I asked. “Yes, very much,” she whispered. “What happened between you two?” “I did just as you have done I wager,” she said raising one eyebrow at me. “What’s that?” I asked. “I foolishly fell in love with a man who was unable to love me in return.” I sat there thinking about that for a minute. “So did you guys…um…you know…?” Esther blushed a bit then stared off into space again and sighed. Ok they did, they’d done the dirty. I cringed just a little, wondering if that was all in the past or if that was something they still continued. Surely not, Esther was almost a hundred years old now. Gross! Esther excused herself then came back holding a picture frame. She handed it to me. It was a picture of her and Bo. He, of course, looked the same, but Esther must have been in her late 20’s. She was a knockout! Her hair was curled synonymous with the 1950’s, and she was wearing a polka dotted blouse and bright lip stick. She was breathtaking. “Wow!” I said out loud. “I was quite a catch back then I guess, but I only ever gave my heart to one man….Bohuslav.” “So you’ve never been married?” I asked. “Why not?” “No man ever compared to Bohuslav. We were together for many years, and I just never got over him. I never wanted anyone but him and I’m sure as you very well know he cannot reciprocate those feelings. Fairy tales lead us to believe that we can break the curse and turn the beast into our beloved prince charming. That we can change their wicked ways if we love them enough, but that’s just not how it is, dear. We age and he does not. Our beauty fades and his does not. Our heart breaks and his does not. It’s not just Bo who is cursed you see, but all those who dare to love him. There was a time when he couldn’t keep his hands off me, now I cling to occasional visits for lunch or tea and always flowers on my birthday.” This wasn’t the first time I felt like my life was flashing before my eyes while talking to Esther. I remembered that eerie feeling the first time I visited her. Thinking that one day I would be an old woman and Bo’s new assistant would be bringing me flowers on my birthday. Maybe it was a good thing he was leaving. Maybe I wouldn’t try to stop him from going. I didn’t want to end up like this. I didn’t want to be a withered old woman still in love with a man who would never age and would never love me in return. But I was already in love with him, was it too late? Would I do as Esther did and compare every man I met to him? Why oh why had I ever slept with Bo in the first place? I wish it never happened…no, I take that back. It was wonderful. Ok, so it was wonderful and I wish it never happened. I was emotionally spent. There was just too much to deal with lately. I couldn’t handle anymore. I left Esther’s and just drove, not to anywhere in particular. I just drove. I had to think, but I didn’t know what to think. I was disgusted with Bo, to do this to me, to Esther. Is this what he did? He lured women in with his charm, his good looks, and his mind blowing foreplay then just abandoned them when they got too old or too attached. No, I knew that wasn’t true. Bo said the way he usually did things was easier, to find a prostitute and drain her afterward. It was my idea to have sex with him, it was my doing. I figure it was the same way with Esther. They’d been business partners and just gotten carried away one day. What I couldn’t understand was why he was leaving now when things were so complicated. For a man who claimed not to feel emotions, he sure seems to avoid and run away from emotional situations. Maybe that was why; maybe he just didn’t know how to deal with the situation. Maybe that’s how he dealt with emotions. He couldn’t feel them so he ran away from them. I thought about it for a long time as I drove. My cell phone rang and pulled me from my thoughts. “Hey, Em, where you at?” Brian asked. “Ummm, I’m not sure really. I’m on I-81 somewhere…I think.” “Oh, you’re working huh? Me, Kyle, and Jessica are gonna catch a movie tonight, you wanna come?” Bo was leaving tonight. “Um, no sorry, I can’t.” “Come on, Em, they aren’t all that bad.” Brian knew I didn’t like Kyle or Jessica. “No really, I have some things I have to do.” Like, say goodbye to Bo for the next fifty years. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Yeah I’m fine, things are just kinda crazy with work right now.” “Oh yeah. Hey Em, I completely forgot about your friend. I’m sorry.” “Yeah, umm you guys have fun tonight, though, I’ll talk to you later.” I drove for awhile longer. I thought about Wu, I thought about Bo and Esther. I’d been driving for a long time and before I knew it I looked at the clock and I’d been driving for over two hours. I’d crossed over into Virginia and was nearing West Virginia. I turned around and got back home around dinner time, but I couldn’t eat. My stomach was in knots and my mind was swirling. I cleaned and paced the floor wondering if Bo was going to stop by. Surely he would. He wouldn’t leave for that long without coming to see me, right? If he didn’t stop and see me that would be a clear sign he cared nothing for me. Bacon rarely barked at Bo anymore so it startled me when he spoke while I was scrubbing the sink. “Hey,” was all he said. “Hey. Shouldn’t you be at the airport?” “My flight leaves in about ninety minutes,” he said. “You’re supposed to be there two hours prior to take off, ya know.” “I’ve got time,” he said softly. “I wanted to see you before I left.” I turned back around to finish rinsing the sink. I didn’t want to look at him. He was wearing his regular black slacks and a gray sweater that looked amazing on him. “Did you stop and see Esther? You just gonna leave a trail of broken hearts as you go?” “I can’t help what I am Em,” he said softly. He was standing right behind me now. I fought as hard as I could but a couple stray tears slipped down my cheeks. He gently grabbed my arm and turned me to face him. “I really hate you right now you know,” I said. I was hoping he would get defensive, get mad and incorrigible like he usually did. “I know sweetheart,” he said wiping my tears. “No, NO. You don’t get to be sweet and charming...” I said through streaming tears “…not right now. Not when you’re leaving me.” “I’m not leaving you, Em, I just have to get out of here for awhile.” “For awhile? Fifty years is a lifetime, Bo!” “It’s not a lifetime even for you, but to me, it’s not very long at all really. I may not be gone that long. I’m not sure, and I’ll talk to you weekly.” I had nothing else to say, what was the point? Nothing I could say would make him stay, and honestly, I’m not sure I wanted him to. If he left, he broke my heart. If he stayed I ended up just like Esther. “I’m going to miss you, Em.” He didn’t wait for my response, he slid his hand up my cheek and kissed me. “Do you want to go upstairs,” he asked. I shrugged. How could I say no when this would be the last time we could ever be together. I would be like eighty years old when he came back. He took me by the hand and we slowly walked upstairs, that was a first. When we were finished he laid down on the bed next to me for a few minutes. “Bo, tell me you love me, just once.” “But I don’t, Em, you know I can’t.” “I know. I want to hear you say it just one time.” “Is that one word so important to you that your value to me is more dependent on that one little word than how you feel when we’re together?” Wow, what a way to make a girl feel superficial. “No, it would’ve just been nice to hear once.” “I care about you, Em, that’ll have to be enough. I have to go.” A few minutes later I was standing at my front door in my bathrobe saying goodbye to him. “I trust you to take care of things while I’m gone. Goodbye, Em.” He kissed me on the forehead and then he was gone. Months passed and Bo was right. We did speak almost weekly via email or an occasional text. It was almost always business. I think I would actually rather him be gone, out of my life completely because every time I heard from him it just reminded me how much I missed him. I started helping Li in the store. I still knew nothing about antiques but I knew how to use the register, and I was able to do inventory by myself now. Bo had taken Thor and Loki with him so there was no need to go downstairs. There were too many memories down there anyway. Wu still hadn’t returned and we didn’t know why. We didn’t say it but I think Bo and I both feared the worst. I think Li was holding on to hope that his grandson was still alive out there somewhere. Brian had gotten a new girlfriend and as was usually the case, his girlfriend was jealous of me. We rarely got to see each other or hang out unless we were in a group. No more one on one game nights. I can’t say that I blamed her, though. I don’t think I’d want my boyfriend going over to some girl’s house late at night and staying for hours. I felt depressed and alone. Wu was gone, Bo was gone, and Brian was occupied. I went over to Li or Esther’s regularly for dinner or tea. One time the three of us got together for a game of Scrabble. That was a riveting time, as you can imagine. Esther wasn’t taking Bo’s absence well at all. She looked great for ninety-six but I think I watched her age ten years in just the few months he was gone. I came to her house one day for tea like we planned, but she didn’t answer the door. I came in to check on her, and she was lying in her bed clutching the picture of her and Bo. She was dead. When the paramedics came they asked who the picture was of. I told the truth when I said it was the only man she ever loved. This event set something off in me. I didn’t want to hurt; I didn’t want to miss Bo. I didn’t want my heart to be broken ever again. I’d experienced more than my share of heartache in my life, and I didn’t want anymore. I didn’t want to die an old woman in my bed of a broken heart. I wanted to be like Bo and not feel things the way mortals did. That gave me an idea…it took me a few months but I finally found what I was looking for. I finally tracked down an Antecedent. Finding an Antecedent was not an easy task. It had taken me three months. I’d become a seed hunter hunter. I went to all the antique auctions in the area looking for seed hunters. I never saw the one that had come to my house, and I was glad but it made them hard to find. I spotted a suspicious looking set of men a couple times but lost them when I tried to follow them after the auctions. One evening I was sitting in my car after an auction and I actually saw two men grab a guy and shove him in their trunk. “Bingo!” I said aloud and started my car. I followed them for hours. I almost lost them once we got into the heavy traffic of Charlotte. Had it been rush hour, I would have lost them for sure. Once off the interstate, I backed off a bit hoping they wouldn’t notice me. It was after midnight and there weren’t many cars on the side streets. We drove on the side roads for awhile until the car pulled up to a large house with a gate at the bottom of a long driveway. I hung back and just watched. The car sat there for a moment then the gate opened then shut quickly after they went through. Well, this was it. I guess I was just going to drive over there and see what happens. I didn’t drive all this way for nothing. I took a deep breath then drove up to the gate. There was a metal box on a pole about window level, and it had a button and a speaker. I rolled my window down and pressed the button, it made a buzzing sound. A voice came back a moment later. “Yeah what do you want?” a man sounding bored asked. “Um, I’m here to see your boss.” I wasn’t sure what to say really. “Do you have an appointment?” the voice asked. “No, but…” “Then buzz off,” he interrupted. It was going to take more than that to stop me. I pressed the button again. “I thought I told you to buzz off,” the voice said. “Look, I know an Antecedent lives here, I want to see him.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about now go away.” I pressed the button five more times. “What the hell is your problem, lady?” “I know you know what I’m talking about. I just followed two seed hunters here who had stuffed an unchanged seed in their trunk. I know he was brought here to be forced to become an Antecedent, and I know that you’re probably an Ectype just doing your job. All I want to do is talk to your boss for one minute, please.” There was silence for a minute, and I thought the guy was just going to ignore me. Just when I was about to press the button again he said, “Alright, come on in.” A buzzer sounded and the gate opened. Ok, that wasn’t so hard. I drove up the driveway that made a large circle in front of the house. The house was pretty big like the ones you’d see in Beverly Hills. I couldn’t make out many details of it because there were no outside lights at all. The only light was coming from a sliver of a moon and my own headlights. The car I followed here was sitting in front of the house with the trunk open, but no one was around. I was almost afraid to shut my car off and step out into the darkness. Well, here goes nothing, I told myself. I got out of the car and walked up to the door. I knocked and waited just a moment for it to open. Light spilled out as the door opened, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. A very handsome man opened the door. He could have been a Stetson model with his square jaw and perfectly combed back hair. He was wearing dark jeans, cowboy boots, and a dark blue sports coat. Well helloooo, Mr. Doorman. “Alright, little Miss persistent,” another man said as I stepped inside. “What can we do for you this evening?” I looked to my left and the man speaking was sitting in an office chair. He had thinning light brown hair cut close and facial hair that reminded me of a movie villain. He was seated at a long curved desk. It was a security station. I could see a couple dozen monitors showing different scenes, inside and outside. “I um, I’d like to speak with your boss for a moment if I could please,” I asked timidly. I was known for being an intrepid girl but being in this house—one that was probably filled to the brim with vampires— I didn’t feel brave at all. At any given moment any one of them could kill me in an instant for no reason at all. The movie villain motioned his head sideways and a third guy I hadn’t seen walked off quickly. “Wait here please,” dreamy door hunk told me. I stood there looking around. This place was impressive. The floors were an ivory color with black diamonds shapes and small squares that looked like mother of pearl, very high ceilings; there was a gigantic crystal chandelier. In front of us was an ornate staircase that split in two different directions at the top, it reminded me of the staircase in Gone with the Wind, red carpet and all. There was a black statue of a woman who looked like a Greek goddess, and she was holding a glowing ball in her hands. That had to be the coolest lamp I’d ever seen. We needed to get a couple of those in the antique shop. Oh wow, I was starting to sound like Bo. I think antiques were starting to grow on me. The scrawny little guy came back and motioned for me to follow him, “Well, it’s your lucky night,” movie villain guy said. I followed the little guy down a hallway to the right. We walked past the longest painting I’d ever seen. It was probably twelve feet long. It was men on horseback, like a Revolutionary war scene. We continued down the hallway passed tons of hideous pictures in gaudy gold frames, then finally we stopped at a door. The little guy walked through, held it open for me, then left shutting it behind him. I suddenly felt a chill of impending doom. I walked into what I guessed was a game room. The walls were blood red and looked fuzzy, it was an eyesore. There were two large pool tables with gold yarn sacks for pockets and a card table where half a dozen men were sitting playing poker. I walked over and stood there for a minute and no one spoke to me or even looked at me, so I cleared my throat. One older looking man held his finger up to me then threw a stack of chips in the middle of the table. The rest of the men followed in placing their bets and then revealed their cards. The rest of the men groaned while one raked all the chips in the pot to himself and started stacking them in front of him. “So,” the older man spoke, “I hear you know all about vampires, little one. What is it exactly that you want?” He had a bit of an accent but I couldn’t place it. I guessed that this man was the Antecedent. He was much older than I thought he’d be. Wu said most Ants were turned between the ages of twenty and thirty. This guy had to be around fifty. He had black hair that was slicked back and gray around his temples. His eyes were red, not his pupils like in the movies, but bloodshot. He looked old and tired. He was wearing a red shirt that I could only describe as an ugly woman’s blouse. “I’d like to speak with you for just a moment in private if I could please,” I replied. “The only way we will have a word in private is if you plan on making that private time worth my while.” He looked up from his newly dealt cards to look me up and down. No way, Dracula, I thought to myself. “I just wanted to ask you something.” He sighed, disinterested like he was bored with our conversation already. “Let me guess, little one, you want me to turn you. Your little heart has been broken, and you don’t want to be mortal any longer. Am I correct?” Ok, so I guess he’s heard this all before. “So will you or won’t you?” I got right to the point. “What’s in it for me?” he asked. “Shall we go have that private time?” “Ew! No!” I said, not caring if I offended him. “Franco,” he said and motioned with two fingers and a man who had been standing in the corner walked over. “Kill her. Take her upstairs for someone to eat,” he said flatly. “Wait NO!” I protested. The Antecedent motioned for Franco to take me away and the guy grabbed my arm. I pulled and jerked and fought to get away, but this guy was a vamp and way too strong for me to escape his grasp. Franco pulled me along out the door. I fought him the whole way. If they were going to kill me, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. He dragged me flailing down the hallway. He had a grip on the sleeve of my sweater and I was able to pull my arm through it, stripping it from my body. I tried to run but only made it two steps before he grabbed me again. He dragged me up a set of stairs. I fought so hard we both stumbled on the stairs. We passed another man who spoke. “Hey you need a hand, Franco?” the man laughed. “Sure, this one’s a pistol,” he answered. “Where we taking her?” “Arlo said to take her upstairs, feed her to one of the guys.” “No, nooo!” I protested as I squirmed even harder. They paid no attention to me at all, just kept talking about me like I wasn’t even there. “Seems a shame,” the new guy said. “She’s kind of hot. I wonder if she’s this fiery in the bedroom.” With that, I kicked him in the leg as hard as I could, but he just laughed and they continued to drag me down another hallway. Now I wished I hadn’t backed out of my sweater. They pulled me along in nothing but my bra and capri tights. I’d lost my slippers on the stairs. We came to a door and Franco knocked a couple times then opened it. It was a large fancy bedroom, but I didn’t see anyone inside. “Hey buddy, we brought you a snack,” the other guy said. They pushed me into the room, I felt something hit the back of my head and everything went black…


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