Authors: Jennifer Shortridge
Moonlight shined brightly off his sleek black Mercedes. Lights blinked twice as he pointed the keys at the car to unlock the door. Before he could reach for the handle, a vibration tickled his chest. Pulling the cellular phone from his jacket pocket, answered it quickly. “Yes.” Triton sighed, his few hours of feeling like a human sinking away as the vampire culture sucked him back in.
“It’s me brother, meet me at the docks, we have a real problem.” The thick Celtic accent spoke.
Cranking the steering wheel, Triton sent the sedan into a u-turn, hit the gas and zoomed through the city streets heading towards the waterfront. Parking the car near the pier, Triton exited, immediately sensing Umbriel’s presence near to him. From under the boardwalk, glowing eyes that pierced the darkness signaled to Triton that his best friend, Umbriel was there. Since the day they met, both vampires always had each other’s backs. Changed nearly the same time as Triton, Umbriel came from a different vampire clan but a third opposing clan captured them both, holding them prisoners. Triton, in a daring rescue attempt freed Umbriel from a sunlight execution by invading vampire clan. Together they escaped imprisonment and defeated the entire coven. When the elder of Umbriel’s group perished in the conflict, what was left of Umbriel’s clan blood oathed themselves to Nala and the small clans united. Umbriel pledged his immortal loyalty to Triton. Triton would not hear of such a thing, suggested they bond as equals, and became instant blood brothers.
“Where have you been, brother? I have been calling all night.”
“I was…unavailable. What is the problem?” Triton strode to his friend. Umbriel moved close, almost whispering, “Januar’s clan is infringing on the treaty. They hunt in our areas.”
“There are plenty of humans to go around,” Triton reminded him.
“They’ve turned nearly twenty new ones.”
“Twenty?” Triton asked, shocked at the number. His clan had only turned one new member, Nala’s new boy toy, in fifty years.
“They are preparing for a take over.” Umbriel growled.
“Let’s not get too excited, we need more evidence,” Triton said.
Umbriel’s tone raised, “How much more do you need?” he said, staring hard at his friend. Triton raised his hands to calm Umbriel’s short and un-predictable temper.
“You’re right; I just don’t want a war on our hands. I have seen battles and I have seen peacetime. I prefer peace.”
“You forget brother; I was at your side in war.”
Triton stared at the fierce warrior, they had been through many battles together. War, death, victory, and triumph, old world sword battles to modern gunfights.
“You always have been. I shall always be at yours.” Triton said putting a hand on Umbriel’s shoulder, “Do you remember our first together?”
“How could I forget? I had to save your sorry ass from that Nordic vampire beast. Helga, I think was her name.”
“How was I to know he was a she? Nearly broke my arm with the first strike of her sword. We were so naïve, then, our skills, our powers.”
“I miss a good row with the old iron. Those were the days.”
“I prefer today.” Triton said flatly.
“Do you thirst?” Umbriel asked. Triton checked his watch, “No, let’s return to the mansion, it’s nearly daybreak.”
With only an hour before sunrise, they raced like teenagers back to the old fortress. Umbriel and Triton tried to run each other off the road; they cut in front of each other, sprayed gravel from screeching tires and raced over a hundred miles an hour. Umbriel missed this side of his friend. He wondered what brought this out of Triton.
Just like old times,
Umbriel thought, beating Triton to the gate of the vampire’s compound. The place they called home had been updated through the centuries with the modern sophisticated state of the art security and conveniences that vampires needed to be undetected. The mansion provided the safe haven for the entire clan for centuries. Most members had to share quarters, except the elders and any one older than six centuries. By right, Triton should have been an elder by now but he had not been given the title. He did not mind, he had never wanted the responsibility or wanted to have to make judgments on the others. Besides, he liked and desired solitude. He hibernated alone, worked alone, fed alone. The last three centuries had been this way and it was his choice. Only buying, collecting art, and his friendship with Umbriel interested him. He lost his desire to hunt. Feeding now was a necessary chore. Umbriel begged him to join him to feed outside but, most times, he would take from the stockpile of stored blood. The taste was bitter, but the stored blood satisfied the need. Envy for this friends desire made Triton wish he could have that passion again. He longed for something to help the centuries pass by, something, or someone to make him feel human again.
“Brother?” Umbriel shook Triton from his daydream. Triton snapped back to the present speaking, “What?”
“Same to you.” Umbriel and Triton parted ways with a knuckle punch and headed to their respected quarters. As Triton undressed for his slumber, a small white object fell to the floor, catching his eye. Leaning over he picked up the business card Annasara gave him. A sly smile fell across his face as a memory of her staring over the wine glass at him filled his thoughts. He tucked the card in the inside his wallet and jumped at the noise of the whirling of the automatic sun blocking shade covers made as they lowered. With his mind in to the proper mode for the ritual of sleep, his last thought before drifting off was of Annasara’s last glance before she slipped into the cab and the kiss he should have given her.
The three straight days of sleep re-energized his body. Triton awoke and looked around the pitch-black room, not sure, if it was day or night.
The green glow of his cell phone broke the darkness. 7:58pm. A small picture of an envelope blinked on the screen. Before sitting up he listened to the message from Umbriel updating him on the movements of Januar’s clan. He hoped the message would have been from Annasara but remembered she did not have his number, so he retrieved the card from his jacket pocket. A nervous tingle danced around his body, Triton dialed and held his breath in.
“Gallery 222, this Annasara. How can I help you?”
“You could have a drink with me.”
“Only if I can buy,” She said.
He could hear the smile in her voice, “I’ll be there at nine.”
“See you then.” Annasara hung up.
Triton pulled up in front of the gallery just as Annasara locked the front door. Her blonde hair swirled wildly in the night air, framing around her face making her look like an angel fallen from heaven. Out of the car in a flash, he held the door for her as she slipped gracefully into the sedan. She leaned over and opened the door for him, it was a small gesture, but it meant she was giving and thoughtful, which Triton appreciated. Floral scents from her hair filled his car intoxicating his senses, making him breathe deeper to take more of her in.
“Where shall we go?” he asked then read her mind,
Anywhere as long it is with you.
“I’m starving, have you had dinner?”
“I know the perfect place.” He looked over at her smiling at him. He drove them to a tiny family run Italian restaurant in a small ethnic suburb just outside the downtown. Umbriel and Triton met there on many occasions when they wanted to escape the watchful eyes of the clan.
Cars lined the streets as if they were sleeping. Triton dropped her off at the door and went around the block to park the car. Annasara waited on the sidewalk for Triton to return. The neighborhood seemed so quiet and desolate; she wondered why he had picked this out of the way place. A cold breeze brushed past her. Annasara spun around and jolted. Triton stood before her as if he just appeared.
“Did I startle you?”
“Sorry, I guess I am still a little jumpy.”
As they entered the restaurant, a wall of the most amazing smells hit them. Tomatoes and fresh baked bread wafted in the air. The restaurant was a cozy little place with the traditional red and white checked tablecloths and tiny tea light candles on each table. They sat in a romantic corner near the rear, away from the other patrons. Triton ordered for Annasara in Italian then conversed with the stout but beautiful owner who welcomed them warmly. The woman slightly flirted with Triton as she had times before. Triton laughed at the owners comment then looked at Annasara who peeked at him over the top of the menu.
I could drown in those eyes.
A heaping plate of pasta covered in rich sauces steamed in front of Annasara. As she ate, he talked non-stop until the last course disappeared from her plate. Triton watched her eat with hearty intent. It amused him to see her enjoying the food as much as it made him miss the pleasure of good meal.
“You have to try this, it’s so good,” She said holding the fork out for him to take a taste.
“I will have to take your word for it. I already ate.”
“One bite?” Annasara cocked her head to the side. He took the bite with a great deal of hesitation, forcing smile as not to lead on.
As he wiped his mouth with the linen napkin, he spit the food he could not enjoy out carefully. Before Annasara could ask about how it tasted, the owner came over to the table. A large busted robust woman with a low cut shirt showing off olive colored freckled skin, she leaned over him to refill the water glass. Her plump neck and chest inches away from his cheek called to him. Triton’s instincts kicked him in the gut, the smell of her blood just under the skin smelled thick and sweet. Hunger burned inside him, he could feel the change happening.
No, not now
, he begged. Too excited to see Annasara, he forgot to feed before he left the mansion.
Triton closed his eyes and tried hard to control the fever. He turned his head, but it did not help, her scent made his mouth water. He had not fed in days, he need to drink, to feed. Slowly growing his canines pricked his bottom lip. White skin hardened and flushed. He keeled over in agony. Annasara looked from the woman who was walking away and back to her date to notice him double over in pain, “Are you okay?”
“I need some air.” Triton jumped up, knocking over his chair and bolted out of the restaurant. Annasara sat shocked at the table with a bewildered look on her face. Wonder what was going on, the owner came over, picked up the chair, and asked Annasara to explain.
The dark hunger called him to feed as he staggered down the sidewalk. He did his damnest to control the change but his efforts failed. Triton’s eyes glow green in the dark of the night, his fangs fully extended and he had to feed. His gut wretched hard his hunger growled.
At this point, he would have taken anyone he could get his hands on and would not feel guilty about it. The neighborhood stood quiet, not a soul about, only the subtle cackling of chicken on a rooftop broke the night’s silence.
He was up to the top in seconds, tearing open the cage, ripping the heads off the birds and quenching his blood thirst. The warm blood oozed down his throat and calmed the effects of his kind. Drunken, satisfied, and fulfilled, he fell against the coop, trying to regain his composure while panting like the beast he was.
Annasara, bewildered at his abrupt exit, made an excuse for him and told the woman she would wait for him to come back. The woman returned a half hour later.
“Could you call a taxi for me?”
Embarrassment flushed Annasara’s face as the woman her, “No man should ever stiff her like that, not even one that good looking.”
“Can bring me the check, please.” Annasara opened her purse as not to look the woman in the eye. The woman refused to take any money from Annasara for the meal. Triton and Umbriel sometimes left the owner a hundred dollars for only one drink apiece when they met at the restaurant, the owner felt she owed Triton at least one meal.
Biting the inside of her lip to keep from crying, Annasara put on her coat. As the taxi pulled up she thanked the kind owner, and left the restaurant quickly. Before entering the taxi, Annasara sighed; she really liked Triton, and did not understand or excuse his behavior. With one last look around, a tear in her eye, Annasara hoped Triton would reappear. The street was as quiet as it had been when they arrived. She slipped into the taxi, and headed home sadly disappointed.
Triton rushed back into the restaurant looking around wildly for her. The owner’s eyes widened at his ragged appearance, a vast difference from the sleek, perfectly polished man who less than an hour ago could have charmed her out her good catholic woman panties.
She asked in Italian, “What happened, are you ill?”
Triton thought it was a fine excuse. “Yes, where is she?”
“Sorry, handsome, she went home. She was most disappointed. A woman like that will be hard to get back, but if I had a man like you I could forgive you one indiscretion.” She said straightening his outfit and fixing his hair.
“She, I…oh damn it,” he cursed.
The owner smiled forgivingly, “Here Bello.” She handed him a shot of unknown liquor. Triton lifted the glass and swallowed the burning liquid down. It stung his throat as it slid down, a well-deserved punishment for his behavior tonight. How could he let his curse rule him like this, he had it in check for years, and now it surfaced again and he could not control it, just like the urge to see her.
Triton thanked the woman and slipped a hundred on the bar as the woman turned away. He screwed up, big time and was not sure he could make it right. From his pocket, he pulled out his cellular. When he realized he only had the gallery’s phone number, he cursed again.
He raced to his car, and drove to her house. Just as he pulled up, she closed the front door. The look of sheer sadness on her disappointed face pained Triton. He cursed under his breath at for what he was, what he had done, and possibly, what he had lost.
In seconds, he was at her door, his head pressed to the wood, trying his damnest to listen to her thoughts. Nothing. Either she too far away or her was too emotional charged, he could not tell. Then he felt her presence leaning against the door, “Annasara, please open the door.”
“Please, I want to apologize. I came back and just missed you, please I am begging you, open the door.”
He waited in silence until the sound of the lock turned. The door opened only as far as the chain would allow. She looked at him lips pressed firmly together.
“I sat there by myself, I felt like a fool, so I left.”
“I wasn’t feeling well. You see it was the food, I am sorry.” Triton said, “My medicine, it was in my car. Then I got sick. See I have a rare food allergy.”
“Oh,” She said, her face softening.
“I went back and the owner said you left.”
“I waited a half hour before I left.” Annasara gasped, “I made you taste my dinner, I shouldn’t have.”
“I should have known better. I truly enjoy your company. I understand if you will not give me a chance, but I would like one.”
“I will have to think about it.”