Authors: Shannon Bell
“And now what?”
“I don’t know. I never thought I would ever come face to face with one, so…”
He laughed softly to himself. “Well, you’ve found one.”
I nodded, unable to speak.
“What made you decide to come here to look?” He inched into my personal space and inhaled something in the air around me.
I held my breath as he sniffed my skin. His face was so close to mine that my whole body tensed. Part of me was hoping he’d ravage me against the wall and the other part was waiting to feel the pressure of his fangs against my throat.
“I wasn’t looking,” I protested again, swallowing as his fingers danced along my neckline. “I went to Romania for a symposium, then Paris and then here. They…they were just places I wanted to see.” I slowly let out my breath as he continued to inch even closer, exploring my neck.
He seemed to think about this for a few moments. “And your fascination with vampires?”
Was I really having a conversation with the undead? He seemed very human. I shrugged in response. “It’s been going on since I was a child.” Why did I keep talking? My mind slowly replayed the whole story of Alin and I realized that the man before me was very different from the cult in Brasov.
“Alin was a fool.”
Hearing his voice snapped me back into reality and I stared at the figure who had me pressed against the brick wall. My eyes widened as I realized he probably heard the whole story of Transylvania inside my head.
He wasn’t going to chastise me like Alin did. He already admitted to being the real deal.
scare you?” He asked, leaning his strong body into me, grinning slightly as his fangs peeked out under his upper lip.
I nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
I looked down while his muscular build pressed into me ever so slightly. He continued to laugh softly. I breathed in, trying to calm myself. The body in front of me smelled. Not a bad smell, but it was familiar, like honeysuckle perhaps. It was intoxicating, even under these circumstances.
He suddenly turned on me and became very serious.
“Don’t,” he whispered.
I stared at him. He touched the collar of my turtleneck, sending goose bumps across my entire body. I was suddenly sure of only one thing: I was going to die tonight.
“Don’t what?” I asked, wondering if fate should be tempted by asking questions.
He positioned himself where his eyes were level with mine. They were the deepest blue I had ever seen. “Don’t think that covering your neck with this flimsy cloth will stop me from seeking the blood that’s pounding through your veins right now,” he whispered.
I tried to keep my heart from racing and reminded myself that he was about to drain me.
There was no response to give him. My mind continued to spin out of control and I couldn’t focus on anything but him. He was a God who oozed sex appeal, yet I was going to die by his hand in an alley. This was not how I had pictured my death. I imagined living a full life and dying of old age. Something resonated in me and realized that up until this point I didn’t really believe in vampires. Wrong again.
I was going to die tonight and wouldn’t have even known my killer’s name
I inhaled sharply. He actually answered me!
Niccolò pulled the turtleneck down more and exposed my neck. He bent down and licked a small area of my throat. I felt his fangs graze my skin.
“Are you prepared to die tonight?” His breath caressed my skin like velvet.
My eyes widened at him in response because my voice failed me. I felt my heartbeat speed up to a deafening rate. All I could hear was the blood pounding in my ears. A bead of sweat began to slide down my forehead despite the cool temperature in the alley.
“The more you panic, the closer your blood gets to the surface,” he announced, adding a chill across my skin. “That makes it much easier for me.”
I swallowed hard again and focused on breathing.
In, out, in, out.
I closed my eyes for a moment to decide if I should say anything to him. I was confident that arguing or begging would get me nowhere. Each breath I took was getting shakier and the thoughts of passing out in the next few seconds occurred to me. Fainting would be the worst thing that could happen right now. Begging for my life would be difficult if I was unconscious.
Niccolò didn’t let me forget he was there. His fangs continued to press against my skin, not quite breaking the surface. I wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, unless he was expecting me to start screaming. We’d be waiting for a while because no matter how much I wanted to, I knew nothing would come out. Whenever I was really scared, my voice failed me. It wasn’t a very good survival tactic, but there it was. I wasn’t sure if there was anything to say at this point. I was hoping it would be quick and painless. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that I’d be left in an alley for the Italian police to find. They probably wouldn’t even try to identify me or call anyone because I was a tourist. Was a Jane Doe still a Jane Doe in Italy?
Something or someone made a sound at the other end of the alley. A dumpster lid flew open or a box was thrown around, causing a loud crash to reverberate through the alley. I glanced at the sound and felt Niccolò pause. I let out a soft gasp when I realized that it was the old man from the pottery store.
Before I could scream, several things happened. He pressed himself down the front of me, sandwiching me between his hard body and the equally hard brick wall. Then the vampire’s mouth descended onto mine, kissing me with a crushing intensity lasting for at least half a minute. Somewhere during the kiss, I rose up on my toes to meet his lips.
The commotion at the other end of the alley stopped. He withdrew from the kiss as quickly as it had begun. I watched him take a step back and lick his lips to savor the taste. I backed myself against the wall to steady myself and pressed my palms flat against the cold brick. The kiss left me breathless. Not because it was from a vampire, but because it was powerful. No one’s ever kissed me like that. If Chris had, I might have fought to stay with him.
I fought the urge to run my fingers through his short waves and press my lips against his again. I also fought the urge to turn and run in the opposite direction because I was attracted to a vampire.
“That was not meant to happen.” He looked past me, purposefully avoiding my gaze.
I took in a very shaky breath.
What was that?
“The shop owner you saw earlier hadn’t seen you walk past again. He was checking to see if you were okay. He would have called the police if he thought you were in danger. It was the only way to be convincing.” Niccoló looked away as he didn’t believe what he was saying, either.
“Oh,” was all I could manage out. I couldn’t get my mind to make any coherent thoughts. It made sense he didn’t want to get caught, but a kiss? I wasn’t complaining, which should have meant that I was completely insane.
Normal people don’t want to be kissed by a vampire who’s about to kill them!
“You are one of the strangest mortals I’ve ever met.”
I needed to get better at keeping my thoughts to myself. The fact he could read my mind was getting annoying and more than a little embarrassing.
“You’re one of the strangest vampires I’ve ever met.” I countered.
He laughed again. “I’m the
vampire you’ve ever met.”
“True,” I hesitated. “But how can you want to kill me in one moment and kiss me the next?” I probably should have kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to remind him of his original plan.
“I don’t have a response for you. We couldn’t get caught, and, your skin felt so warm….” He trailed off. “You’re different somehow.”
“Thanks, I think.” I decided to push my luck. “How…how am I different?”
Niccolò paused to deliberate over an answer. There was silence for what seemed like several minutes while I leaned against the wall and waited for him to answer me. “I haven’t kissed a mortal on the mouth since I was one myself,” he spoke matter-of-factly. “The only kisses are ones which bring their death and thus my survival.” Once again he was quiet for a few moments before speaking again. “The taste of your mouth was exhilarating,” he confessed.
My cheeks flushed no matter how hard I worked at getting them not to. “But how is it you can do that without wanting to….”
“I fed a few minutes before finding you. As long as I feed at least once every two or three days, then anything else is merely sport.” He looked at me curiously, taking a step forward. “Unless you were offering yourself up?” His eyebrows arched, waiting for an invitation.
“Me? No.” I thought about what he said. “I was going to be
for you?” Should I be insulted or terrified? My life almost ended at the hands of a vampire.
“You sound upset.” He seemed amused. “Would you have rather been a meal than recreation?”
“Well, I don’t know. I guess both would end the same way,” I said. Since he seemed willing to answer a few questions, I kept at it. “Why did you think I was looking for vampires?”
“You attended the vampire symposium as part of the Transylvanian Society for Dracula. We keep an eye on attendees every year. We are able to know where everyone is headed thanks to people on the inside. When you didn’t return to Florida, you were a target to watch.”
My mouth dropped. “I went on vacation afterwards.”
He leaned his arm forward and tapped his cold finger directly on my temple. “Open book, remember? You crossed my path two days ago when you were having dinner at the little bistro on Portinari. You were thinking about vampires and if any were around the city.”
“I also remember laughing about those ideas. How did you know I was serious?”
Niccolò smiled at me. “You looked very determined. And you are a truth seeker.”
Truth seeker. That’s the second time I’ve been called that. Is that what I was?
“Hmmm.” I yawned involuntarily. I was beginning to feel the time now that I was in no immediate danger. At the very least I hoped to be right about the danger aspect.
“You’re tired. Would you like me to walk you back to your hotel?”
I hesitated, not knowing what to say. A vampire wanted to walk with me? I was thoroughly confused. First, he drags me into an alley where I think he’s going to kill me. Then he kisses me. And now he wants to escort me back to my hotel? This was too much for one night.
“Okay,” I agreed, trying not to sound as dumbfounded as I felt. I did need a little more confirmation in order to be able to sleep tonight. “You’re letting me live?”
He shrugged. A simple gesture told me he didn’t know what else to say. “I am not always the one to make final decisions.”
Niccolò led me out of the alley and back onto the cobblestone road. No shops were open. Fountains gurgled and loose pebbles clicked under my heels. Otherwise everything had a deafening silence to it. Streetlights at various corners illuminated small patches of our way down the narrow road. Bicycles were parked along the path and we weaved around them to continue past. I stole a few glances at him in an effort to read something out of his expressionless face. I kept up with his pace and let my hands rest in my back pockets.
I didn’t know what to say to or ask of him. There were many things I wanted to know, but I had no idea where to begin or what my limitations were. It was a thin, imaginary line drawn that I didn’t want to cross. Anything I could say or do could upset him and make me his next meal. As I glanced sideways at him, though, I wasn’t so sure. He was more human than any previous ideas I had about vampires. He stopped when we reached the small hotel I was staying at. Of course he knew where I was staying….
I looked at him again. I mean, I really looked at him.
Will I see you again?
The idea of getting to know him seemed like part of my destiny that had to be fulfilled. I couldn’t go home to Florida without getting some questions answered. The regret would be too much. He
a vampire, after all.
“Do you want to see me again?” He asked softly. He reached towards me and pushed a strand of hair behind my ear.
I shivered slightly and nodded. It was an easy response, though it shouldn’t have been. I watched how casually he leaned against the stone wall and every part of my body screamed with a different reaction. I wanted to get to know him and learn everything about him and run screaming in the opposite direction at the same time.
“There’s a small
,” he teased into my ear. “I will meet you there at eight tomorrow.”
Before I could agree, he was gone. There was no sign of him down the road as if he vanished out of thin air. I rubbed my arms and let out a deep breath. I walked into the hotel slightly wide-eyed and made my way up to my room.
I needed to make sense of everything that transpired, though I couldn’t get a grasp on any of it. First vampires existed, then they didn’t, and now they do again. Without a doubt, they exist.