happened right after breakfast.
could have been life or death, could have been anything.
It was pure luck I lived and came out in one piece.
And, you know how they say your life flashes before your eyes?
After it was over, there was only one place I wanted to go.
one person I wanted to see.
was broad daylight when I got out of the taxi outside the old church.
I should have been sleepy, but with the adrenaline still zinging around
in my system, I felt like I'd be awake for days.
went up the stairs and into his attic, calling "Vachon?"
It was pitch black. I keep
one of those little finger flashlights in my purse, and I used it to find my way
into the room without tripping on anything.
was no sign of him, no candles burning or anything. "Vachon?"
It came out in a very small voice; I was scared.
I ran the thin beam of light over the couch, the chair, the covered
piano, the various candelabra, a few wooden wine cases, the statue of the Virgin
Mary, and then over the coffin.
heart lurched. Oh no.
Not really. No way.
never asked him about it, just assumed it came with the church.
Everything else about him is completely modern.
He dresses, and moves, and talks like most of the guys I've dated.
think on any other day, common sense would have prevailed.
But I'd just come very close to dying, and there was only one thing I had
realized I really wanted. Vachon.
I was determined to find him.
took a step or two toward the coffin, stopped, took a deep breath, and reached
out my hand--
lid crashed open and Vachon flew out. I
screamed and fell backwards, taking a lot of bricabrac and some candelabra with
me. My little flashlight hit the
floor and threw its beam on the Virgin Mary's feet.
And then he touched me--
Trace, you OK?"
match flared and showed him looking almost anxiously into my face.
Whatever he saw reassured him, because he picked up a candelabrum and lit
five or six candles.
didn't think you'd take it so seriously."
He came back to crouch next to me, smiling ironically.
He was wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, and nothing else.
mean... you don't... "
I couldn't say it. I just
couldn't get the words "sleep in a coffin" out of my mouth, but he got
it, and laughed at me. "No-o.
I heard you coming."
was just getting over gasping for breath. He
helped me up, and then went around the room lighting more candles, until the
place looked more normal. Well,
normal for Vachon's place, meaning, back to its usual vampire movie appearance.
I said, "very cute."
sit down," he said, steering me to the sofa, "and tell your friendly
neighborhood vampire why you've come calling at such an ungodly hour."
just stared at him. Nothing could
come out: not the accident, not the
way his face flashed before me while the car was spinning, not the sudden
trip over here, and not the way he just scared me.
He does that vampire stuff to pull my leg, but he is one.
He is one.
guy sitting over there wrapped in a bath towel with the disheveled black hair
falling around his shoulders is four hundred and ninety one years old.
He spares me the gory details, but...
don't even know if he kills people now or not.
I saw him kill Vudu, but Vudu had just fired two bullets into him.
He drinks that stuff out of bottles...
After all, I was just staring at him like a zombie. "Come on, tellll
your uncle Vachon...." he was using that soft, persuasive voice that's a
little bit teasing. It's one of his
regular devices to charm me, and it's almost infallible. Almost. As I sat
there still gaping, even that vestige of humor fell away from his expression.
slid over next to me and took my left hand.
He dropped his head low and looked up at me, deep dark eyes wide open,
completely serious. Real concern.
"If you want to, tell me."
can a vampire be kind? But this is
almost died." It came close to
being a whisper. I twisted to face
him, looking right in his eyes. "Some guy... just ran a red light, totaled my car,
pushed me into oncoming traffic, two other cars hit me and I was just spinning,
and then a truck came and the car rolled..."
flickered on his face and he leaned even closer. "But you're OK?"
He ran his hands down my arms as if to check for broken bones.
laughed. "Oh yeah, peachy.
Bump-cars is my favorite ride at Disneyland."
It wasn't the most convincing performance.
he stroked my hair. "Why'd you
come here, Tracy?"
I lifted a hand and touched his face for the first time. It was cold, like his hands are cold, but a man's face.
Scratchy with stubble, dented with dimples and laugh lines, curving and
rising where the lips are. His
eyebrows, so thick; I backbrushed one with my thumb and it was like running your
fingers the wrong way up a cat's spine. I smoothed it down again.
was looking at me from under those brows with an expression I can't really
classify. Mingled wonder,
curiosity, watchfulness... and some
hope. I let my hand keep going,
over his finely made lips, a small stroke for the filtrum, up the long straight
ridgeline of his nose, a palm smoothed over his forehead, and then into his
he began to touch me back, running the back of his hand under the angle of my
jaw, caressing the hollow of my throat with his thumb, running one hand over the
outside of my blouse while the other one came up inside it, making me shiver for
Vachon, 16th century Spaniard, has no trouble with the one-handed bra
technique. The thought made me
smile, and he smiled back at me, a beautiful light animating his face, his
hands came over my breasts and I pressed forward into them, savoring the moment
of chill. My nipples hardened
instantly under that touch: I heard
his quick intake of breath, feeling them rise under his fingers.
looked back into his eyes, dark eyes that now held no irony, only pure sexual
intention. In the light of candles,
with the deep shadows they throw, his face had the strength and purity of a
sculpture. I leaned further into him, brushing my face along the skin and
scratch of his, pressed my face into the thick soft waving cascade of his hair,
my hands running over the muscles of his back, down the shallow hollow of his
spine, to his hips -- and terrycloth.
said "oh" out loud, involuntarily, and he drew back a bit.
both had that glow of discovery, like a pair of teenagers trying something
flashed a smile. "I put that
on for you. I thought a naked
vampire in a coffin would be just a bit too much for you to handle."
nuzzled him. "Now you can take
it off for me," I murmured. Tracy
Vetter, seductress. Not hardly.
I know the words, but not the music, and it sounded more like a joke than
a sexy come-on.
smiled again, a wicked teasing smile. "Everything
in its own time." Then the
humor fell away from his face, and the desire reappeared. I
may not be able to do serious seductiveness, but he.... I never saw such eyes. His eyes told me I was the most important, most beautiful,
most wanted thing they had ever seen.
took my face in his hands and leaned forward to me slowly, so slowly I was
catching my breath with the madness of wanting the touch.
I shut my eyes while his were still open and fixed on me, and his lips
closed over mine.
depths inside the cool skin, a core of fire... it was almost like drinking, to
be kissed like that, to be taught to kiss like that, for I answered him with
every depth there was to me. Depths
I never knew I had, fire I never suspected myself of. I abandoned myself to that kiss like a whore; I flattened my
body along his and was pushing him backward on the couch when he shifted
somehow, lifting both of us and stretching us out along the sofa.
was on top of me and I loved the weight, loved the hair that fell down and
tangled with mine, loved the embrace that was wrapped around me, one arm under
my back, one hand kept free above me to play with my body, then sliding down to
undo my skirt, sliding down to reach between my legs; loved the muscular belly,
the just-palpable ribs, the cut of his hips into mine, the slight extra
pressure of an erection. He kissed
me even harder now, then twisted his head to bring his mouth to my ear, and
tease it, bring his tongue along the line of my jaw, to kiss my throat, to bring
the soft, wide mouth over the skin of my neck....
next instant I was being thrown all the way across that dark room.
I hit the opposite wall hard and slid to the floor in the darkness,
watching as Vachon, his eyes lurid yellow, tracked my fall with a snarl, then
turned to his box of wines.
a speed I could barely follow, he pulled a bottle out and snapped its top off
with his bare hand, throwing his head back and tilting the jagged neck almost to
vertical, pouring its contents straight down his throat.
It seemed to take less than a second, then he snarled again and hurled
the bottle aside. By the time its
smashed pieces had all fallen to the floor, he had repeated the process,
snapping another bottle open and draining it in seconds.
that bottle was empty, he lowered it and after a moment, sighed deeply, long and
slow. Then he stood still.
Extremely still, like a sculpture again.
But where before the sculpture had been a Renaissance angel, now it was a
very weary man with a wine bottle held limply in his hand, its dripping mouth
drooping toward the floor.
didn't move either, just sat there in the slumped posture I'd fallen into,
watching him. I didn't know what
had just happened. I didn't know if
I was going to live through this. I
just sat there and breathed. I even
did that through my mouth; it's quieter.
a long time, moving as silently and slowly as I would if I were trying not to
scare a deer, I raised my right hand to my neck. There they were:
the dimples where his teeth had just begun to touch before he snapped his
head back for the real strike.
I hadn't imagined it, hadn't imagined that sound I recognized because I'd heard
it just before he struck Vudu and drank. The
sound just before he started purring like a tiger over his kill.
fingered my throat again; the dents were starting to smooth out and just be a
bruised area. A vampire
hickey, I thought wildly and felt hysterical laughter welling up inside.
Don't lose it, Trace. Maybe you can still live through this.
I had no weapons, no way to oppose him.
I was going to have to...
responding to my thoughts, the statue moved.
Vachon set the second broken bottle on a table, and reached into the box
for a third. He pulled the cork out
with his teeth, took a swig, and looked straight at me through the darkness.
His eyes were still yellow.
sighed again. "Come on out,
Tracy." A calm, tired voice.
"Nothing's broken, is it?"
bones, if that's what you mean." Anger was rising to displace the fear I'd felt.
"Thanks for nothing." I
stood up -- maybe no broken bones, but I could feel plenty of
bruises -- and shook my clothes more or less into place.
"Would you mind putting your eyes away?"
blinked as if taken by surprise, but the lids opened back up over
I could hear the grudging note in my voice.
I walked toward him, stumbling over things in the dark.
then I just stood there, maybe two feet away from him.
His eyes met mine for a moment, then looked away at who knows what.
He almost never meets your eyes when he's talking to you.
moment stretched out, and I thought of a stupid joke: "Hallmark doesn't
exactly make a card for this."
it does. 'Sorry about your loss.'
'In deepest sympathy.' 'With
loving memories.'" The irony
was back, the mocking smile, the cool distance.
Was he still going to try to kill me?
What was he waiting for? Was
there some way to let the sun in? He
was still looking off into space.
glared at him. "Very funny.
I supposed I should know better than to trade one-liners with a guy
who's had centuries to practice."
did you come here, Tracy?" The tired voice again.
were going to BITE me!" I was
long, slow sigh. And then a long
motionless silence. And then the
irony lapsed from his expression, and he turned his eyes to me, and they were
thought that was what you wanted."
the third time, I fainted in front of Javier Vachon.
~ ~ ~
woke up in my own apartment, on my own sofa.
He was there, sitting in the easy chair, dressed entirely in black, his
usual epitome-of-cool manner wrapped around him like a cloud.
a moment I was delighted to see him. Then
memory came flooding back and I practically jumped to a standing position.
"Jesus!" I said, staring at him.
I felt terror, desire, terror, relief, terror, and a strong wish that I
had never ever known about anything or anyone even remotely supernatural.
I have no idea how much of that he read off my face, but -his- face became an emotionless blank.
you wanted to play with the fire, Commissioner Vetter's daughter," he said
my apartment, in regular incandescent light, without the spooky candles and the
combination churchy-crypty air of his place, everything seemed perfectly
normal. Vachon even seemed
perfectly normal, slouched down in the chair with his legs crossed and his
was night outside. "Have you
been sitting here waiting for me to wake up so you could insult me?" I
snapped. I waved a hand at the
French doors to the balcony. "Feel
free to fly away anytime."
insulted?" The words came with
a bitter laugh attached.
frowned. "I don't get
you," I said cautiously.
show me in every possible way that I'm the most horrible, most disgusting being
you could ever imagine, and then you accuse me of insulting you."
little voice inside me was saying, oh God...
stood up and loomed over me. "If
I could make you forget--"
can't. I won't."
I'd said it before. "I
don't want to." That was new,
and he reacted to it. Puzzled, I
just don't want to die, Vachon."
he frowned. "You thought I was
going to kill you?"
stomach lurched. "What
shook his head and made a wordless sound, looked around, and waved his arms in a
big, disbelieving gesture. He
looked exactly twenty five years old. Maybe
don't have to have this conversation," I said, getting nervous again.
he moved forward with that incredible speed, gripped the back of my head like a
clamp, and looked down into my eyes. "Don't
you understand what you saw?" he said softly.
shook my head, or tried to.
thought you wanted to come across," he said in the same near‑whisper.
"The story about the traffic accident-- I thought you
were telling me you didn't want to die in some stupid pointless mortal way.
That you wanted my kind of life," his face tightened, "to have
it with me. I was bringing you
mouth fell open, but I couldn't get a sound out.
you cried out." He stopped.
When he continued, his voice was utterly matter of fact.
"I had to feed. Right
then. That's all."
He let go of my head then; I practically fell over backwards.
There was that rushing sound, and my living room was empty.
once, I reacted fast. I ran to the
balcony and yelled "COME BACK HERE, YOU COWAAARRRRDD" at the top of my
there he was. He
didn't look happy, but he was there.
smiled at him though my heart was pounding.
"Call a cop a coward, you got yourself a fight.
I figured the same held for conquistadors."
you never told me where little vampires come from."
just stood there.
telling me it was an act of love."
just stood there.
wrapped my arms around myself. "I
came to your place because I wanted to make love with you.
Right then." I tried to echo his tone, but my voice was shaking like hell.
"In the accident," I took a deep breath, "when the world
stopped turning over and I realized I was still in one piece, all I could think
of was you. I didn't feel like I needed to change my life, or join some
church, or apologize to everyone I've ever been mean to... but I couldn't bear
the thought of checking out without..." now it was my turn to look around
the room for nonexistent help, "... being with you. Knowing
made him laugh. The irony surfaced.
"In the Biblical sense, Trace?
smiled and ducked my head.
the best idea, Trace." But it
was tender. Restored.
He came toward me and my body didn't flinch away from him; the sense of
trust -- well, close-to-trust, anyway -- was
back in me, too. He reached out and
ran his hand along my hair, and I looked right into his eyes.
Deep dark brown eyes, with the tiniest gold flecks.
But they were kind of sad again, and his voice came out deep, and
he backed away, and bit his lower lip.
"No birds. No bees.
just stood there and looked at each other.
thought you knew," he said finally.
would I know?" I snapped. "You didn't come with a manual..."
But it was an act, and I couldn't keep it up.
really sorry--" we
smiled. I kept going.
"What I did to you-- I didn't know it could happen. Wow,
did I ever not know." I shook
my head, laughing, and saw his eyes follow the tossing of my hair.
just have to restrain these wild urges, Detective."
He was wearing one of his regular teasing smiles.
it was my turn to feel sad, my turn to touch his hair one last time.
"I'll live longer, huh?" I whispered.
of his arms was around me before I knew he was moving. He held me crushed against his body, my head tilted back in
his hand, and there again was the face of unmixed desire, its eyes deep, black,
nearly unreadable. His mouth came
down on mine in a kiss before I could react, another bottomlessly desirous, hot,
liquid kiss -- and I gave myself to it completely. I felt his teeth change and explored them for a moment with
my tongue, then felt his tongue keeping mine away from them, avoiding even the
smallest risk of a cut. We kissed
like that for what could have been hours or seconds; it almost seemed to happen
outside of time.
Then he let go of me, and stepped back.
The yellow eyes gleamed at me almost expressionlessly, but the voice was
utterly familiar. "Goodnight, Trace."
then he was gone, and then I collapsed on my sofa, and then the phone rang and
it was my Mom and Dad, full of worry, and then life started back up again....