With a cigarette in his mouth, Ryan lit his lighter and cupped his hands around his face. Inhaling in the cold wind, the man peered out over the street with thin eyes. He hadn’t seen Tatiana in several nights, and he wondered if he ever would again. A plume of smoke filled the air around his face as he leaned back on his right foot. One hand held the cigarette with a tight clasping tremble. The other hand pulled out his phone.
“You coming down tonight?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s just rain,” Ari pipped on the other end. “Do you have the cake ready?”
“I got a cheesecake,” he answered, then took a steep drag.
“Perfect,” Ari spoke in a tone that made Ryan smile. “See you around eight.”
Back inside, the pub was empty. Ryan washed his hands at the bar, staring momentarily at himself in the mirror. He then pulled a long white towel from the hanging bar hidden behind the counter. He twisted his hands into the fabric, getting every crease as dry as he could. With the towel flipped up over his shoulder, Ryan leaned against the bar and sighed.
Glasses on the shelves were incredibly clean. The chef would arrive in twenty minutes to find the kitchen spotless. Friends that Ryan did not know well, and those he considered dangerous, would all arrive before long. He glanced to the neon sign near the door and huffed.
“I want to thank you,” Jack spoke as he leaned over the bar and close to Ryan. It had been an hour since Ryan opened the bar, and even though the company was not perfect, it was better than the silence he often carried. The human nodded as he strained out a Mind Eraser. “No, I mean it. Truly.”
“I know,” Ryan stopped pouring and took a moment to agree. He nodded once and then passed the shot glass to a woman at the edge of the bar. He returned to Jack and stepped close to the bar, speaking with a mellow, muted voice. “She’s important to Ari, so she’s important to me.” Jack nodded. “Take care of her, don’t hurt her.”
“There he is!” Eli shouted from behind. Jack’s concentration broke and he turned to face his friend. “You ready for this?” Eli teased.
Jack let out a long breath and then gave a cheeky grin. “I think so.”
“I’m excited,” Naomi spoke up from Eli’s side. She placed her hand over Jack’s arm and leaned close. “She’s so in love with you.”
Ryan watched from the corner of the bar. Jack and Eli went to a private table near the back and continued their conversation. Naomi pulled the apron from the hook behind the bar and put it on. The chef was already sizzling different dishes in the kitchen. The aromas filled the air: chicken with garlic, pepper burgers, and signature seasoned thick fries. Ryan could feel his stomach cave inward from hunger.
“Go eat,” Naomi joked.
“How can you tell?” Ryan returned as he leaned up from the post that was holding him steady.
“Ryan,” she paused, getting close to him with a bottle of rum in her hands. She turned her head sideways and raised her brow. “You might be gorgeous,” she grinned as he lowered his head in a smiling chuckle, “but you’re pretty thin. I never see you eat.”
“I know,” he agreed.
“Go,” she urged. “I won’t tell.”
Walking through the side hall that led to a small office, Ryan continued to breathe in the smells, and he continued to cave. He reached his office and opened the door and flipped on the light to find a drawing set of eyes glaring up at him. Ryan jumped back and into the door as Tatiana stood and apologized.
“Why are you in here?” he breathed heavily.
“I missed you,” she purred.
Seconds elapsed as Ryan took note of the vampire. Her hair was loose and long, sitting straight against her back. She hadn’t put on much make up; only a bit of mascara and gloss. Ryan’s eyes ran the length of the woman, glancing over her white t-shirt and tight jeans. She wore boots—simple brown boots—that gave her at least two inches of height. Ryan grinned as he thought of her small stature. He admired her delicacy.
“Does he know you’re here?” Ryan crossed his arms and leaned back against the door. His lips pressed into a tight coil.
Tatiana breathed in with large, batting eyes. She had no words.
“He would kill me if he knew,” Ryan furthered.
“I would never allow it,” Tatiana stepped up.
“He’s different,” the mortal argued. “He’s controlling. He hurts you… someone he supposedly loves. What would stop him from hurting me?”
Tatiana stepped closer, until she could reach out and touch Ryan’s arm. “I won’t let him hurt you.”
Ryan slipped form her touch and laughed to himself. He plopped into his chair and put his elbow on the desk before him. His fist tightened beneath his jaw as he watched Tatiana follow him. She swayed in his direction, stepping in between his legs and sitting on his lap.
“I need you,” she murmured. “I need your warmth. Your gentleness.”
“You need my blood,” he fought, standing and nearly knocking the ancient creature onto the ground. “You can’t get sustenance from him, so you come here.”
“I have mortals for that,” she leaned forward as her voice perked.
“Then what’s this?” Ryan shouted back, moving her from his lap and standing tall. He pulled open his shirt, a collared shirt with buttons all the way down, and revealed a bite mark near his ribs. Tatiana lowered her head and twisted her fingers together before her. “Tell me that wasn’t for hunger.”
The vampire stood silent until a tear fell. “I can take it away, if you want.” Still, she couldn’t look up to him. Ryan, however, gazed deep into her face with sharpened eyes. “I’ll leave you alone if you wish.”
“Will he be here tonight?” Ryan slumped into his chair. Tatiana shook her head. After a swallow, the mortal licked his lips. “Can you stay?” Again, Tatiana stepped between his legs and sat in his lap. She draped her arms around his neck and peered up to him with soft, wide eyes. Ryan lifted his hand to her face and ran his fingers through the hair around her ear. The vampire leaned in and pressed her comely lips to his in a timeless pause. “You torture me,” Ryan declared, then he lifted the woman from his lap and left the office in a rush.
Pacing quick through the pub, Ryan approached the door just as Ari stepped in. She held boxes and bags up to her chin; her eyes were the only things Ryan could distinguish. Quickly, he took the things from her hands and set them on the neighboring table. He clasped down on her wrist and dragged her outside.
“Ryan, it’s freezing out here,” she barked, sliding a little on the sidewalk and into his side. Still, he pulled her further away from the pub. To the side of the building where his car sat, Ryan opened the door and jumped in. Ari stood there with her fists clinched and her neck tight. She shivered with a cocked head and large eyes. “What the hell?” she pressed him, joining him inside his car. He turned the engine and started the heater, but he didn’t say a word. “Ryan!”
“I want to go back to California,” he blurted.
“I really want to go back,” he confessed, his voice soft and his eyes full. He faced his sister and took a long breath. “Ari, I can’t handle these people, these… monsters.”
“They aren’t monsters,” she refused. “They were once just like you and I.”
“Yeah… not anymore,” he refuted. “They work at their own desires, they’ll do anything to survive.”
“So would we,” Ari furthered.
Ryan shook his head and gripped the wheel. The rain on the windshield had started to freeze. “They’re incapable of love.”
“You can’t say that,” Ari countered. “Not tonight.”
“I’m trying, really trying,” he huffed. “But it isn’t enough.”
“Who got to you?” Ari shook her head. Her brother turned with a strong glare. “Someone must’ve hurt you. Who?”
“Ari, you’re an adult now,” Ryan adjusted his grasp on the wheel. “You can stay if you want, but I’m going home.”
“California isn’t our home,” she argued. She leaned up and looked at the city under the wintery storm and smiled. “This is home, Ryan. Really, it is.”
“I can’t get her out of my mind, Ari,” Ryan confessed, his voice a near-mumble.
“New York isn’t the only place with vampires. It isn’t the only place where you’ll find a woman who’s unforgettable.”
Ryan slouched into the seat and ran his fingers through his hair. He exhaled and then looked to Ari. “Alright.”
“Good,” Ari smiled. She pulled her phone out and checked the time. “She’ll be here soon.”
The door opened to the pub in late July. Ryan had been in ownership for nearly six months, and he had known about the vampires for just as long. The area was full of the creatures. The apartments were mostly occupied by mortals, but there were enough vampires to notice. It didn’t matter if it was night or day. Death entered Ryan’s door at all hours. Now, on a hot summer night, Ryan caught the image of one beautiful, timeless creature.
“Are you open?” her voice was like silk, her eyes rich and pure.
“Yes,” Ryan answered. Naomi had worked there longer than he had owned the place, but she wasn’t there that night. Ryan watched the young woman sway as she approached the bar stool. She sat down and dangled her arms out over her crossed legs. She looked around the room, taking in the lights and the craftsmanship.
“I haven’t been here in a while,” she purred. And before Ryan could lean in and carry the conversation, a man stepped inside and eyed the woman.
“Tatiana,” he called to her. The name alone rang true in Ryan’s ears. The woman turned to face the man as he walked toward her. Ryan stepped back into his corner.
“I’m just hungry,” the woman expressed. Ryan knew what she was without question. He also knew he wouldn’t fight her if she asked for his blood.
“We have dinner at home,” the man cleared. He reached over to her hand and took hold.
“Please, Parker,” she begged. “I want something real.” Her eyes rose to Ryan, who was then cleaning a glass with his head down. She knew he had heard her most delicate words.
“I don’t like that you change your mind constantly,” Parker spoke near the woman’s ear.
“You don’t like that I’m stronger than you,” she grinned, whispering back to him. Ryan’s eyes flicked upward. The man stood from the stool and left, shoving the door wide open and letting slam against the side wall. After it closed, the woman caught Ryan by the eyes. Easy steps in her direction and Ryan approached the bar before her. “You’re sweet, I can tell.”
“Can I get you something?” he replied, then crossed his arms. The woman reached her hand out to him. Ryan looked on with a pressed brow.
“Lend me your hand,” she sat tall and straightened her shoulders. Ryan swallowed, but then uncrossed his arms. He reached out and allowed her to take his wrist into her hand, then he waited. Her touch was cold, her grasp without strain. Her fingers were long and slender, they wrapped over his skin and sent chills up to his shoulder. “I bet you repaired this place,” she assumed in a smile.
Ryan nodded. His hands were not smooth, but they weren’t rough either. They were strong, but slender like hers. Tatiana ran her fingers down the inside of Ryan’s forearm and he trembled at the sheer sensitivity. The vampire delighted in his mortality. And as she lingered in that moment of elation, Ryan leaned forward and placed his hand on her face. For a second, Tatiana leaned back. She grew rigid, her smile gone, as she waited to see what Ryan had planned.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered, touching her skin and feeling her hair in his fingertips. In a quick leap, Tatiana popped herself up onto the bar and faced Ryan with her legs on either side of his waist.
“Touch me like that again,” she begged in near-silence. Her eyes enlarged as she blinked rhythmically before him. Ryan raised both hands up to her face and held her skin to his, mildly applying pressure. The vampire closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. She hadn’t felt warmth—true warmth—from another creature in a while.
“I’ll let you drink from me,” Ryan spoke. The woman opened her eyes and stared to him directly. “Just don’t take it away. And I’ll be here, for the next time you want something real.”
“She’s leaving her apartment now,” Ari told Jack, presently at the pub. The presents were stacked on the bar to the right. Ryan had purchased a 10-inch, cherry cheesecake earlier that day and had it waiting in the fridge. Ari’s mouth watered just thinking about it. “So, how does it work?” the mortal questioned the vampire.
“How does what work?” Jack returned and then took a drink of his liquor. The taste lingered on his tongue as he listened to Ari.
“How does a marriage work between a mortal and an immortal?” Ari whispered. It was no secret to those in attendance what Jack was. Ari glanced briefly at the intimate crowd and realized this fact. Eli stood at one end of the pub with a couple of other vampires. During his conversation, Naomi would swing by and say a few words before resuming her work. There were mortals at the pub, too. Some were co-workers of Ari and Lou, some knew Jack and Eli.
Jack gave a little chuckle in silence. “I’m not immortal,” he corrected.
“Just seems like you are,” Ari curled her nose and smiled with her lips tightly pressed.
“Too much of our culture is misunderstood,” Jack went on. “We can’t exactly be public about it, though.” Ari nodded to his words. “But, I guess,” he began, answering her question, “I hope that eventually she’ll turn.” Ari drew a sharp breath, out of excitement and intrigue. “You don’t think she will?” Jack shook his head in doubt.
“No, it isn’t that,” Ari refused. She put her hand on Jack’s arm and leaned close. Her voice crept out quietly to him and him alone. “If it were me,” Ari licked her lips, “I wouldn’t want it. I think what makes you so interesting, what makes her—and me—so eager to please, is that we can give blood. We can quench your thirst, your desire. As a vampire, that entire relationship is rewritten.”
Jack leaned back as Ari finished. He watched her take a long drink from her tall glass and swish the liquid around in her mouth. “If you loved someone—someone like me—would it change if you took his poison?” the vampire pressed.
Ari ran her tongue over her teeth and let her eyes fall to the bar. “I think… maybe love would last,” she nodded, then quickly changed to shaking her head in opposition. “The excitement though… hum, I’m pretty sure it’d be gone.”
“I can see her!” Naomi shouted from the window. Ryan rushed to the wall and dimmed the lighting. Only the strands of tiny bulbs stayed lit. Everyone grew silent, crouching down in the darkness near tables and behind walls. The door creaked open and the rush of wind and rain filled their ears. As the door closed, Lou called out.
“Hello?” she spoke. Every person was hidden as Jack came from behind the bar with a box in his hand. “Jack?” her mouth opened like a flower, twisting up in delight.
“Hello,” he replied, his lips pressed in a smile. “Happy birthday, little bird.” Lou took the box from his outreached hands and pulled at the bow. She lifted the lid and found a thin golden ring inside. “Be mine,” he whispered. “Forever.” Lou’s eyes glossed as she inspected the item. The metal twirled around the entire circle as little gems of onyx lay intertwined. Lou held tight to the box as she jumped high into Jack’s arms. She could feel the weight of happiness fill her bones and flood her veins. Then the lights lifted and the attendants cheered.
Ryan kept to his corner as he thought about Tatiana. She visited often, but never could stay. He knew she belonged to Parker. He knew that that meant something far more important than he could grasp. His patrons left over time and soon the pub was quiet. Eli and Naomi sat together at a dark table near the back door. The night was closing in, and the stars from the window were pure white against a black abyss.
“It’s slick out, be careful,” Ari shouted to a man as he left. Now, Jack, Lou, and Ari were the only ones sitting at the bar. Ryan stood behind with his towel in hand. He glanced to Naomi and watched her kiss the vampire at her side. “I need something to eat,” Ari said as she stumbled from the stool and toward the kitchen.
“Don’t eat the onion rings,” Ryan warned. “They’re gross.” Lou laughed. She glanced down at her ring and then up to Jack. Ryan watched as her eyes lit up there at the vampire’s side.
“I think I’m going to join her,” Lou slid from her stool and entered the kitchen with an uneasy, drunken step.
Ryan studied Jack for a second before breaking the silence. “What does it mean to belong to someone?” he blurted. “I mean, to your kind. What does it really mean?”
Jack leaned up and folded his arm at his chest. He twisted the small whisky glass with his fingertips and then inhaled. “It’s hard to explain.”
“Can you try?”
“Well, don’t get the wrong idea,” Jack warned, “but it’s a form of ownership,” he said with scrunched cheeks, his eyes squinting.
“Both ways?” Ryan placed his elbow on the bar and leaned to one foot.
Jack tilted his head and spattered a well and trailed off. “It depends on the relationship. Why do you ask?”
Ryan rubbed his jaw. “If a woman vampire is with a male vampire, and she belongs to him, how can she leave the relationship?”
Jack laughed. “Nothing is forcing her to stay,” he put. “It’s a mutual understanding. What it means, I guess, is that,” Jack turned and pointed toward Eli, “I can’t touch Naomi. Because she’s his. Even if I was dying, I can’t put a finger on her.”
“What if she’s okay with it?” Ryan’s brow pressed down. His eyes shined like the glasses on his shelf. Jack shook his head and then spit the piece of ice in his mouth back into his glass. Ryan exhaled. “I need a smoke.”
“Let me ask you something,” Jack sat tall. “If you were with a vampire, would you want to take her poison and spend eternity at her side? Or would you rather enjoy the thrill of being her mortal?”
Ryan’s brow lifted as he inhaled. “I think mortality is what gives life meaning. But after a certain amount of time, I wouldn’t want to grow old,” Ryan laughed.
Outside, Ryan lit his cigarette and blew the smoke into the air. He looked to the sidewalk and thought about putting salt down. It had rained all day, but the sky was clear now. All the damage was done, all the ice set in place. No trucks had passed by to clear the roads, no salt to melt the danger.
When his cigarette was half-gone, Ryan heard shouting inside the pub. He threw the cigarette to the ground and stomped it out, then hurried inside to find Jack standing over Lou with sharp, shiny eyes.
“What’s going on?” Ryan inquired. Naomi was standing near the bar with Eli to her side. Jack was adjacent to Eli. Lou stood beneath her love and peered up to him with anger plastered on her face. Ari, to whom Ryan turned for an explanation, stood behind Lou.
“Just a little argument,” Ari brushed off. She put her hand on her hip and rolled her eyes.
Lou leaned back to one foot and crossed her arms. “It isn’t little to me.” Ryan could feel the tension in the warm air, smell the lasting aroma of liquor on their breaths. He had never seen vampires fight mortals, not in a human manner. Fear started to rush his mind. If Jack grew violent, what would Eli do? What could happen to the human women; defenseless and weak in comparison?
“I thought we were all happy,” Eli’s laugh trailed.
“I thought I was happy, too,” Lou spat.
“And now it bothers you?” Jack’s words flung out. Lou walked to the bar and grabbed her handbag. “You’re not leaving!” Jack clamped onto her arm and she quickly tried to free herself.
“Jack let her go,” Ryan spoke up.
“Stay out of it,” the vampire replied. “You will not leave here until we’re done talking,” Jack forced through his teeth. His voice was rich and musical, but it stung Lou’s ears all the same.
“Jack, you don’t want to hurt her,” Eli advised, and his words surprised everyone.
“He won’t hurt her,” Ari declared while Lou continued to struggle.
“No, he won’t,” Lou grinned as she stood still, gazing up to the man she adored. “He won’t do anything. He’ll just… fade away. Leave me, make me forget.” The air held firm, thick like fog and heavy in their ears. Lou didn’t move for several seconds; her eyes glued to Jack’s. Finally, and just as the grip on Lou’s upper arm felt sore and bruised, Jack released the mortal. She turned away and went straight for the door. Jack, however, wasn’t yet finished.
Rushing out to the sidewalk, the vampire slipped, taking hold of the door for stability. “Lou, wait!” he called to her. “I’m sorry, don’t leave yet.”
On the opposite side of the street, close to her car, Lou turned and faced him. “Jack, I just want a little space.”
Jack shook his head and took a step toward the road. “Don’t say that,” he pleaded.
From inside the pub, the others stood at the window watching the lovers quarrel.
“This is ridiculous,” Ari shook her head.
“Why?” Naomi perked up.
“She’s so infatuated by him, but it’s never enough,” Ari pursued. “She always wants more. He asked her to marry him,” the mortal spat. “Why can’t that be enough?”
“Maybe she wants to be like him.” Ryan stepped up to the window and folded his arms over his chest. Ari laughed. “Years will pass and her mortality will catch up.”
“She’s clearly his,” Ari spoke. “He can pass on the poison any time. She wouldn’t be able to stop him.”
“And she can’t make him do it either,” Ryan furthered. “She has no control.”
“She doesn’t like control,” Ari rejected.
“Belonging to him is the problem,” Ryan inhaled with his lips tightly pressed.
“It isn’t a problem for some,” Naomi spoke as Eli draped his arm over her neck. Outside, Jack and Lou continued to argue. “Marriage is too basic. Belonging to someone is everlasting.”
Ari exhaled and bit the inside of her cheek. “I know what it means, but I also know he isn’t ready. Passing his poison is more than just a bite. It’s emotional, timeless.”
“What makes you an expert all of a sudden?” Ryan quizzed, but Ari wouldn’t answer. “I strongly hope you aren’t feeding them again.”
“Feeding?” Eli laughed.
“She lets vampires drink from her regularly,” Ryan rolled his eyes.
“It’s fulfilling,” Ari defended as she looked back out at Lou and Jack.
“It’s dangerous,” Ryan fought back.
“Oh my God!” Ari shouted as the sound of squealing tires echoed off the buildings. Those inside the pub stood silent as they watched Jack run after Lou. Her body lay on the cold, wet pavement; blood streaming out from her nose.
On Sundays, the pub was closed. Ryan’s apartment was above the place, he owned the entire building. There were three floors in all with the top floor being vacant. Typically, he would spend his day off down at the docks.
“Ryan?” a woman’s voice called out. The man was sleeping upstairs when he woke to the knock. Louder and with force, the woman rapped on the glass window outside the pub. The morning was clouded over, no sun in sight. Ryan stood from bed with a yawn. He strolled down the stairs in his shorts and entered the pub from behind the kitchen. “Ryan!” she called. With her face in his blurred, morning sight, Ryan froze.
“Why are you here?” he stammered.
“Please, let me in,” she begged.
“Tatiana, please, just leave,” Ryan refused her. The vampire stomped her feet and banged on the window again. “You can’t keep using me like this!”
“Yes I can! You said I could,” she whined. “Ryan,” her voice crawled out. “Ryan,” again she tapped the glass.
Ryan put his hands on his hips and sighed. He then went to the door and unlocked it. The woman rushed inside. “What is it?” he wouldn’t look her in the eye.
Tatiana fidgeted where she stood, her hands tightly tangled before her. She swallowed, “He left me.”
“You’re a mess,” Ryan decided, then went into the kitchen and took the coffee from the fridge.
“You think I don’t know that?”
“I do,” he poured water and clicked the power button on the machine. “You spent years, probably hundreds of years, enjoying yourself. Now,” he grinned, “now, you’re lost in a world of mortals. Confused by their humanity.”
Tatiana folded her arms tight. “I still have my theater, my family.”
“Those people are nothing more than death, Tat,” Ryan dropped his hand onto the counter and made a loud plop. “That’s not a real family.”
The woman blinked heavily and then turned away. She leaned a little toward the door, then rocked back to face Ryan. “Thank you,” she purred.
“Wait,” he spoke. The smell of coffee filled the air as Ryan stood from the counter and approached the vampire. “You can stay.”
“I don’t need to,” she lifted her chin.
“I know,” he answered. He turned his back to her and made his drink. He then went upstairs to his room. Before long, he could hear her sharp heels click on the wood stairs beyond his loft. As she stepped passed the door, she eyed the open room. His bed sat near the window facing the street. There was a dresser with a television, a bookshelf and a desk. It was airy, but small. Tatiana smiled.
“Do you like it here?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I usually sleep till noon, so,” he trailed. He slipped into his bed and pulled up the comforter. Tatiana observed him snuggling the pillow close against his body and holding it like—she imagined—he’d hold a woman. He then glanced to her and she turned quickly to the window.
“It’s quiet here,” she remarked as she walked toward the bed.
Ryan leaned up and watched her. “What do you want, Tat?”
“I want to be here,” her mouth turned up for a second, then she shrugged and turned from him. Ryan sat up. The woman examined his desk, then his bookshelf. She swayed beyond his bed and stood at the window. “I wish you knew how rare you are. How wonderful it feels to be near you.”
Ryan leaned his head and his eyes appeared to soften. “When did he leave?”
“A month ago.”
“Are you happier?”
“I’m not sure,” she confessed. “I’m happy for him. But I never thought loneliness would bother me.”
“Come sit with me,” Ryan offered. Tatiana’s eyes glared in hesitation. “It’s up to you.” Ryan, sitting without a shirt, had reached his arms out toward the vampire. Now he sat with his hands steady and his eyes wanting more.
“In all this time, I can’t believe I haven’t been up here,” Tatiana smiled as she walked to him. She looked over the room again before sitting on the bed.
“You’ve always been welcome.”
“Why are so nice to me?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
Her eyes swelled again and she lowered her head. “I’ve hurt you, haven’t I?” Ryan didn’t answer. “You love me. I can see it, but I don’t always feel it.”
“Then why do you keep returning?” he asked.
“I enjoy you,” she stated without time to think it over. Ryan lifted his hand to her face and she leaned into his touch.
“Am I not good enough for you?” he whispered. Tatiana’s eyes opened, her lashes fluttered. “I wish I was.” The vampire reached up and took hold of the mortal’s wrist. Her fingers wrapped around his skin and gave him chills.
“You don’t want to be mine,” Tatiana warned. Her eyes fell from his as she shook her head.
“No, Tat, I don’t. I want you to be mine,” he answered her. The vampire’s eyes flicked up and widened. It wasn’t something well-known, but it was possible. “I don’t want you to touch another mortal besides me. Not for pleasure, not for show—not even if you’re dying.”
“And this is your proposal?” Tatiana spoke with a somber expression.
“Would you make me live here?” she teased, her bright teeth gleamed.
“I’d make sure you were happy. And even though you’re stronger, I’d do my best to keep you safe.”
Tatiana took a deep breath and examined the mortal again. He sat with the comforter over his legs. His pillows were thick and plenty. The curtains were open and went from the ceiling to the floor. She admired the design of his home and the honest quality of his persona.
“Could you warm me?” she simpered. The corner of Ryan’s mouth turned upward. He took her hand and pulled her to his chest. “You’re always so warm.”
“Are you thirsty?” Ryan asked. Tatiana peered up from beneath him and her chocolate eyes spoke for her. He lifted his arm and turned his inner wrist toward her. In the grasp of her tender fingers, Ryan felt comfort deep in his bones. She brought his wrist to her mouth and breathed in his scent. Her nostrils flared and her lips moistened. Her teeth poked out from under her lip and she bit down.
Ryan winced as his heart beat increased. He could feel her pulling the blood from his flesh, savoring the liquid as it poured into her mouth. Her cold tongue licked at his wound until it stopped bleeding. Again, she breathed him in. Then she faced him, snug in his arms, and sat still as he kissed her lips.
Tatiana then took her wrist to her mouth and broke the skin with her own bite. The blood dripped from her skin in a violet hue. The vampire tilted her head to watch as Ryan took hold of her wrist. He looked down over the trickle of blood and lifted his brow in curiosity to the color. Not before had he seen Tatiana’s blood. Never had she offered. Ryan lifted Tatiana’s wrist to his face and then inhaled. It was rich, pure and smooth. Her life force smelled of something wild, something overgrown from a forest under the sun. The mortal man wondered what it would mean to connect with his vampire on such a private level. With it there in his hand, he had only to taste to know.