Welcome to my “free reading” page. At the moment, you can read the short story “Mortal Wish” for free right here. Enjoy. Copying or/and posting this story on any other site is a violation of copyright and strictly prohibited. Copyright © 2010 by Tina Folsom
On an island in the Gulf of Mexico, December 1991
Jake watched the man as he tied the ferry to the boat dock, then proceeded to move the gangplank over the gap between dock and ferry and secure it tightly, before he hollered to the captain, “Boat’s tied up.”
The captain waved back, then shifted his gaze to Jake. “Have a pleasant stay.”
Jake walked over the gangplank and onto the dock. He’d been the only passenger on the evening ferry. He assumed that most visitors descending upon this tiny island of barely one thousand inhabitants had done so with an earlier ferry, but he hadn’t had a choice. Traveling during daylight hours was impossible for him.
At a voice calling his name, he turned his head and noticed a gangly kid who couldn’t be more than twenty years old waving at him from next to the harbor master’s hut. The boy’s red hair was like a beacon in the night, as was the scent that came from him: fresh, young blood.
Luckily, Jake had fed plenty before his departure from the mainland, not wanting to be caught hunting on the small island. He’d also packed blood he’d stolen from a blood bank in New York where he’d lived during the last year. There, anonymity had been his friend, whereas in small towns people looked out for each other and would interfere when they saw something odd happening—like him sucking on the neck of a juicy human.
“I’m Jake Stone,” he called out as he approached the kid, whose blood smelled pure and rich, and just a tad too inviting.
When he stopped before the youngster, holding his overnight bag in one hand, the kid gave him a wide smile. “I’m Carl. Welcome to Seeker’s Island. Mrs. Adams sent me. I’ll take you to the Sunseekers Inn.”
Carl made a motion for the bag, but Jake didn’t relinquish it. “Lead the way.”
The kid gestured to the street that ran alongside the small harbor. “I’m parked right here.”
Jake arched an eyebrow. He hadn’t expected this island to allow cars. “Where?”
Carl pointed toward a white object that stood at the curb.
“A golf cart,” Jake murmured. With a sprig of mistletoe dangling from its rearview mirror?
The kid nodded enthusiastically. “We don’t have cars on the island. But I get to use one of the golf carts to drive tourists around. I mean, it’s practically mine.”
Jake forced a smile and followed him. Great: Carl was a chatterbox. That was just what he needed. If he’d had a choice, he wouldn’t have come to a small island like this where everybody knew everybody else’s business, but he hadn’t had a choice. This was his last resort.
As Jake slunk into the passenger seat and set his bag between his feet, Carl started the electric engine and pulled into the street that ran alongside the coast. Houses and shops lined the quaint road and made him feel like he’d entered Disneyland. Well, Disneyland decked out for Christmas—because practically every store and restaurant was decorated with colorful lights, red and green being the dominant ones. And maybe this island was just like Disneyland, full of make believes and wishes for things he couldn’t have.
“Are you here for the… you know?” Carl continued.
Knowing that the kid was referring to the hot spring that was said to have magical qualities, Jake gave no direct answer and instead let his eyes wander toward the ocean and the impenetrable darkness beyond the shore. “The… you know what… doesn’t really work, does it?”
Carl sat up taller as if wanting to display more authority. “Of course it does!” Then he lowered his voice and leaned closer, whispering now. “I grew up here. Everything you’ve heard is true. If you drink from it, you’ll get your heart’s desire.”
Jake suppressed the urge to scoff. If the spring really worked, why was a young man like Carl still living here, performing the thankless job of chauffeuring tourists around the island? “Sure, whatever you say.”
Maybe he was just cynical—what one-hundred-forty-seven year old vampire wouldn’t be? Or maybe he was simply bracing himself for the moment when he found out that the magical spring didn’t actually have the power to grant any wishes.
“You’ll see!” Carl prophesied and brought the cart to a stop. He pointed to the large Victorian house that stood behind a white picket fence. “We’re here.”
Jake pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the kid. “Thanks, Carl.”
The youngster grinned as he pocketed the money. “And if you need any transportation on the island, I’m happy to drive you around.”
Jake had no doubt about that. He was sure that opportunities for making money on the island were few and far between. “I’ll let you know.” He got out of the cart and walked up the entrance way to the house, bag in hand.
The electric engine made barely any sound when Carl left.
Jake opened the entrance door and entered. The foyer was cozy and well lit. A large Christmas tree adorned with antique ornaments took up half the entry hall. He had to admit—despite his aversion to Christmas—that the fresh blue spruce looked rather pretty, and the scent brought back memories of his childhood. Memories of happier times.
A large wooden staircase led to the upper floors. To its left was a reception area, which looked like a booth with a high counter in front and shelves at the back. He approached it and set his bag on the floor. Seeing nobody, but sensing he wasn’t alone, he hit the little bell on the counter.
As the soft ping chimed through the foyer, he suddenly heard a sound and an instant later, a woman rose from behind the counter, righting the sleeve of her colorful dress, while giving him an apologetic smile. He hadn’t seen her earlier, nor had his senses picked up on her smell. The scent of the fresh tree, the potpourri, and the scented candles that seemed to be wherever there was a ledge or an available surface, was too overwhelming.
“Oh, dear, you’ve caught me now!” She chuckled and blushed furiously. “Those darn straps, they never stay in place.” She pulled her hand out from under her sleeve and adjusted her scoop neck.
Jake could only imagine that she was talking about her bra straps and tried not to focus on her ample chest. Instead, he looked at her face. She was still attractive even though she seemed to be in her early sixties. Had he met her twenty or thirty years ago, he would have seduced her.
“Yes, and you must be Mr. Stone.” She let her eyes roam over his face and body, not hiding the fact that she found him attractive.
He was used to those looks. He got them from women of all ages. But all they saw was his perfect shell: the dark hair, the chiseled chin, the classical nose, the piercing blue eyes, and the sculpted body. What they didn’t see was the man inside, the man who yearned for a real life, for a mortal life. For a purpose.
“I have a wonderful room for you. On the top floor. It’s got a gorgeous view of the bay on the other side of the island.” She reached for the board of keys behind her and took one of them down, placing it on the counter.
“Perfect.” He smiled and grabbed the key.
“Breakfast is included.” She pointed toward a door next to the stairs. “The breakfast room is through here. We serve breakfast from seven till nine thirty.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m not much of a morning person. In fact, would you mind if I declined housekeeping? I’m quite a night owl actually and sleep really late.” Late as in until sunset. After all, daylight didn’t agree with him. The charred look had never appealed to him.
“Oh?” She cast him a surprised glance. “I hope you won’t be too disappointed about the nightlife here, but there’s practically none. A lot of our visitors are here for the hot spring.” She leaned forward, her boobs resting on the counter as she did so. “I assume you came for the same thing?”
Jake sighed. He’d been here for less than half an hour and already two people had managed to ask him the same question. But being the intensely private man he was, he had no intention of getting dragged into a conversation about his very personal desires. Desires he could share with nobody.
“I hear fishing is good out here.”
A disappointed frown spread over Mrs. Adams’ face as she straightened. “Yes, yes, it is.”
“Top floor, you said?” He pointed toward the stairs and picked up his bag, not waiting for her answer.
“Number twenty-one. Turn left at the top of the stairs.”
The stairs creaked as he walked up the first flight. Runners covered the worn floors on the landing. Jake let his eyes wander over the old paintings on the walls and the antique sideboard that adorned the second floor hallway. His eyes lingered on the fine workmanship for a moment longer, then he already continued around the banister.
He ran into something soft. His head jerked around, and his hand released the grip on his bag in the same moment that he instinctively reached for the person he’d run into. His eyes perceived a woman, her arms flailing, releasing the handbag she carried. As its contents spilled onto the floor, Jake caught the woman, preventing her from falling.
“Ooops!” he called out. “Gotcha!”
She breathed heavily, and his superior senses picked up her elevated heartbeat.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t look,” he apologized.
“That’s quite all right,” she answered breathlessly. “It’s my own fault. I was running around the corner without looking.” She eased from his grip and stepped back.
Jake’s eyes fell on her face. Her eyes were just as blue as his, and her long hair was of a rich auburn shade. Her skin was flawless, but pale, almost like porcelain, and it made her lips look as red as fresh blood. Hunger surged within him instantly, despite the fact that he was sated. He pushed it back. Instead he looked to the items that had fallen to the floor and bent down.
“Let me help you with this,” he offered and handed her the handbag.
She took it and crouched down opposite him, quickly picking up some of the fallen items: a lipstick, keys, a small notepad.
Jake handed her a handkerchief and a pen, then searched the rug for anything else that might have fallen out, but found nothing.
“I think I’ve got everything,” she said and rose.
He got up from his hunched position and offered his hand in greeting. “I’m Jake, by the way.”
She hesitated, before she shook his hand very briefly. “Claire.” Then she motioned to the stairs. “I’ve gotta go.”
He watched as she hurried down the stairs. Her footsteps echoed in the foyer as she rushed out the entrance door. Only when it fell shut with a loud thud did he pick up his own bag and proceed to his room.
After a refreshing shower, Jake left his room. It was time to do what he’d come here for. No need to drag out the inevitable. He walked down the first flight of stairs, reaching the spot where he’d run into the very enticing Claire. For a moment, he stopped there. She’d stirred something in him, awakening a sense of wanting to protect her, even though he’d never felt that way toward a human. He’d always been the predator, taking what he wanted, not caring whom he hurt. But it was all different now.
He was done being the monster they feared. He was done with this life. Too many kills lay in his past, too many bad deeds lined his path. The senselessness of it all had come full circle. His life had no meaning; he understood that now after having lived as a vampire for one-hundred-twelve years, after having been turned at the age of thirty-five.
He couldn’t do it any longer: he couldn’t hurt people any longer. Because he’d developed a conscience. A fucking conscience!
He stared at his shoes and cursed silently. Who’d ever heard of a vampire with scruples? But no, he had to suddenly want a meaningful life, a purpose. And he knew there was only one way to have a meaningful life: he had to become human again.
His discontent with his life as a vampire had come gradually. Every time he’d watched humans celebrate another milestone in their lives, a new love, a wedding, or a birth, he’d felt himself grow more envious. And he’d started comparing his miserable life to theirs and found it lacking. There were no joyful events in his life: he slept, he hunted, he fed. And he was always hiding. But most of all, he had nobody who cared for him or whom he cared about. Tender emotions were foreign to him. Yet he recognized them in others, in humans, and he wanted to feel the same. And if he couldn’t achieve that, then he’d rather not feel anything at all.
That’s why he’d come to the island: to drink the water of the hot spring and wish for his heart’s desire. And if the legendary spring failed him, then there was only one other thing to do. If he had the courage to do it.
He let out a bitter laugh when he noticed an object beneath the sideboard he’d admired earlier. Out of curiosity, he bent down and reached for it. His fingers closed around a transparent orange colored prescription bottle. He read the label on it and froze.
It belonged to a Claire Culver—the woman he’d bumped into. The pill bottle must have fallen out of her bag and rolled under the sideboard, and they had both overlooked it. He read the name of the medication. Since as a vampire he wasn’t susceptible to any diseases, he wasn’t familiar with the name, even though he remembered having heard it on a TV program. What had it been for? He searched his brain, but couldn’t recall it.
Chastising himself for his inappropriate curiosity, he continued down the stairs. It was none of his business what medication Claire took and what it was for. She was a stranger to him and would remain a stranger.
When he reached the foyer, Mrs. Adams was pulling the curtains shut in the hallway. She turned to him.
“Out for a nightcap?” she asked.
“Yeah, I figured I’d explore that nightlife you were talking about earlier.” He winked at her and enjoyed the fact that she blushed once more.
“Luke runs a Tiki bar not far from here. You might want to try that,” she suggested.
“Sounds right up my alley.” He rolled the pill bottle between his fingers. “Oh, and Mrs. Adams, I found this on the floor upstairs. It belongs to Miss Culver. She must have dropped it.” He handed it to her and decided not to tell her that he was the reason it had fallen out of Claire’s handbag. “Would you please give it to her when you see her?”
“Oh, dear.” Mrs. Adams sighed heavily, making him pause for a moment.
“Well,” she started, “such a shame. And she’s so young and pretty, too. Has her whole life ahead of her, except she doesn’t.”
A cold shiver crept up his spine. “Excuse me?”
She motioned to the medication. “Miss Culver.” She took a step closer and lowered her voice. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but since you found her medication, you’d probably be able to figure it out yourself anyway. I only know because she had a seizure the other day, and I had to call the doctor, and he’s my cousin’s husband. And you know, she told me. My cousin, that is. Because her husband told her.”
Jake took a deep breath, hesitating for a second. Should he stay and allow her to divulge private medical information about Claire? Wouldn’t it be better, if he simply walked away and didn’t get involved? But Mrs. Adams had mentioned seizures, and that word had piqued his interest.
She leaned in. “Brain cancer. Apparently she got diagnosed six months ago. It’s inoperable. The doctors have given her another few weeks or months.” She pointed to the pills. “She takes those to keep the pain at bay. But the seizures continue. The doctors have given up. That’s why she’s here. You know, for the hot spring.”
He nodded, shocked at the revelation. No wonder Claire had looked so pale. Had he sensed her illness? Was that why he’d had the feeling that she needed protection? “She’s come to wish for a cure.”
A sad smile played around Mrs. Adams’ lips. “Several times a day, she goes there. She’s there now. And on the way back she stops at the bar and drowns her sorrows. And tomorrow she’ll do the same thing again. It’s so sad to watch.”
“So the hot spring doesn’t have any real power, does it?”
“Oh, it does, but sometimes we’re not wishing for the right thing. Sometimes we don’t know what our heart’s true desire is. And the spring only grants those desires that are pure and true.”
“What could be purer than wanting a cure for her cancer?” he wondered.
“I’m not saying that her desires are not pure. But sometimes the spring just needs a sacrifice to work,” she answered cryptically.
Visions of slaughtered animals popped into his head. But he was sure that Mrs. Adams was talking about other kinds of sacrifices.
“Maybe you just want to tell Miss Culver that you found the pill bottle yourself. There’s no need for her to think that I know what’s going on. I’m sure she values her privacy.”
Without waiting for her response, he left the house and turned toward the main road on his search for the Tiki bar. After the information Mrs. Adams had shared with him, he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to visit the spring right now.
Claire cast one last look back at the hot spring. When she’d arrived over an hour earlier, she’d captured some fresh water from where it poured out of the rocks with her cupped palms and swallowed it. At the same time she’d prayed for a miracle. Just like she’d done in the past five days since she’d come to the island. So far, nothing had changed. Her headaches were as painful as ever and were only subdued by the strong painkillers her oncologist had prescribed. But even those didn’t dull the pain for long. So she’d started drinking in the evenings to drown out the pounding in her head.
With each day that passed, hope faded further into the background as reality pushed to the forefront. Science had given up on her long ago, and the miracle she was hoping for by making the same wish at the spring over and over again wasn’t happening. In a few days the pain would be so excruciating and the seizures so severe that she would most likely fall into a coma from which she would never wake. Her time was up.
As she walked back on the dirt path that led into the village, she reflected on her life. But looking back on it made what lay ahead of her even harder to bear. She wasn’t ready to die. There was so much she hadn’t done, hadn’t seen, hadn’t experienced. It just wasn’t fair. She’d been a good person, honest, reliable, decent through and through. She’d never hurt anybody.
Like the other nights before, she headed for the Tiki bar. Some alcohol would numb her mind and stop her from speculating whether things would have turned out differently if only she’d gone to the doctor earlier when her headaches had started. She didn’t want to think about things she couldn’t change.
When she approached the bar, she already saw that it was half full like the night before: there were no walls. A bar stood in the middle of a hut without walls, its shutters, which protected the liquor from theft during the day, lifted and secured to the ceiling during opening hours. Soft music came from the speakers. One couple, embracing, danced slowly on the tiny makeshift dance floor. Others sat at the tables or at the bar, drinking and talking. Laughing. She steered for the bar and took the only vacant bar stool next to a tall dark haired man whose back was turned to her as he watched a football game on the muted TV that hung from the ceiling.
Claire motioned to the owner. He’d introduced himself the first night. “Evening, Luke.”
“Hi Claire. The usual?”
She nodded and watched how he prepared her Whiskey Sour the way she liked it. Might as well go out in style, she figured. When he put it in front of her, she lifted her glass to her lips and took the first sip.
The man next to her turned. “Cheers.”
She almost choked and quickly set the glass back on the counter. The man next to her was Jake, who she’d crashed into as she was running down the stairs at the Bed and Breakfast.
“Oh!” Just like earlier, she was unable to form a coherent sentence.
This time she couldn’t blame her monosyllabic response on the fact that they’d bumped into each other. No, she had to admit that she was tongue-tied because Jake exuded such pure maleness that her entire body was bursting into flames. She’d had her share of boyfriends, of course, good looking ones, too, but she’d never been with a man like the one who now gazed at her with such intensity that she wanted to rip her clothes from her body and offer herself to him.
Good God! What was she thinking? She was clearly going mad. Yes, she was finally slipping into insanity, unable to control her mind.
“Hi,” she said quickly before the silence between them stretched any longer. “Guess this is the only bar in town.” She sounded silly in her own ears, but Jake smiled at her nevertheless.
“Not much of a nightlife here on the island, I gather. Besides, it’s off season. But I suppose that’s not why people come here.” He gave her an expectant look.
“Have you been to the hot spring?” she asked him and took another sip from her drink so that her hands had something to do and he wouldn’t notice that they trembled.
“Not yet. I’m not in a rush. It’ll be there when I’m ready.”
She stared at the bottles that were lined up on the shelves suspended over the bar, nodding in agreement. “Still figuring out what you want?”
He shook his head. “I know what I want.”
Claire was surprised at herself. She wasn’t one to start a candid conversation with a stranger, but oddly enough, his openness was inviting her to talk as if they’d known each other for a while. Maybe it was because they were two lonely strangers in a bar, both with a wish they wanted fulfilled. Even though she couldn’t imagine what Jake could possibly wish for: didn’t a man like him have everything? Looks, strength, power? Women throwing themselves at his feet?
“Do you believe in it?” she heard herself ask.
“The hot spring?”
“I don’t know what to believe.”
“Is that why you’re waiting?” She turned her head to look at him.
His blue eyes locked with hers. “Is that why you’re going every day? Because you don’t know whether to believe in it?”
Her breath hitched. “You seem to know an awful lot.” If she were in a large city, she would be worried about him being a stalker. However, she knew how things on this island worked: nothing stayed a secret for longer than five minutes.
Jake shrugged, then took a sip from his red wine. “The islanders seem to keep a close eye on who’s visiting the hot spring.”
“They’re very protective of it,” she agreed and downed the rest of her drink in one big gulp. She made a gesture to get down from her barstool, when she suddenly felt his hand on her forearm.
“Don’t leave,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to scare you off.”
She hesitated, staring at his hand, then lifted her gaze to his face. His eyes were warm. She allowed herself to get drawn into their blue depths.
“Dance with me,” Jake whispered.
“I… uh,” she started.
“What have you got to lose? It’s just a dance between two strangers. I’ll be gone in a couple of days, and you’ll never have to see me again.”
He was right. She had nothing to lose. And why shouldn’t she allow herself to sway with the rhythm of the music, a stranger’s arms holding her for a few minutes, making her forget her sorrows?
“One dance,” Claire agreed.
“One dance,” he repeated and with ease lifted her from her barstool.
A moment later, she found herself on the dance floor, his arms holding her close to him, his thighs brushing hers, his hand on the small of her back pressing her closer to his torso, so she could feel his body heat engulf her. She closed her eyes and let herself fall into the dream that her life was only just beginning. That it wouldn’t end.
Jake pulled her closer and moved to the rhythm of the music. He hadn’t danced in a long time, but the steps were ingrained in him nevertheless. He’d always loved dancing, always loved the feeling of holding a woman in his arms.
Pressing his cheek to hers, he spoke softly. “I heard that sometimes the hot spring needs a sacrifice to grant a wish.”
Claire pulled her face back to look at him. “Who told you that?”
She leaned back into him. “She never mentioned anything to me about that.”
“Maybe you’re not the one to offer a sacrifice.” Maybe Mrs. Adams had meant this only for him—without knowing what his wish was—because he was the one asking for the impossible, and his wish demanded a sacrifice.
“What if it’s all a lie?” she mused. “What if the spring does nothing? What will you do then?”
“What will I do?”
“Yes, you. If you found out tonight that the spring doesn’t work, what would you do tomorrow?”
He’d thought about it ever since he’d decided to come to the island. “I would go to the beach and wait there until the sun rose.” He wouldn’t seek shelter from it, but allow the sun to turn him into dust and the ocean surf to sweep his remains away as if he’d never existed.
“Yes, your life would just go on. I wish it were the same for me.”
Jake didn’t correct her assumption. He heard the rising tears in Claire’s voice, but he wouldn’t allow her to cry. Not as long as she was with him. At least for tonight he wanted her to feel joy and pleasure.
“Come to the beach with me, now. And I’ll make you forget the things you want to forget. Just for tonight. Just you and me. The world around us doesn’t exist. The spring doesn’t exist.”
She didn’t pull away from him despite his outrageous offer. Instead he felt her nod. “Yes, make me forget, just for a little while.” Then she lifted her head and looked at him. “You must think me easy.”
He moved his head from side to side. “Do you think me easy?”
Clearly surprised at his question, she shook her head. “No.”
“Then why would I find you easy? Just because you allow yourself to say yes to something you want? I don’t judge people who follow their desires.” Jake lowered his head until his lips hovered over hers. “You still have a chance to change your mind, but once I kiss you—”
He didn’t get an opportunity to finish his sentence, because Claire leaned in and kissed him. Stunned and elated at the same time he savored her soft lips for an altogether too-brief moment, before she pulled back again.
“I won’t change my mind.” Her whispered words blew against his face.
Without waiting for the song to end, he led her toward the bar, tossed a twenty on it and left without another word. It didn’t matter what the bartender thought of them. Finding his bearings, he turned into the next side street and headed northwest.
The beach was deserted. And just like he’d thought he’d seen from his bedroom window, there was a small shed. He approached it and read the sign on it: Beach Rentals. A small padlock denied access to the contents of the shed. He reached for the lock.
“What are you doing? You’re not going to break in, are you?”
He winked at her. “Let’s live on the wild side for tonight.” Then he moved so she couldn’t see how he was opening the lock: with pure vampire strength.
The shed contained what he was looking for: cushions for the lounge chairs that were neatly stacked up next to the shed. He pulled two of them out and spread them in the sand, creating a makeshift bed.
When he caught her still stunned look, he put his arm around her waist and drew her against his body. “Trust me; we’ll both be more comfortable that way.”
“I’m not looking for comfortable.” Her lids swung open, her lashes almost crashing into her eyebrows.
God, she was beautiful. It hit him right there—that this beauty would be gone from this world very soon. That knowledge squeezed his heart like an iron fist clamping around it. The pain was palpable even though he shouldn’t feel any physical pain.
Jake brought his lips to hers, almost touching them, but not quite. “What are you looking for?”
“To feel alive.”
“Just alive? I can do better than that, darling.”
Her lips were soft and yielding when he slid his mouth over them and captured them gently. There was no hurry. The sun wouldn’t rise for another seven hours. He had time to make leisurely love to her. To give her everything she needed, just so she would feel cherished once more.
Claire wore a light dress, and pressed against his short-sleeved cotton shirt and his linen pants, he could feel every curve of her body. She wasn’t voluptuous by any stretch of the imagination, but she was well proportioned. Pulling her closer, he slipped his hand onto her backside, palming the alluring swell.
A soft moan issued from her throat. He swallowed it just as her lips opened, allowing him to sweep her tongue inside to explore her. Tasting her sweet essence, his body hardened, one appendage more so than the rest of his body: his cock, while already semi-erect when he’d danced with her, now surged to its fully erect state.
He couldn’t resist and pressed his hips more firmly into her soft center, letting her feel what she’d done to him. In response, she lowered her hands down to his backside. He could feel her fingernails digging themselves hard into his flesh, a feeling he welcomed more than she could know.
He’d always loved it when his vampire lovers had dug their claws into him, drawing blood while he drove his cock into them. He wished for the same thing now, for some fierce lovemaking, a no-holds-barred experience.
His fangs began to itch at the very thought of it, and he could feel them lengthen. Desperate to keep his vampire side from emerging, he ripped his mouth from hers and lifted her off her feet. Then he lowered her to lie on the lounge cushions he’d spread out.
He searched for the zipper of her dress and lowered it. Like a shy virgin, she looked away, but he wouldn’t have any of it.
“Claire,” he prompted her, drawing her gaze back onto him. “I want you to watch me undress.”
He noticed her swallow hard. But she said nothing. Slowly, he opened the buttons of his shirt, then shed the garment. Her eyes danced to his chest. She pulled her lower lip between her teeth, showing him her appreciation. When her gaze dropped to his pants, his heart suddenly beat faster. Claire was looking at the bulge that had formed behind the zipper, all shyness gone now.
When she licked her lips, he groaned involuntarily.
Jake opened his pants and stepped out of them, leaving him only with his boxer briefs. They stretched tightly over his ever-growing erection. When he looked down at himself, he noticed that a drop of moisture had oozed from it and was showing through the fabric.
He was sure she saw it, too, the moonlight providing sufficient light even for a human’s eyes to see. Standing above her, he hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his boxer briefs then shoved them lower until he’d freed his cock. Cool night air blew against his hard-on, but it did nothing to quell the raging organ.
Claire was still staring at him, her eyes wide, her lips parted, when he rid himself of the garment. Her chest heaved, and he could see her hard nipples press through the fabric of her dress.
“Now you. Undress for me.”
He lowered himself onto his knees, close enough so nothing would escape his watchful eye.
With hesitant movements she pushed one strap off her shoulders, revealing creamy skin, then she dropped the second one and pulled on the fabric, exposing more of her skin. The top of her breasts came into view, then a second later, the perfectly round mounds topped with hard rosy nipples lay bare.
Jake sucked in a gulp of air. “You’re beautiful. So perfect.”
Encouraged by his words, she pushed the fabric lower. When she reached her hips, she paused.
“Show me more,” he demanded.
Claire pushed the dress below her hips and freed herself from it. She wore the tiniest panties he’d seen in a long time, the triangle of fabric barely covering her dark nest of hair, the strings holding it up so thin, he knew if he touched them, he would rip the garment to shreds. And that was exactly what he wanted to do.
When her hand went to her panties, he stopped her. “Wait.”
She gave him a startled look. “I thought you wanted me to undress.”
“I’ve changed my mind.” He went onto his hands and knees and crawled closer. “I want to do the rest myself, unless you object.”
She leaned back with a smile. “I don’t object.”
For a long moment, he simply looked at her, drinking in the sight. “I could look at you forever and not get tired of it.”
Claire chuckled softly and blushed. “You don’t have to say that.”
He leaned over her. “It’s true.” Then he lowered his head to her breasts and licked his tongue over one nipple.
A strangled moan came from her lips, and her body arched toward him.
“Just like I guessed,” he whispered against her warm flesh. “Perfect.”
Then he captured the nipple between his lips and sucked on it, while he palmed her other breast and kneaded it until she was writhing underneath him, her arousal now permeating the air around him. She tasted young and pure, so unspoiled he almost forgot what life had in store for her. But he didn’t want to think of it, not now, not when he wanted to give her more pleasure than she’d had in her entire life.
This night was for Claire, even though he knew he would get his fair share of pleasure, too. Just watching the way her body moved and her heart beat against her ribcage filled his heart with pride—and his cock with more blood, making him as hard as the rocks the surf was crashing against.
The moonlight bathed her in a warm light, the way sunlight could never achieve. It lent her face an almost mystical glow as if she wasn’t real and only a figment of his imagination. And maybe she was; maybe he was dreaming in order to try to escape the monotony of his long life. It didn’t matter, because what he sensed underneath his roaming hands felt real: warm flesh, smooth skin, hot blood. She was the personification of perfection.
As he continued to lavish her breasts with kisses and caresses, his hand moved lower, stroking along her torso until he reached her panties. He slid his fingers between fabric and skin, exploring the coarse hair that guarded her sex.
A hitched breath escaped from Claire’s lips as he moved lower, but at the same time her hips tilted toward him in invitation.
“Yes, darling, I’m here,” he encouraged her and slipped lower, encountering warm and moist flesh that felt as smooth as silk. He bathed his fingers in her arousal, coating them with it before he moved back north.
“Oh, God!” she called out.
His experienced fingers found the tiny swollen organ that lay protected by a hood. He pulled the hood up, exposing her clit fully and slid one moist finger over it. Claire nearly leapt off the ground, her heartbeat accelerating in the same instant.
His own body heated when the scent of her arousal grew stronger. His cock pressed against her thigh, impatiently waiting to get its turn. But it would have to wait a little while longer.
With slow and steady movements, he circled the swollen bundle of nerves underneath his fingers. He kept his touch light, savoring the moment. She was at his mercy now. With his touch, he could command her body and give her pleasure. There would be no escape for her now. No turning back.
“For tonight you’ll be mine,” he murmured against her breasts. And he would take everything she was willing to give him—and more, he realized that too now. Because she had awakened not just the desire for sex in him, but a darker desire. One she would not freely agree to.
Suddenly impatient, he pulled his hand from her sex and gripped her panties. With one rapid movement, he ripped them off her.
“Fuck it,” he cursed and lowered himself between her legs, spreading them wider before lowering his head to her glistening pussy. He slung her legs over his shoulders, one to each side of his head and sunk his mouth onto her.
Surprised gasps echoed through the night. “Jake, oh my God!” she cried out. “You don’t have to…”
But her voice died when his tongue lapped over her slit, gathering her arousal. Her taste was intoxicating and invigorating at the same time. He sucked, nibbled, and licked, leaving no spot unexplored. She was beautiful in every way. Her body welcomed him and opened up to his caresses, to his tender ministrations as he now stroked his tongue over her clit and lavished it with gentle touches.
He loved the way she responded to him, the way she lay in front of him, spread out for him to do with as he pleased. His own excitement rose when he felt her body tense and press against him with more urgency. The sounds of pleasure coming from her intensified and spurred him on to give her more. Without removing his lips and tongue from her clit, he brought his hand to her sex and stroked against her soft folds. He extended his middle finger and probed, easing it into her with one continuous slow thrust.
Her muscles clamped around him tightly—more tightly than he would have expected. How long had it been since a man had touched her there? Since a man had driven his cock into her? The thought that nobody had done so in a long time, made him even more impatient to seat himself in her clenching pussy.
“Yes,” she moaned. “Oh please yes.”
Claire begging for it nearly made him spill. Fuck! He couldn’t hold back much longer if she continued like that.
Driving his finger harder into her, he sucked her clit deeper into his mouth and pressed his lips together. Her body erupted, the waves of her orgasm ripping through her and crashing against his lips. Her interior muscles spasmed around his finger, gripping him so firmly that he thought she’d never release him. Not that he would have cared. He loved being inside her.
It took minutes for her body to still and for Jake to remove his lips from her sweet sex. When he did so and looked at her, her eyes were closed. She breathed heavily.
“I’ve gotta be inside you now,” he told her and positioned himself between her legs, bringing his cock to her center.
Claire’s eyes opened slowly and a soft smile played around her lips. “Yes,” she whispered breathlessly. “Let me feel you.”
“You’ve made me so hard,” he pressed out between clenched teeth, barely able to prevent his fangs from descending. His hunger was pushing to the forefront now.
Unable to slow himself down, he thrust inside her with one powerful move, robbing her of the air in her lungs. As she took a breath, her eyes widened.
“Oh my god, you’re big. Even bigger than earlier.”
Most vampires were. Sex was part and parcel of who they were, and once turned, their vampire blood ensured their cocks were hard and big to pleasure their female partners and give them what they needed. With every stroke he became harder. Coated in her juices and submerged in her body, everything male in him surged to life.
Claire’s eyes rolled back and her mouth dropped open, her nipples turning into hard points once more. “Oh God!” she mumbled.
“I told you, you’ll feel more than just alive.” He smiled down at her and continued to drive in and out of her, increasing his speed. His body found its own rhythm, fucking her hard and fast. He pulled her legs up, spreading her wider in the process, plunging deeper. Her pussy gripped him even tighter now. On her face, he saw the signs of pure pleasure. Her skin took on a healthy tone now, making her look even more beautiful.
He wished he could have gone on forever, but her channel was clenching around him, and the scent of her arousal almost drove him insane with lust. Knowing she was as close as he, he increased his tempo and let himself go.
He felt the rush of his semen through his cock just as her interior muscles spasmed as her orgasm broke. He joined her, thrusting into oblivion with one last stroke, spilling inside her.
Breathing heavily, he dropped his head to the crook of her neck. “You’re perfect,” he repeated once more and kissed her neck only to realize that his fangs had descended.
He knew what his vampire side demanded from him now. And he couldn’t deny himself what he’d craved ever since he’d first touched her: her blood.
“Claire,” he said softly, whispering into her ear. “I can’t stop.”
He licked over the plump vein in her neck and peeled his lips back from his teeth. When his fangs touched her smooth skin, he sensed her shiver beneath him.
Using his suggestive powers, powers every vampire possessed, he sent his thoughts to her.
Feel my kiss. Feel my lips caress you, my tongue lick you.
Then he sank his fangs into her neck and pierced her vein. Rich blood ran over his tongue and down his throat, revitalizing his body. All the while Claire was fully conscious and aware of everything around her—his cock gently thrusting into her, his hands caressing her—except for one thing: she believed that he was kissing her neck, not biting her.
Claire moaned softly.
“Yes. Take from me,” she murmured.
Shock coursed through him. Was she aware of what he was doing? Or was she merely drowning in the wave of sexual bliss that his bite was heightening?
Could she feel him? Damn it, he wanted her to feel him. To know he was drinking her blood, though he knew it wasn’t wise. He wanted her to know what he was: a creature of the night, a man who thirsted for human blood; a vampire.
He sent a question into her mind. Claire, do you like what I’m doing? He sucked harder on her vein while he thrust in and out of her sex.
Yes, darling, I’ll give you more.
Because he wanted more, too. More of Claire.
Claire had woken in her own bed, alone, her body still humming from a night of lovemaking with Jake. To her surprise, she wore her nightgown. For a moment she lay there, daydreaming. She felt no regret having given herself to a stranger she’d met only hours earlier. In fact, it had been liberating to be with a man who knew nothing about her. She could just pretend to be who she wanted to be: a young woman who had her life ahead of her.
She couldn’t remember how she’d gotten back to her room. And she’d had strange dreams: of Jake biting her neck while he made love to her the second time. She’d enjoyed it, loved the way it had made her feel. She shook her head at the strange notion and got out of bed.
Instantly she swayed, her head suddenly pounding. A sharp stab of pain radiated through her. “Oh God, no!” she whimpered. Another attack was imminent. She searched her room for her handbag and found it sitting on a chair. She rushed to it and opened it, rummaging through it, trying to find her pills. But she couldn’t see them. Frantically she spilled the contents of her bag onto the bed, but her pill bottle was not among them.
Another stab of pain assaulted her. She gripped the bed frame for support, waiting for the wave to pass. Then she ran to the door. She had to get Mrs. Adams to call the doctor who she’d seen a few days earlier.
As she grabbed the door knob, her eyes fell onto the dresser next to it. On it stood her pill bottle, a neatly written note underneath it.
I found it in the hallway, it said on stationary belonging to Sunseekers Inn.
Relieved, she snatched the bottle, twisted its top off and popped two pills into her mouth. She swallowed them down with the last swig of the water from the bottle that stood on her nightstand.
Her heart beat frantically now, and none of the bliss she’d felt last night was left. Her illness was encroaching further and further into her life, trying to wipe out any joy she had.
She didn’t want to wither away and have the last image of her life be that of excruciating pain. No, the thing she wanted to remember was the pleasure she’d felt when making love to Jake. She wouldn’t allow her illness to overshadow that. That’s why she had to take charge of her life—or rather, her death.
She’d never truly believed in the power of the hot spring. She’d lied to herself, not wanting to confront the inevitable. But now she was strong enough. She’d felt something beautiful the night before, and she wanted to leave this world while this memory was still strong in her mind. For a few hours she’d been happy. It was all she could have hoped for.
Ignoring the pain in her head she set her bag on the bed and started packing, even though where she was going, she couldn’t take anything with her.
~ ~ ~
Jake woke from an uneasy sleep. During the entire day, he’d drifted in and out of sleep, which was unusual for him. But the events of the previous night had shaken him. His mind couldn’t rest; it was working overtime. It wasn’t fair that Claire should die so young, when he was contemplating taking his own life. How ironic was that? She wanted to live and would die, whereas he wanted to die and would live forever. Life was cruel.
Last night he’d felt needed for the first time in his life. Needed by another person. He’d been able to give Claire pleasure and make her feel desired because he desired her. More than he’d desired any other woman before. Was it because he wanted to save her? Or was it more? Had he finally met a woman who could give him the purpose in his life that he so desperately craved? Had he found somebody to take care of, somebody to give his soul to?
And what about the reason that had brought him to the island? If the hot spring really had any powers, then why wasn’t it granting Claire’s wish? Or did it indeed need a sacrifice, one that he could make?
He had to speak to Claire. After last night he felt close to her, and he hoped she felt the same. If she did, there was something he could offer her. But it had to be her choice.
Impatient for the sun to set, Jake took a shower and got dressed. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, he tore out of his room and headed for Claire’s. He knocked at the door, but there was no answer. He tried the door knob and it turned. When he looked inside the room, he jerked back involuntarily: the bed was made and the room was empty. All of Claire’s personal effects were gone.
Panicked, he rushed downstairs and found Mrs. Adams behind the reception counter.
“Miss Culver, where is she?” he asked without as much as a greeting.
Mrs. Adams raised her eyebrows and gave him a curious look. “She checked out.”
His heart stopped. “Where did she go?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did she say to you? She must have said something.” He didn’t care that he sounded desperate.
Mrs. Adams frowned. “Now that you’re asking. Well, hmm, she said she was ready to leave now. When I asked her where she was heading, she just said where there is no pain.”
His heart clenched. “And you didn’t stop her?” But he didn’t wait for her answer and instead charged out of the house.
Jake stared into the night. Where would she go to end it all? Where would he go? For a moment he let his mind travel, then he could see the place where he would go to end his life: the last place where he’d been happy.
He ran as fast as he could, not caring if anybody saw him and wondered how a man could run as fast as a car. He had to get to Claire. His legs carried him to the beach where they’d made love the night before. He passed the shed, his eyes scanning the shore, when he perceived a movement, where the waves crashed against a small outcropping of rocks.
Claire stood there at the ledge, looking into the distance.
“Claire!” he screamed, but she didn’t turn her head. She probably couldn’t hear him over the surf that had already drenched her clothes.
He sprinted toward the rocks, his feet sinking into the wet sand with every forceful step. But he didn’t let this slow him down. He knew he had to reach her, because her intention was evident from the way she leaned toward the waves. Any second now, she would jump, and the surf would swallow her up and slam her against the rocks.
He couldn’t let it happen. And suddenly he knew that there was a way for both of them to get their wish. As he ran toward her and raced up the rocks, he finally realized what his heart’s true desire was. It wasn’t to be mortal again; it was to regain his humanity, to feel needed, to feel loved. Claire was the key. That’s why he was here. Not for the magical spring, but to save her.
And he couldn’t fail now. Not when he was so close. Not when so much was at stake.
As he reached the top of the rocks, another big wave crashed, hitting Claire.
He stretched out his arms, barreling toward her, but the wave swept her up, made her lose her footing.
“Nooooooo!” The scream dislodged from his throat as he lunged for her with superhuman strength and speed. His fingers found purchase, wrapping around her arm. He pulled her from the clutches of the dark ocean, dragging her toward him, holding her tightly to him, as the next wave already built. But by the time it crashed against the rocks, he’d already carried Claire to safety.
She seemed dazed in his arms as he carried her to the beach and brought them down in the dry sand. Finally, relief flooded him, and he dared breathe again.
A sob tore from her. “Why didn’t you let me die, Jake?”
“Shh, darling,” he cooed.
She struggled in his arms, pushing against him. “I have brain cancer. I can’t take the pain any longer…”
He drew her closer to his chest and stroked his palm over her wet hair, feeling her shiver. “I know, darling.”
She braced her hands against his chest, pushing him. “You knew?”
“I found your pill bottle. Mrs. Adams told me the rest.”
Another sob tore from her chest. “Is that why you slept with me? Because you pitied me?”
“No! I made love to you because I desire you. I want you more than anything else in this life.” It was the truth, though he had no idea how it had happened. Maybe it was fate. Or maybe it was the magical spring.
More tears streamed over her cheeks. With his thumb he wiped them away.
“Claire, what I tell you now might seem fantastic, but it’s the truth. Do you think you can keep an open mind?”
“You want to live, don’t you?”
A sob bigger than the previous one disturbed the night.
“Then I have a solution for you. The spring worked, Claire. Because it brought us together. You’ve wished for a cure. I can give you one.”
Her big blue eyes stared at him, half in hope, half in doubt. “How?”
“I’m a vampire, Claire, I’m immortal, and I can give you immortality.”
He watched her eyes as her expression changed to disbelief. “No.” She shook her head and pulled back. “No.”
“It’s true. And you know it. Deep down you know, don’t you?” He focused his gaze on the spot on her neck where he’d bitten her the night before.
Her hand came up to touch that same spot.
“You know it because you felt it last night. You sensed my bite.”
Her lips parted as if she wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Then she stroked over her neck. “I dreamed it.”
“It wasn’t a dream. When I made love to you the second time, I used my suggestive powers to make you believe my bite was just a kiss. But I think I didn’t use my powers to their full extent, because deep down I wanted you to know what I was doing.”
Slowly, realization seemed to settle in. “You drank my blood.”
He nodded and put his hand on her neck, brushing over the bite mark. Only he and other vampires could see it. To humans, the mark was invisible. “And I loved it. Let me give you something in return. Let me help you.”
“How?” she whispered and looked straight at him.
“I can turn you into a vampire. It will wipe out any illness or disease you have. You’ll be immortal and without pain.”
“Immortal? And how would I live? In the dark? Drinking blood?” Her lips trembled.
“The dark can be beautiful.” He pointed to the canopy of stars in the night sky. “Even in the dark there’s light, there’s beauty.”
“And the blood?” she whispered.
“There are ways. You wouldn’t have to feed directly from humans if you didn’t want to. Though you might grow to like it. But if you don’t, there are always blood banks.”
She looked at him for a long while, clearly contemplating his words. “I’m scared.”
Jake reached for her, stroking his knuckles over her cheek. “I know. But I’ll be here for you.”
Slowly she moved her head closer. “Why would you do that for me? Didn’t you come here with a wish, too?”
He smiled. “Do you know what I wished for?”
She shook her head.
“To be mortal again.” He sighed. “But I understand now that it wasn’t my heart’s true desire. It wasn’t my mortality I wanted.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know because I’m holding my heart’s true desire in my arms right now. I know now that I was drawn to this island so I could meet you and fulfill your wish.”
“So the spring really does work?”
He kissed her. “Yes. But only for those who are prepared to open their eyes and trust in the impossible. So, Claire, do you trust me to give you a second life?”
Slowly, she nodded. “I trust you. I don’t know why, but I do.”
“It won’t hurt,” he promised. “I’ll drain you of your human blood, and at your last heartbeat, I’ll feed you mine. When you wake, you’ll be like me, a creature of the night.”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“I promise you it will work.”
She swallowed and her voice trembled when she spoke her next words. “When I wake, will you be there?” Her eyes glimmered with hope.
“Claire, I want a life with you. If you want that, too, I’ll be there for you through eternity as your lover. If you don’t, I’ll be by your side as your friend. The choice is yours.”
There was no hesitation in her voice when she responded to him. “Bite me, my lover.” She closed her eyes and whispered again, “My lover for eternity.”
His heart jumping with joy, he lowered his lips to her neck and pierced her skin with his fangs. He sucked on the plump vein, feeling Claire shiver. To reassure her that she would be safe, he caressed her tenderly and sent his thoughts to her.
Easy, darling. All will be fine soon. Trust me. I’ll keep you safe.
The more blood he took from her, the more her heartbeat slowed. His own heart beat faster now. It had been a long time since he’d turned a human, and the process wasn’t without risk. If he gave her his blood too early, the turning wouldn’t take and she would die suffering excruciating pain. Equally, if he waited too long, she would die, though it would be as if she merely fell asleep. Neither of those two scenarios was acceptable. He needed for Claire to live. He’d promised her.
I’ll keep you safe, he repeated once more and removed his fangs from her neck, then pierced his own wrist. Blood dripped from it.
“Now,” he murmured to himself.
The darkness around her was suddenly retreating, making space for warmth and light. She wasn’t sure what the source of the light was, but she could feel it shine against her closed lids. Around her was softness. Her ears picked up different sounds, some distant, some close by. Her gums itched, and involuntarily, she ground her teeth.
The fog that had been her constant companion for the last year and the pain that had overshadowed her life were gone. In its stead she felt strength and power, an energy that seemed unreal. Even before her illness she’d never felt like this.
The sound of her name being spoken drifted to her. As if somebody was calling her to leave the beautiful dream world she was in. She didn’t want to listen to it, didn’t want to leave the place where she felt no pain.
“Claire, stay with me.”
She recognized that voice. Jake’s voice. Her lover from the night before. A stranger, yet she’d never felt closer to anyone.
Her lips parted to speak, and only then did she realize that she hadn’t been breathing. Air rushed into her lungs, filling them, expanding them. A gasp escaped on her first exhale. Her eyes flew open at the same time. While she tried to focus them, memories rushed back. Memories of her body being drained of blood, of her heartbeat slowing. Memories of her getting a new life. A second chance.
“I’m alive,” she murmured, glancing around. She wasn’t at the beach anymore. She lay on a bed, naked beneath the sheets. The shutters of the window were closed, but she could tell that it was daylight outside.
Jake sat at the edge of the bed. “Yes, alive and immortal.” His impossibly blue eyes pinned her, his lips curving into a smile. “I brought you to my room.” He gently brushed a strand of her hair from her forehead. “I undressed and bathed you. You were soaked.” He motioned to his own nude torso and the towel that was wrapped around his lower half. “And so was I.”
She nodded and raised her hand to touch his chest. Beneath her fingers sparks seemed to ignite. Surprised, she met his eyes. “You feel different.”
He captured her hand and pressed it to the spot where his heart beat, steady and strong. “All your senses are more pronounced now. Everything you touch feels more real, more intense. Everything you see is sharper, the colors more vibrant. Your sense of smell is better than any animal’s, your hearing more sensitive than ever.”
She could feel everything he was describing. And more. Slowly, she ran her hand down his torso, until her fingers brushed up against the towel. “And my appetite for sex?”
Jake bent closer, a seductive smile playing around his lips. “More insatiable than you can imagine.” He winked. “But I’m happy to oblige.”
He took her hand and pressed it against the towel. Beneath it, she felt the hard outline of his cock.
“Mmm.” She squeezed his erection and felt her clit throb in response. “I need to feel you.”
She licked her lips and felt her gums itch at the same time. Taking a hasty breath, she opened her mouth wider. She sensed her fangs descending.
“Beautiful.” Jake’s eyes darkened and he stroked his index finger over her lips, before rubbing it over one fang.
A bolt of energy charged through her, and she gasped. Never had she felt anything as intensely as Jake touching her there. “Oh God! What’s happening?”
He moved closer, his lips now only inches from her mouth. “Fangs are a vampire’s most erogenous zone. Touching you there, licking you there, will feel to you as if I were touching and licking your pussy. I can make you come just by licking your fangs.” And judging by the glint in his eyes, he wanted to do just that.
The thought aroused her, made all kinds of wanton ideas swamp her mind. Was this what it meant to be a vampire? To be ruled by ones desires, ones basest instincts? More than one of those instincts reared its head already. She swallowed hard.
“I’m…” She didn’t know how to express what she needed.
“Thirsty? I know. It’s natural. I have human blood for you.” He pointed to a bag in a corner of the room. “But first…” He locked eyes with hers. “I want the first blood you drink to be mine. I want you to remember your first bite as something beautiful.”
Her eyes widened. “Bite you? Another vampire?”
“Yes. It’s common among lovers. It heightens the pleasure. And you wanted me as your lover, didn’t you? Or did you change your mind?” A flicker of uncertainty appeared in his mesmerizing eyes.
She hastened to dispel his doubts, cupping his cheek. “I want you.” She dropped her gaze to the artery that pulsed at his neck and ran her finger over the tempting spot. What would it feel like to bite him and drink his blood?
A second later, Jake tossed the towel to the floor, revealing his erect cock, and pulled back the duvet. He ran his eyes over her naked body, and the admiration and desire in them made her heart beat faster. She reached for him, pulled him down to her.
Surprised at her own strength, she smiled. “I think I’m going to like this.”
Tenderly he caressed her neck, trailing his fingers along her pulsing vein. “As will I. Now that you’re as strong as I, I won’t have to be careful anymore not to hurt you. When I took you the night on the beach, I had to hold back.”
“It didn’t feel like you were holding back.”
He chuckled. “You’ve seen nothing yet.”
At the thought of making love to Jake, she felt a shudder race through her, while butterflies seemed to swirl in her stomach. “Then show me. I want to experience everything. I want to live fully now. Without holding back.”
“Anything you want, darling.”
He nudged his cock at her center. The contact of hard male flesh to soft female flesh was more electrifying than the first time. Every nerve ending in her body seemed to be on overdrive, sending impressions back to her brain, sensations that were so intense she could hardly believe they were her own.
Claire spread her legs wider, making space to accommodate him, and he didn’t lose any time and plunged into her to the hilt. She welcomed the forceful invasion with a moan, loving the way he filled her. While she’d always been one to enjoy slow and gentle lovemaking, she had the feeling that she would very quickly get addicted to the wild and passionate sex Jake was promising.
There was nothing hesitant or slow about the way he thrust into her, his cock impaling her. Deep and hard. Powerful and fast. Relentless. She wrapped her legs around him, her ankles locking below his butt, and every time he drove into her, she pulled him deeper, demanding he give her more.
His eyes pinned her, a red rim around his irises, an orange glow spreading. His lips were parted, showing the tips of his fangs, and by God, how the sight turned her on. He was all vampire now. Powerful, immortal, and all hers.
“Bite me,” he murmured, tilting his head to the side and bringing his neck to her lips. “Taste me.” He rocked harder into her and growled. “And later, when you’re exhausted from your orgasms, I’ll fuck your pretty mouth.”
The erotic image snapped the last thread of her self-control. Her fangs extended to their full length, and even if she’d wanted to, she wouldn’t have been able to stop her next action. She set her fangs at the spot where his neck and shoulder connected and licked over the glistening skin. The salty taste only heightened her thirst, and she pierced his vein with the sharp tips, lodging them deep in his flesh. If he tried to move away, her sharp canines would rip his flesh, but Jake didn’t jerk back. Instead, he plunged his cock deeper, just as she pulled on his vein and took her first conscious taste of his blood. Though he’d turned her by giving her his blood, she had no memory of it.
This was her first true taste of Jake. His blood was rich and thick; its taste sent a thrill into every cell of her body, awakening everything that was female and vampire in her. She sucked harder, needing more of this addicting elixir he so freely offered.
“Fuck!” he ground out and shuddered. “It’s too good!”
She felt him spasm inside her, flooding her with his essence, but still he didn’t slow down, didn’t stop his relentless thrusts. He shifted his angle and continued, his cock just as hard as before his orgasm, while she swallowed his blood and let it permeate her body, sending a tingling through all her cells.
Her orgasm came without any preamble, simply hit her out of nowhere and swallowed her like an ocean wave. Gasping, she pulled her fangs from Jake’s neck, her body spasming.
“Yes, that’s it, darling!” he praised and rocked inside her a few more times, before he pulled out of her.
Before disappointment about the abrupt end to their lovemaking had time to spread, he’d already rolled her onto her stomach and pulled her ass up in the air. A second later, he was back inside her, his impossibly hard cock fucking her from behind.
She cried out in pleasure and surprise. “Jake!”
“I told you I wouldn’t hold back.” He gripped her hips tightly and slammed into her.
“But you already came,” she managed to say, lifting herself onto her elbows.
“I drank pints of your blood. I’m going to be hard for a very long time, no matter how many orgasms I have.”
The revelation made the fire in her belly burn even brighter. Her vampire lover would make love to her until they both couldn’t move another limb. And right now, he was taking her so hard, plowing into her from behind, that a human woman would have screamed in agony. Yet, she, Claire Culver, newly turned vampire, welcomed every thrust of his hard cock into her soft center, craving more the more Jake gave her.
“Fuck me, Jake!” she cried out, not caring if anybody in the Bed and Breakfast could hear them.
He pounded into her, gripping her so tightly that despite her new vampire strength she wouldn’t have been able to escape him.
“Did you like my blood?” he asked breathlessly, his voice a mere growl now.
“I loved it.” It was the truth.
As if he wanted to thank her for her answer, he slipped one hand to her front and found her clit with unerring precision. He rubbed his moist finger over it, once, twice, and she erupted once more. An orgasm more powerful than the first washed over her. Jake shuddered at the same time, more of his semen spilling inside her, lubricating her channel even more.
“Fuck, yeah!” he groaned and slowed, while her pussy still quivered with aftershocks.
~ ~ ~
Still shaking from his second orgasm, Jake pulled from her sheath. He couldn’t get enough of Claire. But he didn’t want to steamroll her either. He had to assure himself that she really wanted this, that she really like being fucked like this. After all, there was no way she could have guessed how wild he’d get in bed, and how insatiable he truly was.
Gently, he turned her back onto her back. Her eyes gleamed with satisfaction, her heartbeat raced, and her skin glistened with sweat. She reached for him. He bent down to her and kissed her, tenderly at first, but within seconds, the kiss turned heated. With a moan, he ripped his lips from her.
“God, Claire, you’re driving me insane.” He shoved a hand through his damp hair and threw his head back. “The things I want to do to you… How I want to take you, make you mine…” He sighed. “If you don’t stop me, I’m going to take you every which way I can. And I mean every. So you’d better put the brakes on, or I can’t guarantee what’ll happen.”
Her eyes turned molten. By God, she was all vampire, through and through. Down to the insatiable lust for sex. He’d done that to her. But had she really wanted this? Had she truly chosen this?
She opened her eyes wider, her lashes crashing against her brows, a motion so seductive, it robbed him of his breath. Her tongue emerged, licking over her lower lip. She knew exactly how she was tempting him. Luring him.
“That night at the beach,” she murmured, her hand sliding down to his ass. “When you bit me while you made love to me the second time, I could feel that you wanted to take me harder, but you restrained yourself.”
“You made me so wild, your blood… it only added to my desire for you.”
“It felt good. All of it. The bite; your cock inside me; feeling that you wanted me.”
“I still want you. Now even more.”
“Then take me any way you want to, because I want the same. I want to experience everything with you. No holding back.”
“A woman after my own heart.” He lifted himself off her and got out of bed, pulling her with him.
“What are you doing?”
He led her toward the bathroom. “I want to shower with you, and then I want you on your knees in front of me, sucking my cock as if it’s the best thing you’ve ever had.”
When her eyes started to glow only the way a vampire’s could, his heart jumped with joy.
“Under one condition.”
He froze. “Condition?” He wasn’t used to a woman making demands.
Claire molded her luscious body to his, bringing her mouth to his ear. “Don’t pull out before I’m done with you. I don’t want to spill a single drop.”
He sandwiched her between his body and the door frame. “God, woman! What are you trying to do to me?”
“I just want to please you.”
He sank his hungry mouth onto hers, silencing her so she couldn’t utter any more seductive words, while he lifted her up and slid her onto his cock. He took her right there against the wall until another orgasm had calmed him enough so he could proceed with his original plan of watching Claire kneel in front of him, his cock in her beautiful mouth, while he thrust back and forth, claiming one more part of her.
Three months later – New York City
Jake cursed and slammed the guy into the wall next to a dumpster, noticing from the corner of his eye how Claire was already taking care of the young woman the man had attacked and clearly planned to rape.
No matter how often he and Claire roamed the streets of Manhatten at night, there seemed to be an endless supply of criminals. But even though at first he’d vowed not to get involved in humans’ problems, one look at Claire’s pleading face, and he knew that he couldn’t deny her anything. God, how he’d grown to love this woman. It was time to tell her just how much.
“You know we have to help them,” she’d said shortly after their arrival in New York, when they’d come upon a man robbing an elderly couple at gunpoint. “If we don’t do it, who will?”
So he’d given in. And—grudgingly—he had to admit to himself that he liked helping people, saving those who couldn’t save themselves. And the more humans he and Claire saved the more of his humanity he seemed to regain. The goodness in Claire’s heart was contagious, and she’d clearly infected him with it. Though there was no way in hell he’d admit it to anybody. After all, who’d ever heard of a nice vampire?
“She’s hurt,” Claire advised him now, while she tried to calm the scared woman.
In the meantime, he’d take care of the jerk, who was now getting back onto his feet and turning around, fists at the ready. Jake grunted with satisfaction. He loved beating up assholes, and when they tried to put up a fight, it was even more fun. And most of the time he didn’t even use his vampire powers to exact punishment. He got more satisfaction out of it when he traded kicks and blows with his opponent and let him believe—if only for a while—that they were matched in strength.
Jake slammed his fist into the guy’s face, hearing the bones in his nose break. A cry of pain echoed through the night, and the scent of blood permeated the air in the dark alley. Involuntarily, his fangs lengthened and he didn’t bother hiding them from the human. The jerk deserved to feel fear.
Jake glared at his opponent, peeling back his lips from his gums to give him a good view of his deadly canines.
“Fuck!” the man croaked and stumbled backward.
Jake tilted his head to the side. “Yeah, you could say that.” Slowly, he crossed the distance, pulled his arm back and landed a blow in the guy’s gut, making him nearly fold in half.
“No! Please,” he whimpered. “Don’t kill me!”
He had no intention of killing him. It wouldn’t be punishment for what he’d done to the young woman. How he’d scared her.
Jake pressed the guy against the wall and brought his face to within a few inches of his, fangs extended. “Not tonight. But you touch another woman, you as much as look at one, I’m going to rip you to shreds.” He snarled, pausing to let the sound echo off the walls. “I’ll be watching you. You’re not safe from me anywhere. Know that. One false move, and I’ll be hunting you like an animal.”
The man trembled with fear. He fairly smelled of it.
Teeth chattering, he managed to nod.
“Good. As for your goodbye present…”
Jake pounded into the despicable human, breaking his jaw and bloodying his eyes, before he kicked him toward the exit of the alley. “Run if you want to live.”
He watched with satisfaction as the injured assailant staggered toward the next street. When he turned a corner, Jake retracted his fangs. Then he pivoted and marched to where Claire was taking care of the young woman.
He crouched down next to them and quickly assessed the human’s injuries. She had lacerations on her arms and hands, as well as her neck and face. But the wounds weren’t deep. The shock and fear were clearly the bigger problem.
But it appeared that Claire was already taking care of that, because the victim’s eyes appeared to be focusing on nothing, as if she were in a trance.
“You’re using mind control?”
Claire looked at him for a moment. “Just like you taught me. Her injuries aren’t severe, but I don’t want her to have those memories.”
He nodded. “I agree.”
Claire looked back at the woman and concentrated on her. He watched her, noticing how calm and self-assured she was. As she sent her thoughts into the woman’s mind, erasing the memory of the attack, he noticed Claire’s fingernails turn into claws. Beautiful, deadly claws. Claws with which she left deep cuts in his back whenever they made love. Just thinking of it made him hard.
“She’s ready,” Claire announced and punctured the pad of her index finger with her claw, before bringing the bleeding finger to the young woman’s lips, making her drink from it.
While she fed the human the vampire blood, she looked over her shoulder. “I’m still fascinated with the healing power of our blood. Can you imagine the illnesses and injuries we could heal?”
He shook his head lightly. Leave it to Claire to be the Good Samaritan. “If humans knew of our existence and what our blood is capable of, they’d hunt us to the ends of the earth.”
Claire motioned to the exit of the alley. “You didn’t wipe that man’s memory. What makes you think he won’t tell everybody that he was attacked by a vampire?”
“He’s too busy peeing into his pants and looking over his shoulder to breathe a word about what happened here tonight. I know his type. Preying on the weak. He won’t talk.”
“No, he won’t. I made sure of that.”
Jake jumped up, whirling around at the same time, his hand already inside his jacket, pulling out his stake. Adrenaline was pumping through him—because the man who’d spoken was without a doubt a vampire.
Silhouetted against the lights from the main street, the stranger stood at the entrance to the alley. Instinctively, Jake braced himself. He was not only responsible for protecting Claire, but also the young human in their temporary care.
The stranger moved toward him with a steady gait. As he came closer, Jake squared his stance, readying himself for the fight. And there would be a fight, no doubt. Because now that he could see his face, he knew this man was no pushover: while the ponytail of long dark-brown hair might have given the impression that he was a laid-back guy, the long scar that reached from his left ear to his chin gave an altogether different one. This vampire wouldn’t shy away from a fight: his scar suggested that even as a human he’d fought ferociously.
“Get the woman to safety, Claire,” he murmured, turning his head slightly.
But Claire had already jumped up. “I’m not leaving your side.”
“Damn it, do as I say.”
“I’d suggest she stays where she is. The human, too,” the vampire coming toward them said, spreading his arms. “My friends can take care of her.”
From behind him, two more men appeared, both now walking toward them.
“Shit!” Jake cursed. The one with the scar he could have defeated, but two more? Were he alone, he wouldn’t hesitate, but he had to consider Claire’s safety, as well as that of the human woman.
He lifted his chin. “You and your friends killed the human?”
One side of the scarred vampire’s lip curled up in a sneer. “Do I look like I kill for pleasure?”
“You do.” As did the other two, whose faces he could see clearly now.
Both men were tall. While the one on the left was skinny and bald and had an evil sneer on his face, the other was built like a tank and wore his black hair down to his shoulders.
The tank chuckled. “Gabriel, you shouldn’t ask questions like that. You’re just spooking the guy.”
Gabriel, the scarred one, tossed a quick look over his shoulder. “Shut it, Amaury. Let’s get down to business.”
“I’ll take care of the human,” the bald vampire offered.
Amaury, the tank, lifted an eyebrow. “Really, Zane?” He shook his head, grinning. “You’re just gonna scare the shit out of her. You have no sensitivity when it comes to women. I’m better at that.”
“Nobody touches the human,” Jake growled, taking a step toward the three men. “She’s under my protection.”
“And under mine!” Claire piped up, moving shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
“Damn it, Claire!” Couldn’t this woman listen for once and get herself to safety like he’d asked her to?
“Looks like he can’t even control his own woman,” Zane, the bald one, commented. “Gabriel, you sure about this?”
“I’m sure.” Gabriel ran his eyes over Claire then back to him. “We’ve been cleaning up after you for the last few nights.”
“Cleaning up? You mean killing the criminals I was teaching a lesson?”
“I didn’t say that.” Gabriel, who clearly was the leader of the three, exchanged looks with his two cohorts. “Since you didn’t find it necessary to wipe their memories, I did it for you. And it’s getting a little annoying. So we figured we’d bring you in. Make you aware of the rules.”
“Bring me in?” Jake’s jaw set into a grim line. “Over my fucking charred body.”
“Definitely stubborn,” Amaury threw in. “I like him.”
Forehead furrowed, Jake tossed him a look. “Yeah, well, I don’t like you. None of you.”
“What a shame,” Zane grunted, “and there I thought we’d become best buddies.”
“Not likely!” He doubted that Zane was capable of friendship. The guy gave off an air of pure evil.
“Maybe we started off on the wrong foot,” Gabriel said calmly. “I believe introductions are in order. I’m Gabriel Giles.” He motioned to the tank. “Meet my colleagues: Amaury—” Then he pointed to the bald one. “—and Zane. We’re bodyguards.”
“Bodyguards? You’re shitting me.” Who’d ever heard of vampires being bodyguards?
Gabriel nodded. “We work for a company called Scanguards.”
Jake shrugged. “Never heard of it.”
“That’s how it’s supposed to be. We don’t exactly advertise our services.”
Getting impatient, Jake asked, “What do you want?”
Gabriel tilted his head toward the human. Instantly Jake lifted his hand, gripping the stake tighter, and growled.
“Quick temper,” Zane tossed in. “I like that.”
Gabriel ignored his colleague’s comment and made a calming hand movement. “You misunderstand me. I don’t want the human. But I like that you’re protecting her. Just like you and your woman have been helping other humans. That’s why I want to talk to you.”
“It’s a trick, isn’t it? You want me to relax so you can kill me and Claire and then kill the human.”
Gabriel shook his head.
“Not the brightest bulb in the shed,” Zane grunted.
Gabriel tossed him an annoyed glance. “You’re not helping.”
“Didn’t think I was supposed to.”
“Excuse my associate. I’m afraid Zane has a hard time accepting new people we want to hire into the company.”
Had he heard correctly? “Hire?”
“Yes. We can’t handle the increasing workload with the number of bodyguards we currently have. Samson, our boss has tasked us with recruiting more likeminded vampires.”
Could this be real? “Likeminded?” he found himself asking.
Amaury patted Gabriel on the shoulder, grinning. “Yeah, you know, cuddly, fuzzy vampires like us—” At those words he pointed to Zane and Gabriel. “—who make sure crime doesn’t get out of hand. We need guys like you to help us protect the innocent.” He paused for a moment. “Pays well, too.”
Jake exchanged a look with Claire, who appeared just as surprised as he. Then he stared back at the three vampires. “You’re here to recruit me?”
Gabriel nodded. “You want the job? You’d get paid for what you’re obviously already doing. Patrolling the streets of Manhattan and protecting the innocent. There’ll be other assignments, too. We work for politicians, celebrities, anybody who can afford us.”
This sounded better and better. He gripped Claire’s hand, looking at her. “I work in a team.”
“You’ll be teamed up with somebody,” Gabriel reassured him.
“Claire is my partner. We’re a package deal. You hire me. You hire her.”
“Just because she’s your lover—”
“She’s the woman I love,” he cut Gabriel off.
Gabriel exchanged a look with his two associates, while Claire tugged at his hand, making him meet her eyes.
“You love me?” she murmured.
He bent closer. “More than my life. And I should have told you so long ago.”
Suddenly her arms were around his neck and her lips brushing over his. “I love you, Jake.”
He took her lips in a passionate kiss.
“Well, that’s just great,” Zane grumbled. “You know, Gabriel, if you insist on hiring both, you’re gonna have to make a rule that there’s no kissing on the job.”
Jake let go of Claire’s lips and turned back to the three men of Scanguards.
Gabriel met his gaze. “Okay, you both have a job with us, but there’ll be rules. Got that?”
“Good, then let’s send the human on her way, and we’ll take you to Scanguards HQ and introduce you to Samson.” Gabriel crossed the distance between them with several long strides, offering his hand. “Welcome to Scanguards, Jake.”
Jake shook his hand. Everything in his life was perfect now. Claire loved him and he loved her. And now he would be part of a group of vampires who’d taken it upon themselves to do good.
What could be better than that?