Midnight: A Short Story
I straightened and shut the car door, fumbled with my keys until I hit the lock button, and turned around, colliding with a solid, muscular chest as I did so. I took a hasty step back and glanced up to see who I’d run into, an apology forming on my lips.
It never made it out of my mouth.
He was tall, around six feet, with ruffled black hair and piercing black eyes. He had a full six inches on me; the top of my head barely reached his chin. And he was massive—broad shoulders, expansive chest, thick, ropy arms and dense thighs. He wore a tight black t-shirt and jeans. And he was so drop-dead gorgeous in a rugged, bad-boy sort of way, he took my breath away.
“Hello, female,” he said in a lazy drawl, and as he smiled down at me he revealed a very long, sharp pair of canines.
Oh god. I had unwittingly run into a vampire in the middle of a dark and empty parking lot at night.
Suddenly and with acute clarity, I realized it hadn’t been an accident at all. He’d seen me and come after me.
My heartbeat leapt into a marathon. My hands started shaking so badly I dropped my keys. I backed up, hit the car, and hastily sidestepped to avoid being trapped against the vehicle.
“Wh- what do you want?” I stammered. I felt suddenly cold, and it had nothing to do with the cool night air. I could feel my death weighing down upon me.
In fact, it was looking me in the eyes.
He took a casual step forward. “I think you know,” he said in a voice that was as dangerously seductive as the smile that curved his sinful lips. His eyes dipped leisurely down my figure, and when his gaze finally met mine again, I couldn’t breathe. My chest was tight and my skin was on fire where his gaze had wandered.
I turned and ran. Behind me I heard his laughter rise up into the night, and it was a chilling sound.
“You can’t outrun a vampire, sweetheart.”
Maybe not, but I was sure as hell going to try.
I dashed through the rows of cars, my eyes frantically searching the lot. There had to be someone around, even this late at night. There was no way I was totally alone out here.
Or maybe there was.
My heart was pounding so hard it threatened to break my ribs. I heard him laughing again, and the sound came from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. I glanced behind me, but didn’t see him. Confused, I slowed to a stop.
He was toying with me. I knew it with sudden certainty and it made my skin feel icy.
I turned in a full circle, my eyes carefully searching every shadow, every nook and cranny. Where was he?
I screamed and whirled around. He’d spoken right in my ear, standing so close behind me that his chest brushed my shoulders as I turned. A devilishly sexy smile played on his lips, and had I not feared for my life I might have found it…oddly alluring.
Perhaps I did anyway.
“Please.” It was one word with a thousand behind it. I tried to catch my breath, suddenly coming to the realization that running wasn’t going to get me anywhere. So to speak.
“I hate to break it to you, but that magical word you humans are always touting doesn’t do much for my kind.” He took a step closer.
“I’m too young to die.”
“So was I.”
Right… Because technically, he was dead. Didn’t that make a girl feel better about everything.
His face was a wall of stone now, an impassive mask that scared the hell outta me.
My voice quavered. “You don’t have to do this.”
No inflection. No emotion. Not even a sadistic gleam in his eyes. Had he leered at me or derided me I might have understood his motivations, and how best I might survive. This lack of…anything was not only terrifying, but it meant I had no idea what he wanted.
So I had no idea how to respond.
“I—I have money.”
He barked a laugh, but even that was emotionless. “You should know I have no interest in that.” His sharp eyes held my own captive.
“Women must throw themselves at you. You can’t be lacking for companionship.”
“I don’t want any of them.”
“What…do you want?” I asked breathlessly.
And that, Daemon thought, was the million dollar question.
As he stared down into the female’s bright green eyes, his heightened senses picked up her rapid breathing—shallow, in and out; her pounding heart, the blood rushing through her veins to prepare her body to fight or flee; the bittersweet scent of her fear flooding out of her every pore; the sweet fragrance of the shampoo in her hair… And although these sensory inputs usually vamped him up—no pun intended—for the hunt, tonight they deadened his appetite.
What was he doing, scaring human females half to death, feeding on them, toying with them? It was all meaningless, so very meaningless. He felt hollow, dead inside. He’d thought the big reveal would make him feel different about what he was—he could be more open about it, at least.
Turned out all he was more open about was how much he fucking hated himself.
The female took another step back, and the predatory side of him took another step forward. Normally his self-disgust took a little vacay while he went about his nightly activities, at least until he crashed onto his huge four-poster bed in the wee hours of the morning, utterly exhausted and sated. But tonight something had awakened it early, and now that his appetite for her blood and her body had fled, he had no idea what to do with her.
But he couldn’t just let her go. No…that would go against his nature as a predator. The cat had the mouse right where he wanted her. Letting her scurry away was not exactly in the agenda.
Then again, he’d never been so utterly repulsed by the idea of harming something so fragile and innocent.
“What do you want, female?” he surprised himself by asking.
The response was immediate. “I want to live.”
He rolled his eyes. “Got that. Anything else?”
Now she hesitated, and his gaze narrowed on her face. Suddenly he was interested in her reply.
“I want to know what you’re going to do to me.”
So did he. “Haven’t decided yet. Anything else?”
Confusion washed over her pretty face. Clearly she was disturbed by the fact that he didn’t exactly have a plan for her.
At least, not anymore.
“I want…to know your name. If you’re going to kill me, I want…to know your name.”
He hesitated. It had been a while since a human had shown any interest in him.
Of course, that was probably because it’d been a while since he’d done anything other than terrorize them.
“Daemon,” he said finally. “Spelled with an e. You’re a college student; I’m sure you know what it means.”
Indeed. One of the other words for devil, demigod, evil spirit.
No doubt the vampire considered himself all of those things.
“But I would not kill you, female,” he continued in a low voice that set my pulse skittering for far more banal reasons than terror.
“Really?” I breathed even as relief threatened to make my knees go weak. “Why?”
His black gaze held mine, and it occurred to me that his eyes were exactly the color of midnight.
“Even as jaded as I am, I still have the capacity to appreciate true beauty.”
And with that, he disappeared.
He was fucked in the head. That was the only explanation.
As Daemon paced in the darkness of his room, that was the only conclusion he could come to. There was no other rational explanation for why he would take the trouble to track a victim only to let her go unharmed.
But fuck. He had really despised the idea of hurting her.
He closed his eyes and her face appeared in his mind, her bright green eyes captivating as they held his gaze, her chestnut, curly hair framing her face. Something about her was different. And yet….she was not extraordinary in any way. Her beauty, her fear, the scent of her blood—nothing stood out from his usual endeavors. Still, something about her had stopped him in his tracks, made him question himself, and ultimately compelled him to let her go unharmed.
As he stared into the soft, flickering glow of a candle, he knew he wasn’t done with her. Not by a long shot. He was more intrigued by his apparent interest in this human female than he’d been by anything in the last several decades.
And that…that was something worth investigating.
Libraries are overrated. Seriously. What’s the point of a stash of books if you can’t even find the one you’re looking for in that huge mess?
I was so busy ruminating over the waste of an hour that I didn’t even notice his silhouette against the darkness until I was almost next to him.
When I did notice him, though, I stopped in my tracks. Same black t-shirt. Same ruffled black hair. Same drop dead gorgeous, truly lethal good looks.
He pushed off the light pole he’d been leaning against and faced me. The light was out, although I didn’t know if it had been that way before or if he’d broken it somehow in order to enhance the darkness around us. I got the eerie feeling that wasn’t outside the range of possibilities.
“Hello again, female.”
My heart suddenly decided it wanted out of my chest cavity—it started beating so hard and fast it threatened to break my ribs and just fall out. Paralyzing images from my nightmares the previous night clouded my vision for a few long moments. His pale, terrifying, beautiful face poised above me as his wrist dripped with blood, my fragile, still beating heart in his hand, his jet black eyes locked on mine as he brought it to his mouth and took a bite…
“Wh-wh-what are you doing here?” I stammered through my fear.
He casually sauntered toward me, with all the ease and grace of a lethal predator who knew he was in complete control. I was too terrified to move.
He’d come back for me? What on earth did he want? My body? My blood?
“Honestly? I don’t know,” he replied softly. God, his low voice was even sexier than I remembered. I closed my eyes for a moment, overwhelmed by the glorious sound and how it seemed to physically pull me toward him. Could he actually do that, or was I imagining it? For that matter, how could I be so drawn to something so dangerous?
“Did you come back to kill me?” I asked, breathless, as he stopped right in front of me. I was afraid to meet his eyes, so I stared instead at his impeccable pectoral muscles.
God…damn. Every part of him was utter perfection.
“No,” he murmured. Surprised, I lifted my gaze to his. His midnight eyes wandered over my face, as though he was searching for something.
I trailed off as he raised a hand to my hair and gently ran one of my curls between his fingers. I stood perfectly still as he did so, afraid to breathe. “So soft,” he murmured. His eyes were trained on his hands as he played with my hair, and I stared at him, totally taken aback. I had not expected someone so lethal to be capable of such gentleness.
His fingers slowly left my hair and met the top of my throat. His lips parted slightly as he trailed his finger lazily down my throat, and I could see his fangs poking out under his top lip. My pulse jumped under his touch, and I felt suddenly feverish, though not entirely due to fear.
He leaned down close to my ear. His lips brushed my temple and I recoiled, although only slightly. “Your heart is beating very fast, female,” he whispered, and his hot breath was a startling contrast to the cool night air.
“Juliana,” I murmured.
“My name is Juliana.”
I wasn’t sure what compelled me to tell him my name. For all I knew, he might have some kind of special vampire powers that he could only use over me if he knew my birth name. I suppose it was a silly desire that should he wind up killing me tonight, he would at the very least know who it was he’d slaughtered.
He straightened, and his midnight eyes held a devilish gleam. “Indeed. I never put much stock in Shakespeare before, but you… You are worthy of an epic romance.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked quickly, startled all over again. Was he…was he flirting with me? Was that even possible?
“I can imagine moonlit rendezvous and keeping secrets that could start a war if it meant I was courting you,” he said softly, his intense black eyes holding my own gaze captive.
My mouth went dry. How could I possibly respond to that?
“Last night you wanted to kill me,” I blurted tactlessly.
“Don’t take it personally. I’m usually like that.”
“So why me? Why now?”
He stalked around me in a predatory circle, his midnight eyes focused on me. He stopped behind me and spoke in my ear. “Because, Juliana,” he murmured, and his low voice made my name sound like the sexiest word in the English language. “I find myself strangely entranced by you.”
His lips feathered across my ear and I inhaled sharply.
“Tell me. Why do you react so strongly to me?” he murmured, his mouth still close to my ear, his fingers brushing down my spine and giving me chills.
“You could kill me so easily,” I breathed, afraid to move.
“There are many other things I could do to you as well,” he replied softly.
That had my heart pounding anew, and to mask my reaction to him, I spun around to face him. “Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what?” he asked, a mischievous smile playing upon his lips. It was so disarmingly attractive that for a moment I was utterly distracted by it.
“Scaring…me,” I finally replied, my eyes still focused on his mouth.
“Are you scared?”
My gaze flicked up to his. “Yes.”
He was silent a moment, and his smile faded. “Good,” he said finally, and his voice had lost its playfulness. “God knows I leave only death behind.” He paused again. “But with you I want to be different.”
His jet black eyes were locked on mine, and in that moment they seemed almost…vulnerable. Suddenly I got the feeling there was much more to this vampire than lethal attractiveness and murderous intent. Some part of him, however deeply buried, longed to be…saved. Redeemed. Some part of him longed to remember what it was like to be alive, to be happy. To be human.
And I got the feeling he wanted me to help him.
Before I could silence the swirling revelations inside of me and respond, the moment was over and that vulnerability vanished so utterly and completely I wondered if I had merely imagined it.
“Too bad things never change,” he said softly, his expression hard and bitter. Abruptly he disappeared into the chilly night air.
Guess he wasn’t good at goodbyes.
I let out a shaky breath, utterly overcome. What on earth was I supposed to do now?
“What are you studying?”
I jumped and turned my head to find Daemon leaning over me. Oh crap. I was in one of the tiny, private study rooms in the library, researching supernatural creatures to try to find a way to deal with my vampire stalker. My heart pounding, I slammed the book shut, lest he read the words on the page. Vampires are lethal, heartless creatures with no soul…
“Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Supernatural Creatures? You’re researching me?”
Oh crap. He’d read the title. Not a good strategy after all.
He grabbed my chair and spun me around to face him. There was precious little extra space in the study room, and my breath caught in my throat at his terrifying, exhilarating proximity. He was still leaning over me, and his beautiful face was inches from my own.
“You will not get rid of me by reading a book, Juliana,” he murmured, and his low tone was dangerous and infinitely lethal.
“I-I wasn’t trying to!” I stammered.
“Don’t lie to me,” he growled. “I can hear your heartbeat, smell your fear. You will never fool me.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but was too afraid to say anything. I could feel my whole body trembling at the realization of how much power he held over me.
He regarded me silently for a moment, and his anger seemed to fade with the realization of how he’d scared me. “I suppose I can’t blame you for trying to get rid of me,” he said softly. “For all you know I’m here to eat you.”
“Are you?” I asked breathlessly.
He smiled slightly. “No.”
“Well that’s good,” I replied as he straightened.
He extended a hand to me. “Come. Take a study break.”
I didn’t move. “Where are we going?”
“Anywhere in the world.” His midnight eyes were locked on mine, and there was not a trace of humor to be found in them. Good god, he was serious.
Whether it was sheer curiosity or morbid fascination I’ll never know, but I stood up and took his hand.
The air around us swirled and disappeared, and then we were standing in a wide clearing in the middle of a dark forest. It was night and a cool breeze teased my hair. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I realized the meadow was carpeted with wildflowers.
“Where are we? What time zone are we in? Are we still in North America?” I gushed as the implications struck me.
He could teleport to anywhere? And take me with him?
He smiled. “Shh. Look up.”
Meekly I obeyed, and the clear night sky took my breath away. “Wow,” I breathed. There wasn’t a manmade light in sight, and the stars were simply captivating.
When I finally looked back at Daemon, I found him gazing at me. “Where would you like to go next?” he asked softly, his hand still holding mine.
“Nowhere,” I replied. “This is perfect. It’s quiet and dark and peaceful.” I released his hand and sat down amid the wildflowers, my gaze on the beautiful night sky.
“Aren’t you afraid to be alone with me?” he asked softly as he sat down beside me.
I gazed back at him. “If you were going to kill me, no amount of spectators would be able to stop you. Besides, you’d have done so by now if you wanted to.” Although wasn’t it just peachy that my voice shook as I said it.
His midnight eyes held mine. “There are many other things I could do to you.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because it’s true.”
I was breathless as I asked my next question. “What…did you have in mind?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Yes I do.”
He regarded me silently for a moment. “I don’t want to tell you.”
“I don’t want to scare you away,” he replied softly.
My heart was pounding. “I should be terrified of you already.”
“No, I am. I’m just…” I trailed off.
“You’re just?” he prompted.
I’m just drawn to you too. The words were on the tip of my tongue. What would he do if he knew?
I closed my mouth firmly and turned away. “Nothing.”
As though he knew what I was hiding from him, he said, “One day you will learn to trust me, Juliana.”
I held my laugh in check. Fat chance.
To escape the conversation, I reclined and lay on my back on the grass, gazing up at the sky. Daemon lay down next to me, his eyes on me. I tried to ignore him but after a while his intense gaze made me feel self-conscious. Eventually I turned my head to face him and our noses were only inches apart, not to mention our lips….
Jesus. I needed to stop thinking like that. He was a scary, badass vampire and I was his plaything.
“What are you thinking?” he murmured softly, and that low, gentle tone did frightening things to my pulse.
Wouldn’t you like to know. Thank god he couldn’t read my mind. Or could he?
“You don’t already know?” I asked softly. “Not one of your abilities?”
He smiled slightly. “Thankfully, no, I’m not telepathic. Though there are vampires who are.”
My thoughts were quickly derailed when I saw the moonlight gleaming off his elongated fangs, revealed by his smile. I started to move away but his hand shot out and grabbed my arm. He must have realized by my gaze what I was reacting to, because he said, “Please, stay. I’m sorry. It’s a physiological reaction; I don’t have complete control over it.”
Warily I lay back down. “What is it a reaction to?” I asked softly.
His lips twisted in a crooked smile. “Can’t you guess?”
“You want to bite me?” I breathed.
“I want to do a lot more than that,” he replied softly, and his low, husky tone set my pulse on fire.
I started to sit up. “You’re right. I don’t think I should be here alone with you—”
I was cut off when, moving faster than was humanly possible, he sat up and captured my mouth in a kiss. His hand rested gently on my cheek as his lips shattered me into a million tiny, burning pieces. When finally he pulled away, my breath was gone, my thoughts were scattered, and my fear was rivaled only by my rampant heartbeat. I could do nothing more than stare at him as he gazed down at me with desire burning in his eyes.
“I don’t blame you,” he said softly. “I am the original bad boy.”
He stood and, extending a hand to help me to my shaky feet, murmured, “I’ll take you home now. But you have a homework assignment. You need to decide where you want me to take you next time.”
“N-next time?” I stammered. My brain was still playing catch-up. One mind-shattering kiss was about all I could take.
He smiled. “Yes, next time. Didn’t think I was done with you, did you?”
Before I could formulate a response, he pulled me into his arms and the world around us disappeared, only to reappear as the study room we’d left from.
“Think about it,” he murmured as he trailed a finger along my jaw, releasing me as he did so. And then he was gone.