Jesse took a moment to compose herself, but then slid into her normal attitude and hugged Nix. She introduced each of us to the blond vampire.
NIx was in jeans rather than leather, and motorcycle boots. A black dress shirt was tucked into her jeans, and open at the collar, showing the contrast between the dark cloth and pale skin. Her blue eyes flashed when she smiled, and I could see what Jesse meant about falling into them.
I watched Kruise switch into charm mode, something she only does when she's uncomfortable. For her, it's a way of dealing with someone and yet keeping a distance from them. They see only the charming flirt, and never the woman underneath.
Jace raised an eyebrow, but shook Nix's hand, smiling. She leaned forward to hear something the vampire said, then laughed. I was curious what the exchange was about, but that disappeared when those flashing eyes were turned on me.
Her hand was very warm, which surprised me. Short blonde hair that just covered the tips of her ears, combined with smooth pale features, gave her an air of youth and innocence. The depths in her eyes denied that innocence and showed a hint of her age.
A wink from one of those eyes, and I couldn't help but wonder at the secrets they held.
Jesse led Nix away from the group, and they stood close to each other to whisper in each other's ear. I moved over to Jace and kissed her cheek.
"What did Nix say to you?"
I repeated my question and leaned in to hear the answer.
"Oh. She said she liked my button, and it was one she should wear."
"Being bitchy and unstable is part of my mystique."
I nodded and raised an eyebrow.
"Trey? Are you all right?" Jace was looking at me in a way that said she knew what I was thinking. Actually, I thought, she probably did.
"Yeah, I'm okay. You know me -- just curious."
She laughed. "Yeah, I know. You and your writer's mind. Always looking for an interview, right?"
I smiled and winked.
Jace turned back to her conversation and I turned to watch Jesse and Nix. It seemed like an intense discussion, but neither was really showing any anger in their body language. I was tempted to move closer and see if I could hear what they were saying, but as I moved, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Don't." Kruise's voice was soft in my ear.
"You want to go talk to her. Don't."
"Cause some questions you don't need the answers to, Trey." She patted my shoulder and walked towards the front room, giving me a meaningful glance before she disappeared.
My conversation with Jesse earlier at the diner came back. I had promised I would not go searching for vampires. But did that include not talking to vampires that fell in my lap?
A glance at Jace confirmed that she was still engrossed in a conversation with a couple of friends. I told her I was headed into the other room and left her to talk with them. I found a piece of unoccupied wall space in the other room and watched the stage show for a few minutes.
Nix came around the corner from near the bathrooms. I watched her for several minutes, drinking in the sight. She was beautiful, I had to admit. But that wasn't what drew me to her. It was the air of absolute confidence she had. She walked through the crowd without bumping into people; they moved out of her way without even knowing they'd done it, or so it seemed. The smile never left her face, and as she scanned the crowd, I saw an eyebrow rise and fall, as if she was assessing the choices for the evening.
And she had many choices. Other women would glance at Nix and their eyes would widen. A few jaws would drop as she went by. I didn't think it was just because of her looks -- after all, I personally found Jace and Kruise just as beautiful. I thought perhaps it was the sexual air that surrounded her, the aura of sensuality that promised a delightful evening to whoever was chosen by her.
I had to wonder how much of what she'd told Jesse was true. Was she really a vampire? Or had there been trickery going on that night? Had Jesse, having been drugged, imagined most of the weekend, inventing a reason her own mind could accept, or accepting Nix's explanation for what she couldn't remember?
There was no reason to just assume this woman was a true vampire. If she was, it opened up a world completely unknown to science, as well as bringing into question much of what was currently called legends, or folk tales. If vampires existed, there could be werewolves, dragons, goblins -- all the creatures that dwelt on the edge of reality. The line between what was real and what wasn't would have to be redrawn.
Therefore, vampires could not exist. Nix was not a vampire, but a skilled con woman, perhaps even a hypnotist.
But the image of those marks on Jesse's chest rose in my mind, and I couldn't quite disbelieve them.
Before I knew what I was doing, I was moving, slipping between couples, ending up at the bar, not five feet from her. I couldn't keep my eyes off her, and after a moment she turned, meeting my gaze. Her smile grew wider, and that eyebrow rose again. She nodded to me, and approached.
"You know, Trey, Jesse told me not to go near you. Why would she do that?"
I had to chuckle. "Because I'm a writer and she knows I'd pester you to death with questions."
Her laughter was clear, her voice soft even then. "What kind of writer?"
"Fiction, mostly. But I'm always looking for things to explore." I took another sip of beer. "You're someone I'd love to explore."
I realized how the words sounded just as they were leaving my mouth. For a moment I thought about taking them back, but then shrugged.
Nix glanced down, then back up at my face. She leaned closer to speak into my ear again. "Jess also told me that she informed you all of -- what I am. Is that what you want to learn about?" She backed off a moment and then came even closer. "Or is there something else that interests you?"
On the last couple of words, her lips brushed my ear, and I felt my heart begin hammering in my chest. I looked up, meeting her gaze, and my breath caught.
Her stare had turned feral, almost hungry, and I had to swallow before answering her.
"I'd like to learn all that you'd teach."
One of her hands reached up to touch my cheek, and I knew I was in trouble.
I nodded. She winked again and crooked a finger at me.
It was a slow song, something with a heavy base and a sexy groove. Her arms went around my waist, pulling me against her. I slid my hands up her arms to the back of her shoulders. When I took a deep breath I could smell the scent of her skin, and feel her nipples brush against me. Her hips pressed against mine as she guided me into an intimate series of movements that left me wet and slightly dizzy.
For a moment I was worried about how Jace would react. Then I remembered that she was as much a voyeur as I was. I wondered if she was watching Nix's seductive little dance.
Nix smiled, watching my eyes. "You all right, Trey?"
Not trusting my voice, I merely nodded again. She chuckled slightly, obviously enjoying the power she had over me.
And power it was. If she had chosen to take me there, bite me, whip me, anything, I would have said yes.
Instead, she cocked her head and asked, "So. What kinds of questions do you want to ask me?"
My mind went blank. Then tons of questions flooded me and I started asking.
"Are you really a vampire? Can you prove it? How old are you? Are vampires truly evil? Do you need human blood to survive or do you just like it? Are you human, a mutation caused by --"
"Stop," she said. Laughing, she put a hand to my mouth. "Slow down. How do you expect me to answer if you're just rambling questions at me?"
I raised an eyebrow. "You mean, you'll answer them?"
Nix nodded. "There are some things I won't tell you. But, sure, I'll answer questions. Just slow down. One at a time."
"Can you prove you're a vampire?"
"Without biting you?" She shrugged. "Only if I chose to show you my fangs."
"Maybe later." She winked at me.
I continued with my questions. "How old are you?"
"Me, personally, or vampires in general?"
"Both. You first."
She shrugged. "Not sure, really. The calendar has changed so much since then that I can't even pinpoint the day. I think I could get the year fairly accurately if I tried, but I don't think I want to."
"Where were you born?"
"You don't look Italian."
Nix laughed. "My father was Italian. My mother was from Northern Europe, the farthest reaches of the Empire."
"The Roman Empire?"
"Yes. I was born during its last days, when the Emperors became more concerned with pleasure and gluttony than with the welfare of their people."
"When did you become a vampire?"
"I've always been a vampire." I must have looked surprised, because she laughed. "I know all the stories about the creation of vampires. They're all bullshit. Vampires aren't made, they're born, of a union between a vampire and a human male."
"Never a male vampire?"
"There are no male vampires."
I shook my head. "Okay, I'm confused."
"It's really pretty simple. Vampires evolved as a separate line from humans, but a part of the human society. We don't know when or how the first one was actually created, but our history extends into the pre-history of humans."
"And there're only females? That makes no sense."
Nix shrugged. "I can't give you the science behind it. All I can do is tell you the way it is. The vampire -- 'gene' if you will, is passed on from mother to daughter, after fertilization by a human male. We resemble humans in all respects, except that we survive on blood, and live a hell of a lot longer."
"And your own blood is like a drug to a human."
A slight smile crossed her lips. "It's only fair. Human blood can be -- intoxicating to us. Why shouldn't ours be that way for humans?"
"Yes, but when you taste our blood, you don't have this instantaneous reaction, do you? I mean, it's not like --" I stopped.
Smiling, she winked at me. "Like coming? Jesse didn't tell me she'd given you details."
I shrugged. "Does it matter?"
"No. Not really. And no, the taste of human blood is not... like coming. It's . . ." she searched for a word, her eyes narrowed in concentration. "It's like liquor. It can burn when it goes down, like a really good whiskey, or it can be sweet like strawberry wine."
"Do you actually need it to survive? Or is it just an acquired taste?"
"We need the enzymes in human blood to survive; there are one or two that our bodies can't produce on their own. Without those enzymes, we don't die, but become very ill, and our bodies begin to breakdown. We become very weak and our bones become brittle."
"But you don't die?"
"No. But we also don't heal from injuries as well. Right now, you could stab me and I'd be completely healed by morning. A month without human blood, and I wouldn't heal for weeks."
"And if you were stabbed in the heart by a wooden stake?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Would you die if you were stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake? Or had your head cut off?"
"Well, there's your answer. We're not that different from humans. Destroy a vital organ and of course we die."
"Humans don't live to be fifteen or seventeen hundred years old," I pointed out.
Another shrug. "So, we age differently. Got a problem with that?" She smirked at me, and I had to laugh a little.
The music changed to a faster beat, and Nix rolled her eyes. "Come on -- this music is good for driving, but not for dancing -- or talking."
She took my hand and led me into the back room, somehow finding an empty space on the long booth, right in the corner. Before I knew it, my back was against the wall, and she was leaning over me.
"Any other questions?"
I had a million of them, but couldn't think of one right then.
"Um . . ."
"Trey?" Jesse's voice was loud, and held a touch of anger. "You okay?"
Nix leaned back and I could see Jesse, with Kruise beside her.
"I'm fine. What's up, Jesse?"
She shrugged. "Thought you'd be with Jace."
"Jace was talking with some friends of hers. On the other side of room."
"Why aren't you with her?"
"Cause I was talking with Nix."
Nix smiled up at the two of them. "It's all right, Jess. Not like I was planning on biting her here."
I noticed the "here" tacked onto the end of that statement and my heart sped up.
Jesse scowled. "Didn't say you were. I just -- "
"Jesse." She looked at me. "I'm okay. Relax, we're just talking. Nothing more."
"So what's the topic?" Kruise came closer and knelt on the floor next to us.
"Vampires. I'm the curious one, remember. It's my job to ask questions."
Jesse stayed standing but came a little closer. Kruise looked back and forth between Nix and myself.
"So, is Trey the only one allowed to ask, or can anyone join the conversation?"
Nix smiled and leaned back, away from me. "What's your question, Kruise?"
"You really a vampire?"
The blonde woman smiled and nodded. "Want me to prove it?"
Nix opened her mouth and lifted her head. Her fangs extended down past her top lip. She kept them out only a moment before lowering her head slightly and retracting them. Her mouth closed with a click of teeth and she looked at Kruise. "Any other questions?"
Kruise nodded. "How many people have you killed?"
One blonde eyebrow rose. "What makes you ask that?"
"Isn't that what vamps do? They kill people."
Nix looked up at Jesse. "Do we?"
Jesse shrugged and looked away.
"To put it plainly -- no. That's not what vampires do, or at least we don't do it for sport or just for blood."
"Then why do you kill?" Kruise was watching Nix's face closely, waiting for her answer.
"Most vampires don't. We're smart enough to know that killing brings attention to us. And since none of us want to end up a lab experiment, we don't draw attention if we can help it."
"When you do kill?" I asked softly.
She turned to me. "In years past, many years past, some of us took advantage of the simplistic nature of the cultures we lived in. We became the gods, or the servants of the gods. One of our duties was usually retribution. That was the reason we killed most often."
Kruise was frowning. "Okay, I don't get it. The legends say that vampires are blood thirsty creatures that always kill. I know it's just a legend, but there's usually a little truth in every legend, and here you are, so -- " She shrugged. "If vampires aren't killers, where do the legends come from?"
I leaned forward, wanting to know the answer myself. Even Jesse appeared interested.
"Long ago, most societies were matriarchal. Women were respected. There were attacks on women, but most of the time they were quickly punished." She paused. "As more and more societies became patriarchal, the respect for women was lost, and attacks became commonplace. It was inevitable that a vampire would be attacked, and one was. During the beating, one of the men got a drop of blood from her on his hand and licked it." Nix's face went very cold. "The men bled her dry, slowly, drinking her blood. It changed them. Not into vampires, but into half minded creatures somewhat more than human, and less than vampire. They became what the villagers called 'nosferatu,' which translates as 'plague-carriers.' It is the nosferatu that are the bloodthirsty creatures of legend. They require blood, of any kind, to survive, and they repopulate in the fashion described by Anne Rice, that of draining someone to the point of death, and then making them drink. Of course, it makes them half insane." She looked up at each of us with ice in her eyes. "When I find a nosferatu, I kill it. There are very few exceptions."
We were all silent. Nix reached over and took Jesse's drink, draining it, then standing.
"I need another drink. Any requests?"
No one moved. Then I leaned forward and handed her my bottle. "Another Guinness if you would?"
She smiled and winked at me as she left.
Kruise slid smoothly into Nix's seat.
"Fucking hell, Trey! We both told you to leave it alone, and you're in here acting like a goddamn reporter!"
"Chill, Kruise. We were just talking."
Jesse knelt down. "You promised you wouldn't --"
"I promised I wouldn't go chasing vampires. I never said anything about not talking to one that landed in my lap." I glared at both of them. "What the hell is the problem? I just wanted to talk."
Kruise shook her head. "You never just talk, Trey. You talk, then you want to experiment. And your experiments can get you into trouble."
"I don't always experiment. Give me one example."
She raised an eyebrow. "Who's the one who nearly died, cause she just had to try a wheelie on my motorcycle?"
I blushed. "Okay, so give me another."
They looked at each other but didn't say anything. I nodded. "That's what I thought. So, just what do you think I'm going to do this time? Beg her to sleep with me? Or let me taste her blood?"
Jesse looked at Kruise, who returned the gaze. Then they both turned to me and said, "Yes."
"Thanks for the votes of confidence, gang."
Kruise put a hand on my knee. "Trey, we both know you. Please. Stay away from Nix."
I stared at her. "You really think I'd cheat on Jace like that?"
She shook her head. "No. I know you better than that, and I know your relationship with Jace. But, Trey, when you get intrigued by things, you pursue them as hard as you can. You don't let it rest until your curiosity is satisfied. And this time it would be dangerous to do that."
"I haven't done anything dangerous in a long time."
"Doesn't mean you should now," Jesse said quietly.
I stood up. "And then again, maybe I should."
With one last glare at both of them, I moved away, ignoring Kruise's call, and Jesse's attempt to grab my arm. Slipping around a few people I made my escape, knowing it would take them a little while to catch up with me.
I detoured to the pile of coats and grabbed mine, then looked for Jace.
She was near the stage, having a conversation with Nix.
The blonde vampire spotted me as I approached, motioning to me with a bottle.
"Get thirsty, Trey? Sorry I took so long."
"It's all right." I took the Guinness and slid an arm around Jace. "You two having a good time talking?"
Jace nodded. "I told her I was working on finding a PA job for after graduation, and she was giving me some names, as well as a few stories."
"Ah. So, you know people in the entertainment biz, Nix?"
"I know lots of people, Trey." She grinned, and lifted her glass. "Here's to longevity and money. Have enough of each and you'll eventually meet everyone."
Jace and I laughed and drank the toast with her.
"What do you do, Nix?" asked Jace. "I mean, besides go to bars and seduce strangers."
Nix was taking a drink and ended up coughing, then laughing. "Well, that's a unique way to describe my life." She wiped her chin. "Actually, I'm an art dealer. I own two galleries, one here and one in Toronto. I'm always on the lookout for promising young artists."
"Isn't that something that would require being up during the day? How do you handle the sunlight thing?"
"Yeah, is that part of the legend real, or made up?" I moved a little closer to Jace, letting her lean into my arms.
"Well, both. Vampires have a tendency to burn very quickly, and very badly in sunlight. It's painful for us, but not deadly. Nosferatu on the other hand can't stand the sunlight. They don't turn to ash or anything, but their blood can't take the radiation, and they die after exposure for more than about half an hour."
"Nosferatu?" Jace looked puzzled.
"I'll explain later, babe." I turned back to Nix. "So, you could handle being in sunlight for a time?"
Nix nodded. "I don't like it, and I have to stay pretty covered up, which is annoying in the summer time. But, yeah, I can handle short time periods, like the time it takes to walk from the car to a door or something like that."
We were quiet for a bit, just sipping our drinks. Nix finished hers and then leaned closer to us both.
"So, Trey. Got any more questions?"
I nodded. "Lots."
"Yeah? Wanna go somewhere more private to ask them?"
My arm froze with the beer half way to my lips. I lifted it the rest of the way and drank, then wiped my mouth. "Sure. Where did you have in mind?"
"There's this little place about three blocks from here. Tiny restaurant, open twenty-four hours. We could talk there."
"Sounds good." I took several more swallows of my beer and set the bottle on the bar. "Do you mind, Jace?"
Jace smiled and shook her head. She pulled me closer to her and kissed me hard.
"You be careful, Trey. Hear me?"
Jace and I had an agreement. Our relationship wasn't quite open, but we weren't bound to each other with super glue either. We didn't slept with other people, but we had both been known to tease the other by flirting with a friend. Occasionally, it went beyond flirting, and when it did, the rule was the other party was told and could mete out punishment for real or imagined wrongs.
Neither of us was really that adventurous in reality, but being with each other had opened interesting avenues in our sex lives.
She held me still, looking at me for several long moments and sighing. "I know what's going to happen. Nix told me the plan, and I don't mind. Just know this: I expect a complete report, and I'll whip you for everything I object to."
My eyebrows rose, and I smiled. "I always behave, love, you know that."
I hugged her and then slid into my jacket.
Jace kissed me once more and let me go, picking up her beer. "Have fun, baby."
Nix was watching me with a half smile, her eyes sparkling in the low lights of the club. "Ready, Trey?"
I nodded, and we left the club.
End Part 2