Wine and Dine on Her


As nerve-racking as first dates are, I wasn’t holding a lot of sympathy for Skovajsa at present. The floral bouquet was making me sneeze and the wine was anything but a drinkable vintage. His demeanor was on par with some snooty playboy who wasn’t getting his fair share of adoring attention.

Oh, and the fact that he’d broken into my room under some romantic pretense and after receiving a not-so-favorable reaction had resorted to force and at present he held me down on the bed to smell at my hair, wasn’t endearing me too him to him much right now either.

“It’s impolite to address me in that way,” he spoke without a shred of anger or feeling, as if he was reading cue cards for some hack version of Romeo and Juliet. “I came to offer you my special bond. You should be honored.”

Then again with the smelling. Slowly, from the base on the left side of my neck, up past my earlobe, around the crown of my head, and down the other side. Vampires and their heightened senses dictated no need for this kind of scrutiny so I had no idea what he was up to. I just hoped to heaven that this strange sense I had, that Jesper was or had just been here with me, would not be something he could notice.

“Excuse me if I’m reading more into your actions than your gifts.”

He jerked back, staring at me. Since I had his attention and he looked a little like a scolded child, I figured I’d push it.

“A woman prefers not to be pawed at!” It took every ounce of my thinking mind to not slam my free knee into his groin, a move so instinctual and yet fatal in this instance, that I had to bite my lip. I was flexing my wrists against his grip but only to keep the blood flowing. Any direct resistance would trigger him into fight mode. And there would be no way back from that.

He released my hands and sat upright. His face looked mildly confused and he pursed his lips.

“I brought flowers.” His attempt at explanation.

I didn’t trust him so kept my position on the bed. I wanted to rub the feeling back into my hands but putting them together would make it easier for him to control me if he went feral again.

“Yes,” in my most stern school teacher voice. “And with no greeting, no explanation of how you came into my room, startled me and attacked me, unprovoked.”

He shook his head once and, like some ancient punch card machine, he calculated his mistake. “I brought you jewels.”

“Irrelevant while I’m still pinned to the bed. May I ask you to control yourself and get off my person?”

With vampire speed, he moved to stand just next to the bed. But it seemed like he paused, like he’d meant to go farther but something grabbed his attention. He looked down at the bedside table where the phone off the hook was beeping. He carefully picked it up and put the receiver back in its cradle.

“I have disturbed your sleep,” he said softly, his back turned to me as he crossed slowly to the other side of the room.

I sat up carefully, not taking my eyes off him. He was in some state, anxious, fang-happy, on the edge. But his shoulders were slumped, as if his intentions had been shattered. He stooped to pick up the flowers that he’d dropped when he lunged at her. He’d trampled the lilies.

I sneezed.

He turned toward me. “You are allergic to the flowers.”

“No,” I paused to rub my nose. “Actually, the pussy willows.”

Skovajsa stepped to the door, which hung ajar from him forcing it open. He opened it long enough to throw the entire bouquet out the door and then stepped back, turning to me.

“Thank you,” I said quietly. It seemed very strange that the one item out of all the ones florists might use in a bouquet that I was allergic to would be one that ended up in his offering. I touched my lips, which still tingled. I wish I could remember my dream and more importantly, why the room felt like it did when Jesper’s presence was around. I almost thought if I whispered his name, he might hear me. I bite my lip again. That was sure to enrage Skovajsa, who seemed to be calming down.

He gave me a determined look that made me think “Uh-Oh” and stepped to me, hand reaching into his jacket. In a swish of supernatural movement, he was on his knee before me, holding out a rectangular jewelry box.

“Forgive me. I have misbehaved. I had meant to shower you with gifts so you might see how much I desire you to join me.”

He flipped open the box, as eager as a schoolboy, but even I had to marvel at the creation inside. Not that I was warmly impressed. It was a stab of icy fear that a man with resources to acquire something obviously so expensive and so unique would’ve set his sights on me. It was a prelude to the kind of ownership that was absolute and completely devoid of any semblance of familiarity with me.

“You are of great value to me, Sophie Quinn. You should be with me.”

This is the part in most romance novels where the heroine tossing all care to the winds and recognizes that all was done for love, all should be forgive, the sins of the past were the forgotten under the spell of adoring admiration and undeniable sexual chemistry. Of course, in most romances the heroine was exquisite in form, wily of spirit, just in need of someone to love her completely, no matter what.

The only thing Skovajsa loved about me was my wealth of knowledge about vampires. The thing he truly cared about was his own safety and he would kill anyone and steal anything to safeguard it by becoming more powerful.

“You say nothing to my proposal?” His brow furrowed.

My eyes narrowed. He had backed me into a corner and there really wasn’t anything I could say that wouldn’t wind up with him killing me. So I might as well put a name to his doubt.

“Vasa Skoda.”

He took it like a slap. The lid of the jewelry box snapped shut and he was on his feet, his eyes hurt, his brain percolating. “What did you say?”

“Vasa Skoda. It’s your name. Your real name.”

He shook his head violently. “No.” He backed away, into the breakfast cart. “No.”

For the first time, I saw a hint of humanity in his eyes, a hint of fear. I had to take advantage of this opportunity. It would be the last I would get to try and pry him open. I flipped off the bedcovers and stood up in my sock monkey jammies and tank top.

“You are Vasa Skoda, Yugoslavian by birth, born sometime in the 1930’s,” I spoke with certainty, taking a step toward him with each bit of information I revealed. “You were a failed actor, model, who moved to Italy to try and become famous.”

“You lie! You know nothing about me. I am Skovajsa! I was blood brother to Vlad Dracul.” There was a note of panic to his tone.

“You were not. Vlad Dracul was never even a vampire. I have that on good authority. Dracul is a reference to the Order of the Dragon, a Christian group founded to defend Europe against the Ottoman Empire.”

He crouched away from me, his hand grabbing for the antique wine bottle. It seemed to be a talisman to him and, with it in hand, he straightened and took a step towards me. “I am Vampire!”

The force of his Vox shattered all the mirrors in the room and sent me to the floor. I didn’t stay there for long as he quickly grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the bed.

“You would slander me. You would deny me!”

With one hand around my chin forcing my mouth open, he flipped the stoppered top of the wine bottle open and began pouring what I knew to not be wine into my mouth. I seized my throat muscles shut, held my breath to try and prevent the liquid from getting down my throat but it didn’t do any good.

With a familiar flash of consciousness that harkened me back to the winter of 1885, a red searing pain cut through me, flooding my consciousness with all twelve prior lifetimes as they tried to exert themselves against the vampiric flood. I screamed as my head felt about to explode with the strength of thirteen enraged personas, tearing at the influence of the vampiric strain.

It was a familiar strain. I’d felt this before; the force of immortality trying to rip me asunder and staple me back together with rusty velvet ties. It was Valerian, his blood. His oppressive figure appeared in my mind, just as he had stood over me when an accidental taste had given us both a glimpse into what would come. Tearing at my hair, screaming at the burning with my mind, there had been no room for him in me. There was no room for him here, years later. But he pushed on anyways, his blood in wine format summoning his dark, demands of complete surrender.

The sisterhood of my lives formed ranks again to try and fight him but with only one new recruit and her fighting every thread of memory she had of him, they would be no match. It was a tapestry hallway in my mind, skirts of different ladies shuffling around each other, clustering together to protect the most essential part of my soul while the rest of me lying naked, shivering on the floor while Valerian approached.

He kneeled down to me, his hand brushing the hair pasted with sweat to my face. “No, no, no….”

The skirts stilled and then suddenly rustled as a figure stepping through them, tailored pants in short ankle leather boots. The figure stopped just behind me and kneeling Valerian looked up to see…himself.

“You cannot have her.”

The other Valerian, the one brought here by the Taint nodded and caressed my cheek. “She needs me. She is injured.”

“Fine,” my guardian Valerian spoke. The skirts of my past lives gathered behind him, each putting a hand on him to feed him energy. “You may go wherever you need to heal her, except beyond this door. You will not speak to her sisters. You will not dredge up any memories. And when she is healed, you will go, entirely.”

The tainted Valerian smiled fiercely. “She will need protection. She has always needed protection.”

A dark eyebrow rose. “Oh? I don’t know, ladies. I think we’re doing quite well, don’t you think?”

Heads of different styles and colors nodded. The taint of Valerian burst into a red flood and washed all through the hallway but parted around the back doorway, crashing into the carpet, completely absorbed. The pain continued but I felt the Guardian Valerian clasp hands with Darcie and the pain ebbed to an ache. I started to feel my body again, pushed gently back to reality by a young shepherdess I didn’t quite recognize.

Just as my mental redoubt was shoring up, Skovajsa chuckled in a pleased way, producing four fearsome, uneven fangs. Coming back to that was as jolting as waking up in the first place.

“No one denies me!” he snarled and tore into my neck.

Well, then, there’s nothing for it, Sophie dear. Knee to the groin then.

It was Darcie’s voice. I had never realized she did have a distinct voice until just this moment. Her accent reminded me of Maggie Smith. Wasn’t she in that one Mystery show? I launched my knee into Skovajsa’s groin only to have my suspicions realized. The man had no balls to speak of and my knee hit his pelvic bone hard. Ouch! Great.

The kukri, Sophie. Call to it. The accent this time was Indian, from the mountains, English not natural to her.

I didn’t have to call to it. I’d kept it close. Under the pillow. All I had to do was grabbed for it but I couldn’t reach and my consciousness was starting to fade as Skovajsa’s hand gripped into the opposite of my neck. Damn!

Just as another persona swelled up, Skovajsa jerked up and spat my blood out. I’d never see that happen, realized I wasn’t seeing it happen from within my body at all. I floated just above and watched my body racked by seizure, Skovajsa still holding me down, the wine bottle forgotten on the bed, soaking into the bedcovers.

The Taint and Skovajsa’s bite had caused me to jump out of my body. My other lifetimes were taking turns inside to try and get me free. I’d have to ponder over how it was possible later but the pain was a smidge less although I still couldn’t breathe yet. Skovasja was still choking me. But he suddenly staggered away from me, lifting the bottle to his lips and drinking down all that was left.

Somehow I recognized that whatever protection Taint Valerian offered might have extended into my blood. Or maybe it had been whatever had rendered me unconscious might have somehow altered my blood chemistry too. I wasn’t able to string the thoughts together to figure it out. Whatever it was, it meant he couldn’t feed from me which, in this case, meant he probably couldn’t convert me.

Universe 2, Vampire Psychologist (via her Super Secret Friends) 1

A sudden scent of jasmine and gardenia tugged at me hard, propelling me back into my body. I was dimwitted for certain but this nameless persona stretched my hand out and grabbed the bag the Kukri was in. Her strength suddenly faded as my skin contacted the metal but there was one last thought she shared.

“Jesper. Help us.”

I couldn’t know if it was she or I that breathed it but Skovajsa, eyes now red with fresh blood, raised his arm and smacked me in the face with the wine bottle. Before I could crash into anything, he’d already snatched me up.

“You will tell me everything. You will guide me towards the power I seek. And you will be my vampire bride.”

With that, he crashed us back through the hotel door, out a fire exit at the end of the hall, and jumped across the rooftops until he landed in a construction site across the street. Amazingly, I’d managed to keep the knapsack with the Kukri. Furthermore, the sky seemed to be lightening up with the dawn of a Northern summer sky.

Universe 2, Vampire Psychologist 3

The odds seemed to be stacking up for me. I just needed to somehow survive the next half hour. The prospect of which was absurd. However, a soft voice reminiscent of the scent of flowers assured me I wouldn’t be alone for long.

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