1

"I assure you, I'm not like this all the time…"

How could anyone resist them? These women, pressing themselves to you, demanding for kisses, for their name whispered in your predator's voice, preternaturally enhanced and flowing like silk from between your lips.

And why could I not resist?

She danced in front of me, well-made body sliding in between my hands, her back against my chest. She was too hot for me. I had begun to feel feverish, my own heart thudding almost painfully to the rhythm of hers.

Please stop, please. I can't bear this ecstasy.

Were they my words or hers?

2

"Sir, you do kiss deeply," she giggled, unaware that half her dress was torn from her throat, that blood had poured over her honey-coloured shoulders just moments ago. The blood had stopped flowing, but my tears had not.

Why was I so damn selfish?!

3

Sleep took her, but she fought it with all her might. Sleep paralysed her limbs, locked them around the sweet mortal girl, barely an adult, lying twined with her. After all she'd been warned, after all she'd had yelled at herself…

She had done the inevitable, and fallen in love with a mortal.

Was there any hope for this blissfully bittersweet union?

4

Pain and sweat and pleasure beyond imagining, a man with dark eyes, dark hands and lips soft as velvet. I try to take a breath, but he kisses me, forcing his tongue between my lips. I scream in my head as he takes me again, and I wish I was not a man.

That way, I would be free from the guilt that plagues me as he drives ivory-coloured teeth into my shoulder, and bleeds me once again.

5

"I'm cold."

"I'm sorry, love… take my coat, you look frozen."

"…"

"What? Why are you staring at me like that? Why won't you speak to me?"

"I should not be loving you, but yet I have no choice…"

"Don't say stupid things like that. I want you. I need you. I love you."

"I know. I know. I just have no wish for this to end in bloodshed and tears…"

"Shush. You know I'll always love you, no matter what. Always, Daniel."

6

Blood.

The single word that haunts me, yet still I stick to rats.

Why the hell am I a vampire?!

7

"Muuum, can I…."

I can't remember what happened next very clearly. I remember a lot of blood, a very strong man, and a woman beating him back, finally throwing him through the window.

That woman could not have been my mother.

So why is she now sitting on the end of my bed, watching me with concern and love in her eyes? Why can the woman whom I believed was my mother throw full-grown men through windows?

And if she really is my mother… Then who the hell am I?

8

Forget the silk and satin, forget what you think you know about me. I've lived far too long for you to sit here and bandy words with a comic-opera devil who brandishes his cape and laughs into small children's frightened faces.

What would you like to know about me?

Would you wish to hear tales of the barbarian Ottomans, radiant in their Turkish splendour as they charged to meet me? Or perhaps, of the child-bride I nearly married, of the girl who threw herself off a clifftop rather than marry an unnatural killer? I still pray for her, even now.

Well then, would you like to know if the book was true? In fact, if we are to start my introduction with such a question, then are any of the many books written about me true? All I will say on this subject is that all of them have lied about my supposed death- I am unkillable. I cannot die.

And I really did meet the Kostova woman.

Well then… I think that's far too much information about myself. What about you, young man, sitting in your chair, eyes agleam and desperate for a new story to sell to your gazette? Can I ask you anything about your short life? Or are you too frightened of my cold hands raking through your hair, too close to your throat?

I know you now. I should say that is enough to have you sweating through nightmares every night, dreading the tapping of a bat at the window.

I do not use that form any more. In fact, you are in more danger sitting so close to me- yes, even here!- in this crowded place, looking at me with those lovely blue eyes.

Run, boy. Run as if you'd never wanted to come here in the first place.

Run for your life, as the saying goes.

But I will catch you.

9

Why was it, that even as his honeyed voice whispered in my ear, that I hungered for the mortal woman lying nearly dead in the bed opposite, when I should have been kissing him with all the strength I possessed?

I did take her that night. I made her ours, and regretted every moment that I had to share him with her. She always loved me better, that I could tell. Over the centuries though, he mellowed, became less angry and more gentle, and I finally began to love my creator. I told him much in the early days, and we finally found my solution.

Of course, two women together always did arouse me more than words can say and at long last, I have my happily ever after.

10

I love killing the killers. I loved it tonight, when that bastard grabbed the woman's handbag, ran with it down an alley to his doom. I loved it so much when he struggled with me, frightened yet still angry, and I loved tasting the rage in his blood as I drained him dry.

I even snap their necks at the end of it all sometimes, in my utter rapture.

But what puzzled me tonight was this: the woman whose handbag I dutifully delivered, sliding in the window and dropping it onto her bedside table, has not stopped following me. Ever since that night, I see her reflection in windows, her fingers clicking round a chain of rosary beads. She thinks I have not seen her, hiding behind a full-cream latte, as I sit in late-night cafes with my mortal associates, laughing with them as if I really was human again.

I do know nearly everything about her, and it won't be too long before I ask her to join my small team. For you see, the Black Powers grow daily stronger, and my team and I are dedicated to wiping them out, keeping mortal crime down, protecting the innocent. She, sitting over there, watching me behind a copy of Asimov's Foundation, is perfect material. Her tenacity, her will to live, her total and utter single-mindedness, her quick mind… all perfect ammunition against them.

And besides… I really am getting rather fond of her.

11

Their crime was perfect, brutal and gorgeous in execution- she lay with her throat slashed open, blood soaking the fine chiffon of the under garment she wore, her eyes glassy and near death. They raised their glasses, smiling, and drunk a liquid far too red to be wine.

The terror of the night snapped her mind- even though she survived, was taken to the finest hospital and stitched carefully up, she could see things from then on.

Such as a certain doctor, sweet and gentle, taking care of her as if she were glass… she could smell the deer's blood on his breath once every month. She loved him totally, but knew he was too afraid of his inner self to let her in.

Something wasn't right about another one- she felt dead, just kept there by will of something else. Some unearthly power kept that woman in the wards, lumbering down the corridors to unlock another set of doors, to restrain this or that patient. She terrified the girl, so much so that the odd woman was no longer permitted to attend her.

Some of the others were not visible to the other people around her, but the girl saw them all. Children, skipping through walls, dogs barking with no body… they were sweet, friendly. She wished they had bodies.

But her favourite was the man in the cell next door. He slept like the dead every day, and would hold her hand through the bars of the floor grille at night. They had whispered conversations so the dead woman wouldn't hear. She told him all her hopes and dreams, and he told her his tragic story, and the reason for his imprisonment, the reason that they took so much blood from him whilst he slept during the day. He also told her that he would get her out of here. Of course she wanted to help him, and if blood was what he needed, then blood he would have.

He kept her sane in there, and when the time came, she held tight to him as they flitted away across moonlit grounds.

13

Thirteen is unlucky. Definitely for me.

I can feel something, I can tell there's something wrong. I don't like being here, I hate this trite lie I tell myself that I can cope with you.

I can't be with you. But I need to be.

So many centuries clinging to you, but where did that lead me to? Death, pain, a lifetime of regret and sex like the stitches to hold us together. This was not my life before I died to find you. My thoughts hate you, hold you, kiss you… ah, that kiss! You paralyse me in your heart, eating my resolve to go, all the while building walls to shrine you in.

I feel like a china doll. I am not together, I've been broken in a million pieces, and only blood keeps me sane.

14

I languidly waved my hand.

"Not now, I'm busy."

The girl beneath my hand screamed again, her blood shining and red and hot underneath my fingers. With the amount she was panicking, her blood was flowing evermore swiftly from her veins, killing her quicker than I'd wanted. She squirmed fruitlessly, and I merely grinned a bloody grin at her and took my time in biting down again. Her heart thundered in my ears, in my heart, in my flesh, and it was with a snarl of irritation that I looked up again.

"What do you want? What on earth is so important you would deny me my prey?" I hissed at the adolescent girl, my maid, who stood behind my shoulder. She flinched at the venom in my voice, but proceeded as if she hadn't.

"There's a messenger boy at the gate. He wants to see you, master," she said, then flitted out of the room in a fraction of a second when she saw my expression. I grimaced, then turned back to the whore who struggled in my grasp.

She froze instantly, halfway through sneaking a small (but potent) knife from a hidden pocket in her tastelessly revealing dress. Cheap satin and taffeta shone already with her delicious red elixir, but the fear in her eyes was beyond intoxicating. That knife was the reason I'd chosen her. Who knew how many of her customers she'd killed, like a skinny black widow stalking her prey?

"Were you really hoping she'd provide the right distraction for your escape, hm?" I asked her, tightening my angry grip on her throat. She tried to scream again, but the sound was muffled as I mercilessly ripped another hole in her throat and felt hot blood gush into my mouth.

15

The moment I lost you was a moment I'll always hate myself for. I should have stopped you looking for them, I should have taken the knives from our house and hidden them away, somewhere where you couldn't find them and give blood to the 'friends' you brought home. I often found you pale and wracked with pleasure on the sheets of our bed, another set of teeth marks or a knife wound across your arm, your leg… or worse, your chest. I lost count of the times I had to bandage you up, make you take iron pills again, ban you from going out.

Why did you go?

Was I not man enough to cope with your craving for the extreme, for the wild? Was I simply not one of them? I was your husband, for fuck's sake. I looked after you, cared for you at your worst, with that razor blade and that fucking loud rock music, the three women all twined with you on our bed-

No. I won't go there. I can't- not if I want my sanity.

You see, when you left with those three I lost my mind. Those… things… they're not having my wife. I want you back, and I'm prepared to fight for you.

You were always the dependant one, my dear. You can't catch me now… and I'm sorry.

16

"Sod the ethics and morals. Just drink from me."

I moaned and turned away, keeping the temptation away from me. She sat there, a wild look on the pale face hiding behind black bangs, and it was after I was looking away from her compelling eyes that I smelt it.

The scent of her blood filled the room, and I whipped round. She'd cut her forearm just above the wrist and the blood was pouring down towards her fingers. The knife gleamed, her blood shining and beautiful, red over silver.

It was as simple as that. With another moan of longing I was latched to that cut and drinking, blood flowing into my mouth. My heart thudded a crazy rhythm in my chest, I gripped her wrist far too hard and lapped at the blood flowing across that white skin. I was lost in the rich sweet taste of it, the energy dancing across my tongue like lightning.

"Oh God," I thought, "is this wrong?"

Then she made a small sound of pleasure, and I was lost in her blood, her scent, her body, her, once again.

And the moral is this, my friends…

Being a vampire is NOT that simple. It is a life filled with that delicate, dangerous, tormenting and exquisite craving- a craving for a more damaging and elusive thing than blood. The nemesis of each and every vampire, in whatever way, is simply this: the love of the mortal will drive you to despair.