As a Halloween treat, I'm posting a short story first published in The Romance Place back in 2005. Enjoy!
Nightfall in G Flat
by Cheryel Hutton
The Tivoli Theatre was old, almost as old as Tala herself. There had been more than one extensive remodeling over the long years the building had stood, of course. Still, the ancientness of its structure appealed to Tala.
She arrived late, so that the majority of patrons would already be seated. The human's sharp smell assaulted her anyway, but it was better than if they had been moving around. Less distraction, fewer problems. Her seat was in the back of the room, as was her preference, and she lowered herself into it.
Tala closed her eyes and allowed the music to wash over her in waves. Closing her mind as well, she shut out the extraneous sounds and the sharp metallic smell from all around her. She wanted to drown in the music, to be pulled under to a place where dank darkness and sewer smells didn't exist. A place where blood was a metaphor, and not an everyday reality.
The smell woke her from her self-induced state. At first she thought it was another of her kind. But no, it was human. Different though, different enough that the smell broke through the sharp taint of blood that permeated the theatre.
She tried to restrain herself, but seemed compelled to turn and look at this creature.
Human male, and to all appearances nothing more. Dark hair, cut a bit short for her taste. Standard black tuxedo. Guessing from his appearance, he would be in his thirties. His gaze was locked on the orchestra, and his expression denoted enjoyment. Beside him sat a human female. Rich warm blood pounded through the woman's pale body, and Tala found herself inhaling its metallic perfume.
She must control herself. This was not the time, nor the place.
Tala looked away-and met the eyes of the human male.
There was a connection. She felt drawn toward him, and not in the way she was drawn toward most humans. There was no hunger, no thirst. This was another desire altogether. A desire she hadn't felt in centuries.
She heard his heart pounding, saw blood was coloring his cheeks, sensed his maleness was inflamed.
She slowly licked her lips, aware the action was having a strong effect on the man. She smirked. He wasn't so very different after all.
And then he smiled.
Suddenly her body was reacting in a way it hadn't in almost 400 years. If she didn't know better, she'd swear her blood was pounding in her veins. But that was impossible.
Using every bit of self-control she had learned over her long existence, she turned back toward the front. The orchestra was playing Liszt. Normally, the sound of her favorite composer was enough to allow her to slide into a meditative state.
Tonight, though, tonight she felt a part of her consciousness catch and pull toward the human sitting twenty feet from her. She wasn't happy with this development. But in some odd way she seemed to be enjoying the concert even more than usual. As if some switch had been flipped, the music seemed sweeter, more melodious.
Just before the last piece ended, Tala slipped out of her seat and moved toward the exit. A stray glance told her the man was watching her, and she allowed herself a smile. He'd no doubt dream about her for a time.
The few people in the lobby parted before her without realizing they were doing it. And she slipped out into the darkness. Night, her kingdom. The moon was a tiny sliver, so the night was almost pitch black. She smiled. It was better when it was thus.
She turned into a dark alley, and followed the familiar route toward the other side of town. Too familiar. She needed to move on soon.
In the dark alleys and garbage strewn corners of the money deprived section of the city, she took her dinner. She would have loved to take it from the haughty theatergoers, but that would cause unnecessary complications. So she fed on those less fortunate. It took a while. She hadn't caused the death of a human in many years, but taking a little from several sources took longer. Still, she preferred the high road.
Around 2 AM, satiated and calm, she found herself wandering back toward the theatre. Not sure why, it simply seemed the thing to do.
Long before she arrived, she knew why. The scent carried on the breeze, and curiosity grew in her. She approached the corner of the building. "Show yourself," she said into the darkness.
He stepped from the shadows. "I knew you'd come."
"Couldn't tell you, I just knew."
"What are you?"
He took a step toward her. "I think the better question is what are you?"
She smiled. "You already know. I am a blood drinker."
"I have been called such." She moved closer to him, breathing in his scent. The tuxedo was gone, replaced with a pair of jeans and a sweater. "You are human, but somehow more."
"What makes you say that?"
"I smell it."
"I smell blood on you," he said.
"I must eat to survive."
"You survive by taking human lives."
"No. I do not kill. Most do not even know I have tasted of them."
"A moral vampire, well, what do you know."
"If our kind were not moral, there would be none of yours."
A slow smile spread across the human's face. "You're a spitfire, aren't you?"
"Spunky, strong willed."
"I like that in a woman."
"I am not a woman."
"Oh yes, you are." He pulled her toward him and touched his lips to hers.
His warmth enveloped her. Heat, not only from his body, but from some long untouched place inside her own, allowed her to feel warm for the first time in four centuries. And she gave herself to him, pulling at him, feeling his hands touch her as no being ever had.
Then she pulled away. "We should not."
"It is dangerous."
His laugh was deep, and resonated within her. "I'm not chicken."
"You do not know what you are doing."
"You're gonna bite me?"
"I might not be able to control-"
"I can." He pulled her against him, and again she was caught in his heat. It made no sense, yet somehow she believed him.
They moved as one into the shadows, where he pulled the straps of her evening gown down and touched his lips to her breasts. She moaned and pulled him closer. He leaned her against the brick wall of the theatre and kissed her hard and deep. It was pitch black, but he--like she--appeared able to see perfectly. When they united, it was like nothing she had ever dreamed could be possible. Her body writhed in ecstasy. Never, not in all her years, had she felt such pleasure.
Darkness had deepened into the rich velvet that comes before the warning streaks of light began to appear. Tala knew the time with the human was over.
"I must go," she whispered, and turned.
"Sleep well," she heard, as she journeyed toward home.
Back in the safety of her basement bedroom, she berated herself for her involvement with a human. No matter how odd he was, he was still human--and therefore dangerous. It had been an insane thing she had done. As powerful as she was, she knew humans had destroyed many of her kind. There was even a breed of human that lived for nothing but to harass and destroy blood drinkers. These humans were not so much human as animal. They were cruel and obsessed. It was even rumored they had no soul.
She was fortunate, and must never be so careless again.
Still, in spite of all her inner lecturing, when darkness again gathered, she found herself longing to travel to the vicinity of the theatre. She fed and started toward home, only to find herself going instead toward the center of town.
She didn't really expect the man to be there, but still she went. It seemed impossible not to go.
She saw him moving toward her from five blocks away--and was convinced he saw her also. Extraordinary this human. She wasn't afraid, but still the strangeness of the situation set off a warning bell somewhere inside her.
Then he touched her, and all she cared was that the human's hands were creating sensations in her she had believed long lost. Swept up in a hot wave of passion, Tala lost all sense of herself. The giving and taking of pleasure was all there was. And she gave herself over to it.
Hours later, she leaned against the wall of a building and basked in the warmth that seemed to surround her. "You are one strange human," she told the man.
"My name is James," he said.
"Mine is Tala. In the language of my people, it means wolf."
"Beautiful," James whispered."I must go now," she told him.
"I know, my darling Tala. Sleep well."
She hesitated, but knew she must get to safety before sunrise.
For almost a month, she was drawn every night to the center square of downtown. And every night, James waited there for her.
The moon was bright on one beautiful night, and Tala gave in to her most treasured desire.
"Come home with me," she found herself saying."I'm honored," he said.Together they journeyed to the house she called home. There, in the darkness of her basement bedroom, they continued their coupling in spurts throughout the day.
As the sun began to dip behind the hills, Tala woke from a dreamless sleep to find the human curled beside her in the bed. She smelled his blood coursing through his veins, and was quite surprised at her lack of interest. She was thirsty, yes, but not for him.
His eyes opened, and he smiled at her. "Good night, beautiful."
"Good night, James."
She slid from her bed and went to the sound system in the corner. Soon music swelled and filled the room. "I know you like classical."
James smiled. "Schubert. Impromptu #3 in G flat."
"Night's coming, I smell it."
"You smell it? I did not have that ability when I was human."
"I think you know, I'm not your average human."
Pain touched her, but still she spoke. "You are one of them, are you not? A Hunter. One of those whose sole existence is spent in destroying my kind."
His eyes closed. "Yes," he whispered. "I am a Hunter by birth."
"Are you going to try to kill me?"
"No." His gaze met hers. "I have never killed a vampire."
She laughed then. "You are lying."
"No, I'm not."
"Hunters kill blood drinkers. That is their entire reason for existence."
"And you are a Hunter."
"Therefore, you must kill blood drinkers."
He stood. He was wearing no clothes, and yet his expression seemed more naked than his body. "I'm not your usual Hunter."
"Then what are you!"
"I'm a man. A man with a conscience. A man who doesn't feel the need to hurt another creature." He stepped toward her, holding out a hand as if to give her a gift. "And I love you."
"You have a soul," she whispered.
He shrugged. "I suppose."
"I don't know what to think."
He took another step toward her. "Look into your heart, see what it tells you."
"I have no heart."
He touched a hand to her chest. "Yes, you do."
She closed her eyes for a moment, then looked into his face. It was irrational. But she believed him.
"I wish for us to remain together," she told him.
"It's dangerous for you. The Hunters hate me."
"I am not chicken."
He laughed as he pulled her into his arms.
For a time they gave themselves to the pleasure of closeness.
Finally Tala's hunger pulled her back to the presence. "I must eat," she told him.
"I will go with you."
She studied him. "You are human, there is no blood drinking for you."
He smiled as he touched her cheek. "I don't believe I really want to watch you bite people, but I do want to spend time with you. And I need to find food of my own."
"If you wish, you may accompany me."
As Schubert continued to play, two shadows walked together into the night.
Originally published in The Romance Place, October 2005
Copyright by Cheryel Hutton, all rights reserved.