Sharp fangs grazed my neck, Charlie’s shaking breath giving me goosebumps as I waited for the pain to begin. It felt like an eternity until I felt anything but fear when suddenly, a sharp burning pain blossomed where his mouth connected. My eyes flew open and I gripped the front of his shirt, trying to resist the urge to cry out.
It was an interesting type of pain that I hadn’t felt before. Maybe because until tonight, I didn’t fully believe that vampires existed. There was really nothing to compare the feeling of getting my blood sucked out of my neck by an almost-stranger.
The whole process was a lot more quiet than I thought it would be, save for the occasional ragged breath from the two of us trying to keep it down. I closed my eyes again, feeling the rush of endorphins set in as his fangs disconnected. Tongue flat on the surface, he licked the excess blood away from my neck and pulled back. When I opened my eyes, I saw that his skin was flushed, his eyes bright, and his expression almost blissful.
“Thank you,” Charlie breathed, returning to his former position on the couch.
“You’re welcome,” I said as I tried to regain my composure.
Charlie cleared his throat slightly. “You’re going to feel very tired here in a moment. Would you like me to take you home to recover?”
I blinked slowly. By ‘a moment’, he definitely meant immediately. “Uh yeah, that works…” Standing up, he held his hand out for me to take. His touch was warm now. “Hey…did my blood make you warm??”
“Yes,” he said simply. “I probably look less tired too. Human blood is very different from any other blood.”
“Yes.” We exited Eclipse through the back, Forsythia still jamming as we left. He continued to talk, although his words were beginning to slur together slightly. “Most country vampires rely on animal blood, but in the city…Well, it’s easier to find a victim, I would assume. I always ask permission though.”
“Is that why you haven’t had a steady food supply?”
“Yes,” he sighed. He then tripped over the sidewalk, quickly regained his footing, and looked down at me to add, “You are a lightweight, aren’t you?”
“Uh, kind of…”
“Your blood has a lot of alcohol in it,” he pointed out, grabbing my hand again. We walked down the street sloppily, and I wondered to myself if we looked as messy as I knew we both felt.
“My place isn’t too far,” I told him. “We only have five more minutes to go if we keep walking.” Charlie just nodded, holding my hand tightly. The rest of the walk was spent concentrating on our next step forward. I touched where he had bitten and instantly regretted it, as it was very tender. It probably looked ridiculous, like a huge violent hickey. Maybe makeup would cover it, but I didn’t have to see it to know that it probably wouldn’t.
We made it in one piece, and upon getting to my front door, I looked up at him. He was looking at the door intensely, but he eventually looked down at me and gave me that small smile. “Well, this is where we part,” he sighed, letting go of my hand.
“Are you going to be able to get home okay?” I asked him. “It would be okay if you stayed…”
“I shouldn’t,” he insisted. “My sister will most likely be waiting for me after the show, so I should go back.”
Oh yeah, the show! I had forgotten. “Okay, well get back safely!”
“I will,” Charlie smiled. “Thank you again. Try to take it easy tomorrow…your body will need the rest.” I nodded, getting my keys out of my jacket pocket. “I’ll see you next time?”
“Of course,” I smiled. He turned to leave, putting his hands in his pockets, and I watched him walk away for a moment before hurrying inside.
I practically ran to the closest mirror in my house and pulled my hair back to look at my neck. A gasp escaped my mouth as I stared at the blotchy mark, two puncture wounds nestled neatly in the middle. Red was already starting to go purple around the mark. My suspicion of it looking like a crazy hickey was confirmed.
Over the weekend, my neck turned a deeper purple. I was exhausted the first day, but by the time Monday rolled around, my energy way back to normal and my neck had faded to a reddish color. The puncture wounds had all but healed, just scabs on my neck now.
Work was calling my name. For some reason, the idea of seeing Charlie as a customer again got me kind of excited. Even though it ended kind of weird, the date itself was alright. Maybe we could try again?
Before I could ask him, however, I had to get through the workday. Mike was running around like crazy when I got to work, even though no one was in the store. “Mallory!” He looked so relieved to see me. Running up to me, he exclaimed, “Please clock in as fast as you can, we’ve got a promotion that has to go up before we open!”
I looked at the clock on the wall. “Mike, the store’s been open for three hours.”
“I know!!!” Mike ran off, and I went to clock in, sighing. It was gonna be a long day.
After a long day of setting up displays and listening to Mike complain about corporate he called it a day, leaving me to close up again. There was only thirty minutes left, which could only mean one thing: Charlie was going to be coming in soon.
I walked to the break room and got a water bottle from the fridge, and when I came back out Charlie was standing at the counter, holding a card. He was smiling, amused by my surprised facial expression most likely. “Hey,” I breathed. It was incredible how he came in so quietly.
“Hello, Mal,” he greeted, setting the card on the counter. He looked at my neck and nodded once. “Looks like your neck is healing well.”
“Yeah?” I touched it and winced. “It’s still a bit tender.”
“It will be,” Charlie told me. “For a few more days, anyway.” He paused, looking away briefly, before meeting my eyes again. “Thank you again for the other night. I’m sorry if it was overwhelming for you.”
“Was it overwhelming for you?” I asked.
He shrugged halfheartedly. “Not particularly. I’ve done it before, after all. I just…it had been a long time since I’ve had a good flavor, I guess.”
“I…have a good flavor?” I knew I was blushing.
“It sounds weird,” Charlie said bashfully, rubbing the back of his head. “But it’s true!”
I just laughed, not knowing how to respond. I scanned the card and took a deep breath in, trying to not feel awkward. “So,” I breathed out, “how was the rest of your weekend?”
“Good,” Charlie said simply. He handed me the money for the card. “My sister and I went to visit our father.”
“How is he?” I remembered him telling me he was sick.
“He’s seen better days,” he admitted, looking like he was trying to hide his pain with the smile he gave me. “I’m trying to help him find a cure.”
“What’s wrong with him? If you don’t mind me asking, of course,” I added.
Charlie took a moment before answering. “He’s got blood poisoning.”
“No, like he had some bad blood,” Charlie corrected. “It’s like food poisoning for humans, but much more deadly.”
I nodded thoughtfully. Seeing as the whole vampires are real thing was new to me, I had never thought of a sick vampire. “How did that happen?”
“Well,” Charlie started, leaning against the counter, “in my father’s instance, he ingested some blood that had already been tainted with vampire blood.”
“How does that work?”
“When you Turn someone, you have to give them some of your vampire blood to finish the process,” Charlie patiently explained. “It takes three days to complete the Turning. My guess is that this person was unaware that they had been Turned in the first place and was attacked by my father directly after another vampire had started the process.”
“Damn,” I said. “That’s crazy.”
“It’s a whole thing,” Charlie agreed. “We’re trying to find fresh blood to flush out the old tainted blood but the city he lives in is mostly made up of vampires.”
My jaw dropped. “They have vampire cities?!”
“Yes,” Charlie said. “The three of us are from the City of Vladen. I think everyone else calls it Dennison.”
“That’s only an hour from here, right?” I asked, picturing the glittering city in my head. I had never been there but I’d driven past a few times in my life. My parents always commented on how beautiful it looked at night. I wondered if they had ever been.
“It’s not too far,” Charlie said. “Close enough to this city to hunt for food. I don’t know why my father didn’t just come here,” he added, voice growing frustrated.
“I’m sure he’ll be okay,” I said quickly, trying to diffuse whatever was beginning to happen in his mind.
“I just have to find pure blood, is all,” Charlie said sadly, looking away from me. “It’s harder than you’d think. Percy and I have been looking for quite some time.”
“My sister,” Charlie informed me. I remembered her instantly, still in awe at how a petite, beautiful lady could scream that hard into a microphone. “She’s been busy looking for pure blood, but it’s so hard to find now.”
I frowned, not knowing the difference. “What makes it so pure? I know I’m asking lots of questions, but this is all new, so…”
“I understand,” Charlie said, giving me a tiny smile. “Honestly, I wouldn’t tell you any of this if I didn’t think you could keep it a secret.”
“I can!” I assured him. No one would believe me even if I did tell.
“I know.” He looked at the clock behind my head. “It’s almost closing time. Should I leave?”
Spinning around, I saw that it was indeed five till close. “You can stay while I clean,” I hastily told him.
“Great,” Charlie smiled a little bigger. “I’ll tell you about the blood thing, then.” He cleared his throat before continuing. “Pure blood is blood that has never been touched by a vampire. You can tell by the way a person or an animal smells. It’s a sweet smell. As the human, or other being, is used for more and more drinks, the sweet smell fades.”
“Can a person’s blood be tainted as they continue to be used for, yknow, food?” I asked from across the store.
“Not exactly,” Charlie said. “The taste gets a little stale but it takes a very long time. The only way to fully taint a human’s blood is to add vampire blood to it. That’s considered Turning the human into a vampire.”
Finishing sweeping, I thought about this fact. As far as I know, Charlie was the only vampire I knew. “Could you use my blood?”
Charlie shook his head. “I was selfish and took your blood first,” he said sheepishly. “Technically your blood has been touched. It has to be very pure.”
“Oh.” Honestly, I wouldn’t want anyone else to take my blood…Charlie only got it because he asked, and he was nice about it. Still, it sucked that his father wasn’t able to find anyone who qualified. If my dad needed something like this, I’d help him in a heartbeat.
Charlie cleared his throat, bringing me back to reality. “Are you finished? I can walk you home, if you’d like.”
“I, uh, drove today,” I said, gripping the broom a little tighter. “But I can take you home, if you want.”
“That isn’t necessary,” he protested, but I shook my head.
“I don’t mind! You usually walk, right? I’m sure you don’t live far from here.”
Charlie nodded, obviously not wanting to argue. “Thank you,” he said graciously. I just gave him a smile as I put the broom away.
I grabbed my stuff and let Charlie walk out first, locking the door behind us. The drive itself was only two minutes, but Charlie insisted the whole time it only took “five minutes, six if it’s snowing” to walk to the shop.
“I don’t mind taking you home,” I kept repeating, growing more amused as he kept getting more flustered about it. Finally, we were outside of his apartment building. “Here we are,” I exclaimed, smiling at him. “Anytime you need a ride home, you let me know, okay Charlie? I don’t mind, honestly. You’re only ten minutes away from my house!”
“Thank you, Mal,” he said politely. If he could blush naturally, I’m sure he would be in this moment. “I’ll see you next time?”
“Of course,” I smiled at him as he opened the door and got out. Before he closed the door, he turned and leaned into the car.
“Would you like to go out again this weekend? My sister invited me to her boyfriend’s art show, but I don’t want to go by myself.”
“I enjoy art,” I said blankly, surprised at his timing. “I’ll go with you, for sure.” Charlie smiled at me, pleased, before closing my car door and walking into his complex.
As I drove home, I could feel my heart racing. Another date? My face grew hot. I couldn’t believe I’d said yes…although it was what I wanted, it still felt unreal, almost wrong, to consider our first date a real one. After all, I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced that he liked me for real. He could’ve just been in it for the food supply, and I could be playing the game he wanted me to play…
Or he was being genuine and I could calm down. People always told me that I was the master of overthinking, after all.
When I pulled up to my house, I reached for my cell phone. The only person I could think of that might understand what was happening lived across country, and I needed to call her. The pure feeling of knowing that my best friend wouldn’t believe me almost made it okay to tell her Charlie’s secret.
“Hello?” Bernie’s voice was like music to my ears. “What’s up, Mallory?”
“Hey, Bernie,” I greeted as I closed the door behind me. “I have a lot going on and I need your advice.”
Bernie laughed. “You know I’m the best advice giver,” she sarcastically said.
“I know,” I sighed. “I think you’re probably going to be the only one who believes me.”
“Is that why you called me instead of Jules?”
“Jules would never believe me,” I chuckled. Jules was our third Musketeer; she was the logical one of the group, and she definitely would think I was crazy. “So listen, I have a story to tell you and I’m just going to tell you it straight, so please don’t laugh or anything, okay?”
I sighed deeply. She was going to laugh. “You know Charlie Bennet, that guy who always comes into my job? Well, I went on a date with him the other night and he told me he was a vampire.”
There was a very long pause in which neither of us spoke. I didn’t want to say anything else until she responded, but it seemed like she never would. Finally, I could hear her take a breath. “Is this one of those pranks where I have to play along, or are you being serious right now?”
“As serious as a heart attack.”
Bernie started laughing. Hard. I wanted to hang up so bad, feeling the rush of embarrassment hit the surface, but I held on, wanting to explain myself.
She regained control of herself after a few minutes, asking me with laughter still in her voice, “What makes you think that he’s a vampire?”
“The fact that he drank some of my blood might have something to do with it,” I offered. This only made her laugh harder. “I’m being completely serious right now!”
“I don’t know, Mal, this all seems ridiculous. Maybe you just imagined this? He didn’t actually drink your blood…”
I began to tell her every little detail about the date. She continued to giggle, but I could tell she was trying to calm down to actually listen to me. When I got to the end, she was still chuckling. “Bernie, you know I don’t lie about stuff like this. I wouldn’t have come to you if I knew you weren’t going to believe me.”
“Okay, okay,” she sighed into the phone, amused. “Say I do believe you. Why are you telling me all this in the first place? Do you like this guy that much?”
“I mean, kind of?” I shrugged. “He seems like a nice guy? He’s normal, if you ignore the vampire part. I’m just worried that he only wants a steady food source, and usually I’m by myself so I’m kind of an easy target. I don’t want to get into too much trouble, you know?”
“It sounds like he wants companionship at the very least,” Bernie pointed out. “He only takes blood with permission from what you told me. He could be in it for you, too. That is, if I believe all of this, anyway,” she added hastily.
“So you think I should go out with him again?”
Another sigh. “I don’t know, Mal, this all sounds made up, but I believe you’re telling the truth.” She paused, and I could practically hear the gears in her head turning. “If you do go out with him again, call me right after so we can figure out if he’s into you or just your blood!”
It was my turn to chuckle now. “Thanks, Bernie,” I said. “You actually kind of helped me a little bit.”
“That’s a first,” she said. “I’m shit at advice.”
“This time, you did good. Just…don’t tell Jules or anyone else, okay? I might have promised that I wouldn’t tell anyone. That and I don’t want people to think I’m crazy, talking about vampires and whatnot.”
“Mal, you already sound like a crazy person…but I’ll keep your crazy on the DL.”
We said our goodbyes and I sat my phone next to me on the couch. Bernie wasn’t really much help, but she was a good listener. Going on a second date with Charlie wouldn’t be a bad thing, seeing as I had a decent time on the first one. This one had the potential to be better. Meeting his sister would be an experience as well, I figured. Bernie was good for one thing: She forced me to underthink. Sometimes, not thinking so hard about things was the way to go.
The only thing to overthink now was the second date outfit.
Thanks for reading, y’all! I hope you liked this second part of the story! I don’t really know where it’s going, seeing as I’m just kinda writing to get the story out of my head and into the universe! If I keep it up past two more parts, I’ll probably move the story over to one series page, like my Top Albums series.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this story so far, so feel free to follow me on Twitter and let me know what you think! I also tweet other fun things, so go for the constructive criticism, stay for my awful tweets.