Renaissance Makoto J (ルネサンス・真・J)
Hazel looked up at the sign hanging above the door: East St. Louis Pets. Back again, he thought and looked down at the box in his hands with accusation as if the box’s inhabitants had X-ray vision and reason to apologize.
He’d been here just two days ago and hadn’t thought he’d need to be back so soon. Trying to be helpful was proving to be a pain in the butt. His friend Ryan had taken a nasty tumble down some slick stairs at a department store. He’d been laid up in a cast for several weeks and relying heavily on people to help with little errands. Hazel had been sent to the pet store on one of these errands and had apparently done a terrible job. So here he was, trying to fix his mistake.
He was thin with shaggy ash brown hair bleached blond by sunlight and hazel eyes that changed color depending on what he wore and the light around him. He’d been told he was “cute” by too many girlfriends to count. He didn’t think about it too much.
He stepped inside and took a look around for help. It wasn’t a large store, but it was well-lit. His desperate, lost expression should be easy to see, he figured. The gurgle of fish tanks behind him made him jump. He couldn’t escape it, really: the place was filled with zoo-like noises from exotic birds in the corner and the persistent bark of a puppy in a cage near his feet. A clerk in a red apron spotted the box in his hand and ran over. His name tag read ‘Robert.’
“May I help you?” he asked mechanically. He was young and still growing into his voice and out of his pimples. Hazel thrust the box before his eyes. “My friend asked me to bring these back. He says I got the wrong kind.”
Inside were two beautiful white mice. They were fat and bright-eyed and very curious about the goings-on outside the dark world where they’d been.
The clerk frowned. “What’s wrong with them?”
“He said these are pet mice. I figured all mice are the same.”
“Uh, no. Not really. Your friend doesn’t want them for pets?” Robert asked, taking the mice from him and walking to the counter to set them safely on top. He closed the lid before they could scramble out. “What kind of mice does he need?”
Hazel tried not to sound as embarrassed as he felt. “He has a snake. A big one. He wants the mice for food. For the snake.”
Gesturing to the pretty white mice, the clerk shook his head, saying, “Well, you can’t feed those to a snake. I mean, you could, but that would be an expensive diet. You need these guys.”
His short legs maneuvered through a row of glass tanks, each one filled with a scaly, slithering snake. He stopped before a large cage overcrowded with indistinguishable gray and brown mice, each one about the size of a small egg. Their long tails whipped around worm-like as the scurried from place to place. Hazel leaned down to a small sign on the cage.
“Feeder mice,” he read, noting the very inexpensive price. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“If you think it means these guys are bred to be food, then yes, it means what you think it means.”
Hazel watched their frantic movements and felt more than a little sad for them. “Being at the bottom of the food chain has got to suck,” he said. He stood to his full height and looked down at the young clerk. “How many of these does a python eat a day?”
Robert winced and Hazel wondered how often the clerk had to field questions like this and what kind of insults he was calling him in his mind. “They don’t need to eat every day. It depends on the size, too. A larger snake might eat more.”
“Oh. Okay. So.” He glanced down again, imagining what it felt like to be swallowed whole. The mice looked back up at him, apparently oblivious. You really have to feel sorry for them, Hazel thought. They were so much snake food and had no idea how numbered their days were.
“I’ll take two please,” he finished
Hazel’s life was pretty dull. He knew that, was fine with it. Preferred it, actually. Mainly because his childhood had been strange. He’d spent his seventh birthday chained to a tree slated to be cut down by a logging company (“evil corporate monsters,” his mother had called them). His dad had been arrested on Christmas Eve for defacing a franchise coffee shop. So, yeah, strange.
As an adult, he embraced normalcy. He went to college because he was supposed to; planned to be an English teacher because it had job security. He met a nice girl named Becky who was just about as boring as he was. They watched action movies together, had a really good sex life (he thought, anyway), lived in a boring house off campus, cooked affordable meals they found on blog sites and, yeah.
Just normal. Safe.
He was on time to class everyday. Even the dull ones. Mr. Bishop was the teacher of one such boring class, but at least today he’d shaken things up.
The guest lecturer’s name was Dr. Emory Kirtland. Hazel decided within the first five minutes of hearing him speak that the guy was an asshole.
It was a Monday in Mr. Bishop’s advanced creative writing course, which took place in the Literature Department’s largest lecture hall. It was also the only lecture hall on campus with squishy, comfortable seats. Hazel usually fought not to sleep through Bishop’s dry lectures, but today it was easy to stay awake. Asshole or not, comparing Bishop to Kirtland was like putting a cadaver next to a warm, gyrating, naked body. Kirtland had ways of getting your attention and keeping it.
He was, if nothing else, a stereotype, the idea of what a writer should be. He wore all black — a high-collared shirt and perfectly creased black slacks accented with a charcoal blazer. Every word was crisp and spoken slowly, as if he weighed their importance before letting them slither off his tongue. And his voice was a clean tenor that sometimes turned into a mysterious baritone whisper. When he first opened his mouth, Hazel had expected him to say “death” or “darkness” and for lightning to crash at the end of each sentence. Instead, he said (without accompanying weather patterns):
“Dr. Bishop, was kind enough to hand this entire lesson to me today.” He gestured to where the balding man sat unobtrusively off to the side, observing Kirtland with obvious awe. He might as well be throwing his panties at him, Hazel thought with disgust.
That Kirtland was a hotshot in the writing world, he knew. A writer of thrillers with plots and plot twists that made virgins faint, everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. Professor at another, better university (on loan to theirs for a semester as an artist-in-residence), he was the talk of the entire department. Kirtland frequently had his works published in the journals and magazines that his colleagues studied in hopes of learning what the market wanted. He was on the review board of every textbook in use in the department this year as he had been the year before that and the year before that ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Yet, big reputation and television appearances aside, Hazel had to admit that he wasn’t impressed. Not exactly. The guy spoke well, and he looked cool, but whatever.
Kirtland spoke briefly about his work, his theories about writing, and his ideas about the state of the literary world. He didn’t have high hopes for the future of any genre, he said. He blamed television for crushing the imagination of every generation that encountered it. At the end of this tirade, he adjusted his jacket, smoothed back his black, black hair and cleared his throat.
“But I’ve spoken about that at length, I fear, in the Journal of Aesthetics and Contemporary Criticism. I believe the article is required reading for this course?” he said and glanced at Bishop. “Oh, it is? Oh, good. Now I would like to see how your young minds function. Dr. Bishop has informed me that you are working on freewriting exercises. He has told me that I am to continue forcing you to do freewriting exercises no matter how pointless I find them.”
Bishop cringed and then covered his embarrassment with a little laugh. There were a few puzzled glances exchanged between the students. Kirtland pointedly ignored all of this, saying:
“Therefore, if you will please direct your attention to the board.”
He frowned at a remote control mounted to his podium, pressed a button, and the projector blared to life. A list written in a thin, sloping hand wiggled on the screen for a moment, and then held still. In his seat towards the back, Hazel rolled his eyes. The list fit the man so perfectly: over-the-top and dramatic. Even the handwriting was like something from one of Kirtland’s more gothic novels. Hazel had to wonder why he hadn’t just typed it. None of his professors wrote by hand anymore. He didn’t even write by hand anymore. Old-fashioned through and through, Hazel thought
“For a freewriting exercise, please study this list and consider what the words have in common. This was composed by a student two semesters ago. I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing it so that it is legible. I’d like you to tell me, what was the original word that inspired this list?”
Suppressing his cynicism, Hazel studied the list and immediately felt uncomfortable. It was like being forced to sit in on a hot metal chair or having an itch everywhere on his body that no amount of scratching could relieve. He squirmed once, twice. Something was not right here. He suddenly felt hot.
The list was short. It read:
DARTH VADER’S PRIVATE GUARD
A minute ticked by, then two, and Hazel found himself fixated on the clock, urging it to go faster so he could get out of the room. He was burning up. What was wrong with him?
“Anybody ready with my answer?” Kirtland asked impatiently.
“The color red!” a student in the first row shouted out.
“That is correct,” Kirtland said without implying that he was pleased at all.
“The original word was ‘red.’ Now, this student wasn’t particularly clever, but she managed to surprise me. Some of these are nice. You can get a lot of good fodder by writing a list like this. But what I want is for you to go beyond what she did. What are words you feel are missing? Red is a primal color and there is something decidedly innocent about her list.”
“Sin!” someone said enthusiastically. “Bright red sin!”
This actually pulled a smile from Kirtland’s full lips. “Indeed,” he agreed. “Give me more.”
More people joined in.
“The Scarlet Letter!”
“My nail polish!” a girl in the front yelled and the room erupted in laughter.
And students kept screaming out words, but Hazel was frozen because he knew what was truly missing and why it mattered. He knew what Kirtland wanted them to say.
It was life. It was coursing. It was hot and salty and inside him thundering. Pooling. He couldn’t breathe.
He had to force his head to stay up because it felt heavy, impossibly heavy. When he was finally able to lift it, his eyes suddenly caught with the Kirtland’s and he felt the heat turn up ten degrees, rise up his throat and spread across his face. He knew he was panting and couldn’t explain why.
Kirtland’s cruel green eyes were boring into him, seeing through him.
Thundering, throbbing, ripping him apart.
He had to get out of here or he was going to…
He darted from the room, the doors slamming behind him, and he could still feel those eyes.
In the bathroom, what he had thought was sickness revealed itself to be much more complex. He felt nauseous, and it would have been great if that was all it was. The knot in his stomach was something else entirely: He was harder than he’d ever been in his life. His jeans were torture, his erection straining against the zipper. Sweat was pouring down his face and he kept licking his salty lips, blinking the sweat away from his eyes.
No help for it: he’d have to self-service. In the middle of the day in a public bathroom and he was just pathetic. He ducked into a stall, locked it behind him, and tugged his jeans down. With his back against the wall and his teeth sunk into his fist, he rode it out like a beast with no control. He kept seeing those eyes, splashed in between images of red. Red hot on his skin. On his body, on his cock. Red pouring from him and down him. He felt drugged by the play of light across the pools of satin red in his mind.
He came hard enough to almost black out. And then he was sick. His stomach clenched painfully and everything he’d eaten since that morning went into the toilet bowl. He flushed it immediately, embarrassed and feeling messy and gross. He pulled his jeans up gingerly.
He heard the bell ring in the hallway and he almost groaned in despair. He was going to have to answer to somebody for missing most of class today. Especially after an exit like that. God, everybody must have been staring at him, maybe thinking he was on drugs or something. Maybe Bishop would have mercy on him.
He swaggered out of the stall like a drunken man, washed his hands, rinsed out his mouth, and then leaned heavily on the sink. He didn’t want to look at himself in the mirror. He knew he looked sweaty and glassy-eyed. Eventually, he gave in and had a little peak. Like he’d thought: he looked like hell. Pupils blown, cheeks flushed. Pathetic.
Drying off his hands on his jeans, Hazel shook his head at himself. “You really are a loser,” he scolded.
He resigned himself to the fact that he couldn’t hide in the bathroom all day. “Time to face the music,” he whispered and reached for the door handle. But as he pulled the door towards him, Emory Kirtland seemed to emerge from the hallway beyond it like a specter. He stepped forward and stood there, blocking the entrance to the bathroom. Blocking the way out, really. He took another step forward and Hazel took one back. The odd dance continued until the door swung shut once again, leaving the two men alone inside the bathroom.
The heat was back and Hazel wondered if he might be sick again.
Almost to himself Kirtland said, “My word, how did I not notice it before?” He looked impossibly dark and menacing in contrast to the white and puke-green of the bathroom, and was studying Hazel like some grammatically incorrect sentence on a term-paper. Hazel scrambled for something to say for he felt that he simply had to say something.
“Uh, Professor, I’m so sorry for missing the last of your class. I didn’t feel —” He paused and searched for the word. He had felt like a different person entirely, like he could crawl out of his skin like a butterfly from a cocoon. How did he explain that? “—well,” he added belatedly.
Kirtland didn’t respond to that. Instead, he said, “Mister…?”
“Goodwin,” mumbled Hazel.
“Hazel,” he said with the usual embarrassment. “Or…not really, but…” He had to look away from those eyes for a moment and found himself staring at the floor.
Kirtland was probably thinking he was a fool. And what was he doing in here anyway? Shouldn’t he be answering questions from adoring fans or something? Hazel thought.
“What was missing, Mr. Goodwin?” Kirtland asked in a purring voice.
Hazel looked up sharply and took another nervous step backwards. He found distance between him and Kirtland lessened the burning heat in his stomach and lower.
“You heard me. What was missing from the list?”
Just thinking about it again made him swoon. He caught himself on the sink and leaned over it heavily, dry heaving. He felt sick and aroused all at once. His knees were quaking. “Dr. Kirtland, I think I need to go to the clinic.”
“They won’t be able to help you. What you are experiencing is a trance. I can help you.”
Hazel swayed to his feet and then staggered closer to the exit, skirting the doors to the stalls in hopes of avoiding the other man. Kirtland stepped into his path again.
“Please, let me through, Professor. I don’t feel well. I-I—”
Kirtland took a step forward, then another. Soon he was in Hazel’s personal space, pushing him back with his presence again. Hazel felt the heat creeping down, more intense than before, knew he was about to black out. Kirtland’s eyes seemed to see through him, his body suffocate him — it was all too much for Hazel and so were the images flashing through his mind. The skin slicked in sweat, the blood, the mouth drinking it. His back hit the wall next to the bank of sinks and his head lolled back against the cool tiles. It didn’t help with the fever in his veins.
He was breathing through his mouth heavily and felt five seconds away from either vomiting, or begging. And the entire situation was surreal, even discounting his feelings of illness and arousal. This was passing period in a busy building. Where were all the people? the part of his mind that wasn’t on fire wondered. Why were they alone? He was conflicted. All at once he wanted no one else to see him like this, and also for a flood of people to come through and save him from Kirtland.
“What was missing?” Kirtland whispered against his neck. And when had he come so close? When had his hands moved to caress his neck? His fingers were long and cold, like he’d bathed in ice.
“Stop, please,” begged Hazel. He’d just jacked off and it should have taken time to get it up again, but it hadn’t. He was so hard it hurt.
“Tell me what was missing.”
“I-I’m going to—”
“B-blood,” Hazel stuttered and felt his knees go out from under him.
Kirtland caught him like he weighed nothing and held him up against the wall. “Yes. Good,” Kirtland said and then, “Shh, it’s all right now,” when Hazel sobbed in reply.
Kirtland spoke again with gentleness, “Do you always react this way to blood, Mr. Goodwin? Even the idea of blood?”
Hazel couldn’t look the other man in the eyes but felt the irresistible urge to bury himself against his body. “No,” he panted and tried to do just that. “I haven’t ever before. I feel,” he tried again and then flopped against the professor heavily, “like I’m going to faint.”
And then, as if saying so gave him permission to, he did exactly that.
When he awoke, the hazy, misty darkness of evening had made the windows of the unfamiliar room turn black. The night seemed welcoming to him, as if he could go out there and be at peace. He struggled to sit up, felt the room spin, and then let himself fall back onto the soft couch.
“This sucks,” he groaned.
There was a creak of a chair and Hazel turned his bleary eyes towards the sound and the man who had made it. “Dr. Kirtland?” he asked. “Where am I?”
The professor, still dressed in black and looking no less intimidating than he had during his lecture, gestured at the comfortable quarters. “This is my office while I am in residence. We’re in the Bartlett Building. Do you know it?”
Hazel nodded. It was the building next door to the lecture hall. Many of the professors had offices here. None of them were as nice as this, but a guest professor got special perks, Hazel reasoned.
“And before you ask what happened: you fainted.”
Hazel looked confused and then unconvinced. “I’ve never fainted in my life.”
“There’s a first time for everything. You don’t remember?”
It was too odd laying here while the grim professor stared down at him. He managed to sit up to answer. It hurt to move, as if he’d been taken apart and put back together wrong. He ached.
“No. I remember your lecture starting. That’s it.”
Now Kirtland looked shocked. “You remember nothing after that? You don’t recall running from the lecture?”
“I bailed on a lecture?” Now Hazel looked terrified.
Hazel rubbed his temple, suddenly beyond worried about his grades. “Geez, I hope I didn’t miss anything important. Were there notes?”
Kirtland sighed as if he couldn’t believe that Hazel was missing the important part of this conversation. “Mr. Goodwin, if I were to say the word ‘blood’ to you, what would you think?”
Hazel squirmed uncomfortably and closed his eyes. “Um,” he managed as he thought.
All at once, he could feel the rush of it in his veins, like rivers trapped and raging to be let free. He could hear the scream of it. Everything before his eyes was a blanket of crimson. He took a deep breath and calmed himself. It was all too strange; he didn’t normally react to mere words like that.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “It’s weird.”
“On the contrary. What if I were to tell you that your reaction is normal. That there is nothing you can do to stop it?”
Hazel looked at the professor critically. He’s a nutcase, he realized. He believes his own writing.
“Um, well, I better be going. Thanks for…whatever, Professor,” he said nervously. Hazel tried to stand unsteadily but the professor stopped him by leaning over him and speaking softly.
“In this world,” he began, “there are things which men are happy to embrace as fiction. But there are things in that world of make-believe that they might see the truth of, if they took the time. Vampires are one of those things.”
Hazel blinked and felt his mouth fall open. Then he burst out laughing. “V-vampires? Professor, you’re kidding me, right?”
“No. Not at all. Now, let us assume that, just as humans feed on cattle and the fruit of the land, vampires also need food.”
“Yeah.” Hazel scoffed. “They find some virginal maiden and suck on her,” he said. “I know this story. It was bad the first five times.”
“Yes, that is a bad story, and an untrue one. Vampires will not just drink from anyone, just like humans will not eat everything that nature provides. It is an established fact that some things will kill you if you eat them. Some plants are poisonous, some animals inedible. Vampires have the same restrictions. Not all blood is good. Some blood, on the other hand, is quite excellent. And just as humans do for beef, if you want the best blood, you have to cultivate it. Raise it. Create it.”
“I don’t suppose,” Hazel said, a little breathlessly, “I could ask you to stop saying that word?”
“What, blood?” Kirtland sneered.
“Yeah.” He wiped at his forehead. “That one.”
Another sigh. “Your reaction leads me to what I dearly want to explain to you. Mainly, that you are one of the humans in the world specifically bred to have blood of a higher, more potent quality. Your kind is known, quite pejoratively you will agree, as ‘feeders.”’
Hazel saw the little mice from the pet shop in his mind. He’d felt so sorry for them, hadn’t he? What a laugh.
Kirtland continued in that same, hypnotic tenor: “Over the years, a sort of mutualism has developed between vampires and feeders. Some vampires become connoisseurs, only drinking blood of the highest quality. Feeders, conversely, often find themselves drawn to vampires, wanting nothing more than to be, essentially, slaves to a vampire’s hunger. Unintentionally, they send out signals that call vampires to them. If there are feeders near, a vampire can find them, feed from them, even kill them if he’s foolish enough to waste a valuable resource like that.”
Hazel’s eyes were wide and shocked. He kept darting looks at the door. He planned to run to it as soon as he was certain he could get away. He was at his limit for weird. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because, Mr. Goodwin, you are emitting a signal right now strong enough to have every vampire on campus come crashing through my door to claim you.”
Hazel gasped, swallowed, made up his mind to act, now! and then dashed for the door. His feet felt heavy, but he was certain he could make it, if only he could force himself forward. He saw the door ahead of him, he was almost there, the professor was far across the room behind him and —
“Oof!” He smashed into something that hadn’t been there before. Falling back, he saw the smirk on Kirtland’s face. Kirtland, who was now before him, toweringly big. How had he moved so quickly? And this was going to hurt, he realized as the ground rushed up underneath him.
He never hit, but landed gently in Kirtland’s arms. The man was on his knees, holding Hazel in his lap and looking down at him with concern. Hazel scrambled away.
“What the hell are you?” Hazel gasped.
“I thought I made it very clear what we both are.” Kirtland stood, crossed his arms and cocked his head to the side.
“No. Y-you go out in the sun!”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” Kirtland chided. “I’m far too powerful for sunlight to harm me.”
Hazel gaped at him, staggered to his feet, and backed away. “You’re insane if you think I’m going to believe that you, that you…” The words died on his lips as Kirtland was suddenly standing right in front of him when he had been ten feet away a blink of his eyes ago. The man invaded his space, hot and intimidating, and then did the one thing Hazel had never expected him to do: he smiled.
“Oh my God,” Hazel said, staring at the sharp, bright white teeth protruding from his gums, right where normal canines should be. Beautiful, pristine, deadly. He could only think of one thing to do: he moved closer and dropped his head back exposing his neck. “Please,” he gasped.
Kirtland sat him away gently. And quite suddenly, the strange, desperate feeling that had invaded Hazel’s senses died inside him, as if Kirtland had simply plucked it away.
Hazel tumbled into the nearest chair. “Shit, shit, shit,” he chanted then caught himself. “Oh, sorry, Professor,” he said.
“Your reaction is quite acceptable, considering the circumstances. Your trances will, perhaps, always be this extreme. Until you learn to control them.”
“Trances?” Hazel muttered, shaken and afraid of himself, of Kirtland. Of everything, really.
“What you experienced was a trance. You’ll feel a strong urge to fulfill your purpose. To be food. To satisfy a vampire’s needs.”
Hazel cradled his head in his hands. “Oh, this really, really sucks.”
Kirtland waited a minute, and then began speaking, as if he was certain Hazel should have pulled himself together by now.
“Now that you know what you are, I admit to some confusion about you. Feeders should know what they are early on. Why didn’t your parents tell you? They would undoubtedly be feeders as well.”
“My folks?” he cried. “They’re not vampire groupies! They’re hippies! They don’t even believe in stuff like that. Neither do I. They’re just regular, spaced-out, ex-flower children.”
Kirtland frowned. “That makes no sense. I admit that I have never heard of your pedigree before. Goodwin is not one of the names of the feeder families. But there must be some explanation for you.”
Hazel’s confusion doubled. “Why does there have to be? What’s different about me?”
Kirtland coughed. “You recall my estimation that your signal could call every vampire in this campus down upon us?”
“That is not normal,” he said gently. “Far from it. A normal feeder could manage to attract a vampire in the same room as him, but the signal would be very weak. The vampire might miss it if he blinked. You are, to put it simply, dangerous. I have never met a feeder with a signal like yours. It’s overwhelming.”
For a flash, there was a look on Kirtland’s face, like he wanted to eat him up. Which, yeah, Hazel guessed that he did. Hazel shook his head. “I don’t understand. If I’m just food, then what trouble could I possibly cause?”
Kirtland looked grim. “I’m afraid my explanation was deficient. Feeders are more than just food. You are the source of a vampire’s power. A particularly potent blood, say from the Baden family or the Raleigh bloodline, can give a vampire more power, more strength. Blood like yours could make a god.”
“No, no, no,” Hazel disagreed shaking his head again, this time with more feeling. “Not possible. See, I’ve never been followed around by vampires before. I’ve never had people trying to suck on my neck! None of this is true!”
“And you’ve never reacted to the mere mention of the word ‘blood’ before, nor have you ever become weak-kneed at the idea of someone drinking from you before!” Kirtland’s tone was sharp and displeased. “I admit that before your dramatic exit from my lecture today, I myself did not notice what you are. To put it simply, you awakened quite late. You awakened today in my class. Up until this day, you never knew what you were, never experienced the sensations that other feeders do at puberty. The question, then, is why? Why did you only awaken today and what caused you to do so?”
“I wasn’t,” Hazel said and then took a deep breath. “I wasn’t weak-kneed, was I?”
The sneer was back, only worse. “Yes, you were. You would have let me do anything to you.”
“Because you’re a vampire?” he snapped.
Hazel pulled back. Hearing the man say it was quite a different thing from having him hint at it cryptically. Now, the man’s looks took on a different meaning entirely. He wasn’t dressing this way to be the Byron-esque, deeply moved poet and author of the world’s imaginings. He was the very definition of darkness and dressed accordingly.
At the terror on Hazel’s face, Kirtland spoke again with a hint of compassion. “You’re going to need help understanding your new life. Perhaps we can find a way to overcome this.”
Hazel shook his head. “No. We can’t do anything at all. I don’t buy any of this. I’m tired. I’m just…tired.” He stood and looked defeated. “You can do that freaky trick and keep me from leaving again, but I wish you wouldn’t. I just want to go home. I just want to get some sleep. Leave me alone, please.”
Kirtland looked like he wanted to argue, then seemed to change his mind. He said nothing at all to Hazel, who jumped at the chance to escape this nightmare, to go back to his normal, normal life. Hazel moved as quickly as he could with as much dignity as he could muster.
Kirtland’s voice stopped him in his tracks. “Do be careful, Mr. Goodwin. You will be targeted.” The words made the hairs stand up all over his body. He overcame his fear, shook his head to knock it all away.
“Thanks. Or whatever,” he mumbled.
And with that he walked out the door. Kirtland didn’t try to stop him.
Emory Kirtland studied the empty chair where the boy had been sitting. He looked at the darkness outside his window and the expression on his face was intense, weary, as if he could see the storm approaching and feared for the aftermath.
He went to the window, opened it, and stepped out onto the air. Below, he saw the boy walking, staggering a little, as he still didn’t have his footing from fainting. High above the boy, watching and intent, he saw them.
“That’s enough,” he whispered. “That boy is off limits.” Half a dozen figures turned, eyed him with hatred and terror, and then fled. Kirtland followed the boy home, silent, unseen, and watchful like a hawk.
Almost like nothing had changed in his mundane life, Hazel dragged his tired body through the door and immediately had a fight with the woman on the other side. Kirtland listened longer, he knew, than he should.
“And where were you?” she said, and he could imagine her tapping her foot.
“Your clothes are all rumpled. Your hair is a mess. Are you seeing someone behind my back?”
“No, Becky, it’s not like that!”
Kirtland smirked. “Becky” had no idea the trouble she was dating. He turned his back on the small house and said gently to the air, “I warned you once. Leave him alone. Or else.”
He waited until the air was clear before leaving the pull of Hazel, the pulse of the boy.
Dangerous didn’t even begin to explain it.
He felt off today, like a puzzle with a missing piece.
He had come home late last night, which had caused more of a fight than he had expected. Becky had turned sweet and apologetic when he explained that he had gotten sick after class. She had even admitted that Hazel did look awful. They had fallen into bed together, arms wrapping around each other gently, and not a kiss or a fondle had been exchanged. For the first time in his life, the last thing he wanted was sex.
Now he knew there were other things he wanted more than sex and he couldn’t explain these new desires. His dreams were red-soaked and Kirtland was there, looming over him.
He’d woken up, gone to school and wondered why everything felt so normal when his head was all fucked up.
Vampires. Feeders. It was all a big joke.
The day went on like nothing had changed. His teachers were the same; all his classmates were, too. The material taught in his classes was neither more nor less interesting. The sameness was horrifying when Hazel knew that everything had gone pear-shaped. He even sat on the quadrangle and ate his dinner before his evening class like he had every day since coming to this campus. He was dusting salt off his fingers from his chips when the stranger appeared.
“Hi,” the stranger said and his shadow stretched out long behind him.
“Hi,” Hazel said back, looked up, and smiled.
The stranger was a friendly-looking guy with blonde hair and very pale skin. He wore sunglasses and a light blue shirt. Hazel looked at the sinking sun and had a moment where he felt that something was odd, but couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Mind if I sit here?” the stranger asked.
“Not at all,” Hazel said and scooted over on the bench to give the guy some more room as he settled in. He sat closer than Hazel thought a stranger should, but there was something so likeable about the guy that he didn’t mind.
Hazel pulled out his sandwich and watched as the stranger pulled out a thermos and took a sip. The slurping sound he made sent a shiver up Hazel’s spine.
“It was a beautiful day,” Hazel said, nodding his head at the green, well-tended grass and the couples playing Frisbee in the clearing. The mundane comment distracted him from his strange reaction to this man. Had they ever met before?
“Yes,” the stranger said. “Beautiful.” But he wasn’t looking at the quad. Hazel swallowed nervously, and hurried to finish his sandwich.
“You have Harker for Renaissance Lit, right?” asked the stranger.
Hazel nodded. “Yeah, you?”
“I sit in the back and always come in late,” the blonde said with a self-deprecating smile. “I’ve seen you before.”
“I’ve never seen you,” Hazel admitted. “But I’m always on time and sit in the front.”
“Yes, I know.”
Hazel wrapped the rest of his sandwich, noticed that his hands were shaking, and laughed it off. “Well, I…better get to class.”
“I’ll walk with you.” The stranger smiled a wide, sharp smile.
He said his name was Randall. He wanted to be an editor. When he laughed, little lines crinkled by his mouth. His teeth were even and white. Randall walked too close to Hazel and their shoulders brushed. When the sun set entirely, he took off his sunglasses and his eyes were a blue so cold it was like he blinked winter. Hazel felt his feet dragging.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine, I just need some” — he looked around and spotted a drinking fountain — “water.”
He took a long drink and wondered why the icy water only made him more aware of the heat that seemed to pour off Randall, who stood and watched him the entire time he drank. By the time they made it to the front door of the building, Randall had his arm around him and was helping him walk.
Hazel was drooping, weak, felt drunk on wine though he hadn’t had a drop.
It was strangely silent and Hazel couldn’t understand why. This class was attended by over seventy students, where were they? No one was on the path with them and even the distinct campus lamps seemed dim.
Some part of him was thinking of Kirtland’s warnings. The rest of him felt almost euphoric, dizzy and giddy.
“Watch the step, okay?”
“Um-hmm,” Hazel agreed, listing sideways into Randall’s strong chest. His heartbeat was like thunder in Hazel’s ears, primal and hungry.
“Want some more water?” Randall purred.
“Yes,” Hazel sighed, “‘m thirsty.”
Randall shuffled him to the fountain near the bathroom and stood behind him, pressing against him as he leaned into the stream. It felt good. So good. He wanted to grind back into him.
He managed to take a small sip before he had to shake his head. It was no good: his breathing was too erratic for him to drink. Water dripped from his chin to his shirt and it was cold, cold, cold against his hot skin. Randall’s eyes followed the water down, heavy-lidded. Hazel felt something inside him throb.
He jerked like a puppet on strings and stumbled back against the door to the janitor’s closet. Randall fell against him, nuzzling his neck.
“In the closet?”
“Yes,” Hazel agreed. It took a moment of wrestling with Hazel’s body — languid and sleepy — and Randall’s anxious hands to get them inside, but once they were, they crashed together, writhing. The door closed behind them, leaving them in the dark. The space was small and cluttered, but Hazel didn’t care. It was perfect.
“Off,” Hazel said. He tugged at Randall’s shirt. He didn’t have a good explanation and didn’t feel like he needed one. He wanted to touch skin, feel it glide beneath his palms and that was that.
“Yes,” Randall hissed, but he yanked all the buttons loose on Hazel’s shirt instead, then stared hungrily at Hazel’s skin. And this was a much better idea, Hazel decided. He could be touched instead of touch. He could lay back and feel.
Hazel got a hold of Randall’s hands and guided them over his body. “Touch me, please,” he gasped. His eyes were shut tight and he was seeing in tones of red somewhere far beyond the darkness behind his eyelids.
Randall’s hands moved reverently over his chest, pinched his nipples mercilessly. “Beautiful.”
“Please,” Hazel begged, twisting beneath his cold hands.
Randall jerked at the belt of Hazel’s pants, got them open and down and then off — tossing aside his shoes in the process — before starting on his own. His hands were impatient and everywhere all at once.
“More,” Hazel panted. His body was hot and empty. He felt incomplete and wild with the desire to be whole.
“Yes. I won’t make you wait.” Randall swiftly lifted Hazel, spreading his legs and sliding between them. Hazel wrapped his legs around Randall’s narrow hips, pulled him close and gasped at how good it all felt. Everywhere he touched felt alive.
Randall was so strong for all that he was the same build as Hazel. He held him up easily, rocked against him. Skin to skin, cocks brushing and it still wasn’t enough.
Hazel crossed his ankles together and threw his head back, wanting everything now. “Your mouth,” he said, trying to articulate what he craved.
When their lips finally met, Hazel whimpered. “Please, do it,” he begged and didn’t know what he wanted first. He wanted so many things. The hot length of Randall’s erection was pressing against him even as his mouth was gliding down his jaw, behind his ear, down to his throat.
When he felt the teeth grazing his neck, he arched and cried out. “Yes!” He wiggled and lifted up. The motion brought Randall’s cock close to the sensitive skin between his legs.
“You are amazing,” Randall said, his voice sounding shocked. “How can you be real? I’ve never met one like you.”
Hazel grinned. “Take me. I want to feel you when you do it,” he drawled and knew that Randall understood. The other man shifted, spit on his hand and then worked it up and down his own cock.
“It’ll hurt,” he said, with actual worry on his handsome face.
“Don’t care,” Hazel panted and squirmed against the wall, closing his eyes. “I think, mm, I think I like a little pain. Wanna feel used.”
“Fuck,” Randall breathed.
Hazel ground his hips into Randall’s cock. “Please, I want you. Inside me, please.”
“And this is why I said you’d need my help,” a deep, rumbling voice said. Hazel froze in shock, then opened his eyes again and squinted at the light streaming in. Kirtland, of course. Dressed in black again, of course. He stood with his arms crossed and his eyebrow raised at the spectacle before him. Hazel was so into this with Randall he hadn’t even heard the door open. He didn’t even care that he was being watched. He wanted Randall.
But Kirtland was…distracting.
Randall hissed at Kirtland and barred his fangs. Fangs, Hazel thought dumbly, and the thought was accompanied by lust so deep inside him he thought he might come right then. He moaned, a long, pitiful sound.
“Back off! I saw him first!” Randall barked, then lowered Hazel to the ground to stand before him protectively.
“No, you really didn’t,” Kirtland disagreed. “And I believe I warned you to stay away from him last night.”
Randall growled. “You’ve got the wrong vampire. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Suddenly, Randall was lifted off the ground by an unseen force. Kirtland stepped to the side of the doorway as the boy tumbled through it and into the wall next to the bathrooms. He cried out in pain when his body hit.
“Well, my mistake,” Kirtland said. “Then let me tell you now: this one is off limits.”
Randall stood shakily and tried to lunge at the professor. He never made it as he was thrown back against the wall again. He grunted and his blue eyes went wide.
“I don’t think you want to do that,” Kirtland scolded.
And then as if he had just realized something, the young, blonde vampire’s features went slack. Like a candle blown out, his rage was suddenly extinguished. His fangs sank away. He was just a normal, handsome student again. Frazzled, and rumpled, but normal. He pulled up his pants, gathered his clothing and stormed from the hall with a last longing look at Hazel.
But Hazel wasn’t looking at him.
Still in the closet, Hazel was on his knees now, staring up at Kirtland in awe. He ran a hand over his chest, resting it over his thundering heart. “Master.” He sighed and held out his other hand. “You’re here. You’ve come for me again. Please, Master, I’m yours. He meant nothing.”
Kirtland looked shocked and then seemed to realize the problem. His expression was one of concentration for a moment.
A second later and Hazel was blinking in confusion. It was as if a switch had been turned off. He looked down at his naked body and blushed a pretty shade of red before scrambling to cover himself. He snatched at his clothing, his shoes, tried to tug them on with some dignity.
“Dr. Kirtland! I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened! I’ll get out of your hair!”
He managed to take two steps forward before he collapsed at the professor’s feet in a dead faint.
Kirtland sighed. Not again, he thought and scooped Hazel up in his arms, surprised once again at how lightweight such a big headache could be. He stepped outside and took to the skies. A second later and the walkway beneath him was flooded with students. They were all confused, uncertain how time had gotten away from them. Where had they been?
They were all late to class, even the ones who had set out on time. It turned out not to matter: all the professors were just as late. They stared at their watches, trying to remember where they’d been before.
Hazel came to slowly. Back in the Professor’s office. Again.
“Are you feeling better?” Kirtland said, putting down a book and staring at him intently. He looked long and relaxed in his chair, too elegant by half.
“Uh, yeah,” Hazel said. He tugged at his clothing, glad that he had them for some reason. He had a funny feeling that he might have…left them somewhere? They were wrinkled and buttons were missing, but at least he wasn’t naked.
Naked, he thought. Why would I be naked? Nothing made sense. At all.
He wondered how often he was going to awaken in Kirtland’s presence this week. It was an odd feeling. The man was intimidating. It was more than just the fact that he was a vampire (and Hazel didn’t know how his life had gotten so crazy that this was now a truth he had to deal with). There was something intense about Kirtland that made Hazel feel unbalanced.
“I’m glad because we do have some things to discuss.”
Hazel looked fit to flee. Instead he swallowed and nodded. “Okay.”
“Firstly, you are a foolish, foolish boy for not heeding my warnings. I leave you alone for a few hours and you get yourself caught in a vampire’s clutches.”
“I wasn’t! I mean…’clutches’ is a bit strong. And how was I supposed to know he was a vampire?”
Kirtland’s face was a study in disdain. “Did you find yourself wishing he’d bite your neck?”
Hazel wrung his hands together. “Er, well, sort of.”
Kirtland rolled his eyes. “That might be the first giveaway, don’t you think?”
Hazel stood and turned his back on him. “I’m new to this, Professor. I don’t suppose you could cut me a break?”
A pause, then, “I will try to keep that in mind, but you are going to have to listen to me and do as I say. I’m the only person who’s going to want to help you. The rest of them out there, like your lover from before, they will only want to have you for themselves.”
Hazel balked at him. “I just met him! And, um. We were just talking! He wasn’t my lover.”
Kirtland looked to the side as he thought. “Ah, no, I guess not,” he concluded. “But he was about to be your lover, indeed. Tell me, do you self-identify, as it were, as a heterosexual?”
Hazel whirled and faced the other man. “I’m engaged! To a woman!” he protested and then saw the look on the vampire’s face. He was truly trying to understand something, not just hurl accusations. He forced himself to calm down and answer truthfully. “I mean, no, I’m not gay. I’m straight. I ‘self-identify’ as straight.”
“You’ve never,” a long pause, “experimented?”
“What does that mean?” Hazel demanded.
“What does what mean?”
“THAT! That ‘hmm’?” Hazel shouted.
Kirtland suddenly shifted to lecture mode. “Oh, it’s only that most feeders don’t react so strongly — or outside of their usual preferences — when they are under a vampire’s influence. A gay, male feeder won’t be any more aroused by a vampire woman than he would be by any normal woman. In fact, a feeder’s reaction isn’t always sexual. And certainly not to the degree you displayed in there.”
Hazel’s face went hot with embarrassment. “What makes you think my reaction was sexual?”
Kirtland went pale — or paler, really. His entire face was a question. “You honestly don’t remember, do you?”
“Not…clearly,” Hazel said and got a flash in his mind of teeth grazing against his neck, a smooth chest pressing against his; lips that weren’t Becky’s kissing his. He shook it all away. “I remember, uh, talking to him.” He squinted in worry at the other man. “Remember what, exactly?”
Kirtland’s face was inscrutable. “When I found you in that closet, you were naked, legs spread wide, and you were begging him to —”
“Stop,” Hazel whispered. “I don’t want to hear this. It’s not true. I love my girlfriend.”
Kirtland tsked and didn’t seem to think much of his proclamation. “And I have no doubt in my mind that you do. The question, then, is why you react as you do regardless of your sexual preference — or of the danger involved. He could have killed you or worse. Most feeders aren’t suicidal. They can break a trance if their lives are in danger. I’ve seen them do it. You don’t seem capable of it.”
Hazel blanched at the truth in those words. He remembered enough now to know that he hadn’t cared what happened to him. So long as he could feel himself being used, what difference did it make if the vampire killed him? He had wanted to be a tool. A stirring inside him told him that he still wanted it.
“Well, then I guess we’ve established that I’m not a normal feeder, then,” he grumbled. “I’m the freaky, mutant version. Fine.” He dropped his head into his hands. “I don’t get it. I mean, if I’m so sensitive, how come you don’t cause that kind of reaction from me?”
Kirtland frowned. “You have no recollection of either of the times when you have been affected by my presence?”
Hazel felt about ready to faint again. “Tell me I didn’t make out with you in a closet,” he croaked.
“Oh, be serious. No, nothing so extreme.”
Hazel visibly relaxed. “Oh, good. But then what happened?”
Kirtland coughed into his hand. “Ahem. Well, nothing. Because. Yes. That would be because I am intentionally blocking everything I would naturally send your way on a normal day. Consider my influence as, what is a good way of putting it? Shut off. Yes, that’s a good explanation. Shut off.”
Indignance smacked Hazel in the face. “Blocking it? Shut off? You expect me to believe that?”
Kirtland stiffened, the insult too much to tolerate. “Are you accusing me of lying to you?”
“I dunno what I’m saying,” Hazel shrugged. “It’s just, you’re the man with all the answers and then that’s the best one you’ve got to explain why I’m not panting on the floor in front of you?”
Kirtland’s eyes narrowed with something vicious and Hazel had just enough time to regret saying anything before it was too late. “You are a silly boy and you try my patience. Would you like to see what happens when I turn it ‘back on’?” And he didn’t wait for an answer. He simply leaned back in his seat and said, “Come here, Hazel. Crawl to me.”
And it really was as simple as that: the switch was back on now and he would do anything for this man. Absolutely anything and more.
Hazel dropped to his knees and then rolled bonelessly forward until he was slinking across the floor. He could hear himself even if he couldn’t stop himself, and if he remembered it later, he’d be damned embarrassed about all this. But for the time being…
“This is all I want. Y-yes, oh, god, please, please.” He was getting closer to his desire. Kirtland was a golden glow, beckoning to him. To everything he needed.
“Stop,” the vampire said. Hazel stopped. Kirtland’s eyes were molten. “Remove your shirt. I want to see you.”
“Touch me, please,” Hazel panted as he stripped. His own hands on his body inflamed him, but they weren’t enough.
Kirtland was beautiful, his eyes raking up and down Hazel’s skin. “Call me ‘Master’ again. You did once before. I want to hear it again.”
It was easy for Hazel to obey. This was his Master. “Master, please. Take from me. Take me,” he begged, arched his back, presented his body for Kirtland.
It was worse than before with Randall. Before, he had wanted and known that it was just want. Now, his body needed and that was all there was to it. If the Master didn’t touch him, use him, suck him, fuck him, he would die. He wasn’t going to make it. So hard, so flush with desire — his Master’s voice alone had done that to him and it was painfully good.
“Now come closer,” the vampire said once Hazel was shirtless. “Let me see your beautiful eyes. They turn golden for me, did you know? When you desire me, your eyes are golden,” he drawled. “Not for that boy in the closet. Only for me.”
Hazel crawled the rest of the way forward. He had no idea what he was talking about with his eyes, but Kirtland had given him a command and Hazel was more than happy to move closer, close enough to touch his Master.
“Undress me,” Kirtland demanded.
Hazel’s hands were hardly steady on the buttons of Kirtland’s shirt, but once he had the thing accomplished, his eyes were wide with wanting what he saw.
“I want to taste you. No, I want everything. Master, please,” Hazel said and licked his lips.
“No,” Kirtland said, which caused Hazel to moan in frustration.
He was rocking his hips against the chair leg where the vampire sat. “Why, Master? Why?”
“Because you belong to someone else.”
Hazel pouted. He couldn’t act without the Master’s permission, but he could be petulant. “No, that doesn’t matter. This matters. I need you so much. Let me please you. I’ll do anything for you. Don’t you want me?”
Kirtland’s eyes were fathomless. “What I want has nothing to do with it, you silly boy. Now kiss me.”
Hazel knelt up to obey, his mouth wide in invitation. His words, spoken as he leaned closer, only reinforced the invitation. “Make it deep, Master. Claim me.”
“Mr. Goodwin,” the vampire sighed. “I hate to embarrass you like this, but it’s time to wake up.”
The kiss stopped — before it even started, really, their lips still a centimeter apart — as did the rhythmic push and grind of Hazel’s hips against the chair. Hazel suddenly gasped and fell back. Shame smothered him. He knew that Kirtland could see his erection straining against the front of his slacks and he was so embarrassed he wanted to just die.
“Oh god oh god,” Hazel chanted and escaped another two meters by means of a graceless, backwards crab-walk.
“Do you understand, now, how much danger you face?” Kirtland asked as he straightened his clothes and refastened the buttons of his shirt. “If not, then let me further illustrate: that was barely a fourth of the full effect I could have had on you. I let you feel a part of it. The merest touch. I will be quite frank with you: I am not some young, inexperienced vampire. Compared to the pup you met tonight, I am the elite of my kind. If I let you feel all of my essence — my power, my appeal — imagine how much worse it could be.”
Hazel shook his head violently, like a dog shaking off fleas. “No, no! Shut up! You, you tricked me! You used some Vulcan mind whatever!”
Kirtland’s expression could have stripped paint. “I did nothing of the sort. You came to me because it is what you were meant for. Your body and your blood longs to be taken by one such as me. You are what you are and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Stand up and stop behaving like a child.”
Despite the fact that he had been a lover not minutes ago, Kirtland appeared completely unfazed now. His words were calm and controlled, his lips defying anyone who believed they could kiss as they almost had. Hazel was shaking like a schoolboy before him.
“You’re the worst!” he shouted.
“I’m trying to help you!” and Kirtland’s composure slipped right then, his voice rising.
“Y-you don’t care about me. You don’t want to help. You stay away from me!” Hazel screamed. He stumbled forward and ran from the office and the demon lover he couldn’t fight, had no tools to fight.
“Mr. Goodwin! Hazel! Have you learned nothing?” Kirtland cried out after him.
But Hazel didn’t stop and Kirtland didn’t use his crazy vampire powers to stop him and control him and Hazel didn’t know if it was because he was being a gentleman or because he’d given up trying to help somebody as useless as Hazel was feeling.
It had been ten days. Ten days since making out with Randall in the closet, an event he remembered better now, though he really wished he could forget. He didn’t think ill of Randall — everybody has to eat, he reasoned — but he was embarrassed by it all.
On the other hand, the mortifying session with Kirtland — being on his knees, begging to taste Kirtland — was more clearly burned into his mind. Not a perfect image, still kind of hazy around the edges. But definitely the memory of his own wild need was pretty clear. On his death bed he’d still remember how much he had wanted the man right then.
He knew he’d crawled to him; remembered how Kirtland had commanded his body, made him a willing puppet. His green eyes haunted Hazel. His wide, sneering mouth. His body, so pale and muscled beneath his dark clothing. Hazel knew he’d been childish running from him again, but had no idea how to fix it.
He hadn’t seen Randall at all. He hadn’t seen Kirtland, either. In fact, he’d avoided Kirtland like the plague, even skipped another class where the man had been slated to guest lecture. He knew that if Kirtland wanted to find him, he would, but he had to count his blessings.
And actually, beyond Kirtland and Randall, no other hungry vampires showed up either. Nobody with bright, sharp teeth popped up and tried to treat him like a McDonald’s drive-through. He wondered if maybe Kirtland had something to do with it.
Becky was pretty done with him.
“What is wrong with you?” she’d asked the third time she tried to kiss him and he turned his head to the side. It just felt…wrong. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt dead inside touching her now. Kirtland had talked about Hazel’s “awakening,” and it seemed that some things had definitely done just that — like the part of him that really wanted to suck a professor off in his office — while others things had definitely gone to sleep — like his desire to be with Becky.
He felt no more animosity or anger towards Emory Kirtland than he did towards Randall now. He could admit that none of what Kirtland had done had been out of malice. In fact, the point the vampire had been trying to make had finally hit home: he was in danger here if even a weak vampire caused his blood to boil. A strong one like Kirtland would be his end. He wondered briefly if he could get a blood transfusion and end all this trouble.
So, here he was. Again. Looking up at the same sign: East St. Louis Pets.
Nothing was different about the building, but everything in his world was unrecognizable. He’d felt compelled to come, really.
Hazel leaned down close to the glass. He stayed like that until his legs hurt and then he crouched down until he was eye level.
They were frenzied today. Pale gray and spotted white and all wiggly worm-like tails. They climbed over each other and their fleshy little fingers pressed against the glass, their noses always moving and their whiskers twitching. He had pitied them once. Now he felt kinship. They were — the mice and him — food. Somewhere, something dark and fanged and famished waited to devour the mice. It was no different for him and he was afraid.
The pet shop clerk, Robert, looked almost happy to see him. Hazel didn’t want to think about what it took to cheer up a pet shop employee.
“Can’t keep the python waiting for dinner!” he said as he approached. Hazel stood to greet him. “Uh, yeah,” he said softly.
“Well, how many for today? You can stock up and then you don’t have to make so many trips. We have food for them and you can just keep them healthy until it’s time for the python to—”
“No. Stop,” Hazel choked. He had gone suddenly pale and Robert looked concerned, but said nothing.
Hazel’s eyes strayed again to the little mice with their pink ears and their shining eyes. He imagined teeth sinking into them, blood oozing out of them and he wanted to sob.
“Um, how many would you like, then?” Robert tried, uncertainly.
“All of them,” Hazel said. “I’ll take all of them.”
Day eleven and Hazel couldn’t sleep. He wished it was nightmares keeping him awake, but the truth was that he was hard as a rock, wanting a good fuck, and — worse — wanting to be fucked, which wasn’t something that he usually fantasized about. He squirmed desperately at the idea of fangs. He was a complete freak.
He contemplated waking Becky, but she wasn’t really what he wanted, and besides, she was mad at him. Why had he brought home over $100 in mice? Even more in food and a case for all of them? Who was going to take care of them?
“No, really, what the hell is wrong with you?” she had wondered with this look on her face like she regretted ever meeting him and that stung.
Even if she had been game for a tumble, he knew that once would not satisfy him. Tonight was not the kind of night when she could keep up with his appetite.
Then why don’t you, a voice whispered teasingly, find someone who will satisfy you?
He sat up in bed. Why, indeed, didn’t he?
Yes, someone to give you what you need.
He had so many needs now. He didn’t know how to categorize them all. They filled his head with fantasies. He wanted to be bitten everywhere and he wanted lips drinking from him. He wanted to be penetrated and scratched and worn out. He wanted to bleed.
I can make you scream, the voice promised.
And that was what he wanted right now.
He stumbled out of bed.
He ran. Past the large glass cage with the squeaking mice. Out of the house, down the steps and to the grass where he fell to his knees and arched far back. He screamed — his needs, his frustration, his lust. He screamed until his throat was raw from it. It echoed through the night, a siren’s cry, and a second later, the rain started to fall.
He had to be out of these clothes, he had to be—
The ripping sound of his shirt tearing was inaudible beneath the thunder. It was a messy attempt and the fabric still clung around his neck and arms, but his chest was bare and wet from the hot rain.
“Please,” he gasped. “Use me.”
He thought he saw shapes in the dark. He could certainly feel them. They had come for him.
Yes, he thought and sighed, ready to be taken. At last.
They descended and he wasn’t even afraid of their numbers, just desperate for them. All of them. The one who had called him stood before him, beautiful and deadly. She leaned over him and lightly ran her fingernails down his torso. He purred, wishing she would do it harder. Two taller shapes — men? — crouched and embraced him from behind and he leaned into them. Their lips were already on his neck. He could hear the high keening noises struggling through his lips.
Two more hands were assaulting his front, caressing him, kissing him. A pair of ruby lips fastening around his exposed nipple. He wanted her to bite it and drink him dry.
Then all too soon, the hands and bodies caressing him were thrown back, yanked away violently. He opened his eyes wide and saw the one with the ruby red lips engulfed in a pillar of flames. Screams of pain came from all around him. The vampires who had come to give him relief all fell away, either dead or too injured to move again.
“You foolish, foolish boy,” Kirtland cursed, pulling him to his feet and wrapping him in his arms. The vampire’s face pressed into the skin of his neck, sliding against the rain water pouring down his body. He inhaled deeply and Hazel felt the barest touch of lips.
And he knew suddenly who he wanted to belong to.
“Do it, please, Master. I need you.”
There was the hint of teeth — scraping along the surface of his skin — which wasn’t enough because he wanted them to pierce him. Drain him.
“Yes, Master. Now. Please.”
A bolt of lightning crashed to the ground before them and his eyes burned with it, and then everything went dark.
He awoke to the feeling of someone dabbing gently at his forehead.
“Professor?” he moaned when his eyes could focus. This time, he was not in the professor’s office.
“Where am I?”
“This is your house?” Hazel asked, staring at the deep red of the pillows and the dark wood of the furniture. A fire crackled in the fireplace and Hazel was glad for it, aware that the room was oddly cool. Stone, he realized. The walls were made of stone.
“No. Like I said, somewhere safe where the hordes of vampires desperate for your blood can’t reach you. I cannot believe you would do something as incredibly stupid as what you did tonight. I cannot protect you if you invite the world to take their fill of your body and blood.”
Hazel reddened. “I can’t help it. I don’t want to be like this.”
The professor sighed. “You are right, of course. I am being unfair. You did not leave the house of your own volition. You were coaxed. One of the vampires tonight was stronger than your lover from the closet.”
“He wasn’t my lover!”
Kirtland ignored him. “It was easy for this horde to manipulate you once they found you.”
“But how did they find me? That signal you told me about? It doesn’t make sense! I’m not doing anything! I don’t understand!”
Kirtland sighed. “Have you no idea how you feel?” It was said in such a heavy tone of voice laced with meaning that Hazel felt somehow exposed. He was suddenly aware that he had been quite a lot of trouble to Kirtland. “No ordinary vampire could resist the draw of you. The smell of your blood, the aura surrounding you is like a drug. Just as you cannot help your reaction to us, no vampire can help wanting to have you as their own. And in their presence, you are a tool. Once they find you — and they will quite easily with how strongly you broadcast — there is little you can do to protect yourself. You don’t want to be protected. It is in your nature to want to be used by us.”
Hazel sat up in a defeated slouch and covered his face with his hands. “When will this go away?”
“It will not. You are what you are.”
Hazel sank even lower. “Then can you at least do something to make me stop reacting like this? Or can you do something so that they can’t find me anymore?”
“No,” Kirtland replied quickly, but he did sound regretful about it. “Or at least, not easily. It will take effort and time. In the meantime, all I can do is protect you when they come. They little know it, but I am protecting them as well.”
“You caught her on fire!” Hazel protested. “That’s not protection!”
Kirkland’s green eyes were electric with rage. “Try to listen, you foolish boy! Your blood is too potent for your garden-variety vampire. With blood as powerful as yours, one sip is all it takes to drive a vampire to madness.”
Hazel blanched. Kirtland continued more calmly, “Power should be accumulated slowly, but you are the quickest, most dangerous way to it I have ever seen. If she had tasted you, there’s no telling what she would have become. I did her a favor. And possibly saved your life,” he added with a sniff.
“I… Thank you,” Hazel muttered.
“Think nothing of it,” Kirtland replied with something almost tender in his tone.
Hazel’s eyes widened in surprise. He felt his cheeks flush. He mouthed a few sounds that never came out, as if choosing the question he wanted to ask first. What he settled on was, “And what will happen to you if you drink my blood?” He lowered his eyes, looked up at Kirtland through his lashes, tried not to make his curiosity sound as tainted with lust as it was. Not that he seemed capable of hiding anything from this man.
Kirtland studied him seriously. “That I cannot say. I do not know.”
“Oh. Okay.” There was a long moment of silence, the teasing idea of Kirtland drinking from his body making Hazel feel dizzy again. Finally, Hazel nodded. “So, what do I do now?”
And now Kirtland looked apologetic. “I’m afraid that you must say ‘goodbye.'”
“To Becky?” Hazel squeaked.
“Yes. To Becky.”
“But I love her.”
Kirtland sighed. “Then protect her from the danger you bring with you. She is in the way should someone decide they no longer want to share.”
Hazel stood and paced. Becky. His safe, normal, passionate Becky. She had been there for him through all of his triumphs and failures. He’d miss her terribly. Yet, the price of staying with her could be her life. It wasn’t a price he was willing to pay.
“This isn’t going to be easy.”
“The most difficult and necessary things rarely are.”
Hazel suddenly stopped and just gawked at the professor. “Okay, if you’re done being Yoda, listen up, okay?”
“Yoda?” Kirtland repeated with deliberate care.
“Yeah, Yoda. If you really think about it, you’re not telling me to give up just Becky. You’re telling me I have to change my entire life!” He flopped back down on the couch and covered his eyes. “How many vampires are there on campus? You can sense each other, right?”
“We can. Yes.” Kirtland shifted his long body and regarded Hazel with the expression that usually meant he was going to say something to upset him. “The problem is that many of the vampires I chased away were not students. I feel that you are attracting vampires from off campus. Perhaps from other cities.”
“How many have you chased away?”
“With or without your knowledge, over fifty.”
Hazel’s eyes widened. “Dear Lord. You’re joking! How am I supposed to attend school with an army of hungry vampires chasing me around? You can’t look after me all the time!”
Kirtland stood and moved to stand over him. “No, sadly I cannot. I thought there might be a way for you to keep the life you lead, to continue with your studies. I thought Becky was the only concern. You have opened my eyes.”
“Yes, Mr. Goodwin. You are not safe in this world, nor is the world safe from you. As it is, I see no option for you. You’re going to have to die.”
Hazel sat bolt upright on the couch. “Professor?”
Kirtland was looking at him with murderous intensity. “I’m very sorry,” Kirtland said.
Hazel froze, fearing for his life. All things considered, it was a pretty justified fear.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”
The minister was kind-faced, brown eyes looking down at the Bible from behind his spectacles. Hazel’s mother gave a sob and buried her face in her husband’s shoulder.
His sister, Barbara, was doing her best to be brave, but tears trickled down her face. Becky stood apart from the others. Her face was dry but her eyes were bloodshot and puffy.
It was a beautiful day with wispy clouds painted artfully across the blue sky. The grass was Easter-green and the sun so bright everyone squinted down at the six-foot rectangular hole in the ground. The headstone read, “Moonlight Melody Hazel Goodwin, Loving Son and Brother.”
“This is really surreal,” Hazel said. He stood beneath a tree a fair distance off. His hair had been neatly trimmed and he wore dark glasses over his distinct eyes. Beside him in a dark suit, Kirtland nodded. “I quite agree. Your real name is Moonlight?”
“My parents really were hippies,” Hazel said by way of an explanation. “My sister ‘Barbara’ was originally named Sunrise Feather before she had it legally changed. So…will I get to tell them the truth one day?”
“I can’t see why not. The point of all this is to ensure that you are given the freedom to grow stronger. I believe with enough practice, we can find a way for you to tone down the strong signal you emit. We can also help with your…” And here he stopped to clear his throat. “Ahem. Reaction to vampires.”
Hazel blushed and tugged at his collar. “Okay, I believe you. One day, I get to walk up to my parents and say, ‘Sorry I faked my death. It was the only way I wouldn’t put you all in danger. I’ve got this groupie vampire following and they’re not so good at sharing.’ That’ll be the day.”
“They’re hippies, they’re bound to understand,” Kirtland quipped.
“Ha,” Hazel intoned.
He cast one last, longing look at Becky. The best sex he’d ever had. Damn, he thought, and turned away.
“I want my mice,” he snapped at Kirtland.
“I beg your pardon?” Kirtland asked, trailing after him.
Kirtland was quite serious about beginning his training right away. Hazel took to calling him Yoda more and more, which only upset the humorless vampire.
“You know, all the wise sayings? ‘Unlearn what you have learned’?”
“You are foolish beyond measure.”
They stood on opposite sides of Kirtland’s living room. It was inside a castle. An actual castle. Hazel had seen it from the outside for the first time when they had left for Hazel’s funeral. There were legit turrets and a moat and possibly even gargoyles, because of course Kirtland had a castle with gargoyles.
It was definitely nowhere near the campus (no castles like this in East St. Louis) — and Kirtland had requested, almost shyly, that Hazel close his eyes during the trip to and from the service.
“It’s secret for a reason,” he had explained. Hazel respected that, even though it did give him some worries.
“I mean, are we even in America anymore?” he asked.
“No,” was Kirtland’s answer. “Europe.”
It was a vague and frustrating answer. Hazel wanted to be excited about his first trip abroad, but mostly he was too overwhelmed by everything. Also, he was legally dead, which put a damper on most things.
Then Kirtland had wrapped him in his arms. The world had gone fuzzy and wobbly and the next thing he knew, they had been outside the cemetery. Hazel had never asked how Kirtland handled the details with the body. He only knew that a car accident had been responsible for his death. The casket had been closed.
“I can’t believe you own a castle,” Hazel exclaimed, still wildly impressed by the spectacle of the place. This living area was overflowing with elegant couches and chairs. There were beautiful carpets and heavy wooden tables.
The ceilings were so high Hazel got dizzy looking up at them. At least there was plenty of space for his mice.
“It’s my estranged brother’s,” Kirtland said cryptically. “He was a scientist, an expert on feeder physiology.”
“An expert on people like me?” Hazel marvelled.
“Indeed. It’s thanks to him that I know as much as I do. It’s thanks to him that I can attempt to help you. Train you to resist the trance. To dampen your own signal.”
And it all sounded like a plan that would work when Kirtland said it in that confident way of his. And Hazel liked to think of himself as an optimistic guy. And it was too late to change his mind, so he smiled at Kirtland, wasn’t surprised when it wasn’t returned, and asked, “So, how do we do this?”
“I believe,” Kirtland began in his deep tenor as he removed his jacket, “that you must develop a resistance through constant exposure.”
Hazel coughed. Once. “Um. Has this ever worked before?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never tried it before.”
Kirtland breezed over his worries with his usual confidence. “We will first attempt to gain you control over your unusual reaction to vampires, and then work on controlling the signal you broadcast so very well.”
“Okay, then let’s get started,” Hazel said, not feeling at all confident about this. “So. Um. What do I do?”
“Simple,” Kirtland replied. “Try to resist.”
“Excuse me?” Hazel began and then was lost. He stalked across the room, ripped at the buttons of Kirtland’s shirt and slithered against him. “Fuck me,” he breathed. His eyes blazed, bright and gold, the usual gray burned away by the glow.
The switch was flipped and he stumbled back, hit the couch. “Okay,” he panted. “That didn’t work.”
The vampire was staring at him and the look on his face was almost fearful. “No, it didn’t.” He tugged at the open flaps of his shirt, realized there was no helping it, and let them hang. Hazel noticed, not for the first time, how sculpted he was, how firm his chest. His nipples were smallish but dark. He had a hairless expanse of chest leading down and Hazel wanted to see more.
“Fight it this time,” Kirtland commanded. Flip went the switch.
“Mm,” Hazel said and stood again. “Master.” He took the few steps that would bring him to Kirtland and lifted his hands. Reverently, he slid them over his collarbone, down to those hard nipples. He lowered his mouth, licked once, twice. “Yes,” Hazel moaned. “Don’t stop me this time. Let it happen.”
Kirtland made a noise and then hands were digging into his hair holding his mouth where he needed it and then guiding it down. “I liked your hair long,” Kirtland complained, his fingers rubbing into his scalp.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Hazel kissed over his stomach, down to his bellybutton where he licked and sucked. Then lower. “Tell me I can,” Hazel begged. He looked up into Kirtland’s dark, lust-filled eyes imploringly.
“No, Hazel. Fight it.”
Hazel laughed and began undoing his belt. He liked it when Kirtland said his name. “You’re not, why should I?” His hand slithered in, pressed against the already impressive, half-hard erection he found. “We both want it. Let it happen.”
The switch went off quick as a wire snapping and Hazel fell back hard. He looked down at his own straining erection, willed it to go away and found it was quite permanent.
He panted an apology, refused to look at Kirtland’s face.
“It’s quite alright,” Kirtland said after a moment. “This is the first time we’ve attempted this. A few hiccups are to be expected.”
Hazel blushed a deep red. “I don’t suppose I could go take care of my problem?” He waved at his pants, blushing more.
“Mr. Goodwin, it’s going to happen. If you have to sneak off to ‘take care of it’ every time, we’re not going to get very far.”
“You’re right,” Hazel agreed, but sounded miserable. He stood, tried to muster some dignity since they were both in similar states, and took a deep breath. “Okay. Do whatever you did before only…less.”
“That was very weak.”
“Make it weaker!” Hazel snapped. “Just do it or I’m not going to be able to stop next time. You don’t know how this feels.”
Kirtland blanched, but nodded.
Hazel actually felt the shift in his body. There was a pull and it was hard to fight. Kirtland was beautiful and sexy and so mysterious. Powerful. He wanted to please him, to be used by him. “God, I want you,” Hazel hissed, felt his knees go weak. He caught himself on the back of the couch and squeezed it so hard his fingers ached.
Kirtland was watching him intently. “Tell me what you want,” he demanded.
“I want you to bleed me dry,” Hazel answered honestly. “While you’re fucking me,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “I want you to own me.”
“Then why are you over there?” Kirtland asked, curiosity in his voice.
“Because…” Hazel shuddered, his hips jerking once, as if he couldn’t help it. “I’m trying so hard. I’m…fighting it. You told me to fight it, so I am.” The last was said on a moan and Hazel bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. “I want your cock, Master.”
Kirtland gasped and the switch was thrown. Hazel collapsed bonelessly. He fell forward and the pressure of the floor against his cock made him spurt inside his boxers. He cried out and then rocked himself against the ground until he was spent.
“Professor,” he tried, but his mouth was dry, his tongue felt swollen.
Kirtland was by his side in a second, lifting him into his arms. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. Yes.” Hazel swallowed. “I did it,” he said after a moment. “I fucking did it.”
“Yes, you did. Congratulations.” Kirtland smiled an encouraging smile, but there was strain on his face, weariness and exhaustion.
Hazel looked away, miserable that he was the cause of it all.
Since coming to the castle, he kept himself busy cleaning, cooking, and puttering around the enormous space. Kirtland ate human food just like a regular guy, even if it didn’t “Sustain him nutritionally,” or whatever the hell that meant. And Hazel was a pretty good cook, so they ate quite a few meals together. Just one of the ways he passed the time.
Other than that, there were a million rooms with cool paintings and tapestries to stare at. Just hours and hours of tapestry staring. Best. Hobby. Ever.
And he had his mice, of course. He watched them running around aimlessly, ducking in and out of tubes and tunnels. It was hypnotic how tireless they seemed. No one would eat them now, and they were none the wiser. Everything was just the same for his little feeder mice.
“Super jealous. Of mice,” Hazel muttered.
Time passed slowly in the castle. The stone and — yes, well, the damn tapestries — soaked up the hours and Hazel wasn’t sure how. He wasn’t allowed to leave, felt frozen by Kirtland’s grim warnings about the horde waiting for him beyond the stone walls. And even if he had wanted to leave, he didn’t know how. Throw himself from one of the tower windows? There was one giant door leading to a moat and Hazel was pretty sure one human didn’t have a chance of opening it.
He found ways to gently wound time since he couldn’t outright kill it. There was an enormous library where he could keep up his studies, even if a degree was beyond him now, what with being dead and all.
There was a giant TV in his bedroom and he sometimes wasted hours that way. Kirtland’s training wasn’t every day since it took a lot out of Hazel, left him sluggish and dull. Worse, he wasn’t able to muster even a token resistance to Kirtland’s overpowering charms when he was tired.
Kirtland would sneer at him and say, “I see that you are useless today. You can barely keep your eyes open. Even a weak vampire could have you in his bed and your blood in his belly. Go rest. Regain your strength.”
And Hazel was getting used to the fact that Kirtland’s ice-cold demeanor, his aloofness, well, all of it was just surface level. Under it all, at least for Hazel, he was pretty kind. He was helping Hazel, wasn’t he? Letting him crash at his castle? Training him to be stronger so he wouldn’t get eaten?
All things considered, he just had too much free time, which wasn’t always a good thing. His thoughts often ran wild with worries and fears. Desires that wouldn’t stop.
Kirtland looked at him one day and snapped, “The noise of your thinking is driving me mad.” They were both in the library, passing time reading. A lazy Saturday afternoon.
Hazel’s eyes bugged out. “C-can you read my mind?” If he could, then Hazel was in real trouble. He’d been thinking very inappropriate things about the professor for weeks.
Kirtland rolled his eyes, lowering the book he’d been reading. “I cannot, but it hardly matters. You think quite loudly.”
“Just worried, I guess,” Hazel admitted. “I’m not getting better.”
“You’ve improved remarkably,” Kirtland disagreed. It was almost a compliment and Hazel desperately wanted to believe him, but he just couldn’t. Just yesterday he’d sprawled out on the ground, spread his legs wide, and begged for Kirtland to open him up with his tongue. At least Hazel could remember better than he could before when the trance took over him. Sadly, the things he had to remember were mortifying.
When he slept at night, he had to fight his body’s reaction to the memory of Kirtland, his beautiful voice commanding him to resist, all while the aura of the man demanded he submit, bare his throat and give him everything. He woke up hard, the sheets tangled around his body and wet with sweat.
“I’m not better,” Hazel contradicted. “All I do is want. Like, all the time.”
Kirtland swallowed audibly, then looked away. “You just need a distraction. Something to take your mind off your training.”
And so a massive chessboard was found and set up on a table in the cavernous library.
“I don’t know the rules or anything,” Hazel complained sullenly, gaping at the beautifully carved chessmen.
“I’ll teach you,” Kirtland said confidently. Because of course he could play chess. He’d never said much about his origins, but Hazel got the idea that Kirtland had to be hundreds of years old. That was hundreds of years to get good at everything, Hazel thought gloomily, bracing himself for hours of losing.
He hesitated. Hours. He was pretty sure spending more time with Kirtland was the last thing he needed.
But, “Okay,” he said. It was like having an addiction: he couldn’t help himself.
Several frustrating hours passed at the chessboard. Kirtland’s long fingers moved the pieces around while his lovely mouth described the rules of the game. His voice was practically an aphrodisiac all by itself.
“We call it castling,” Kirtland explained as he moved the rook and the king about. “Does it make sense?”
“Bend me over this table and fuck me,” Hazel moaned.
Kirtland looked up sharply, confusion on his face. “How…?” he wondered. Hazel was suddenly red with fever, his pupils blown and his mouth open wide. Kirtland closed his eyes, visibly concentrated.
Hazel panted, squirmed, arched his back, and finally slumped in his seat. “God, could you control that damn signal, Master?” he asked. “Feels like it’s beating into me. Like a hammer. A really good hammer. You make chess pretty sexy. I’m so fucking hard.”
Kirtland was silent across from him. When Hazel lifted his gaze questioningly, he was surprised by the flummoxed expression on the vampire’s face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I-I. The switch was off,” Kirtland muttered. “Or, I thought it was. I wasn’t attempting to influence you. To make you want. To control you. I swear.”
Hazel sighed. He figured there was probably a lot going on here. He was too horny to figure it all out. “It’s okay. You probably need practice, too.”
“Me?” Kirtland sputtered.
“Yeah, you. I’m not the only one who needs to practice resisting urges,” Hazel said. “I mean, what’s it like, having power over me all the time? You can turn me off and on with a snap of your fingers. That must do something to you.”
Kirtland blinked rapidly, looked away. “I believe you are correct. I will attempt to control myself. Would you like to…resume the lesson?” He looked hopeful.
Hazel wanted nothing more than to go to the shower and jerk off. But he surreptitiously adjusted himself and said, “Sure.”
Like a freakin’ addict.
In his dreams, Hazel was there. Hazel with the pretty face and the full lips that should have been put to use loving him. Only him.
Hazel laughed at him. “You’re a big, old, possessive grouch.” His voice dropped to cock-tingling levels. “I want you to fuck me.”
Kirtland let his eyes roam over Hazel’s long body. “Where? How?”
“Here. Now. Take me on my knees.”
Kirtland yanked down his pants impatiently and pushed Hazel’s head down hard into the mattress.
“You’re angry at me,” Hazel panted and rolled his hips, waiting to be filled. Kirtland could see the glisten of lubricant between his legs, thrilled that Hazel was ready for him.
“Why?” Hazel purred.
“You’re supposed to be fighting this. Resisting me.”
“I don’t want to resist. I want you to make me do what you want. Use me.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking for.” It was easy for Kirtland to arrange him, spread him.
“God, do it now. I want to come with you inside me. Yes. There.”
Hazel pushed his ass up high, locked his elbows, rocked forward and then slammed back. Kirtland watched it all, amazed by what Hazel was. Not human; certainly not just a feeder. Not a normal feeder.
But what was he? How had he come to be? Kirtland wished, not for the first time, to speak to his brother, to ask for answers. He wanted to understand every part of Hazel Goodwin, break him down to his component parts, scrutinize every inch of him under a microscope. Rip him to pieces.
And in his dreams, he could do just that.
He pounded into him slowly, a satisfying rhythm. He was in control, body being satisfied as his mouth watered at the idea of tearing Hazel’s throat open and draining him dry.
This dream Hazel was wild beneath him. “You feel perfect. I feel so open, but I’m tight to you, aren’t I? I know I am. You’re the first. No one has ever been inside me like this. No one has ever, ever fucked me.”
Kirtland made a hissing noise, sat back, lifted Hazel up and off and then whirled him in his arms so that they were face to face. Then he slammed back into him so hard Hazel roared.
“Yes! It’s good. It’s so good. God, it’s good. Now drink, drink. Fuck me harder and taste me—”
And then Hazel was coming, his cock twitching as he spent and Kirtland couldn’t have stopped himself even if he tried. He bit down hard, teeth deep in the veins of Hazel’s neck, and rocked viciously inside the tight body of the only feeder he’d ever wanted to own completely. He gulped and guzzled and revelled.
Power bubbled up through his veins, hot like acid, boiling like lava. He felt alive. He felt omnipotent. Fire crackled beneath his skin and his eyes blazed like volcanoes, like atomic bombs. A firestorm poured off of his body.
He clutched Hazel to him, the beautiful body limp like a ragdoll, his teeth locked into the bloody mess of his lovely neck. He drained Hazel dry, pumped him full, and he burned bright, fire leaping off of him like the surface of the sun. He was a sun god and Hazel was his chariot. They would burn the world to ash together and rule over a ruin. Kirtland bared his fangs and screamed his rage at the molten sky while Hazel’s essence streamed red down his body.
He woke, suddenly, harder than he’d ever been in his very long life. His mouth was dry when he needed it coated red with nectar.
A sob caught in his throat. The dream faded but his erection was slower to ease. Hazel — even the idea of Hazel — was driving him mad. The dream had been a terrible warning.
This had to end. Whatever he had to do to make it so, it simply had to end.
The next day was training so intense Hazel came twice just trying to stay away from Kirtland whose body was like a magnet, tugging him closer.
“Can we have a break?” Hazel whined. He was sticky and smelled like sex and he was exhausted.
“No. You have to be better,” Kirtland demanded.
Hazel wiped his brow. “Geez. What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m here to help you, so let me help you!” Kirtland snapped back.
So the torture continued. Hazel’s throat was dry from wanting, thirsting for Kirtland. It seemed like hours before Kirtland let him relax.
“You did very well,” Kirtland praised, helping to clean him up. Hazel wished he wouldn’t. His touch wasn’t helping matters. His kindness. The soft expression on his face when he looked at him sometimes.
“I came all over myself just looking at you,” Hazel contradicted.
Kirtland paused. “Yes, but you kept your distance, even though I’m using more of my influence on you. You’re fighting a more potent call then ever. I’m proud of you.”
“Stop being nice,” Hazel huffed, but Kirtland only called him foolish and handed him a glass of water.
Hazel slept the rest of the day. When he woke, he had no appetite. “If I eat, I’ll puke,” he said.
Kirtland understood and nodded. “Don’t overdo it. Rest. I, however, must feed.”
Hazel’s eyes widened. “Tonight? Now?”
“The sooner the better. I don’t feed as often as others of my kind. I don’t need to as often. But when the hunger comes, it is best to take care of it.”
Hazel frowned. “What happens if you don’t?”
There was a pause and Kirtland looked away, at the distant, curtained windows. “I’m too powerful to be allowed to rampage. Who could stop me? If the hunger overtakes me, I’ll kill indiscriminately. Now, when I still have presence of mind, I can find a feeder and together, we can arrange something mutually…beneficial.”
Hazel swallowed. “That sounds kind of shady. I thought you said all feeders don’t react sexually.”
“They don’t,” Kirtland answered, turning on his heels and heading for the door. “Tonight I’m looking for one who does.”
Hazel paled at that and squirmed in his seat. “What should I—”
Kirtland interrupted. “Don’t leave the castle. Stay away from the windows.” At the door, he turned and gave Hazel a stern look. “And for god’s sake, don’t even think about sex. You’re signal is even stronger when you’re aroused. I won’t be here to protect you, so try to be clever for once.”
With that he shut the door behind him loudly.
Hazel felt dumb and stared down at his hands for a minute. “Great,” he said. “You tell me you’re going out for a blood orgy but you don’t want me to think about sex. This is brilliant. Freakin’ brilliant.”
He flopped back hard, hating everything. It was rich that Kirtland had told him not to leave, too. He couldn’t leave. He was stuck here. All but a prisoner until he could control himself.
And the guy teaching him to control himself was the very reason he couldn’t control himself!
Life sucked. Everything sucked.
It wasn’t a vampire bar, exactly. But the clientele was certainly accustomed to vampires. Kirtland was no stranger here. He had a measure of celebrity status. He was the oldest, the most powerful vampire any of the others had ever seen. He had “Don’t fuck with me” stamped all over him. It made men and women either jealous, horny, or dazed.
The feeders that came here catered to him. He knew they were, all of them, “gagging for it,” as Hazel said. They wanted him. The problem was that they were often not what he wanted. Tonight, he was even choosier than normal.
He had a specific look in mind.
But how in the world was he going to find someone with eyes that shifted from green to blue to gray at a moment’s notice? Someone with hair bleached blonde from the sun? Someone with tanned skin and a sharp jaw? Someone built of tight, youthful muscle? Someone who could erase his desperate, lustful dreams? Or ease them?
It was an impossible search. No one in the world looked like Hazel.
But maybe someone would be close enough. He circled the bar a few times, ignoring the female feeders who looked hurt and intrigued. All at once, he felt a tingle in his spine. As if by magic, the writhing masses on the floor parted. In a shaft of light like glory from heaven was someone close enough.
His hair was a little dark and he was a little too tall, otherwise, he could have been related to Hazel. A cousin, perhaps. He danced topless, the kind of bored, club dancing that looked good, but had no heart. Kirtland could smell his blood. He was not the strongest feeder; his blood would do nothing but nourish Kirtland for a time, but he was delicious. That Kirtland could tell already.
Sensing Kirtland, the feeder turned. His mouth dropped open and his movements stopped. When they began again, they were suggestive, alluring. He ran his hands over his body, touched himself, begged for it.
Kirtland was by his side in an instant, pressed against him. The boy inhaled deeply, moved his hips until Kirtland’s thigh was wedged between his legs, then he rocked against it.
“I know who you are,” he said. His accent was American. A bored student on holiday? “You’re nobility.” He sucked on his finger and trailed it down his neck, to his own bare nipple. “Everyone here wants you.”
Kirtland leaned down, ran his lips over the boy’s neck. It was scarred: someone had enjoyed marking this one, refused to heal the bites. “Do you want me as well, little feeder?”
“Hell, I’m straight,” he answered with a breathy laugh. He let his head roll to the side, exposing his neck for more kisses and deft little licks of tongue. “But I want you so bad I could come right now.” He grabbed Kirtland’s hand, pulled it to his crotch. “Everyone’s watching us.”
Kirtland smiled, his teeth extending slowly. The boy shuddered, mesmerized by the white daggers, wanting them in his neck. “Yes, I know.” He gave the hard, leaking cock in his hand a squeeze. “Come with me,” he ordered.
“God, yes,” the feeder answered.
They went to a hotel not far away. The clerk was easy to deceive. Later, she would remember nothing. Kirtland didn’t even feel like paying, so he ensured he didn’t have to.
He threw the boy down onto the bed. “What’s your name?”
“Thomas,” was the reply. “What can I call you?”
“Master,” Kirtland growled. “I want you, always, to address me as Master.”
Thomas arched off the bed. “Master. Mm. I like that. It suits you. It’s what I want you to be: my master. I want to be naked. Take off your clothes,” he whispered.
Thomas slithered out of his own pants. His young cock bobbed up to his stomach, a soft line of hair leading down. He posed, rolling onto his stomach to look over his shoulder at Kirtland. He was so in control, so playful and wanting that Kirtland was taken aback. This was how normal feeders behaved. They understood the mutualism. They enjoyed it, maintained it. They weren’t slaves to it.
Hazel was unique. Dangerous.
Kirtland stripped slowly, watching the boy watching him. When his pants came off, Thomas’s eyes widened and then he laughed. “Damn,” he said. “They don’t make them like you anymore. Come on, Master, fuck me.”
Kirtland moved over him, lube in hand. He squeezed a fair amount on his palm, worked it over his fingers. “Your first time for this?” he asked and leaned down low.
“No. There was a vamp in Tulsa back home. Not as strong as you, but strong. I’d never wanted a man before. Never wanted anyone so bad. He took me on the hood of his car. Twice. Once on my stomach, once on my back. Hurt like hell. He wasn’t as big as you, either.”
“Nor was he as careful as I will be,” Kirtland said. One finger worked its way in slowly. Thomas gave a grunt. “Do you want me more than him, hm?”
“Fuck yeah,” Thomas answered truthfully as the finger pushed in deeper.
“Then I’ll make it good,” said Kirtland as he crooked his finger, found what he was looking for. Thomas wailed.
“Oh, god, oh, god. Yes! Master!”
Kirtland pulled out, pushed back in, pulled out again and added a second finger. Thomas dropped his head, made a noise that was half grunt half moan and started sweating.
“The vampire you had,” Kirtland said slowly, “was an amateur. I can make you beg for it. I can make you feel so good, you’ll never even look at a woman again.”
“Oh my god.” Thomas was pushing up onto his elbows now, arching his back and pushing his ass high into the air. “M-more,” he moaned. “Fuck!” Instead of adding another finger, Kirtland crouched behind him, curving their bodies together. Thomas came hard at the first touch of teeth to his neck. “Yeah, yeah, fuck, yeah!” He spurted all over the ugly comforter, squeezed around the fingers inside him and pushed back on them rhythmically.
When Kirtland broke the skin on his neck, he came again, dizzy enough to collapse. Only then did Kirtland push inside him. He guided himself in, careful and slow. Stopped before he was all the way in. He sucked slowly, savoring the taste as his cock throbbed inside the feeder’s tight body.
“Damn,” Thomas hissed. “God, you’re so deep.” He twisted, made himself cry out, and then held still, breathing hard.
“Having fun?” Kirtland asked, rocked in a little deeper. He trailed his tongue over the leaking wounds. “Because I’ve only just started.”
“I need it,” Thomas cried. He pushed back and gagged. “I’m so full. I want it hard. Fuck me. Come on!”
“What are you forgetting?” Kirtland asked and slid back out, just enough to make Thomas chase after it.
“Master! Please,” Thomas cried. “Fuck me, please, Master!”
“Since you asked nicely,” Kirtland hissed and slammed in mercilessly, sucked hard and long at the feeder’s bleeding neck.
Thomas woke as Kirtland was dressing. He touched the wound on his neck and smiled. “You are,” he said slowly, “the best fuck I’ve ever had.”
“Thank you,” Kirtland said with a secret, self-satisfied smile. “I can heal that, if you’d like?”
“Nah, leave it. It will serve as a reminder. I think just looking at it will get me off for a few days.”
“That I would like to see,” Kirtland said.
“I think you turned me gay,” the boy added with a frown. “Damn. I think you turned me gay.”
“I have that effect on people,” Kirtland smirked.
“I want to see you again.”
“Trust me,” Kirtland said with a smile. “You will.”
Then he was gone. He didn’t even bother to use the door. From one second to the next he was simply not there. Thomas’s head fell back onto the pillow. “Holy shit,” he said and touched the sensitive place on his neck again. “I think I’m in love.”
Hazel was still sleeping when Kirtland returned just before dawn. He had curled up on the couch, facing the door. Waiting for him. Charming.
Kirtland hadn’t used the door — had come through a high window instead — and smiled down at the boy who was frowning in his sleep.
It had been wonderful to hear someone call him ‘Master’ in that desperate, passionate way. But it hadn’t been Hazel’s voice. It hadn’t been right. Seeing the real thing again, he could only despair at the differences. Thomas had taken the edge off. Nothing more.
Being in the presence of the real thing was only making it worse. The boy came to with a lazy stretch. He blinked up at Kirtland sleepily, and Kirtland felt powerless to do anything but stare back down at him. Hazel’s eyes traveled over his rumpled clothing.
“Well, you look like you got laid,” Hazel said blandly.
Kirtland found himself speechless.
“And here I cooked you dinner,” Hazel added, waving a hand over his body like an invitation.
“Very sweet of you,” Kirtland deadpanned. “But I already ate.”
Hazel sat up, rubbed at his face. “Yeah, I can see that. Boy or girl?”
Kirtland paused and finally answered truthfully. “A man. A young man.”
Now Hazel’s eyes went sharp. “And how much did he look like me?”
“Hazel, you don’t understand—”
Hazel stood, moved too close to him. His breath was warm and sleep-sweet against Kirtland’s mouth. “Believe me, I understand.”
He lifted a hand as if to touch, but then let it drop. Then he turned and walked away.
Kirtland watched him go and thought how wrong he had been: Thomas hadn’t even begun to take the edge off.
And they just kept training and it was wonderful and awful and Hazel was going mad. Some days they worked on dampening his own signal.
“Vampires in Australia can feel you,” Kirtland criticized him. Maybe he was amused by his struggles? Hazel couldn’t tell. His head hurt from concentrating.
“I’m trying here,” Hazel protested, squeezing his eyes tight, trying to be invisible to an army of undead bloodsuckers.
“Try harder. You’re irresistible. Every vampire in a 500-mile radius is going to converge on your location the minute you step outside. They’ll drain you dry.”
Hazle huffed out his frustration. “That’s not my fault. You guys should control yourselves! Vampires are such assholes,” Hazel complained.
The rest of the time, they continued teaching him to resist a vampire’s sway. Those days were the best and the worst.
He bucked against Kirtland, moved his hips in a circle. When Kirtland tried to pull away, he held him closer, rubbed himself against him. He hadn’t been able to stop himself from crossing the room, pulling Kirtland’s body against his own.
“Come on, come on, just a little more.”
“Mr. Goodwin, you’re supposed to be fighting this. You’re not even trying.”
“Believe me, this is me trying. Just bite me already, please, Master. Maybe if you do it once, I won’t want it so bad.”
“Biting you would only make it worse.”
“At least I can have a coherent conversation with you now. Remember how it used to be? How I couldn’t even speak?” Hazel said and nuzzled his neck. “Mm, you taste so fucking good, Master. We should be naked.”
“Yes, I’m very impressed with your ability to talk about having sex and feeding while throwing yourself at me instead of just throwing yourself at me.” He paused for a minute and said, “Get your tongue out of me ear.”
“You like it,” Hazel said, arched and came. Even after he was spent, he didn’t stop moving. “God, this is killing me. Can’t we at least fuck? You don’t have to bite me. Not yet, at least.”
“You are impossible,” Kirtland said. The switch flipped off and Hazel drooped. His back hit the floor hard.
“Well?” he asked drunkenly. “How did I do?”
“Failure. Absolute failure.”
“Yeah, well. It was good for me, too.”
Kirtland disappeared several times over the following weeks, came back smelling like sex and sweat. They pointedly didn’t discuss Kirtland’s new coping mechanism. Hazel envied him: he’d found himself a substitute. Hazel didn’t know where he could find another Emory Kirtland. They must have broken the mold when they made him.
Hazel’s control got better, but Kirtland made it clear that he had to be even stronger. “If I used my full power on you, what would you do, hmm?” he purred.
“I don’t know! Maybe you’ll just fucking bite me and I can finally get what I want!” Hazel argued back.
“Just giving up, is that it? And what do we do with the army of mad, overpowered vampires you create by being weak, hmm?”
“I. Don’t. Care!” Hazel screamed.
“This is not a negotiation!”
Hazel was frustrated. His best was never enough.
Today was worse somehow. He was on the ground in front of his Master, fighting the urge to crawl to him, press his mouth to the bulge in his pants — and Kirtland was always hard for him, even if he acted like he hated him sometimes — to beg Kirtland to bite him, milk him dry, plunge his cock into him. He closed his eyes, exhaled and shuddered and realized, quite without his knowledge, he had gone and fallen in love with Emory Kirtland.
“Aww, shit,” he grumbled and then came so hard he blacked out.
Kirtland was above him when he came to. “That was two steps back,” he criticized, shoving a glass of water at him. “You’d been doing so well. What happened?”
And Kirtland’s influence was turned down all the way, there was nothing controlling him, but it didn’t matter. Hazel felt the same. Blood or not, sex or no, he kinda wanted to spend the rest of his life getting called foolish by Kirtland.
“Nothing,” he answered. He took the water and drank it sullenly.
“Come, come now. I can’t help you if you’re not honest with me,” Kirtland said.
“Um,” Hazel said to his water. “What if I, kind of…love you?” he asked. “Like, I kind of want to hold your hand. Kiss you. Introduce you to my folks. Sorry, they’re hippies, but they’re nice. Um. Maybe we could go to the movies?”
Kirtland went very still beside him. He stood, backed away from him like he was a plague rat, opened his mouth. Closed it. Then he simply turned and left.
“Well, that’s just great,” Hazel shouted to the empty castle.
He wasn’t even surprised when Kirtland was gone for two solid days. By the time he was back, Hazel was piping mad. They were in the kitchens and the fight was going strong.
“Real mature,” he snapped. “I pour my heart out and you go and get laid.”
“That’s none of your concern.” Kirtland had his arms crossed. His posture was stiff and he reminded Hazel of a raven with ruffled feathers.
“I think it is. You’re crazy about me, too. Fucking someone else isn’t going to help with that.”
“I beg your pardon!” Kirtland seethed, but Hazel didn’t want to hear it.
Hazel circled around the table, setting down plates and arranging glasses with a bit too much force. “I don’t get it,” he said. “I mean, come on, you know how I feel.”
Kirtland uncrossed his arms to stir the pot on the stove and sighed. “Don’t tell me what I know. You feel what any feeder would feel around a vampire of my strength. The minute I suppress my own vampire signal, your so-called ‘feelings’ stop being an issue.”
Hazel grabbed a handful of silverware. “Yeah, it’d be easier if that were true,” he said sadly. Kirtland stopped stirring and turned to face him.
“What do you mean?”
Hazel shrugged. “Before, I couldn’t remember how you made me feel or what your presence made me do. Not all of it. The trance kept me from knowing.” He laid the forks down as if this was just another mundane conversation. “But now I can remember. I can tell you right now how good it feels when you touch me. And I want you to touch me. Not just when you’re sending your crazy vampire signal. But, like, right now. I want. I want you.”
Kirtland’s mouth parted softly. “Don’t be foolish,” he said, but he sounded breathless with shock.
Hazel frowned. “Look, I don’t care if you feed from me or not. I imagine you’ll do that eventually if we do—” and he swallowed here before he said, “make love. Yes. When we make love. You can drink from me then. I want you to. But until then, I just want to be with you. I can be your boyfriend, right?”
Now Kirtland’s hands had fallen to his sides. He looked dumb for the first time in his very long life, incapable of speech.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” Hazel asked after a moment.
“Don’t be foolish,” Kirtland hissed.
“You said that already!” Hazel shouted.
Kirtland whirled on him. “You’re just giving up! The entire point of this exercise is to teach you to resist these feelings, to make you strong enough to turn vampires away. If we sleep together—”
“Make love,” Hazel said, not at all nervous now. He took a step closer to Kirtland as if taking the professor’s willingness to discuss the issue as a good sign.
“Whatever you call it. If we do, then how will you have learned to resist? How will you have gained control over your emotions, your body? You would be like a slave to me.”
Hazel laughed. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I want you one way or the other. How hard is it for you to understand that?”
And suddenly, something clicked, realization dawning. Hazel took another step closer and then another.
“Stay away from me,” Kirtland said, but Hazel only shook his head.
“No,” he said softly. “I think I’ve just figured something out. Help me work through this, would you a minute, Yoda?” Now he was in Kirtland’s personal space, looking up at him with an expression that was half want and half cunning. “You do know. Right now, you’re dampening your signal so much I can’t even tell you’re a vampire. Trust me, I’ve gotten really good at telling. It’s all thanks to you, by the way.”
Kirtland found himself pressed against the cabinets. Never in his life had anyone intimidated him and yet this slip of a boy had him on the retreat.
“You know you’re nothing but a man to me right now, but you can still tell that I want you. You can hear my heartbeat; you can feel the heat coming off of me right now. You’ve probably known for ages that I would do just about anything to have you, vampire or not. But you keep hiding behind some excuse. Now you say that it would defeat the purpose of all my training if we were to ‘sleep together.’ But that’s not why you won’t touch me, is it?”
“Hazel, stop this—”
“Is it?” Hazel hissed. He took the last step forward and their bodies were finally touching.
The rise and fall of their chests pushed them into each other deeply, rhythmically. Hazel could feel the thunderous beat of the vampire’s heart; hear the catch in his breathing. Kirtland answered. As he spoke, his fangs slid into place, almost obscene in the slowness of their reveal. Hazel watched them, curious and aroused.
“No,” Kirtland said finally. He suddenly clutched Hazel’s upper arms in a grip so tight the boy cried out in pain. Then they were spinning and their positions were reversed. Hazel made another soft cry as his back hit the counter. Not for the first time he noted how much taller and broader and stronger Kirtland was than him.
“It stopped being just about your training long ago,” Kirtland said as the pressure of his body against Hazel’s increased. It was too easy to feel the heat of his erection straining against Hazel’s own. The boy whimpered. “And yes, you are right. I knew months ago that I could have you whenever I chose. That it wouldn’t even require my vampiric gifts to convince you to lay with me. I can smell the lust on you. When we read together. When we play chess.” He nuzzled Hazel’s neck; let his fangs scrape the skin there.
Hazel rocked against him with a soft, “Professor…”
“Do you want to know why I haven’t claimed you?”
“God, please, Professor,” Hazel said and buried his face against Kirtland’s shoulder.
“It is because I am a jealous lover. You should belong only to me.”
Hazel’s eyes went wide with shock and something like terror. “Wha—?”
“Silence,” Kirtland commanded. “You are still a tool for vampires. Food. A toy. Even if you can fight off the arousal you feel for the weaker of my kind, the stronger ones can still make you a puppet. Unlike me, they will feel no qualms using their gifts to have you.”
Kirtland raised his elegant hand to catch Hazel’s jaw and lift it, forcing the boy to look at him. Hazel longed to crush their mouths together. They were so close.
“You want me now. You want me as a man, as a vampire, any way you can have me, correct?”
“Yes,” Hazel cried. “God, yes.”
Kirtland smiled a cruel smile. “That is good. That is how it should be. But any vampire with some influence can make you feel the same and in an instant I would lose you. True, they would have to maintain their hold on you, keep you under constant watch in order to prevent your running back to me.” Here, his eyes turned black and cold, “But I would be prepared to do much worse to you to ensure that such a thing never happened, that you would never leave me.”
“Worse?” Hazel shook his head, confusion and arousal flickering across his face.
“Don’t you see? I am not a kind man.” Kirtland closed his eyes, struggling to explain something ugly, yet true. “I am neither generous nor benevolent. I have kept you here — kept you all but imprisoned with me — because it is what I want. You are not yet mine. I have not staked my claim. Can you imagine how much more controlling I would be if you were, indeed, only mine? Don’t you see what I could do to you?” He shook Hazel by the shoulders once. “I don’t have to force you to stay here with my powers. Not now. Now you believe you desire me, love me, even. But I would not hesitate to turn my entire arsenal on you, full force, if it would keep you here with me. Even against your will.”
Kirtland’s eyes opened at last and he found even the fearful expression on Hazel’s face lovely. “I want to own you,” he said at last.
Hazel could not speak. His mouth moved as if he might make the attempt, but then he just closed it. His eyes shone with unshed tears. Finally, he just pulled Kirtland to him, hugging him fiercely.
“Why?” he asked. “Why, why, why?”
“Shh.” Kirtland knew it was meaningless, that it wouldn’t console the boy, but he too had no words for the moment. It had hurt him to do so, but he had told the truth and now he had to suffer the consequences.
They were on eggshells around each other over the following weeks. Hazel didn’t say “I love you” anymore. He figured he’d said it enough. He didn’t expect Kirtland to ever say it at this point. Kirtland felt something a lot worse than love and Hazel was afraid.
He’d been treating the whole experience almost like a game. Like the game of chess Kirtland had taught him. All he had to do was move the pieces right and he’d win. He’d get better at resisting vampires, make Kirtland fall in love with him, buy Park Place, get out of jail free, have a happily ever after. But this wasn’t a game. He’d been playing house with a dangerous guy — a killer with supernatural powers — who had some serious issues. Like serious.
I want to own you.
And yeah, being owned was what Hazel wanted. But that was the feeder part of him that wanted that. The desperate, horny, in-a-trance part of him. The very human part of him didn’t like the idea of being a slave to one man’s overwhelming desire. Didn’t like being a prisoner. He’d always just wanted a normal life.
His training continued. It was a boring Sunday night. “Advanced training,” Kirtland had called it when the new routine began. “Now that you are stronger, we must move you to the next level. We must make you strong enough to resist a higher caliber of vampire.”
Kirtland had upped his game in many ways. Firstly, he was shirtless and the look of him was enough to make Hazel pant.
Secondly, his influence battered at Hazel, like being hit by a train over and over. He wanted to just give up, go to Kirtland, wrap his arms around him and hold on forever.
He was perched on the edge of an overstuffed chair, looking at Kirtland lounging on the sofa, broad-chested and perfect like he’d been sculpted. Hazel indulged himself, dropped his eyes to his obvious erection. He wants me, too, he thought. And yeah, that was obvious. Want was hardly the problem, was it? They had much bigger problems.
“Don’t you want to come here?” Kirtland drawled. He moved a hand up and down his body, teasing himself.
“No,” Hazel said. He crossed his arms and glared at Kirtland. It was a good trick to keep himself from panting at him like a thirsty dog.
“Come here, Hazel,” Kirtland said, sitting forward, voice filled with undeniable command.
“Not. Interested,” Hazel said weakly. He started to shake. His nails were digging into his arms.
“Let me taste you, my beautiful feeder,” Kirtland purred.
Hazel felt his will weaken. He just wanted to give in already. He imagined Kirtland’s fangs on his neck, drinking from him, taking him. He gritted his teeth.
“I’m. Good. Thanks,” he said.
The switch flipped. He tumbled to the side, like a tower of blocks. He gasped for air, relieved to be free of that enormous power. He squinted across the room at Kirtland who was moving towards him applauding. God, he was hot.
Bastard, Hazel thought.
“You did it,” Kirtland said.
“Burn in a slow hell,” Hazel grumbled.
“Tsk, tsk,” Kirtland reprimanded. “I thought you’d be proud. You did exceptionally well.”
“I feel like I got hit by a truck. A truck shaped like a dick.”
“Vulgar,” Kirtland said, but he smiled, crouched down beside him and gently pushed his sweating hair off his face. “I am proud of you.”
Hazel’s eyes fluttered at the touch. “That’s nice,” he sighed. “So, do I get a reward?” he asked, blinking up at Kirtland, feeling…just too much. Too, too much.
Kirtland’s hand stilled for just a second, then resumed gently stroking his hair. “What would you like?” he asked, all caution.
Hazel’s pulse leapt. His first thought was, “God, just kiss me,” but he knew Kirtland wouldn’t. Instead, he sat up, pulled away from the touch he craved.
“Can I go out?” When Kirtland looked like he might protest, Hazel blurted out, “I’ve been training here with you for months. I haven’t seen another person that whole time. And, like, technically, you’re not even a person.”
“Charming,” Kirtland said with a smirk.
“I promise I won’t broadcast to all the neighborhood vamps. You know I’m stronger now.”
“And I’m dying to just be a normal guy again. Just once! It doesn’t have to be anything special. A park. A Target. Just out of this damn castle!”
Kirtland thought for a moment. He sighed and sat back on his heels. “It’s not a bad idea. In fact, it might be a chance to put your skills to the test.”
“What does that mean?” Hazel asked.
“Perhaps I should take you to one of my favorite haunts.”
“Is that like taking me to a gay bar?” Hazel asked, mouth turning up at the corners.
“Just about,” Kirtland said.
They left the castle together for the first time since Hazel’s farce of a funeral. Kirtland drove a sleek black, low-slung thing.
As if he needed a car to compensate, Hazel sneered internally. He was already handsome and smart and sexy and mysterious. Was the hot car really necessary?
The entire drive Kirtland lectured him. He gave warnings that Hazel should alert him if he felt overwhelmed, about obeying his orders, about always being aware.
“Okay, okay. We’ve been over this. I’ll be a good boy, I swear. Geez.”
Kirtland seemed to believe him. He spent the rest of the drive describing their destination. “The neighboring city has become a vampire-friendly town. More and more people are aware of us. There are more feeders here, as well. They come from all over the world. It’s a good town to spend a decade or two.
Hazel nodded, not really understanding. It sounded as if Kirtland was implying that there were places vampires could go to…have a drink, as it were. Kirtland stopped talking suddenly. He seemed to be concentrating on something, almost listening. Something had definitely caught his attention. With his senses as powerful as they were, Hazel wondered what had him so alert.
“Perhaps we should do this another night,” he said after a moment.
“No. Way. You promised! If you back out now I will never forgive you!”
Kirtland went silent and his mouth went thin, but he did indeed keep driving.
When they arrived at the club, Kirtland moved with anxious anticipation. “There may be someone here who…ahem. I have. That is.” He coughed one of his elegant little coughs. “This is the place,” he said at last.
“Okay, let’s go,” Hazel said and took a step forward. He cried out in surprise when he found himself pressed against the door of Kirtland’s sleek black car.
“No,” said the vampire. “Listen to me for once you stupid boy.”
“I said listen,” Kirtland said again and shook him once. Hazel quieted but his eyes were stormy gray. Kirtland refused to look away. “There are vampires in there as weak as kittens and then there are others. Ones almost as powerful as me.”
Hazel swallowed at the idea. Vampires like Kirtland made him lose control. Worse, they made him want to lose control. At the moment, however, the arousal he felt had nothing to do with Kirtland’s vampiric gifts. Being pushed against a car by the man was crazy hot. He tried to still his heartbeat, but it was nearly impossible.
“You have to try harder than you’ve ever tried to fight what you feel. Remember what we’ve practiced. You have to push yourself. This is a test unlike any of the ones I have put you through. I-I will not be in any state to protect you.”
“Wha—?” Hazel tried, but Kirtland shook him again to silence him.
“Like any vampire, I will be…distracted. Under the power of a feeder, even a weak one, there is little I can do. You’ve seen how frenzied vampires become under your spell. Remember your lover from the closet?”
“He wasn’t my lover,” Hazel grumbled and fought not to strain a little closer to Kirtland’s powerful, looming body.
“Semantics. What I am saying is that you will need to be vigilant. Don’t forget what I’ve taught you.”
“Okay, okay,” Hazel said and squirmed out of Kirtland’s grasp. “I’ll use the Force and fight the evil Empire. Geez.”
Kirtland frowned, but seemed to take Hazel’s answer as sincere. “See to it that you do.”
The noise of the club started as a murmur. As they neared, it became like a roar of music and voices. Laughter shot through the air like a bullet and the smell of cigarette smoke and liquor was like gun smoke. It lingered and twisted all around the bodies at the bar and on the floor. Kirtland’s vampire eyes were the color of coal as he scanned the room, seeing all the things that Hazel couldn’t.
There were enough feeders here for a vampire feast. He scanned the crowd, listening, watching. A familiar smell caressed him.
Thomas. He had sensed his presence in the car, but the sight of him — the smell of him — tugged at him more potently than ever. Thomas’s signal was loud and bright. Kirtland didn’t know what could make a feeder’s signal stronger. His brother had been the expert on feeders. He had told him once that emotion had something to do with it, but Kirtland had never known if it was true or not.
Thomas was standing before the bar, smiling at the bartender. Kirtland’s preternatural senses could hear him as he ordered a beer. Suddenly, Thomas hunched over and shuddered. It was a trembling motion that seemed to start at the base of his skull and travel down his back. He gasped and then looked up. Thomas ignored the beer that was placed before him as he looked wildly all around. Finally, he saw what he was looking for.
“Master,” he breathed. He carelessly threw a bill onto the counter, left the beer where it was and stalked across the room. Kirtland was aware of all the looks he was receiving from hopeful feeders. He was aware, too, of the hateful and envious looks his vampiric peers sent his way. Hazel was behind him like a ticking time bomb.
The signal he usually couldn’t help sending out was dampened to the best of his ability. He still seemed like a tasty treat to most of the vampires in the club, but not to the degree that Kirtland was afraid of having to fight off a feeding frenzy anytime soon. He was proud of Hazel, how well he was implementing his training.
Kirtland braced himself for the worst. His lover was about to meet his one weakness. Things were probably about to get ugly.
Hazel couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of the scene.
The guy almost cartoon-floating across the floor to Kirtland (like when they caught the scent of a pie cooling in a window) was like looking at a mirror. Hazel scowled. A lot of things were making sense now.
He almost vomited when his double-threw his arms around Kirtland and peered up at him in worship.
“You’re here! I didn’t know you’d be here today. I’m so happy to see you!” His voice was American. Sultry. Hazel hated the guy.
Kirtland leaned down low and let his breath tickle the feeder’s neck. “Mm. Thomas. What is this now? No young girls to distract you?”
“Are you kidding?” Thomas laughed. “I haven’t been able to even look at a girl since I met you. I seem to have a type. Tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, powerful.” He paused and smiled. “Amazing in bed.”
Finally, Hazel couldn’t hold it in. He made a retching noise. It broke the spell and heavy tension between the vampire and Thomas.
Thomas looked behind Kirtland and did a double take. “Jesus!” He actually smiled and walked around to stand close to Hazel. “Look at you!”
“Hi,” Hazel said lamely.
Kirtland gestured elegantly. “Thomas, this is Hazel. He’s a feeder, like you.”
Thomas actually frowned. “Yeah, I can see that. I feeder that looks just like me.”
Kirtland laughed nervously. “Ah. Ahem. A coincidence.”
“Yeah, right,” both Thomas and Hazel said. They glanced at each other awkwardly.
Thomas crossed his arms. “Is this some kind of really big hint to me that you’ve moved on? I’m yesterday’s news? You don’t want me?”
“Far from it,” Kirtland began and continued in a sexy drawl, but the words were lost to Hazel who was having a difficult moment. The way Kirtland and Thomas stood so close, the obvious erection Thomas was sporting and how his body trembled with anticipation — it was affecting him. Thomas leaned closer. Kirtland turned his head and they were almost kissing.
It was so easy to imagine himself in Thomas’ place. After all, this was what it would look like if Kirtland made good on his threats to claim him, keep him.
There was a roll of Thomas’ body, and it was like they were fucking right here. Hazel lowered his head and tried to fight what was coming on like a crushing wave. There was something like an electric charge sparking in his brain and he could feel the color of his mind change from purple to red. He felt hot all over. All around him they were there: oases that could sustain him. In the corner, a strong man with full lips. He burned velvet green. Near the bar was a dark goddess with eyes like coal. She was all blue. Vampires everywhere, all of them willing to satisfy him. All of them wanting him.
Color everywhere, coming at him like mists, like perfume. His control slipped as he found the last and brightest of them all.
Kirtland was close and he was hot like an inferno. All the other fires in the room were buried beneath his. He was gold and scarlet, the colors of the sun and blood and life. Hazel wanted to be burned. He looked away when he felt like he might just turn to ash from the sight of him alone.
“Please,” he heard himself beg. His eyes were thirsty again and he couldn’t resist. He looked up, directly at the source of his pain and joy.
Thomas gasped. “His eyes,” he whispered. “Are they, like, gold? What is he?”
The club had suddenly gone quiet. All around, the patrons had turned and were staring at the little corner where the three men stood. A few vampires licked their lips. There was a synchronized surge forward, slow and confused.
“Believe me, I wish I knew,” Kirtland muttered. His purring voice made things worse for Hazel.
“Hazel,” Kirtland said evenly. “Control yourself. Remember your training. Now is not the time to lose control.”
Like a child Hazel shook his head fiercely. Then he waved his hand at Kirtland and Thomas. “No,” he hissed, “touching.”
Kirtland said, “Ah,” as he understood. “Dearest Thomas, some distance.”
“Yes, Master,” Thomas said, confused. “They’re really hungry,” he said and squirmed. His feeder mind was sensitive to the change in the atmosphere. He took two steps away from Kirtland and suddenly the room was open and airy. Kirtland could hear the sound of Hazel exhaling as if it had been piped into his mind. Loud and sensual. Thunderous and forbidden.
“Thank you,” Hazel said slowly. “We should go,” he said at last. “I did my best, but I can’t keep this up.” He was shaking, sweating a little with the strain. “We really should have gone to Target.”
Kirtland nodded once. Then he looked again at Thomas. “As you can see, our company is rather unusual.”
“I’ll say. You’re walking around with contained explosives,” Thomas said. He crossed his arms. “He has no control over what he sends out?”
“Hey!” Hazel shrieked.
Kirtland looked embarrassed. “He’s gotten, ah, better? A little better.”
“A little better?” Hazel’s skin was hot with anger.
“And you brought him here?” Thomas pushed his hair off his face. “I thought you were a smart guy, Master. Why chance it?”
Kirtland shrugged. “I’ve been training him. Helping him learn to control himself.”
“He’s got to be the worst student ever,” Thomas exclaimed.
“Thomas, manners,” Kirtland scolded.
“Sorry, sorry. But, hey, listen: how about you come with me? No offense, Hazel, was it? But, Master,” and here he turned to Kirtland, batted his pretty eyes, pursed his pretty mouth and Hazel really hated him. “Send him home,” Thomas said, waving dismissively at Hazel. “Come with me. You must be hungry. Famished.”
Hazel’s jaw dropped. He was offended and livid and felt ready to smack this little imposter. This substitute.
“You know what?” he snapped. “You two go and do whatever. I don’t care!”
He’d passed this damn test — the club was loaded with vamps and he wasn’t trying to bang any of them. Well, Kirtland aside.
He’d put up with this Thomas and frankly, these two deserved each other. He stormed off, right out of the club, refusing to look at Kirtland, ignoring the interested stares he got from the vampires he passed. Not a single one affected him. Not like Kirtland could. They were weak sauce.
Outside, the air was fresh and bright and he felt better. Less angry. Too late, he guessed, since now he had no way back to the castle. His ride was off freakin’ banging his doppleganger, he fumed.
He picked a direction and started walking, hands in his pockets and a scowl on his face. The sky was full of stars, a pretty violet color. Almost magical. It was a nice night for a walk. A nice night to think.
He wanted a time machine so much. He’d just go back in time, skip that lecture, never awaken as vampire food. Just live out his normal boring life. Get a degree, get a crap job. Marry Becky, crank out a couple disobedient kids. Never meet Kirtland.
And that part…no, he didn’t like that part.
Humorless, snarky, superior asshole who banged jerks who looked just like Hazel though Kirkland was, Hazel couldn’t help it: he loved the guy.
“Well, he can just go and AaaaaaaaaaAAAaaa!“
Hazel’s scream was tragic, loud and warbling and if his heart weren’t wedged in his throat, he’d be screaming some more. How embarrassing.
“Hazel! Hazel! Please calm down. It’s only me.”
Hazel clutched his chest, gaped at Kirtland who had emerged from the dark in that stupid way he did, then smacked him hard in the center of his chest. “You asshole,” he shouted. “You absolute asshole!”
“Do refrain from attacking me! It wasn’t my intention to frighten you!”
“Well you did!“
“Please forgive me,” Kirtland said softly and Hazel went very still. He got the feeling that Kirtland was apologizing for more than just frightening him.
He looked at him from beneath the fringe of his hair. “You mean that?”
“I…do.” Here he reached for Hazel’s hand. Hazel felt his cheeks flush at the contact. It made his blood sing.
“I have made many foolish choices since meeting you. Thomas is one of them.”
“Oh,” Hazel muttered and had to fight not to squeeze Kirtland’s hand, rub his thumb over the knuckles. “You could have stayed with Thomas,” he mumbled, sounding very petulant and not sure how to fix it. “I don’t mind or anything.”
Kirtland sniffed at the idea. “I was not there for him. I was there for you. To help you. I behaved badly. I’m afraid I’ve hurt you. It wasn’t my intention.”
Hazel stared at their joined hands. Kirtland’s hand was so warm in his. “Well, I mean. You’ve helped me a lot and. Well. I can’t blame you for…wanting someone.”
Kirtland bit his tongue and said nothing at all. “You did very well back there,” he managed after a moment.
Hazel firmed his chin, stood up straighter. “Yeah. I know. I was awesome. Up until you started making out with Me Two-Point-Oh, I was perfectly in control.”
Kirtland dropped Hazel’s hand as if he suddenly realized how long the contact had lasted. His green eyes were bright in the dark, but he kept his gaze averted from Hazel nervously. “I feel as if I have very little left to teach you. You are strong enough to resist almost every vampire you encounter. Strong enough to keep the hordes at bay.”
“You could start a new life now. Perhaps start making plans to return to your old one.” His voice was flat, his brow furrowed. “Becky and,” he grasped for words. “A normal life.”
Now it was Hazel’s turn to stare at his feet. “Uh, yeah. I can resist most vampires. But, uh, vampires like you? I’m still a mess.”
Kirtland looked at him sharply, almost eagerly. “There aren’t many vampires like me.”
Hazel shrugged, scratched at his neck awkwardly. “Well, I mean, not that you know of. But you never know.” He started walking again, as if he needed to move to calm his nerves. Kirtland fell in beside him easily, studying him. “There could be some crazy powerful bloodsucker out there and then what? I probably need more training,” Hazel said to his feet.
Kirtland swallowed audibly. “You make several good points. How am I to know what could be lurking out there, wanting to make a snack of you?”
“Right?” Hazel said with relief in his voice. “Like, the world is cray!”
“Yes. Cray,” Kirtland agreed, nodding wisely. “It would perhaps be best if you—” he started.
“Like, stay with you for a bit more,” Hazel finished.
“A capital idea,” Kirtland agreed in a rush. “And it needn’t be permanent or anything of the sort.”
Hazel beamed at him, heart pounding out of control. “Right? Just until I’m, like, really good at resisting you guys.”
Kirtland stopped walking, looked down at Hazel and his gaze was so soft and kind that Hazel’s heart skipped a beat. He knew Kirtland could hear it which was embarrassing, but it was fine. Everything was fine. He wasn’t even really mad about Thomas anymore. He was just happy right now and it was such a novel feeling he was clutching it tight.
“I suppose I can tolerate you long enough to whip you into shape,” Kirtland pronounced. He lifted his hand as if he couldn’t stop himself and trailed it down Hazel’s cheek gently. Tingles followed the movement and Hazel just wanted more.
His eyes closed and he swallowed heavily.
“Then take me home to your freakin’ castle,” he begged and felt satisfied tingles bubble up his arms and legs when Kirtland wrapped him in his arms, lifted into the sky, and did just that.
“We will have to go and get my car, of course, Mr. Goodwin.”
“Oh, shut! Up!”