Katelyn Nichols’ blind date was not going well at all. Colin West seemed like a nice guy, I guess, a sweet guy with sweet inhibitions and sweet stories about living with his grandmother until she passed. But there was nothing there—so much nothing in fact, so much sweetness, that she was kind of afraid to ditch him, for fear he might just wilt and crumble into a puddle of wimp, and she didn’t want to see that.
Across the bar, though, she saw Raphael Mann. She didn’t know that was his name, but given enough incentive and cause, she probably could have come up with it. He was so swarthy and windblown and chiseled he could easily have been the model on a cheesy Romance cover. She found her eyes drifting off in his direction periodically over the course of Colin’s accounting-driven conversation style.
“Excuse me,” she found herself saying, “I’m gonna have to go powder my nose.”
She never got to the powder-room, though. Instead, she found herself drawn off in the direction she had seen Mr. Chiselchest wander a few minutes ago. This turn led her out onto a dark alley.
Shit. Why was she here?
“You are not lost,” a nonspecific European accent drawled behind her. “I knew you would come.”
Suddenly, she felt him behind her, hot breath on her neck, hands at her hips, fingers pressing past her skin—this was it. This was what she meant when she said she needed to get back out there!
“You wish me to stop?” he whispered, his words landing on her ears like silk, like smooth jazz.
“No,” she breathed, rolling her head back onto his shoulder.
“Good,” he said.
And then Katelyn felt pressure on her neck. A familiar pressure, at first, that reminded her of early boyfriends’ hickies and college roommates’ forays into kink, but then it didn’t stop there and suddenly there were needles like tines on a barbecue fork treating her neck like an eager virgin girl—
This wasn’t what she signed up for. But then, what else should she have expected from a late-night encounter in a dark alley behind a bar?
She grabbed the back of his head, his hair, trying to pry him off, but that only drove his daggers deeper.
“Stop!” she finally managed to whisper, and as soon as the word was out, she stopped feeling him. It was as though every part of his body stopped touching hers at the same time.
“I apologize,” he sulked. She turned around to him and at first, he wouldn’t even meet her eyes. “I saw you inside and I thought this was what you wanted. If I misestimated and got carried away…” Finally, his eyes met hers. “I am sorry.”
Then he vanished back into the building like smoke blending into the clouds.
Katelyn wasn’t sure about following her attacker back into the bar, but it was either that or brave the alley. And besides, she thought, I have a boring-but-safe date still waiting for me there.
“Are you all right?” Colin voiced his concern, but she brushed him off. He paid while she anxiously darted her eyes around the room for the Vampire.
Vampire. Was that what she was calling him? Seemed fair enough.
“Could you walk me home?” she asked him, but then discovered his place was closer. “Could I bother you for a night-cap?” she blushed when he didn’t seem to be going in for a kiss.
What was she doing? She’d only just been assaulted—hadn’t she?—in the back alley of a bar, and now she was—what?
Reclaiming her agency, she told herself. That Vampire had taken liberties she hadn’t granted him, so now here she was mending her pride by taking charge with a guy who definitely wasn’t going to do it himself.
“Sorry I don’t have any wine,” said Colin, bringing her water.
“That’s okay.” She brushed his hand more than she had to, taking the glass from him, and found and held his gaze. This elicited an awkward chuckle.
“I like water more anyway,” he told her. “It’s good for the soul, you know?”
“Yeah,” she breathed, inching closer to him.
“It’s cleansing,” he told her, his voice shaking—no doubt from proximity to her. “And you want to be clean, don’t you?”
This seemed like an odd thing to say, making her frown, but it wasn’t as odd as seeing him whip out a knife and stab her with it.
She had just enough time to scream before it pierced her belly.
I knew it! some part of her brain belted. I knew he was too fucking nice to be true!
She slashed at his face with one set of manicured nails and then caught his head in the other hand and sank both her thumbs into his eyes. Now he was the one screaming.
She slid off the couch, trying to gauge her next move, but then there was a knock at the door.
“Are you all right?” came a familiar European accent.
“Who the fuck are you?” Katelyn screamed.
“Is he dead?” the Vampire asked, sounding relieved.
Just then, Colin answered by blindly shrieking and launching himself in her general direction. Without thinking, Katelyn pulled the knife out of her gut and plunged it deep into his chest. Shit, she thought, realizing too late that removing the knife had been a bad idea. She could feel herself bleeding out.
“Is he dead?” Raphael Mann yelled through the door again.
“Yes,” Katelyn whispered.
In the blink of an eye, the room was filled with shards of the door and her previous attacker was cradling her head in his lap.
“My darling,” he coo’d, “I am sorry, but I must bite you now.”
“Will I become one of you?” she found herself asking.
“If that is what you want,” he said. “Something terrible has happened to you. Now, the choice is yours. Your life can be over now, or you can become a monster. Or, if you are brave and dedicated, you can recover. You can never be who you once were, but perhaps… perhaps you can be better.”