Sunday, December 27, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
I got this notebook from Taylor, and besides being made of 100% post-consumer content - and raising funds to protect endangered species - it has black wolves on the cover. She’s been helping around the house since Mom has started to ail (good word, isn’t it?) and I think she’s figured some things out. I never can find the right moment to ask.
Anyway, it’s a nice notebook and lots of psychologists say keeping a diary is good for you, no matter how half-hearted. So I’m going to start with a description of this Christmas, the first Christmas with Nat living at our house.
On the last day of school before the vacation Matthew gave me a pair of shark mittens, and when I say this I mean that the mittens convert your hands into sharks: the thumbs are the lower jaws, your palms are lined with teeth and gaping red maw, and there is a fin on the back of each hand. I kissed him immediately and enthusiastically for that. Apparently his cousin in Michigan sells crazy-awesome knitted things and he commissioned the pair for $20. “Now you can pretend your hand is biting my hand when we hold hands.” When he unwrapped his (used but only mildly frayed) copy of American Gods I had stood in line for three hours at a book fair to get signed, he whooped and spun me around.
On the day itself Dad and Nat promised to stay up until 7 AM so Mom and I could join them for unwrapping. We woke to the buttery aromas of popcorn, peppermint hot chocolate, and Pillsbury rolls with jam; ultimately selfless acts of cookery from a pair of vampires.
“Why popcorn?” I asked as Mom – who has lost 10 pounds without meaning to in the past three months – carefully made her way down the stairs and kissed Dad.
Nat, who was for some reason wearing outrageously plaid red flannel pajamas and a sombrero, stuck the bowl in my hand with a gesture not to be refused. Dad explained, “I thought we should stick to easy and nearly-foolproof foods. Besides, popcorn feels festive, and it smells good even to us.”
“Why the sombrero?” Mom asked Nat.
“There’s no point in being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero, as a noted philosopher once said. Besides, it’s getting kind of sunny in here.”
Dad looked kind of sleepy but he smiled in the gentle way he doesn’t do enough. He put in an instrumental Christmas album and we ate/slurped blood/opened gifts. Since we were trying to save money the rule was each person got one present from each other person, and no one was to exceed $25 per gift. So this was my haul:
Dad gave me a subscription for Popular Science magazine, which came with a free glow-in-the-dark alarm clock. I’m going to share my issues with Matthew. From Mom I received gilded branch-and-leaves bobby pins so that my hair doesn’t always look like a neglected Pekinese, along with a pack of bison jerky that tastes good in either form. Nat handed me a red envelope with $25 cash.
“What? I hate shopping, teens like money.” He gave Mom a Barnes & Noble gift card and Dad an Amazon.com gift card. All for $25 exactly.
He was really testy this morning. Mom and Dad were talking about their Christmas traditions when they were young. I asked Nat what his family did, interested in hearing a first-person account from way back when, and he didn’t seem to hear me. I asked him again and he said he didn’t remember.
It occurred to all of us that we barely knew anything of Nat’s past.
“How old are you?”
“Does it matter?”
“Where were you born?”
At this point Mom mumbled, “Leave him alone, Andy.”
“How many siblings did you have?”
“They’re dead by now, so I don’t see the point.”
Mom said, “Dianne, don’t…” (He was shaking.)
“What’s your favorite Christmas carol?” I asked in what I hoped was a joking, soothing tone, but he jumped up. He spoke with a strain we had never heard in him before.
“Okay. I’m sorry if I’m ruining your celebration, but I need to make an exit. Now. Have fun.” And he stalked to his room.
We let him calm down as Mom and I finished our food and all three of us soberly threw away and recycled the wrapping paper. Dad went to sleep. Mom got on the phone with various members of her family, along with some old friends. I wrote Thank You cards to Uncle Ben, Aunt Cassi, and Grandparents Davidson for their savings bonds I could cash in when I entered college – not the most entertaining of presents, but ones I very much needed.
Some time after lunch I heard the song “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring through the wall. Then it played again. And again. And again. And again. Nat’s room is next to mine. I knocked on the door.
“I’ll stop the music,” he said quickly.
I opened it. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
He was still in the pajamas. His blinds were down. The sombrero rested atop his coffin, nearly lost among the clothes and books. He was huddled around an ancient CD player. It was dark enough in there that he didn’t need sunglasses. Not only were his irises red; the whites were marred with meandering arteries. “I’m sorry for the snit. You guys doing okay?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry for the pestering. Are you okay?” I shut the door behind me and sat against the wall.
The right side of his mouth tugged itself upward in something I would not call a smile, but not a grimace either. “I’m not good at Christmas. I haven’t been good at it since I was human. I haven’t even celebrated it since…” he obviously had to calculate, “before U.S. troops pulled out of Vietnam.”
“Did, um, did you get turned on Christmas?”
He laughed. “Oh, no. That would be way too Lifetime-movie. If Lifetime made movies about obnoxious vampires who go to medical school over and over under assumed identities so they feel like they’re doing something with the decades.”
“I would watch that.”
He sighed and was silent for a while. I waited. Eventually, staring into space, he said, “I feel like you three are a candle in the darkness, and I’m a damp tissue trying to get warm without putting you out.”
“As poetic as that is, I would like to point out that you are the most cheerful person here, and possibly the entire neighborhood, and we’d be pretty much sunk without your help. And, you know what? I’m sure you’ve done some bad things. You’re old enough to have made lots of mistakes. We want to know about you not because we want you to prove something…we want you to feel like we care.” I paused. “All right, maybe we’re a little curious too.”
“I…I…” he swallowed. “I do have a favorite Christmas carol. I actually heard it after I stopped celebrating Christmas. On the stereo of someone who was…they were good to me.”
“What is it?”
He smoothed out his hair and stood, crossing his arms behind his back, shutting his eyes, and facing the wall. I had not heard him sing before. His singing voice is deeper than Dad’s, which is kind of funny because Dad’s several inches taller than him.
I found the song on iTunes later. It’s called “Star of Wonder”. When he finished, I only said, “I can see why you like it.”
We hugged. He yawned and said he should get ready for coffin. I found a $10 bill slipped under my door in the morning.
I did not include the lyrics of this song in the body of the story, since I may like to publish it someday and obtaining the rights could be necessary and difficult. But since this is currently a free promotional piece, here are the words as Nat sang them, which I do not own:
Star of wonder in the heavens
Wonder what you want of me?
Should I follow you tonight?
Star of wonder,
Star of wonder,
I am just a lonely shepherd
Watching from a distant hill,
Why do you appear to me?
Star of wonder,
If you will.
In the morning they’ll come looking
For the shepherd on the hill
What would make him leave his flock,
For surely he must love them still?
Star of wonder in the heavens,
Are you just a shining star,
Or should I follow you tonight?
Star of wonder,
Star of wonder,
In the version I am familiar with the narrator is female, however Nat changed the pronouns to fit him.
P.S. Bonus points if you know what “noted philosopher” Nat was referring to. Correct answerers get to name a character in my current novel, which is unrelated to the Laconia-verse.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I haven't been able to sit still nor work since I saw JA on Amazon.com this morning!!!! I just had to share....
Friday, November 27, 2009
Paradise: Where Normal Romance Turns Paranormal
There’s something magical about the words “island paradise,” isn’t there? The swells of a glittering ocean, aroma of heady tropical flowers, and caress of an island breeze combine to lure visitors into a state of naturally manufactured bliss. Heaven on earth. The perfect spot for romance.
Now imagine a private-owned island that stands out among the rest. A place that stirs passion among its guests by equal parts normal and paranormal. A Bahamas resort setting where most everyone will fall sway to the call of romance, courtesy of unique mystical energies and the presence of potently sensual otherworldly beings—including the gods Love and Lust. Where the vast majority of guests go about their vacations and memorably powerful love affairs at this swanky resort without a clue about the paranormal forces at work around them.
Welcome to the Amante del Mar resort, where satisfaction is supernaturally guaranteed on an island fantasy that boasts far more than enviable Bahamas sunsets, five-star cuisine, and some of the most lavishly appointed suites ever constructed. Welcome to a new series of paranormal, sensual fantasies by J. Rose Allister.
THEIR SECRET PARADISERated 4 flames by Eternal Press
Parapsychology graduate Gina Munson knows better than to fall victim to thespecial "charms" at her uncle's resort. Then a muscled building contractorstumbles across her private sunbathing nook and heats up Gina's summer inparadise. For where the gods Love and Lust reside, no one will leave untouched.
“My God, Gina, honey.” She felt his body shiver as the awestruck words provoked a quiver in her own. “What is this spell you've got over me?”
He began to move, spearing her with a new wave of heightening desire which begged to explode in another series of rhythmic pulses of ecstasy-obsession. Then his words began to sink through her sexual fog.
What is this spell...
She froze beneath him, the catch in her breath alerting him to something other than complete surrender to erotic heaven taking place beneath him.
He stopped moving. “What is it?” His tone was gentle, yet ragged with breathless desire.
“This.” Try as she might, she couldn't will herself to move away, nor her voice to raise above a whisper. She was frozen in panic. “This isn't...real.”
She blinked, seeking his gaze and finding it calm, accepting. “You do?”
He brushed a sweaty strand of hair back from her forehead, pressing his lips to the area he'd left abandoned. “Yes. I've dreamed of you so many times...it's hard to believe you're really here with me.”
The tone was hypnotic and dangerous, threatening to weave her back into the sticky trap of island magic, but somehow she had to stay logical. She had to think this through.
Gina shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “I mean this is...surreal. It isn't what we think. What you feel...what I'm feeling...it isn't real.”
“This isn't real?”
He teased her lips open with his tongue, igniting a maelstrom of pleasure with his tongue. “So, we're just imagining this?”
His head lowered to her breasts, nipping one peak lightly to elicit a soft cry. “This doesn't feel real?” He pulled his thick, pulsing erection back, then plunged it with gentle, but firm insistence until she cried out. “How about this?”
A fresh prickle of perspiration broke out on her brow, and she closed her eyes to avoid the possessed, burning reality of his own. “No. We can't let this win, we...”
He moved in and out of her again, seeking to claim all new depths of her by pushing his hips against her pelvis. “If you're not real,” his breath came in shorter gasps as his control over their building ecstasy seemed to waver, “then I want to stay in this dream with you forever.”
Visit PARADISE...order a copy today!
J. Rose Allister is an award-winning short story teller and bestselling author. She lives in Southern California with her husband and 6 year old daughter. For more information, visit J. Rose on the web:
Friday, November 20, 2009
By: Kayden McLeod
Cover Art: Dawné Dominique
Genre: MMF Erotica, Vampire ménage a trois, Heat Level 5
Length (word count): 15K
PUBLICATION DATE: DECEMBER 7th 2009
To Buy: Jezebel's Article
When one decision can unlock your deepest, darkest fantasies
Jezebel has a new job, writing a sex column article for a small specialty interest paper in Vancouver British Columbia, and has decided to join her best friend Jade in attending a very specialized party…a sex party in fact, where she meets two of the most tempting men she could’ve ever imagined. And too make it that much more tempting for her, they were vampires, Jezebel’s one weakness. Adrian and Doros watch with igniting desire, craving to take a knowing human, who they didn’t have to cut themselves off from. One they could play with to their heart’s content, and the moment they met Jezebel, it was already over. There was no contest, and now only one question remains. Will she want them, as much as they want her?
“You won’t even feel it…if you don’t want to. I can make it pleasurable or painful, or even make you forget it had ever happened. However, I know you want to remember it, experience it, and like it.”
I groaned when Doros peeled the wet panties away from my body, waiting anxiously to feel his mouth against me without the obstacle of any cloth in his way.
His mouth returned to my body, efforts renewed tenfold now with purpose or an unspoken challenge I hadn’t been let in on. Never could I’ve imagined this right, even if I had expected it when I had come here.
Adrian smiled, but the flames never left his eyes, “I can’t believe you’re letting me do this,” he mumbled against the side of my face.
“You said you weren’t going to hurt me.”
“And you believe a mythical monster?” Doros asked from between my legs and I swore in my head. Damn telepathy.
Adrian groaned and nuzzled my neck. He laid his lips against my pulse, and I felt his chest swell when he inhaled deeply.
“So nice,” he muttered, “willing, perfect and sweet.”
The moment Doros sucked my clit back into his wicked heat,Adrian raked his slowly returning fangs over the thin flesh at my throat to send deep helpless shudders through me. He raised his head up slightly to adjust the angle, and struck too quickly for me to properly follow.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Welcome Gianna Bruno! We are so glad to have you here. I'm eager to hear about this new book. So let’s get down to business shall we?
You have a new book coming out in January 2010, entitled Hot Chocolate Kiss, from Eternal Press. Set in the ski-hills of Vermont, with two lead characters that sound like quite a handful. Could you tell us a bit more about Keela and Rick?
Gianna: Keela is forty and feelin' it. Her husband dumped her, and the kids opted to live with him. She's lonesome, angry and feeling very inadequate. But she's a real good skier and hopes getting on the slopes will work some magic on her mood.
Rick is divorced, and his daughter lives with his ex-wife in Florida . He notices Keela in the lodge and likes what he sees. Trouble is, during their first conversation he comes across as a jock and that's too much like her ex.
She's sworn off that type and came to ski, not hook up.
In Hot Chocolate Kiss, the scene is set with backcountry skiing, incredibly icy temperatures, and challenging trails. Why did you choose this particular sport?
Gianna: There is nothing more exhilarating to a skier than braving the weather and facing the challenge of steep terrain amidst all that natural beauty. The storm in this story is based on some personal experiences I've had with extreme weather while skiing. When I heard EP was planning a themed release to celebrate the Winter Olympics, I suspected they might be interested in Hot Chocolate Kiss. And they were.
What inspired you to become a Erotic Paranormal writer? What about the genre do you enjoy or find challenging?
Gianna: I write urban fantasy, parnormal romance and science fiction. All my stories have witches, ghosts, aliens, and/or fairies in them...But some are naughtier than others. Those with extreme content lend themselves well to erotic themes. If you are going to ply the dark depths of a character's being, the sex has to be more than just chocolate and vanilla. It has to be rocky road.
I love combining fantasy themes with erotica while keeping the story reality based. Sort of like a human being's thought process: You imagine something and fantasize it could happen. I get to make it happen. Sometimes the sex evolves from the story, and sometimes I have a scene in my head and have to figure out how to get the characters into it.
Erotica is challenging because you have to make the sex scenes part of a story. I also insist that my female characters not be exploited or victimized. (Too much experience with battered women and sexual assault survivors). I try to portray that women can be strong and capable, know what they want and go for it. But that doesn't mean they can't show their feminine side.
I personally have a much harder time reading (and writing) graphic violence than graphic sex. I never understand why people can read about women having their hearts ripped out without any concern but flip out when she participates in BDSM or ménage.
Are there any more stories planned?
Gianna: I've been brainstorming a seasonal series where Rick and Keela have adventures in the fall, spring and summer.
Okay, a random question for you; what are the three things you cannot live without? And why?
Coffee-I'm totally addicted, especially to the flavored kind. I can't wake up at 5:30 a.m. and keep going all day without the two cups I allow myself. Too much caffeine and I'd fly a broomstick off my balcony.
Carbs-Pasta is my ultimate favorite food (I'm Italian and was fed egg pastina as an infant), with a bagel being my second favorite (I live in NYC, and we're addicted to good bagels.). Without that fuel I can't keep my jets burning and get all my work done.
Hot Baths-Every night I soak in the tub. It helps me relax and de-stress before bed. Showers just don't do it for me.
Where can your readers find you?
Gianna: They can start at my website http://giannabruno.com
I have links there to my blog where Rick and Keela plan to hang out to yak about themselves and their adventures.
Readers can join my Yahoo Group for ongoing discussions and news about my writing projects. They can follow me on Twitter to keep up with news about upcoming events and the release date for Hot Chocolate Kiss.
And they can email me through the website if they'd like to be informed directly about any of the blogging, book tours, trailers, and chats I have planned for January.
Any final words?
Gianna: A big thanks for having me. I'm really excited about the release of Hot Chocolate Kiss, tentatively scheduled for January 7, 2010. I'll be at the Eternal Press Reader's Group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EternalPressReaders/join release party and chats where I'll be giving away an electronic copy or two.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I’d like to start off by thanking Kayden for letting me be a guest on her blog. My name is Heather Kuehl and I write a lot of paranormal fantasy, a bit of horror, and the occasional sci-fi piece. I’ve published over 40 short stories and one novella entitled FADE TO BLACK.
In fall of 2004 when I started writing FADE TO BLACK, I knew I didn’t want to write about vampires. At least, not make them the good guys. A good author can sense trends before they happen, and I knew that with authors like Laurell K Hamilton and Charlaine Harris getting popular it was just a matter of time before vampire mania struck literary gold. I also knew that there was no way that I could write a book and get it published in time to jump on this. I was hoping that, with the emergence of vamps in literature, other supernatural creatures would become popular too.
I had my own thoughts about vampires and werewolves when I started to write FADE TO BLACK. I’ve always preferred Weres over vamps. I guess it’s just something about getting down and dirty with someone who’s cold, dead, and brooding that doesn’t appeal to me. I hate the cold, first off. Second off, wouldn’t a vamp smell dead? And wouldn’t their skin get all rubbery and nasty? Finally, I had my fair share of emo men in my life at that moment. I didn’t need another one. I know, I know, I was thinking too much into such a simple thing but I have to be attracted to my character’s love interest. I can’t do that when I’m having ew! moments. Weres though…they are warm, so not dead, very strong, and protective of those they love. All of the qualities I happen to like.
I choose Weres because I felt that they would be more likely to fall in love. After all, they have human life spans. A vamp that’s been around forever has fallen in love before. They have been there, done that. They know how to lie and what to say to make a human swoon. A human’s life is nothing but a blink of an eye for them. Would a vampire really fall so deeply in love with a human? I didn’t think so. Jared was created to be Sarah’s love interest, and he is everything that I would want in a Were. Strong. Loyal. Sexy as hell. He has his secrets, and one of them is a doozy.
While doing some research, I realized that Weres had a much more interesting back story than vamps. I mean, of course there’s Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, but relating anything to those myths has already been done in vampire literature. I discovered hundreds of children that had been raised by animals, dating as far back as Romulus and Remus of ancient Rome. How interesting, that a wild dangerous animal can raise a human from infancy. Is it instinct, or something paranormal? Would these children be given any “gifts” to help them cope with their primal life, such as the ability to change into an animal form? That “gift” would create my shapeshifters, but what about Weres? The more I thought about it, the more I decided the origin of Weres would be derived from a curse. After all, the change is painful and Weres are not born. They are made, and being made into a Were is a very painful process. Just ask Sarah.
I had so much fun learning about my creatures, and they had a back story that wasn’t already formed in literature. I could make up whatever I wanted! I didn’t have to worry that someone else had done it first. It was a freeing experience, and was what made writing about Weres come so easily.
I don’t hate the vamp literary trend. I loved the Edward, Bella, Jacob love triangle and I want Sookie to fall in love with Eric. I wish Richard would forgive Anita and get over his emotion baggage and I love Adam’s patience with Mercy. Vamps play a large role in all of my favorite book series. But, like I said earlier, they just didn’t do it for me when I was writing FADE TO BLACK. Maybe when I write its sequel (it looks like Damian is going to play a large role in it).
And speaking of Damian….here’s a little peak at FADE TO BLACK:
One of Damian’s vampires meets me at the door. He’s tall with dyed blue hair falling down his back. His eyes perfectly match his hair and I wonder how he’s able to do that. Contacts? A labret piercing shimmers from his bottom lip. He was wears jeans and a Metallica t-shirt, looking very human. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed he was a vamp if I passed him on the street.
“Damian’s expecting you,” he says as a greeting and leads me into the same sitting room where Jerrikin died. It’s already redecorated. Purple velvet curtains cover the walls, while polished marble replaced the previous floors. The same couches remain, while large pillows on the floor are big enough to be used as seats. The mirror that shone onto the dance floor has already been replaced and I wonder how they were able to fix everything up in such a short amount of time. After all, Jackilin died just hours ago.
Damian was speaks to another vampire when we enter. He smiles and nods his head at me in greeting. The blue haired vamp escorts me to one of the plush chairs and I sit down. I feel like an intruder. I don’t know what makes me think I can be safe here, surrounded by vampires. I admire Damian’s taste in décor in the room. Very nice.
I’ll be with you in a minute Sarah, says Damian in my mind. We are just finishing up some business.
I smile slightly and feel my phone vibrate. Checking it, I see that Jared is trying to get a hold of me. He must be back at Haven, realizing I’m gone. I ignore his call and turn off my phone. My hand shakes with anger and I growl a low warning when Damian touches my shoulder. He doesn’t move his hand, but squeezes slightly.
“Let’s go somewhere more private,” he says in my ear. Damian grabs my suitcase and leads me through a hidden door behind one of the many curtains into a room decorated in nothing but blue and white. A white four-poster bed occupies a corner; the blue silk sheets are embroidered with white. The walls are blue with white trim. Everything matches completely. Once again, I admire his taste. Damian leads me over to a white sofa next to a fireplace. I sit down with Damian across from me.
“How did you know I’d come here?” I ask before I think not to.
“I’d like to think it’s because you trust me.” He smiles at the expression on my face. “But I know that isn’t so. Now, what is your problem?”
I tell Damian about Jared. Damian’s eyes remain impassive through out my speech. By the time I’m finished, I shake uncontrollably on the verge of tears. I take several deep breaths. I need to control myself.
“What will you do?”
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt from FADE TO BLACK. It is currently available as an e-book from Eternal Press: http://www.eternalpress.ca/fadetoblack.html
Or in print at Amazon.com.
Friday, October 23, 2009
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH BITE ME AND HALLOWEEN ROMANCE.
"Dressing Up As Human"
A Halloween Confection by Donaya Haymond
"Come on, Ferdinand, it'll be fun! I dress up for Halloween every year. We don't have to trick-or-treat; we can just walk around or hand out candy. Please? I've got the perfect costume for you."
"Nat...the last time I celebrated this holiday was when my daughter was ten, and then I went as myself."
"But costumes! Sequins! Fabric! Doesn't that make you feel young again?"
Ferdinand stopped typing on his laptop as he sat engulfed in a huge, gray, moth-eaten easy chair with terrible springs. Anyone thin as he was sank right into the cushions and had great difficulties getting out again. His black hair always was a mess and his smoothly shaven, deathly white cheeks were full of small cuts. The whole mirror problem was very inconvenient. Despite this, he had a refined, classically European face; down to the sleek sunglasses he wore to protect his red eyes from the light, and his entirely dark-colored wardrobe. "I've been twenty-two for the past nineteen years. I think that's young enough."
"Bitter, bitter brooding all the time. Anne Rice would love you." Sometimes Ferdinand thought the only reason he and Nat were friends was they were the only two vampires in town. Their one similarity was a deep yearning to be morally upright. The standards were no bites, no scares, no crime, with subsistence on animal blood and holding down a job. Nat was a combination veterinarian, general physician, obstetrician, and psychiatrist. He simply returned to medical school whenever he scraped enough money together to pay for it. In terms of work he ran a nocturnal clinic and drank all blood samples after he tested them.
Nat, too, wore sunglasses, though his were considerably more expensive than Ferdinand's and dated from the seventies. He had bright orange hair, bright orange clothes, porcelain-white skin, and just as skeletal a frame as Ferdinand's. He was several inches shorter, though, which was why Ferdinand said he resembled a gnat, being small, bloodsucking, and annoying. He'd been bitten at age thirty, seventy-two years ago.
As an unsuccessful but passionate historical fiction novelist, Ferdinand had managed to help support a family. Nat moved into his house when his wife was ill, to take care of her and function as a sort of uncle to Ferdinand's daughter Dianne. (Vampires can father children, though their sperm count is rather low and it takes a while. They're not really undead – they're mostly dead, with all life functions slowed down to a near-coma state.)
Nat still paid Ferdinand rent, but there was an unspoken agreement that Ferdinand would never evict him. For all their bickering, they needed each others' companionship to keep from dying of loneliness, now that Dianne was off at college.
Ferdinand said, with a tinge of acid, "No, Anne Rice would not enjoy knowing about me, as I am neither gay nor sexy. Why must you keep infusing me with cheer, anyhow? I think it's within my rights to have angst, particularly after Selene died." He met her at a Halloween party. He said he was a vampire. She forgot to get a costume and so claimed to be a dormant werewolf. It was several weeks before they found out both of them were telling the truth.
"I loved Selene too, but you can't keep using her as an excuse to be miserable for the rest of your life. And I foooouund something in the aaatiiiic." Nat reached over the coffee table – which wasn't even a real table, just a pile of hardcover books with a cloth on top – and straightened Ferdinand's hair.
Ferdinand removed Nat's hand from his head. "Fine, I'll humor you. What is it?"
Nat pulled a paper Trader Joe's shopping bag out from under his chair. From it he drew a long black cape, an imitation tuxedo, white gloves, a fake red rose, and a white mask to cover half the face. "The Phantom of the Opera! You'd look gorgeous."
Ferdinand ran his fingers along the soft cape, remembering the night he ran away with her, the awkward attempt at tenderness from his friends , their caring and hopes for him disguised as a gag gift. Even then he had been too melodramatic for his own good. "Probably still fits..." he murmured.
Nat was either unaware of his friend's nostalgia or determined to steamroll past it. "You could sing as we walked down the street. The PHANTOM of the opera is he-ere, inside my miiiiiind..."
"Don't sing, Nat. It sounds horrendous." Ferdinand typed for a while, and then looked up with an embarrassed smile, fangs showing. "How much digging did you have to do to find that?"
"The better part of a sunny morning when I didn't feel like going to coffin. Nearly tripped over Dianne's old rollerblades in the process. I could have been wounded."
"Well, since you went to the trouble..."
"Indeed." Nat suppressed a grin.
"I need a break from writing, anyway. I've done nothing but drink blood, sleep, and write for the past week."
"Oh yes, definitely."
Ferdinand took the bag and went upstairs. He called out, "Incidentally, what will you be wearing?"
"I'm going to be a Beach Boy!"
When Ferdinand returned, he was a Gothic masterpiece, melancholy, handsome, and elegant. He found the mask a little sticky, but supposed something had to hold it on. "How do I look?" he asked.
Nat had changed too, and he was a holiday monstrosity: a pink Hawaiian shirt festooned with palm trees, bright blue Bermuda shorts, a Jamaican-style straw hat, and, of course, the sunglasses. He pulled a digital camera out of his pocket. "Strike a pose."
Ferdinand, overtaken by the romantic inside him, made a leaping motion with his cape furling out. Nat snapped the photo and handed the camera to Ferdinand, who looked on the screen. He sighed ruefully, but with a quirk to his lips. "Not bad," he said.
"Dashing and perfect, I think. I have a microphone for my costume." Nat put it to his mouth and belted out, badly off-key, "I wish they all could be California, I wish they all could be California, I wish they all could be California giiiiiirls."
"This is who I have for a roommate and my only friend? Wonderful. Where do you want to walk?"
"Around the neighborhood. It's seven o'clock and it's getting dark. I just want to see what everyone else is wearing."
The vampires went out to the sidewalk, Ferdinand with his hands in his pockets and his head bowed down. Nat tried telling jokes, but Ferdinand wouldn't laugh. They passed five teenage girls dressed as Lord of the Rings characters, and one of the unnaturally tall, very chubby hobbits stepped on a piece of glass.
"Ow! Guys, wait up. I think I have to get back home. I can't walk." She sat on the pavement, tears falling down her cheeks from the pain.
"I told you we should have gotten rubber feet," said her friend, in an Aragorn costume.
"I hope you don't get gangrene," the girl dressed as a dwarf, complete with a thick beard. The girls all clustered around the injured one, some consoling, some gawking.
Nat curled his hands into fists, breathing deeply. The smell of human blood required restraint. Forget the vampire, he told himself. Right now, you are a doctor in a very silly outfit. He pulled a small white box out of his pants pocket and rushed over to the girl. "I have a first aid kit right here."
"Why are you carrying a first-aid kit on Halloween?" the injured girl asked.
"I'm a doctor, and you wouldn't believe how many people get hurt on this night." He bent down and swabbed the cut with a disinfecting wipe, then wound gauze around the foot.
"It stings, but thanks," the girl said. Ferdinand entered the circle, trying to ignore the intoxicating blood. "Where do you live? I can carry you home."
"We can carry her," the girl dressed as Aragorn said.
The injured girl said, "No way. I weigh, like, twice as much as the strongest of you. I don't think these men can handle me either."
Ferdinand scooped her up in his frail-looking arms without any visible effort, carrying her bride-through-the-doorway style. "I wouldn't worry about that, miss. Your friends can show us the way to your house and make sure we don't run off with you."
The girls all stared. "You don't look all that muscled," one said.
"Appearances are deceiving." As he and Nat followed the teenage troop, Ferdinand softly sang "The Music of the Night".
"You have a nice voice," the girl in his arms said.
Ferdinand nodded, saying nothing. He and Nat deposited the girl at her doorstep, declining her mother's invitation to come in for hot cocoa. "Just being neighborly," Nat said, tipping his straw hat. "If you ever need a doctor late at night, I have a walk-in clinic downtown. Here's my card."
They set forth again, ambling along Common Lane, Ferdinand's street. Most of the decorations were jack-o-lanterns and witch dolls, without much excitement. One house, however, had what looked like disembodied hands hanging from the cranberry tree in front.
Nat tugged on one hand. "How clever. They filled surgical gloves with popcorn. Too bad the popcorn isn't soaked in blood too, right? Mmm mmm good." He stuck his tongue out at Ferdinand, but Ferdinand failed to smile.
A Captain Jack Sparrow passed by, followed by a Sponge Bob Square Pants, a rabbit, a Mongolian princess, some sort of traveling trunk with six legs, and an alien. A boy dressed elaborately as a television set walked up to Nat. "Mister, why are you wearing sunglasses at night?"
"I'm just cool like that, son. What can I say?"
While passing a tumbledown townhouse with broken windows and peeling paint, Ferdinand pulled Nat to a stop. "I hear something," he whispered.
Nat cupped a hand around his ear. He heard a faint "hisssssss...hisssss..." among the shrubs. "Let's have a look."
Silently they tiptoed around the house, listening to muffled sniggers. Two teenage boys were spray painting "EAT SHIT MR. OPPENHEIMER!" Without the dashes.
"That'll teach the fag to give me an F," one commented.
"Hurry up, hurry up. He might hear us."
Nat nudged Ferdinand. "You're scarier than I am."
Ferdinand shrugged and swooped down on the boy holding the can of spray paint. "That is not acceptable," he said in the boy's ear, pinning him on his stomach on the ground.
"AHHHH!" The caught boy struggled and kicked, and the other made a run for it. Nat grabbed him in a swing dance move, doing "the pretzel", in which the dancer who is following ends up with both hands crossed over the chest and pinned behind the back. He didn't know any dances invented after 1967 or so, but could still do a mean jitterbug, foxtrot, and an attempt at merengue when he'd had a few too many rums.
"We're sorry! We didn't do it!" one shouted.
"I haven't done anything. I don't know that guy. Please let me go!"
Nat lifted the kid up with one arm. The look on his face was priceless.
"Tell us your names, or we'll bite you," Ferdinand threatened.
"But you're not dressed as a vampire, and it isn't – isn't fun-fun-funny," stuttered his prisoner.
"Fine, then, I'll make a giant chandelier crash on you. The point is that you two have committed a crime. Tell us your full names, please."
"George Rubashov," Ferdinand's captive said.
"Barry Terrence," Nat's captive said. He added, "Don't be sure about these guys, George. They're really strong."
"He's just trying to freak you out. We're sorry, mister. Let us go."
Ferdinand let George up, gripping him firmly on the upper arm. Nat lowered Barry and wrapped one arm around his shoulders in a way that held him tight. They marched the boys up the front steps and rang the doorbell.
A man of about fifty answered, wearing a robe and slippers. He adjusted his glasses. "May I help you?"
"Are these students of yours?" Ferdinand asked.
"Yes. Have they done something wrong?"
"We caught them vandalizing your house, sir," Nat answered.
Ferdinand could feel his mask slipping off and pushed it back on. "Do you have any paint remover in your house?"
"I think I do."
"I would advise you to bring it out, along with some sponges, and watch these two clean if off. Call their parents, and press charges if you would like to."
"These guys are creeps," one boy protested.
"Ah, Barry, I wish I could believe everything you told me. You cheated on your last four quizzes, right?" Mr. Oppenheimer shook Ferdinand and Nat's hands. "Thank you very much. I would offer you something to drink, but I'm rather undressed at the moment. Please stop by if there's anything I can help you with."
One boy gave Nat the finger, but Nat gave him the peace sign.
The vampires smiled with closed mouths at Mr. Oppenheimer and left. "I think I'd like to go home," Ferdinand said. "I need to meet that deadline."
"This is the one holiday I don't work, so I think I'll wander a little more, maybe transform and fly around. It will make people so happy to see a bat on Halloween. I'll walk you home, though."
"Are you afraid of someone attacking me?"
"There are an awful lot of picket fences around here. You could stake yourself if you tripped. And there's always angry mobs that pop up out of nowhere."
"Yes, we have to be careful about mobs. You didn't squeeze his throat or anything, did you?"
"Nah. Loosest grip I could have without dropping him. My his expression was funny."
"Don't do it again. It'll lead you down the wrong path. This isn't the Vietnam War where you could go around biting locals willy-nilly."
"Ah, those were the nights." Nat reminisced, a look of serene pleasure on his face.
Someone had forced open the front window of Ferdinand's house. He shook his head and pressed his finger to his lips. They unlocked the door and crept through the living room. There was a clinking noise in the kitchen. Nat's shadow swept across the room and a young voice cried out. Then another one and another one joined in.
Ferdinand entered the kitchen and looked around. His refrigerator was open, with two bottles of cow's blood sitting on the table. No one appeared to be there, but he could smell frightened humanity. He knocked the broom cupboard. "If I am not mistaken in my voice recognition," he announced in a clear voice, "within this hiding place I will find Mark, Luke, and John Spiralli, the younger brothers of Matthew Spiralli, who for two years dated my daughter. Am I right?"
"Be kind to them," Nat said. "They're just kids."
When Ferdinand opened the door, three boys shrieked. They all were scrawny little kids, with the uncommon combination of dark eyes and light, golden-brown hair. Mark was twelve years old and dressed as Luke Skywalker, Luke was nine and dressed as Superman, and John was seven and dressed as a 50's gangster.
"Stop screaming, please. I'm not going to hurt you."
"But you're a vampire," John pointed out.
Mark pulled a cross out from around his neck and held it in front of them. "You can't do anything to my brothers."
Ferdinand took the cross in his white-gloved hands, turning it over and over. "Sorry, son, crosses don't really work." He tossed it to Nat, who made a big show of holding it tightly.
"See, kids? Another myth busted."
"Why are you telling us this?" Mark asked. "It would be better if people thought they worked, so they wouldn't prepare other things."
"Mark, you're gonna get us all killed, and Mom's going to be so mad at you," Luke whispered.
"We're as nice as vampires get, which isn't saying much" Nat explained, warming up a mug in the microwave. "We wouldn't want you to get hurt by a bad one. Ferdinand, can I turn the light on?"
"I'd rather you didn't. Come out. I want to talk to you." Ferdinand pulled three chairs from the dining table into the kitchen.
Nervously, the brothers sat around the table. Luke was praying, and Mark shrank back when Nat returned his cross. "We're sorry. We heard you two might be vampires ever since we moved in, and we wanted to know if it was true. And now we know you are. Are you going to suck our blood?"
"No," Ferdinand said. "It's important for you to learn, especially you, Mark, because you're the eldest now that Matthew's gone to college, that it doesn't matter what you think someone is. Laws still apply, and you still trespassed. So, there will be a punishment."
John started to cry, and Luke tried to stop him. Mark asked, "What punishment?"
"You have to help me rake the backyard this Saturday, and help me move my firewood. All three of you, and you have to be here all day. I will be talking to your parents about it."
The boys all sighed in relief. "That's all?" inquired Luke.
Nat cut in, "You shouldn't tell anyone we're vampires, not so much for our sake but for yours. Your parents are more likely to think you're crazy than to believe your story. It's the same with your friends. If we can trust you, you can come over other times. We could be friends."
"Nat has some great stories to tell," Ferdinand added. "He's more than a hundred years old."
"Cool," John said.
"So vampires aren't all evil?" Mark asked.
"No. Not all. Some are, though, so don't go around looking for them." Nat grinned.
"If you're already a monster, what do you do on Halloween?" Luke asked.
Ferdinand said, "Pretend to be human."
"Yeah," Nat said, "the rest of the time we're just humane."