I pressed the edge of the knife against the thickest part of the carrot and pushed
down. The top of the vegetable shot across the kitchen like a bullet fired from a gun. It would have caused someone injury
if I'd been aiming the thing, but Damian reached out, and snatched the edible projectile from the air with the uncanny speed
of a vampire's reflexes before it could strike him. I swore under my breath, and tossed the knife on the counter in frustration.
"Good catch," I muttered, turning to face Damian fully, and crossing my arms over
Damian grinned, either amused, or pleased at my compliment, I couldn't tell which.
"Thank you," he stated simply. He looked around the kitchen and raised his brow at
the absolute mess I was making. Admittedly, there were more vegetables on the floor than in the pot. "Are you having some
He was just being polite, cause it was more than obvious. I closed my eyes momentarily.
A little escapism.
"I can't seem to keep the carrots on the cutting board," I needlessly told him. "What's
the trick? People cut up carrots all the time. They make it look easy. I mean, how hard is it to cut up a carrot? I'm about
ready to just pick the pieces off the floor, wash them and use them anyway. Otherwise, I'm never going to get this done. I've
nearly gone through both bags already."
Damian's bright green eyes widened a bit, and he seemed to consider my predicament.
"Maybe if you tried cutting them slower, use a cleaner stroke...instead of chopping
at them," he suggested, no doubt thinking of all the villagers' heads he'd lopped off as a Viking.
"I am cutting them slow! I'm being as careful as I can be!" I snapped back. "This
is a goddamned pot roast--not chicken cordon bleu! It's not that hard. God, I should have never agreed to do this! What the
hell was I thinking?"
For a moment, my vampire looked as though he were simply at a loss for words. He
seemed to realize now, by innocently wandering into the kitchen, he'd all but opened a Pandora's box of trouble.
"I'm sorry," he apologized automatically. "I don't know what to tell you. I'm not
exactly an expert when it comes to food preparation."
I frowned, more to myself, then at him. "I know," I confessed. "I'm just venting."
Damian took his cue and stepped closer to me, albeit tentatively. He held out the
piece of carrot he'd caught.
"Here," he half-whispered, as if trying to soothe me with his voice.
I accepted the chunk of carrot from his hand, and tossed it indiscriminately into
the pot of water. "Thanks."
Damian purposefully brushed my hand with his, fixing his eyes on mine. I immediately
felt a faint wave of calm wash over me as he touched me with his power. It was just enough to make me sigh out some of my
stress. I laughed lightly, a little self-consciously.
"Thanks," I repeated. "Come here."
Dutifully, my vampire sidled up to me. I cuddled against his chest and he enveloped
me in his arms. I felt him lay his cheek on the top of my head as his hands gently stroked my back.
"You're trying too hard," he pointed out after a few moments had passed. "You need
"Relax," I huffed against his shoulder. "Easy for you to say. You're not the one
making dinner for your father tonight." I couldn't help but relax whenever Damian touched me however. Just one of those weird,
but cool things we'd discovered recently about our unique relationship. Why it worked one way, and not the other, was beyond
me, but I was grateful for it. It wouldn't do either of us any good if by touching Damian, I made him stressed and hyper.
Damian's cool lips brushed across my hairline. "Why don't you let me make you a reservation
at a restaurant? That way, you won't have to go through all this."
"No way," I stated, pushing myself off of Damian. "I don't trust my father not to
make a big scene in a restaurant."
Damian pursed his lips thoughtfully. "But I thought you said he'd agreed to this
dinner so he could finally meet Jean-Claude?"
I turned away from the vampire, and faced my cutting board. It was time to get back
at it. "He did," I told him, picking up the knife again. "Almost too willingly. He knows I've been dating Jean-Claude for
awhile now, and I think he's genuinely curious about him. I don't blame him. I'm sure me dating a vampire was the last thing
in the world he expected. He has questions, and he wants some answers. That's why he really agreed to this dinner tonight."
"Maybe your father realizes what you feel for Jean-Claude is true," Damian suggested.
I shrugged, picked up another carrot, and cut off the green top. It tumbled onto
the floor. An improvement from shooting across the room.
"Yeah. Maybe. But I still wouldn't put it past him to whip out a crucifix over the
Greek salad, and start quoting biblical passages at me like a fanatic. Maybe he sees this as an opportunity to try to exorcise
Jean-Claude out of my life."
At that, Damian tensed. I could feel it, but there were no outward signs of his growing
discomfort. He did gnaw his lower lip though.
"What's Jean-Claude think about all this?"
I waved the knife I was wielding in the air. "Oh, you know him. He can't imagine
anyone not liking him. He loves the idea of finally getting to meet my father. I think he believes it will make him an official
part of the family--like a son-in-law. I told him about my father's anti-vampire sentiments, but Jean-Claude's totally unfazed.
I guess over the course of his existence, he's already dealt with such...prejudice, and isn't too worried about whatever my
father may think to throw his way."
"Then, I wouldn't worry either," Damian declared, making me wonder if he was actually
talking about me or himself.
"I can't help it," I said. I grasped the knife in both hands and brought it down
on the carrot with the violence and force of a guillotine. The two pieces rolled across the counter. A definite improvement.
I couldn't help but smile in triumph.
"Is it the meal you're worried about then?" Damian guessed. "It's still early. You've
plenty of time...."
"Well, yes and no," I admitted. "Of course I want the meal to be good."
"So, yeah, I'm a little worried about everything turning out all right. But I'm more
worried about my father. I just can't help thinking I'm going to end up alienating him tonight because he's going to try to
lay some kind of moral guilt-trip on me for dating a vampire. He's a devout Catholic, you know. I might as well be screwing
the spawn of Satan as far as he's concerned. There's just no way he's suddenly decided to see vampires as anything besides
evil, dead things."
A small smile tugged at the corners of Damian's mouth. He leaned his narrow hips
against the counter beside me. "Why not? From what I've heard, you did. Maybe not suddenly, but it won't really be so sudden
for your father either, Anita."
I looked up at Damian and frowned. "But I've come to know enough vampires on a personal
basis to realize they're not all evil, dead things. My father hasn't. Jean-Claude will be the first vampire he's ever
"It is because Jean-Claude is not just some random vampire. Jean-Claude is hooking
up with daddy's little girl."
Damian sighed. He lowered his eyes and looked resigned all of a sudden as if he knew
nothing he could say or do would make tonight easier on me. "If you're so certain things will go wrong, why did you
agree to this dinner then?"
I shook myself mentally. "You know, that's a damned good question."
"Could it be hope?" Micah chimed in, drifting into the kitchen and over to the refrigerator.
He pulled out a bottle of mineral water and twisted it open.
I peered over at him warily. "What makes you say that?"
Micah grinned. "I believe you're harboring some remote hope that things just might
turn out the way you want them to. Why else put yourself through all this?"
"Curiosity, maybe?" Damian answered for me.
Micah focused on me, his yellowish-greenish cat-like eyes searching for some outward
sign of the curiosity Damian spoke of. "Maybe that too. What do you say, Anita?"
I blinked back at him. "I like hope better."
"Well, I'm curious to find out what will happen tonight, I admit it," Micah stated.
He took a quick swig of his water and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I don't suppose you'd let me stay though.
I could play butler for you, and I'd be handy if you needed me."
"No," I replied flatly. "I need everyone gone by the time my father gets here. Introducing
him to one inhuman lover of mine tonight will be more than enough. If tonight goes well--which I doubt--then I'll consider
arranging a meeting between him and the rest of you. For now, I need to maintain some modicum of decorum when it comes to
my sex life."
"Don't worry," Damian said quietly. "I have to work tonight. I can't stick around
even if you want me to." He glanced at his watch. "Which reminds me. I better go get dressed." He turned around on his heel
without another word and glided silently out of the kitchen leaving me feel as if a piece of myself had just up and walked
I shook it off and caught a glimpse of Micah out of the corner of my eye. His expression
had morphed into something between confusion and discord. I faced him and put my hands on my hips.
"What's that face for?"
Micah's eyes narrowed slightly. He leaned forward, towards me, his long hair spilling
over his shoulder to curl around his throat. "How much are you going to tell him?"
My Nimir-Raj nodded.
I leaned closer to him and reached out to run my hand through his hair, fixated on
how silky soft it looked. I should have been chopping carrots, but my sub-conscious had found something far more interesting
to concentrate on. As soon as I touched Micah, he closed his eyes and parted his lips invitingly. Yeah, he was far more tempting
then raw vegetables.
"As little as possible," I whispered, sliding my arm around Micah's neck to draw
him closer still.
Micah set the bottle of water on the counter to join the ranks of my neglected carrots.
He put his hands on my waist, and brushed his lips over mine, teasingly at first, but then kissed me deeply, making me forget
all about pot roasts and carrots and bottles of water. I wrapped my arms tightly around him, fighting to keep from wrapping
my legs around him too. Would it hurt to steal away with him for a quickie? Yeah, probably. Mustn't let myself get too distracted
from my domestic detail.
"I feel your tension, Anita," Micah breathed sensuously into my mouth. "You're actually
afraid of what may happen tonight, aren't you? Let me stay with you."
I shook my head. "My father is not an enemy, Micah. I'm not going to need reinforcements."
I paused and sucked on his full lower lip for a moment before continuing. "But I admit, I am afraid of someone getting hurt
tonight. Not physically, of course. Not all pain is physical."
"Call this off," he murmured, pressing the line of his sinewy body tightly to mine.
"It's not worth it."
Again I shook my head, pulling back a little so I could look into his eyes. "One
thing I've learned about fear is that in order to conquer it, you have to face it. I'm tired of hiding who I am, Micah. I'm
tired of pussyfooting around everyone else's sensitivities. If they can't handle the real me, then...the hell with them."
Micah smiled somewhat condescendingly then. "All right. So what's the worse that
could happen? Nothing will change. Your father will still disapprove of what you're doing, and who you're dating, and he'll
still hate Jean-Claude because of what he is. But give Jean-Claude some credit. He's a great ambassador for his kind--very
charming and debonair. Intelligent and personable. He's the perfect vampire for your father to meet."
I tilted my head, evading Micah's descending mouth, as something unsettling occurred
"Vampire?" I said it as if I had just discovered Jean-Claude was one of the walking
dead. "Oh God. I need to call him before he leaves."
Wriggling out of Micah's arms, I strode into the living room to use the phone. That
phone had the Circus' number programmed on the speed dial and at the moment, speed was of the essence.
Nathaniel was busily running the vacuum over the sofa however, and the noise level
was enough to drown out the thoughts in my head, let alone my voice over the phone. I went to the phone, all the while waving
frantically to catch my leopard's attention. Micah had followed me into the living room, concern marring his expression once
"What's wrong?" he asked loudly.
"Hold on," I practically yelled back. Jesus, that machine was loud. Had it always
been that loud? I couldn't remember the last time I had actually vacuumed with it. I suppose I should get a new one. A motor
that sounded like that couldn't be running very efficiently. "Nathaniel!"
I resorted to throwing a pencil at him which was lying beside a pad near the
phone. It struck him squarely on the back of his head and bounced off his braided hair onto the floor. My aim was better than
He spun around, saw me with the phone, then turned back to the roaring vacuum and
switched it off. A blessed silence descended over the living room.
"Thank you," I sighed and jabbed the speed dial code into the keypad of the phone.
"What's wrong?" Micah repeated, putting his hands on his hips.
I shook my head. "I just realized, if there was ever a time I needed Jean-Claude
to pass as a human, it's tonight."
All eyes were on me now as I waited for someone to pick up the phone. I fixed my
eyes on Nathaniel and gestured towards the kitchen. He looked as if I had put him into suspended animation, poised and ready
for my next command. I forced a smile at him. There was no way in hell I was going to let him vacuum anymore. My nerves were
shot as it was.
"Do me a favor. Can you go straighten the kitchen for me? I've got carrots all over
His violet eyes flitted to the vacuum as if he was reluctant to leave it, but then
he sighed and without a word, stalked off into the kitchen. I waved at Micah next.
"Would you put that away for me, please?" I asked, pointing to the vacuum. "In fact,
hide the damn thing from him."
Micah frowned. "Anything if it will help you calm down."
I realized from the look on his face and the way he had said that, he had been trying
to alleviate my stress earlier, but now knew he'd failed. Damn. It had been working. Until now.
Just when I was beginning to think no one was at the Circus of the Damned, the line
connected and my adrenaline level shot up momentarily. Momentarily, because a second later, I realized I was listening to
the answering machine.
"What's the matter now?" Micah inquired, having returned to my side after seeing
to the vacuum.
"No one's there," I told him and hung up the phone with another curse.
Micah grasped my upper arms as if to steady me. "Anita. Take a deep breath."
I was just about to snap at him when the doorbell rang. My eyes widened. "Oh....It
can't be." I know my face turned sheet white.
Nathaniel swept into the room and over to the front door before Micah or I could
even move. I was thinking the worse--that my father had arrived three hours early, but Nathaniel peeked through the upper
window, and smiled back at me reassuringly.
"It's Asher," he announced and stepped back to pull open the door to let the vampire
"Just Asher? What about Jean-Claude?" I grumbled. Great, this was just great. Asher
was probably here to gently explain to me that Jean-Claude was going to be late.
"Nice to see you too, ma cherie," Asher grumbled back at me as he sauntered inside.
Micah let go of my arms and stepped back. "Anita's a little on edge," he informed
I glared at him, then looked up at Asher. "Well?"
Asher seemed to take a deep breath. "Well...Jean-Claude is running a little late.
A little last minute occurrence at Guilty Pleasures he simply could not avoid attending to. He should be along within the
I threw my hands up. "I knew it! I just knew it! He was supposed to get here early
to help me. Typical man! What the hell am I supposed to do now?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Asher raised his perfectly straight nose in the
air, and knitted his fair brow, scowling down at me in disapproval.
"It would appear as though you are running a little late yourself," he noted. "Or
is that what you're wearing tonight?"
I spared a quick look at my disheveled jeans and greasy tee-shirt. Okay, he had a
point, but I still sneered at him.
"I'm still trying to get the damn carrots chopped! I haven't even had time to look
in my closet. Look at this place! It's a mess. I still have to clean. All Jean-Claude had to do was get his ass dressed, and
he can't even do that in all the time it's taking me to cook the food. Please tell me he's at least wearing something conservative,
and from this century. I need him to look as human as possible tonight, not like some seventeenth-century time-traveler."
Asher spared a glance at Micah who shrugged some unspoken confirmation. Nathaniel
stepped forward, looking around.
"I was vacuuming," he pointed out. "Did you want me to finish that, or finish cleaning
"Mon Dieu," Asher mumbled, and snatched up the phone.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Who are you calling?"
"Reinforcements, ma cherie."
I sighed heavily and looked at each of my men in turn. They all stared back at me
unhappily. Okay, I admit I was a little on edge. I faced Asher again.
"The last thing I need is more people here."
Damian suddenly appeared in the room at my side. I hadn't even heard him come up
"I thought I heard the door. Ah, hello, Asher." Damian paused and glanced around.
"Where's Jean-Claude? I was going to ask him if I could switch shifts on Monday," he continued, focusing his attention on
I frowned. "He's late."
Damian nodded, looking as if he half-expected to hear that all along. "Well, is there
anything I can do for you before I leave?"
I was just about to say 'no', when Micah spoke up. "Yeah, hang on to her, and don't
Holding up my hands as if to ward Damian off, I shook my head and backed away from
him. "Look, I appreciate what you guys are trying to do, but no more distractions!"
Micah suddenly looked a little chagrined.
I could hear Asher talking to someone on the phone asking for their help, and swore
under my breath. One simple dinner. Pot roast even, and it was turning into a major ordeal. If tonight proved anything, it
proved I just wasn't cut out for domesticity. Give me a machete and I feel right at home. Give me a potato peeler and I'm
Moaning, I turned towards Damian. He reached for me, but I hopped back. "No! Don't
touch me, I've got too much to do."
"It'll make you feel better," my vampire said rather slyly. He loved the idea that
his touch wielded such influence over me.
"We'll help you, Anita," Nathaniel chimed in. "I'll finish the carrots for you. I
"I'll pick up the place," Micah offered. "Don't worry about cleaning."
"Stephan's on his way," Asher announced, hanging up the phone. "He's bringing Vivian
with him. She offered to finish the cooking. Stephan said he'd set the table."
I frowned, still reluctant to admit defeat. It must have been that superwoman syndrome
I'd heard about. Women were supposed to be able to do everything, right? Hold down a job, run the household, cook, clean,
look after the kiddies. Take the dog to the groomer. Mow the grass.
"Just remember, I need everyone out of here by eight-thirty!" I ordered, resigned.
I suddenly felt Damian's arms around my shoulders, and looked up into his green,
green eyes, and promptly forgot what I had just said. He had striking eyes. Set against that porcelain white skin, with those
full Nordic lips and scarlet red hair, Damian could hold his own in the supernatural good-looks department. And he smelled
wonderful too. I loved his cologne, whatever it was. Then his hair was still slightly damp from his shower. It smelled like
mint and shimmered like silk under the living room lamps. My senses were all but reeling now. I could feel myself getting
distracted again, but I had to admit, I liked this better.
My handsome vampire smiled down at me benevolently, and leaned forward to kiss my
brow. "Don't worry," he said softly, stroking my cheek with the knuckle of his index finger. "We'll take care of you."
I had to smile. Reaching up, I grasped his face with both my hands, and drew him
down to me for a lingering kiss. He was right. I felt better. Much better than if I'd gone back to cutting up carrots.
Asher cleared his throat tactfully, and gently pried me off of Damian. "Enough. Damian
will be late for work, cherie, and you need to go soak in a hot bath."
I looked longingly after Damian as he slowly drifted away. "Bath?" I murmured. I
turned my eyes on Asher after Damian had left, all business again. "I don't have time for a bath."
Asher was already steering me into the bathroom, shaking his head as if to dispel
my protests from his ears.
"A bath will do you a world of good, Anita, my sweet."
I grinned sheepishly. "I'm not that dirty."
Asher smiled slowly. "Just think of all those soft, silky bubbles. Warm, soothing
water. Peace and quiet. It will put you in a proper frame of mind."
Now I was smiling. It did sound good. "Will you wash my back for me?"
Asher pulled me up against him and planted a kiss on the top of my head. "I'll wash
anything you wish," he whispered insinuatingly.
I suddenly thought of something Asher could do for me that would really ease
my tension, and blushed, thankful he couldn't hear what I was thinking the way Jean-Claude could.
I don't know how long I'd been soaking in the tub. All I knew was that I hadn't felt
this relaxed all day and it felt damned good. Somehow, I'd managed to mentally block out everything concerning this impending
disaster of a dinner, and had replaced it with thoughts as empty as the shiny, soapy, bubbles sloshing around me.
True to his word, Asher had obligingly scrubbed my back and washed my hair for me.
When the temptation to pull him into the tub became too much, I sent him on his way to check on the food's progress. It hadn't
occurred to me that he hadn't returned.
The only reason I thought about it now was the soft tapping of fingertips on the
bathroom door. Apparently, Asher decided to return at long last. Opening my eyes, I noticed my bubbles had long since dissolved,
and my steamy hot water was downright tepid. My skin was slightly pruney too. God, I must have fallen asleep. My watch confirmed
it. It was now seven-forty. I had been in the bathtub for almost an hour. I needed to get out and get dressed. My father was
due at quarter-to-nine.
I struggled to stand up, and grabbed the towel laying folded on the little table
against the wall. Wrapping it around me, I stepped out of the tub.
"Come in," I called and looked up through my veil of wet hair, expecting to see Asher.
The sight of Jean-Claude slipping through the door instead, kind of caught me off
guard. Getting a good look at him as I straightened up, caught me even more off guard.
He was wearing something that looked like a cross between a tuxedo jacket and a robe.
A really, really nice robe, that probably had an outrageous price-tag attached to it at one time. The more I looked at it
however, the more I realized it wasn't your ordinary, every-day bathrobe. It was deep blue, the color of his eyes, with the
faintest intricate pattern of lighter blue dots and slashes. The lapels were slimmer, the cuffs, thicker, and both were shiny,
like silk. The fabric had more substance to it too, fitting him more like a jacket, than a robe. Underneath, the shirt was
a plain white oxford--if anything about Jean-Claude could be described as 'plain'--and buttoned all the way up to the collar.
The pants he was wearing were so dark they almost looked black, but when the light hit them a certain way, I could tell they
were actually blue too.
"You're wearing a robe!" I all but exclaimed, stunned.
"It is not a robe, ma petite," Jean-Claude patiently corrected me. "But a smoking
Ah, no wonder the outfit reminded me of something Sherlock Holmes would wear while
smoking his pipe. Whatever it was, Jean-Claude looked great in it. Typical.
"Oh," I managed, as I looked it over with newfound appreciation.
"Do you like it?" he pressed, turning around for me like a model on a runway.
When he did the little pivot thing, I suddenly noticed his hair. It was straight.
He'd only styled it this way once before, a long time ago, and I had liked it then, but it made him look slinky and ultra-sexy
tonight. It was parted just slightly to the left side, the more visible layers falling rather seductively over his right eye,
and spilling down the length of his body like baby-fine threads of spun black glass.
"Wow," I breathed.
"I will take that as a 'yes'," Jean-Claude said and grinned. He stepped closer to
me. "I should say the same to you. Your present lack of attire is no less remarkable, ma petite."
He took the towel from my unprotesting hands, and rubbed it over me, leaning forward
to drop a quick kiss on my lips.
I caught him around the neck and pulled him back down to me for a deeper, longer
kiss. He obliged me, momentarily forgetting about helping me dry off, and instead, used the towel to hold me to him.
Oh, what I wouldn't have given just to be able to spend the night luxuriating
in Jean-Claude's arms, instead of fielding moral implications from my father over pot roast. I couldn't remember the last
time Jean-Claude and I had a night just to ourselves. Sometimes I felt as though I were being pulled in ten different directions,
and we were lucky to get in a couple of hours a week anymore.
I was feeling this deprivation too, the way my body was reacting to Jean-Claude's
proximity now. He moaned softly into my mouth, which all but sent my passions reeling. I kissed him harder, with a growing
hunger, molding myself around him demandingly. It was all very sensual with the soft, downy towel around my back, the pressure
of Jean-Claude's hands on my shoulders, his mouth moving over mine, and my wet breasts pressing against the silkiness of his
Water was streaming down the front of my naked body however, and it suddenly occurred
to me that I was probably soaking him to the skin. I tried to pull away from him, albeit reluctantly, but he had me trapped
against him with the towel.
"Jean-Claude, let me go," I whispered throatily. It didn't sound very convincing.
Not even to me.
"Never," he whispered back, dragging his mouth down the side of my neck, his hands
shifting around to my back.
"But your clothes are getting wet," I said more plainly.
He pulled away from me then to inspect the damage. "Hmm. I hadn't noticed," he replied,
then smiled, apparently not too upset by the wetness I had caused. "Your kiss was most distracting."
I smiled back at him, loving the way his eyes swept over me now with that visible
glint of desire. You just couldn't help but feel beautiful--and edible, when a man looked at you like that.
"Yours was too," I admitted, relieving him of my towel. I started to dry off again.
Straightening, Jean-Claude actually bit his lower lip as he continued to look me
over. There was a time Jean-Claude would not have so blatantly revealed his need to me. Now it was clear my kiss must have
done more than just distract him.
"I could always take the jacket off," he offered, then reached out to grasp my head
with both hands, tilting it back to force me to look up at him. "Or anything else we may deem necessary. I would not mind
indulging in a little dessert before our dinner." He moved to kiss me again.
Laughing lightly, I pried my eyes from his perfect face, and forced myself to move
away from him. If I let him kiss me again, we'd never make it out of the bathroom tonight.
"Uh-uh. Can't. Not with a houseful of people, and not with daddy dearest on the way
Just saying that out loud was enough to pique my anxiety again. I started wondering
how the preparations were going. I wondered if anyone remembered to put the carrots in with the pot roast. I wondered if I
should iron my napkins.
"There is no one here," Jean-Claude stated matter-of-factly. He pulled me to him
again, and nuzzled my cheek, clearly not ready to snuff the spark of desire I had ignited in him earlier. "For the time being,
we have the house to ourselves."
"No. Now behave," I half-protested.
Jean-Claude nibbled my ear. "Sex was the very last thing on my mind until you so
provocatively kissed me, ma petite. It is your fault I am rather preoccupied by the thought of it now."
"Oh right. As if sex is ever the last thing on your mind," I chided him. "Well, I
apologize for my indiscretion earlier, Jean-Claude, but you were too yummy-looking. I couldn't help myself. So, actually,
it's all your fault. Unfortunately, I've got a ton of things to do still and I'm running behind."
Wriggling free of his grasp once more, I wrapped my towel around me, knotting it
in the center of my chest. Then I dutifully scooped all the soiled laundry that was on the bathroom floor up into my arms.
At first, what he had said didn't really register, then it hit me.
"What do you mean there's no one here? Is the table set? What dishes did Stephan
use? I wanted my mother's china for tonight."
"Everything is finished, ma petite," Jean-Claude said. "We have time to spare."
"They can't be done already," I countered. I had only been in the bathtub for an
hour or so. Quickly, I carried my dirty clothes into the hall and deposited them in the hamper just outside the utility room.
Jean-Claude trailed after me, pausing to pick up a sock and a washcloth that had fallen from my grasp.
"There is no need for you to do anything, ma petite," Jean-Claude continued. "They
had everything under control before I had even arrived."
Wanting to see for myself, I hastened on into the living room. Everything looked
okay. More than okay. The living room was spotlessly clean. The faint aroma of simmering pot roast wafted in the air in a
warm, homey welcome that immediately reminded me of my grandmother's house. Someone had thought to light the wall sconces
and dim the overhead lights. The small quilted throw blanket that was usually wadded at the end of the sofa was decoratively
draped over the back, and the pillows had been fluffed and reshaped. Even the fringe on the oriental rug had been untangled.
The room looked like something out of a showcase magazine. I was impressed.
Moving on to the table, I noticed that not only had Stephan used my mother's china,
he had folded the cloth napkins into perfect little triangles. My silverware had been buffed to a shine, and placed in precise
order next to the plates. I glanced back at Jean-Claude and smiled.
"My father's going to think he's got the wrong house," I said wryly, walking into
the kitchen where I immediately detected faint strains of an old Sarah Vaughn song.
The radio on top of the refrigerator was on. I knew Nathaniel liked to work to music,
though I couldn't imagine him listening to this stuff. I concluded he must have tuned in this station to add to this evening's
ambiance. Whatever he had been listening to, he must have found it motivating. He had cleaned everything to a sparkle. My
kitchen veritably gleamed, and there was no trace of the disaster area it had been earlier. Turning, I opened the oven and
peaked inside. Good ole Vivian had the pot roast simmering at just the right heat, all vegetables included. It looked better
than anything I'd ever cooked before.
"Smells delicious," Jean-Claude pointed out, leaning against the counter's edge.
He folded his arms over his chest and waited as I inspected every detail. "You see, there is no need for you to worry."
I straightened, closing the oven door, and looked up at him.
Jean-Claude stared back at me, unblinkingly. "You need only attend to yourself, ma
petite. Your house is clean, your table is set, your food is cooking...I am here in plenty of time, and would be more than
happy to help you choose something to wear." He paused, a slow smile turning up the corners of his mouth. "Though I must say
you look rather fetching clad only in that towel."
"Wear? God, I haven't even thought about what to wear tonight. Well, I thought about
it, but that was as far as it went." I scowled at Jean-Claude now. Thanks to him, everything dressy I had was also sexy. Too
sexy for a dinner with Dad. Everything else seemed too casual. I wanted to look nice; dress up a little to show my father
I cared. Damn.
Straightening, Jean-Claude sighed. "What was that look for?"
I put my hands on my hips and peered up at him. "Everything I have is either cut
down to there or slit up to here. I might as well just wear a belt with some stockings for all the coverage my dresses give
Jean-Claude cocked his brow at that.
Flustered, I pivoted on my heel to head for the bedroom. I had to re-examine
the contents of my closet. There had to be something I could wear. A suit. A nice pair of slacks and a sweater. Maybe a dress
with a blazer....
Before I could escape the kitchen however, Jean-Claude reached out and imprisoned
me in his arms, crushing me to his chest in a powerfully passionate embrace, catching me completely by surprise. He lay his
cheek against my temple and brushed his lips over my hair, gently swaying and rocking me slowly back and forth around the
"Dance with me, ma petite," he breathed into my ear. "Mmm. I love this
I had no choice but to dance with him the way he was holding me. For a moment,
I succumbed to his wishes, listening to the Platters' melodious rendition of "Harbor Lights" pour from the radio and waft
through the kitchen--reveling for a time in the sweet sensation of Jean-Claude's body moving with mine.
"This is nice," I said with a heartfelt sigh. It occurred to me that I had never
danced with Jean-Claude before, and I was genuinely enjoying it now. Though what we were doing hardly constituted as dancing
as far as I was concerned, but we were holding each other and we were moving to music. I tried not to think about it too much
and just go with the flow, letting the romance of the moment ease aside my apprehension about tonight.
"Yes," Jean-Claude belatedly agreed. "You've been holding out on me, ma petite. You
are a superb dancer."
"That's only because I'm dancing with you."
Jean-Claude clucked his tongue at me admonishingly. "You need only to relax a little
more. Feel the music. Surrender yourself to it's rhythm. You are much too tense." He spun me around effortlessly under his
arm, dipped me almost to the floor, then pulled me back up against his chest.
"You've been talking to Micah, haven't you?" I murmured into the lapels of his smoking
jacket, settling my arms around his slim waist, feeling the slow rocking motions of his hips beneath my hand.
"He did mention to me that you were...how did he put it? 'Freaking out'."
I raised my head to look into Jean-Claude's eyes. "I have every right to 'freak out',"
I told him. "This is like a state dinner tonight. It goes way beyond pot roast and china. My father is coming over here to
meet you, and I don't think he's planning on welcoming you into the family. I believe he's discovered how serious things are
between us, and is planning some sort of parental intervention to save my jeopardized soul. Tonight has disaster written all
Jean-Claude stopped dancing. He peered down at me, my concern mirrored in his deep
blue eyes. "Ma petite, I didn't realize." He paused to soothingly stroke my cheek with the back of his hand. "If you truly
believe no good will come of this dinner, why are you going on with it?"
I shook my head. "I'm afraid of what will happen between the three of us tonight,
but the only way I know how to deal with this fear is to face it head on."
Jean-Claude smiled tenderly. "I never thought I'd see the day when a mere mortal
man wrought such powerful emotions in you." He leaned forward and kissed me softly. "You truly do not know what to expect
from your father tonight, do you?"
"No," I admitted and frowned. "I haven't really talked with him in months. He called
out of the blue."
"Then, perhaps it would be better if I bowed out of this evening's arrangement in
order to give you the opportunity to speak with your father first. There will be other opportunities for us to meet. Opportunities
in which we are both better prepared." Jean-Claude lowered his eyes from mine momentarily and sighed. "I do not wish to be
the cause of such discord between the two of you. I feel your anxiety, ma petite, and it cuts me to the core."
He let his arms slide off my back and raised his gaze to my face.
"I think you're right," I reluctantly agreed, but could already feel the tension
lift from my body. "I'm just not really ready for you two to meet yet."
Jean-Claude nodded. "I will still help you choose something to wear, if you wish,"
he offered quietly. "If not, then...I will simply bid you adieu, and be on my way."
The thought of him leaving pricked at my heart. I seized his hand and squeezed it
tightly. "No, stay and help me. You don't have to leave right away. There's still time before my father arrives. I don't want
you to go yet."
His solemn expression brightening, Jean-Claude passed his hand over my still damp
hair. "How can I deny such enthusiasm?" He drew me closer and slung his arm around my shoulders in an amiable gesture, steering
me out of the kitchen towards the bedroom. "I am pleased to offer you any assistance you require, ma petite."
Smiling up at him, I wrapped my arm around his waist. "You're a pal, Jean-Claude."
"I do my best."
"I'm going to leave you to peruse my closet while I go slap on some make-up," I told
He agreed. "Do not worry, ma petite," he assured me. "I will choose something...appropriate."
Releasing him, I left him to forage in the bedroom while I slipped back into the
bathroom to put on my face. I quickly blow-dried my hair, fluffed it and sprayed on some perfume first, then dabbed on some
blush, eye shadow and mascara, and topped it all off with this new eight-hour lipstick I had wanted to try. Supposedly you
could eat with it on, and it wouldn't come off. It claimed to be kiss-proof too. I smacked my lips together, and made my way
back into the bedroom to try it out on Jean-Claude.
The vampire had finished his chore, and had chosen four different outfits he'd deemed
'appropriate' for this evening's occasion. I barely noticed them in any detail considering my eyes were automatically drawn
to him instead. He lay seductively across the middle of my bed, on his side, his head propped up in his hand, waiting patiently
for my return.
I stepped over to him, and he began to rise off the bed, reciting a litany of each
outfit's virtue, and occasionally suggesting the odd accessory to top it off with.
I didn't really hear him however, and fixed my eyes on his perfect face, my mind
zeroing in on one singular purpose. His glorious mouth.
After a few moments, Jean-Claude seemed to realize I wasn't paying attention to what
he was saying, and turned his gaze from my clothes, to my eyes. There must have been something in the way I was looking at
him because he stopped talking in mid-sentence, and emitted a low growl of lust deep in his throat.
Aw, hell. I pounced on him then, and pushed him back flat on the bed, straddling
his hips. Whipping off my knotted towel, I dropped down on top of him and all but smothered him in a devouring kiss.
"Ma petite...what are you doing?" he inquired, breaking free of my lips, and coming
up for air. He probably didn't appreciate me coming at him like this when I'd made it clear earlier we would not be having
"I'm testing my new lipstick," I gasped back, and kissed him again even harder, wanting
to let him know I'd changed my mind. I took advantage of his temporarily straightened hair and ran my fingers through it savoringly.
His hair really did feel like silk.
I knew my aggression had surprised him, but he soon took it all in stride as if knowing
the sight of him reclining on my bed could provoke nothing less than wanton carnality from me. I felt his cool hands slide
down my sides and over my butt. He squeezed my flesh and moaned, opening his mouth to grind his lips against mine. I think
I made him forget all about my clothes.
On the other hand, his clothes, and the barrier to his perfect body they presented,
were first and foremost on my mind. I was struggling to unbutton his shirt, and simultaneously untie his sash, while keeping
my jaw locked on his. He paused his ministrations on me long enough to assist me in my endeavor. Clothing went flying and
soon he was as naked as I was, and just as wild with desire. We couldn't seem to get close enough to each other and tried
touching each other everywhere at once. We rolled back and forth across the span of the bed, entwining our limbs, grappling
with our hands, and fervently devouring each other with our mouths.
Jean-Claude took me with a rare sense of urgency, as if claiming my body for his
pleasure. I hadn't realized how much he'd wanted me tonight, or how much I had actually wanted him until I felt his hardness
readily pierce into me, filling me so completely I thought I was going to come apart at the seams. My mind blew a fuse, and
suddenly, I couldn't think of anything beyond using him for my own pleasure.
I rode him relentlessly, pummeling his beautiful body mercilessly with mine, as he
thrust into me with an equally powerful determination. Our passion was simply torrid: full of sheer unadulterated lust, and
blatant physical need. Other times, when we made love, we were tender with each other, drawing out our sweet release in soft,
delicate caresses for hours.
Not tonight. In mere minutes, I shrieked and clawed his back, finding my release
in an earth-tremoring orgasm. He came as well, but didn't let up, and seemed spurred on by my punishing nails and ear-splitting
screams. His body and mind were so in tune to mine, he knew I did not want him to stop, and I knew from experience, unlike
most men, Jean-Claude was fully capable of making love to me for hours on end without having to recover his passion between
He brought me again and again to complete satisfaction, over and over, until I couldn't
take anymore, and all but collapsed against him in exhaustion, tangled in the knotted sheets.
"Oh God, I needed that," I said hoarsely, flopping off of him like a wet fish.
Jean-Claude turned his head and looked at me, a small smile playing on his face.
"I think I needed it as well. It has been too long since we simply...had at each other like that."
"Yeah. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," I laughed. "Uh, I didn't...hurt
you, did I?"
"Non. It was very gratifying," he said, moistening his upper lip with the tip of
his tongue. "I am quite gratified." He reached up, and dragged his hand through his disheveled hair to push it off his face.
I found that simple gesture incredibly arousing, though I'm sure he did not intend
it to be. I think. Jean-Claude looked so damned sexy all damp and flushed beside me, I would have liked nothing
better than to crawl on top of him, and give him another whirl, but unfortunately, I didn't have the energy. Besides,
I caught the gleam of perspiration on his chest, and realized how sweaty I was, and no doubt reeking of 'his and hers'
body fluids and knew I needed to take a fast shower instead.
The ringing of the doorbell all but stopped my heart. For a split-second, Jean-Claude
and I stared at each other in shock.
"Aw no," I moaned, mortified. "It can't be!"
Jean-Claude rolled over and consulted the clock on my nightstand. "I'm afraid it
is, ma petite." He hauled himself up to a sitting position and started hunting for his clothes. "This won't be the first time
I've had to sneak out of my lover's bedroom window to avoid being confronted by her irate father."
The doorbell rang again which seemed to snap at me like a whip. I sprang out of the
bed and started jerking on the first outfit I could reach.
"Hurry!" I hissed at Jean-Claude, scuttling around the room to find my shoes. "You
have to get out of here. Just get your pants on and I'll throw the rest in the yard. You can get them later."
Pulling on his pants, Jean-Claude pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Do not fret about
my modesty, ma petite. You would do well to utilize this time to repair your hair and makeup. Go to the bathroom and freshen
up. I'll be long gone by the time you return."
I reached up to touch my hair. It was a mass of snarls. Shit. Why did hair always
get so tangled during sex? I might as well have been wearing a sign saying, 'just fucked', on my forehead. I turned to flee
to the bathroom, but on impulse, faced Jean-Claude again, and drew him to me, indulging myself in one last, lingering kiss.
"Ah," Jean-Claude said with a small sigh. "You are making it very hard for me to
leave, ma petite."
I had to laugh. "Good-night, Jean-Claude, and thanks. I love you."
"Je t'adore," the vampire replied, scooping his smoking jacket off the floor and
dusting it off. "My pleasure. Truly."
The doorbell rang again followed by several pounding thumps on the door, and I all
but jumped out of my skin. I turned on my heel, and raced for the bathroom.
"Coming!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. "Give me just a minute!"
I grabbed a wash cloth, and turned on the faucets while simultaneously dragging a
brush through my horribly snarled hair.
I suddenly heard my father's voice through the cracked bathroom window. Apparently,
he was walking around the house. He must have thought my doorbell wasn't working or something. It was obvious I was home,
and he probably couldn't understand why I wasn't answering the door. I suddenly realized if he made it around to the bedroom,
he'd bump right into Jean-Claude as he was escaping through the window.
My heart was going to need defibrillating soon. Switching off the faucets and throwing
down the hairbrush, I darted back into the bedroom to catch Jean-Claude and send him out the back way.
My vampire lover was straddling the window frame, half-in, half-out, his naked torso
still glistening with perspiration from our lovemaking under the light of the moon. His eyes were locked on the figure standing
in front of him not three feet away. My father.
I couldn't breathe, and for a moment, it seemed as if time stood still. Then I heard
"Monsieur Blake. How do you do? I am Jean-Claude." He paused momentarily. If my father
said anything to him, I couldn't hear it. Jean-Claude soon continued. "Anita is inside, tending to some last minute details.
I was...just leaving."
My stomach sunk to my knees. This was it. This was the bottom dropping out of my
"Jean-Claude," my father repeated, his voice sounding distant and carried away by
the wind. "You're leaving? I'm sorry to hear that. I was hoping to better make your acquaintance tonight, Sir."
Jean-Claude shifted on the window sill. I'm sure he was only fidgeting due to the
fact, after the zesty sex we'd just had, he was feeling a little sensitive down there.
"Perhaps another time."
"Perhaps," my father echoed. He cleared his throat. "Is it normal...for vampires
to exit through windows, or did I simply interrupt something?"
Jean-Claude laughed lightly. "Circumstances would suggest as much, Monsieur."
"Good God," my father grumbled.
That only made Jean-Claude laugh harder. "Yes. Au revoir, Monsieur," he answered
rather smugly, and slipped from the window and into the shadows in the blink of an eye.
I could hardly believe the banter I had been hearing between those two. Maybe I had
been wrong. Maybe my father had really come around in his thinking, and really did want to meet the man--the vampire, who
had so surprisingly captured his daughter's heart. Suddenly all my fear seemed wasted and for nothing. I was still leery,
but truthfully, my father hadn't acted any different from any other father who discovers his daughter's lover sneaking from
her bedroom window.
My father abruptly turned and headed back around the front of the house. I ran to
meet him, and pulled open the front door, standing before him in all my unabashedly disheveled, and sexed-up glory.
"Hi Dad," I greeted. "I see you've met Jean-Claude."