CHAPTER TWO – MASTER VAMPIRE
“Demetrius, do you want me to bring that boy up here?” Hans asked softly. “I could arrange it immediately.”
The fire crackled and spat in the hearth. It was the only light in room. It illuminated the side of Hans’ handsome face. His expression was not as strained as usual. There was actually a touch of hope in it. It wasn’t often that Demetrius actually expressed an interest in someone any more. If he were honest, it had been years, perhaps decades, since he had expressed an interest in anyone at all. Even as his fledglings tried to tempt him with young men of his preferred type every night the club was open, he had resisted them. Not out of some desire to be separate or a dislike for people. Quite the opposite. He had the club to at least be near life even if his nerves were too hypersensitive to bear being a direct part of it. But now, a chance look out of his window had drawn him out of his self-imposed shell. His nerves were sparking, but not unpleasantly.
“Demetrius?” A note of uncertainty had crept into Hans’ voice when the Master Vampire had not answered after several minutes.
“Forgive me. I drifted into my thoughts again. No, do not bring him up here. He has come to Sanctuary to enjoy himself,” Demetrius said with a languid wave of a pale hand.
His hand was too pale. The blue veins stood out like snakes beneath his thin skin. He quickly lowered his hand to his lap and drew his sleeve down to cover the back of it. Though he was purposefully not feeding himself much blood in order to tamp down his hypersensitivity, he did not like to see what starvation had done to his once robust form. He knew he appeared more like an alabaster statue than a man. His fledglings’ pained gazes told him that he looked ill. His once glorious dark brown wavy hair was limp. His broad chest had thinned. His eyes were sunken as were his cheeks. His lips looked bloodless. He had the gaunt, haunted look of the invalid.
Hans kneeled down in front of him, the fire limning his strong Teutonic features and short hair that was so blond it looked almost white. How long ago had he turned Hans after finding him dying, coughing up blood from consumption, in a little German hamlet? How long had it been since he’d given any thought to those fledglings that still depended upon him? Too long, he was sure. A touch of guilt ran through him.
Hans’ clipped Germanic accent had been softened over the years and now he was taking pains to keep his tone warm, “He would enjoy himself much more up here with you, I think, Master.”
Demetrius cupped his fledgling’s cheek. Hans let out a brief gasp and quickly turned his face into the Master Vampire’s hand, nuzzling the too cool flesh. Another rarity for him to reach out and touch. Hans’ hungry response told him that. The other vampire’s cool lips parted and he sucked tenderly on the fleshy pad of Demetrius’ palm. It was like a baby softly nursing on its mother’s teat. He only allowed it for a few moments. Already his hand ached from even this most gentle of touches.
“I think you flatter me, Hans.” He gently pushed fledgling vampire away.
Hans stood reluctantly. His hand went to where Demetrius had touched him. “To be in your presence is a pleasure in itself. It would be a great honor for him to experience it.”
Demetrius tipped back his head and laughed. “Now I know you are truly flattering me.”
But he saw that Hans believed it in his clear blue eyes. Fledglings were always desperate to be near to their Masters. He smiled indulgently. He needed to see more of Hans and the others. They were clearly starving for his attention.
“If you change your mind about having the boy brought up here to you, please let me know. It will be done and all care will be taken to ensure you … you are comfortable,” Hans said the last with a trace of uncertainty.
His fledglings tip-toed around his frailty as if to mention it were to anger him. In the beginning, it had. His rage and constantly being in pain from the pure sensation of being in the world, had caused him to lash out at them. But such bitter anger had turned to dull acceptance. His only hope was that his nerves would somehow heal themselves and allow him to participate in life once more.
Demetrius shook his head. “You would hypnotize him to make him quiet and doll-like? Ah, but that would decrease his interest for me. It was his naturalness – his life outside of here – that appealed to me. Not just his lovely face. Though it is lovely.”
“He is,” Hans agreed.
“Go. Feed yourself. I will be fine here. Do not worry about me.”
Hans bowed formally and turned to leave. He paused for a moment though as he reached the door and looked back at Demetrius. “What was it about that young man that attracted your attention, Master?”
What had drawn him to the boy? Once he had caught sight of him, Demetrius’ keen hearing keyed into the conversation the boy – Alex, that is his name -- was having. It was rare to hear or see anyone at Sanctuary focused on anything, but their own pleasure. But Alex’s focus was clearly wrapped up not in himself but in one who loved and counted on him for support. That fact had struck Demetrius. It showed a rare maturity in one so very young.
I have a feeling the world did not let him remain a child for too long. Yet there is still a strain of innocence in him.
“The young man has … hidden depths, I think,” Demetrius said.
Hans nodded, but it was clear he did not understand. Demetrius could not explain it himself. He just felt that Alex was different. Perhaps the boy reminded him of someone that he had long forgotten about. The only thing he was sure of was that Alex could use a good night out.
He urged the fledging to go again. Once Hans had closed the door behind him, leaving him with the pop and crackle of the fire and the faint boom of bass from the well-insulated floors below, he turned on the video surveillance for the club on his laptop. It took him only a few minutes to locate Alex in the crowd. The boy stood out somehow. Demetrius narrowed his eyes as he used his keen sight to see all the nuances of emotion on the boy’s face.
Alex’s expression was a combination of bewilderment, awe and alarm as he took in all the writhing bodies around him. Demetrius guessed that the young man was not used to seeing such open displays of sex. He zoomed in onto the boy’s face and saw that Alex’s pupils dilated as he took in two men performing frottage against one another in what had been the dining room. The one against the wall had his head tipped back, his mouth open as he moaned, while the other was gritting his jaw, his face a mask of concentration. Alex’s mouth parted. His pink tongue darted out and swiped at his lips, leaving them wet and looking incredibly appealing.
So it is not disgust at seeing two men together that is causing him to look so like a doe in headlights.
Alex surreptitiously brushed his own hand down the front of his very tight pants and adjusted himself. Then he blushed hotly and determinedly looked away from the couple against the wall. But it seemed everywhere he glanced was problematic. There was another couple in the middle of the room that were gyrating together while slowly fucking each other’s mouths with their tongues. There was another blush and Alex swiped at a trail of sweat that trickled down his temple. He was now staring at the floor and his boots. That appeared to be his only safe course.
Demetrius found himself charmed by this innocence. It was undoubtedly both a perk and a detriment that those who came to Sanctuary were most often jaded with the limits at other clubs and in need of something new and exciting. Sex in public was hardly risqué, but this boy clearly had never experienced anything like this before.
Ah, poor lost lamb. You will have months of fantasy material if you will but look around you.
Alex’s eyes lifted up to the dancing couple as if he had heard Demetrius’ mental suggestion. The pink stain on his cheeks seemed permanent. He was now actually gazing at the crown molding as if the architectural features of the room were not worth missing out on. In many ways, they were not. Arkham was old. Not Europe old, but old for the United States. This elegant house had seen many things over the years. Demetrius suddenly had the urge to tell some of these things he had discovered to this boy.
He could imagine Alex’s stormy gray eyes widening in shock as Demetrius told him of the house’s first owner and his child bride, Leticia. She had begged her elderly husband to bring her brother, Allan, to live with them only to have him discover the brother and sister sharing the marriage bed. That had ended rather messily. He could still smell the blood from where Leticia and Allan had died together, their hearts beating as one until the last. Or perhaps he could have made Alex’s breathing stutter with a tale from the house’s more recent history. An architect had come to believe that one could pass into another world through the odd angles in the house’s third floor bedroom. He had gone mad and been institutionalized.
There is actually something to what he believed. If I had not closed the path, we might have had some interesting visitors in the house.
He imagined Alex’s warm hand clutched in his as he saw and felt the oddness of the angles in that room. The boy’s breath would be sweet. It would skate across Demetrius’ cold cheeks and leave a hint of its warmth and life behind on his flesh. He would have turned and tenderly nuzzled his face in the young man’s hair, just behind his right ear. Alex would have let out a soft moan as that spot was always so sensitive in mortals. Demetrius would be able to smell the hot, metallic tang of Alex’s blood through his skin at that point. He would open his mouth and draw in deep draughts of air and the scent would coat his tongue and the back of his throat. It would be easy then to bite down, to have the hot gush of blood in his mouth and the gasp of pleasure-pain in his ears. He would hold Alex tightly to him, only taking the barest of sips before he would be hard and hot against the boy. The fantasy was so real for a moment that when he swallowed, he thought he tasted Alex’s blood on his tongue.
The Master Vampire stirred in his high-backed chair. He normally took great pains not to imagine getting close to anyone. Usually, even the thought of being touched would bring him pain. But his mind was offering him a pleasurable encounter with Alex. Could it be that his period of self-imposed exile from the world was coming to an end? Could he venture out once more? Something stirred in his chest that was a combination of excitement and frustration. It was a faint stirring. But he had not felt it for long years since the dull acceptance of his fate had crashed down on him. Was it the boy or the timing or both that was causing his blood to finally quicken once more?
Alex’s friend – Darin, he called him Darin – was grabbing a hold of Alex’s hand and dragging the young man towards the bar in the far corner of the room. Demetrius smiled. He sent off a quick text message to the bartender to not serve them alcohol. Soda pop and water were the only things on the menu for these two tonight. They would find enough headiness in being inside Sanctuary. Besides, he knew they were not local and drunk driving from his club was not going to happen. Youth was so fleeting and death so easy to mortals. It would be a waste for them to die so meaninglessly or so he told himself.
The bartender texted back that he understood and grinned as the boys approached. Demetrius switched cameras to watch from over the bartender’s shoulder. He let out a dry chuckle as the bartender shook his head when Darin pointed to the Absinth bottle.
No green fairies for you tonight.
The bartender tapped the soda fountain and held up bottled water. Darin wilted while Alex just laughed and shook his head as if not surprised. It was then Alex’s turn to pull his friend somewhere.
While the cameras did not record sound, Demetrius could read Alex’s lips. He wanted to dance. If they couldn’t drink, they could move. Wasn’t that the other part of the plan? Darin shook himself like a Terrier after a bath and brightened. Alex pointed to the doors leading out onto the terrace where people were writhing under the moon. Darin said something about good dancing being a pre-requisite to being noticed and getting an invitation into the basement.
Demetrius clucked. The basement was where his fledglings took people for sex and feeding and not always in that order. He would not have either boy taken there. Teens who lived at home with watchful parents were not good prey. They were also more apt to believe in vampires than the adults who would shake off vague memories of having their throats, inner thighs, the flesh of their buttocks or the taut skin of their bellies pierced by needle-sharp fangs. Teens would know what had happened and believe. While adults would flee from the knowledge.
And beneath all that, the thought of anyone else sinking their fangs into Alex’s neck had Demetrius bearing his own to the empty room.
The two boys strode outside, being quickly lost from the camera’s limited view. Demetrius clicked to the nearest outside camera to where they would exit and caught them as they walked down the stone steps onto the broad stone terrace that overlooked the wide expanse of lawn that led to the sea.
DJ Crisis was spinning up on a platform above the dancers. Unlike most clubs where there were rotating colored lights, Sanctuary preferred natural lighting: moonlight, firelight and candlelight. Out on the dance floor, the moon streamed down covering the dancers in a liquid silver glaze. There were two pyres on either side of the dance floor where wood was constantly behind fed into the blaze. People spun, jerked, glided and threw themselves all over the stone terrace as the music sent them into an almost hypnotic trance.
The cameras here were not as good as inside. He would not be able to see Alex dancing clearly especially if he moved into the center of the mass of dancers. Irritation flared in his chest. He didn’t want his view obstructed nor the boy’s movements restricted by the crush of people. He found himself standing, the blanket that covered his knees falling to the floor, without consciously thinking of doing so.
The balcony. I can watch him from the balcony.
That meant being exposed directly to the whine and boom of the music. It also meant he would be assaulted by the smell of hot blood and sweat from dozens of bodies. Plus, there would be the smoke from the fires batting again his body and the salt-sea breezes scraping over his sensitive skin. Would his nerves allow him to venture out for longer than a few seconds? Would they then send him into another paralysis of pain for years if he exposed them for those seconds?
But as he saw Alex smile and move his way into the crowd of dancers, Demetrius felt it might very well be worth it to be a part of the world where Alex existed even if it was only for a few moments. He had no idea if this health would last beyond the present in any case so he seized his chance.
His legs felt weak at first beneath him, but his strides soon lengthened and he felt more confident as he strode over to the hallway that would lead him from his sitting room down to the balcony that overlooked the terrace. He had no fear of being seen on the balcony. Even if he had stepped into the midst of the dancers, his powers allowed him to remain unnoticed until he wished someone to see him.
The balcony doors were all shut and locked. They were soundproofed against the constant roar of the music. The windows were painted a solid black. He placed one hand against one of the panes. The glass vibrated slightly with the music’s beat. The vibration ran up his arm and into his chest. Again, there was no pain. A half-smile curled his lips. He undid the simple bolt and pressed down on the door handle. The door popped open and music, heady and thumping, flowed over him.
He rocked back on his heels from the sudden blast of sound, but it was more from unfamiliarity than inability to handle it. He closed his eyes and just let the music come. There were ethereal and tribal elements in the song that were designed to make a human body move. It was a subliminal suggestion from humanity’s long forgotten past.
He stepped out onto the balcony. The night air was tinged with the mixed scents of humans, the sea, and something indescribable that was the night itself. He found himself pressed against the balcony’s railing without having opened his eyes. He was opening one sense to the world at a time, waiting to be overwhelmed, but so far all was well. Excitement built in his chest. Could freedom be within his reach? But he tamped down that hope. If it was not, he would fall into the depths of despair again and he feared he would not be able to climb out.
He placed his hands on the railing. The stone was cool and already coated with dew. Summer was fading fast with fall coming in quickly. He could smell the trees drawing their sustenance in on themselves, causing their leaves to turn color, and eventually fall as dead, rustling things onto the ground. The sea, too, was beginning to cool as the summer days no longer heated its topmost layer as warm. But these were all far-flung things. He had yet to turn his attention on the mass of humanity below him. He had yet to open his eyes.
He allowed his senses to draw in to the hundreds of heartbeats below him. Some fast, some slow, some like the patter of school children’s feet on the playground. The whoosh of blood running through their veins next joined the cacophony. Then the filling of their lungs. Talking, moaning, high, hot breaths. All of this came to him. He concentrated to narrow his range to Alex. Would he know the young man’s heartbeat, his breath, or the movement of his blood?
Yes. There you are. You are excited. Your young heart is hammering with it. But it is a happy sound not from fear.
The beat increased as Alex began to move. The rush of his blood also grew more insistent as he flung his body into the dance. Demetrius smiled as he imagined Alex throwing his inhibitions away while he let the music take over. He was sure that the boy would be lost in the sounds that came from DJ Crisis’ speakers. Alex’s eyes would be half-slid shut. He would see only the blur of people around him. His head would tip back as his eyes sought out the moon above him and to this silver globe alone would he seek an audience.
But suddenly, there was a change. The boy’s heart seemed to skip a beat and his body stopped moving. Demetrius frowned. What was wrong?
The Master Vampire’s eyes flew open of their own accord. He immediately zeroed in on the boy’s position in the crowd below, unerringly. Alex was not moving. He was no longer dancing. He was not even breathing, his breath held. Instead, his head was tilted upwards and he was staring directly at Demetrius with a look of shock and wonder in the gray depths of his eyes.
Alex was seeing the Master Vampire even though Demetrius was willing him not to.