I may have some issues with the over-the-top craziness of True Blood, but I wholeheartedly approve of the way those vamps sizzle and smoke like bacon in sunlight. Ditto the blood-suckers in Buffy and Angel. Yes, I have to say I’m a much bigger fan of night-slinking predators than day-walking supermen. How about you?
In my recent ménage story, Vampires’ Consort, I have a vampire hero who chooses to spend much of his time at a most unlikely location, a tropical island. He may not be able to walk in the light but Valarian Kaspan loves to experience it in a house with specially treated windows with a gorgeous ocean view from every one.
The consort in the story is Akila Massri, average American girl of Egyptian descent, who is approached by a stranger in a supermarket one day and offered an invitation to join Valarian at his tropical retreat. The bearer of this invitation is Jacob Baum, thrall to the vampire and the third side of this romantic triangle. Thralls don’t get much mention these days in vamp lore, but in early tales you might recall that the creatures of the night had servants who did their bidding in daylight. I thought rather than have Akila paired with two vampires, it would make a more interesting dynamic to include a man caught in a sort of limbo, a man with a love-hate relationship with his master.
As Akila tries to wrap her mind around all this, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of erotic passion for two, very complicated men. When they all come together, something powerful unfolds within her. Something that makes her the target of evil vampires who plan to use her—and her unborn—to erase humans’ very existence from the earth…
Akila glanced at her silent companion, sitting beside her as if there were only two seats available in this empty eight-passenger Leer. Jacob looked even sexier today than she had when she’d first met him. He was wearing a plain white
button down over another T-shirt. Apparently, the man liked layers and long sleeves even in this humid Oxford weather. Florida
“How long have you worked for Mr. Kaspan?” She watched a flicker of emotion chase across his face like a cloud on a windy day.
“Too long,” he said dryly.
“You don’t like him?”
The corner of his mouth drew up and his eyelids slightly lowered. “That’s beside the point.”
Oh, so their relationship went beyond employer and employee. She could sense sex in those bedroom eyes. Gay, then? But no, she’d definitely caught an appreciative look in his eyes when he’d examined her and she was rarely wrong about male interest in her. He must bat for both teams.
“You’re tired of him, but you can’t leave him,” she guessed.
A quick widening of his eyes told her she’d nailed the crux of their relationship with one blow.
“Mr. Kaspan is a fair employer. I’m compensated well for what I do.” He went stiff and formal trying to backpedal from that admission of “too long”, but it was too late. Akila had glimpsed an emotion, a disgruntled impatience he preferred to keep hidden from his boss and possible lover. This knowledge gave her a little bit of power and she liked that.
Settling back into the comfortable seat, she took a sip from the bottled water Jacob had given her. “It’s all right. Your secret’s safe with me. I know what it’s like to get that ‘moving on’ feeling but not be ready to go yet. It happens in both jobs and relationships.”
“You’re very perceptive.”
“Sometimes it’s better to keep your perceptions to yourself.” He turned the full force of his gaze on her and Akila suddenly felt like a child who’d been prodding a lion with a stick.
“You really have no idea who or what you’re dealing with,” he added. “A wise man keeps his mouth shut and his ears open.”
God, she just couldn’t help herself. She had to poke again. “But a wise woman ferrets out the truth by asking the right question.”
She could hear herself being obnoxious, but couldn’t turn it off. When she was nervous she grew even more smart-assed than usual. And despite her attempts to appear at ease, she was pretty damn nervous right now. Her mother used to say her outspokenness would get her into trouble some day. This might just be that day.
“Sorry. You’re right, I don’t know anything about you or your…employer.” Akila tried to patch things up and even then she couldn’t help the little pause that gave the word “employer” a whole other meaning. “But you could tell me something about him. I’d like to know a little about what I’m walking into.”
Jacob paused a long moment. “There’s really nothing I’m at liberty to say. Mr. Kaspan will explain everything.”
She could tell it was his final word on the matter so she stopped poking and looked out the window at the azure sky above and the sapphire water below. A few seconds later a blob of green appeared in the water. She’d barely had time to decide it was an island and not some coral reef beneath the water when the plane approached a bone-white landing strip. Akila braced herself as if they were coming in for a crash landing. Here we go. What in the hell have I gotten myself into?
The plane touched down, light as a feather, and rolled to a stop.
Jacob rose and ushered her from her seat. “This way, Miss Massri.”
They descended the steps of the plane and Akila stood for a moment, absorbing the tropical sun’s heat and the glorious view that lay before her.
Jacob carried her bags to a golf cart. They climbed inside and zipped along a path through the trees. The track climbed upward in the cool shade and then broke through into a sunny glade. Gracing the crest of the hill was a huge house with white walls that shone in the sun. A red, clay-tiled roof made a pretty contrast to the harsh white.
Akila thought of every action movie she’d ever seen featuring a drug lord. They always had mansions like this, paid for in blood. For all she knew, Kaspan dabbled in the drug trade too, but he had enough legitimate businesses it hardly seemed necessary. Besides, criminals didn’t usually fund schools, hospitals, orphanages and programs to build roads in third world countries—all philanthropies Kaspan was involved in.
“Home, sweet home, eh?” She glanced at Jacob’s chiseled profile and wondered what he was all about. She couldn’t imagine such a somber man ever having been a playful child. Where had he come from and how had he ended up as the lackey of one of the most powerful men in the world?
She was tired of wondering about things. Patience wasn’t her strong suit and she’d been pondering a million questions ever since that day Baum had handed her the invitation. Kaspan had allowed her little time to consider the offer. The airline tickets had been for the following week, which was just as well or she might have talked herself out of this crazy adventure.
Now here she was, getting out of the golf cart and facing a glossy red door behind a decorative wrought-iron grill. Tendrils of vines grew in a trellis arching over the walkway and plants erupted in lush profusion from beds on either side. The path to the front door meandered invitingly down the tunnel of green. The house was not at all the Gothic mausoleum she’d half expected an eccentric recluse to live in. Akila’s fears were somewhat alleviated by the welcoming atmosphere.
“What a lovely place to live.”
Jacob looked around as though seeing it with fresh eyes. “It is.”
He held the door for her and she walked from the humid heat into the refreshing coolness of the foyer. A fan swept lazily high overhead in the vaulted ceiling and sunlight from a window illuminated the open space. A plush carpet in deep reds and earth tones covered most of the tiled floor. Potted trees and plants brought the outdoors inside.
Akila barely had time to glance at the artwork on the walls or the exotic artifacts scattered here and there before Jacob guided her down a corridor.
“I will take you to your room first so you may refresh yourself before meeting Mr. Kaspan.”
She decided his courtly, almost old-fashioned manner of speech may have been from learning English as a second language. “Are you from
? I keep catching a trace of an accent.” Germany
“Yes,” he said. “But I’ve lived many places in the world since then.”
“Mm. I did the European backpacking thing one summer when I was in college, but money’s always been too tight for me to travel much.”
This tropical retreat was a dream come true, especially with icy gray slush still piled alongside the streets back home. Whatever Kaspan wanted, she would enjoy her time here in this paradise for as long as it lasted.
Jacob opened a door and Akila stepped into a room that reminded her of the iridescent inside of an oyster shell. The floor underfoot was covered with dove gray carpet, but the walls were swathed in fabric, the colors of which seemed to shimmer and change as she looked at them. Cool blue, lilac, rose and flashes of green mingled with gray and white. The same colors were picked out in abstract designs on the comforter covering the bed. Embedded in one of the walls was a saltwater tank with fish darting among colorful corals. Entering the room was like stepping into an undersea world.
“This is beautiful,” she murmured, turning in a slow circle to take it all in while Jacob set her suitcase on the bed.
“I’m glad you like it.” Something about the pleased way he accepted her compliment made her look at him.
“Did you design this?”
He shrugged. “Master Kaspan gives me free rein on decorating decisions. It’s my hobby, I suppose you could say.”
Akila studied him. She’d just learned two extremely interesting things. Jacob possessed an artistic streak at odds with his rigid manner and he had slipped and referred to Kaspan not as his boss, but as “master”.
“The bathroom is there.” He indicated a door. “I’ll give you an hour to rest and then take you to see Mr. Kaspan.”
She’d half hoped the man would be waiting at the door so she could get this meeting over with. She should’ve guessed he’d summon her to his throne room.
Jacob turned to leave, then paused and looked back at her. The blue in the room enhanced the vibrant hue of his eyes and Akila saw uncertainty there for the first time.
“I would like to say I’m glad you accepted Mr. Kaspan’s invitation to come here. Even if you don’t choose to go through with his proposal, it was a pleasure meeting you.” Abruptly he lifted her hand and kissed the back of it, then he was out the door before she could say a word.
Akila stared at her hand, feeling the warm, moist pressure of his lips. Her heart pounded as if he’d dipped her into a backbend and kissed the hell out of her. What did he mean by “go through with his proposal”? Now she was more curious than ever about this mystery. God, she couldn’t wait another hour to find out.
But, by the time she’d hung a few clothes in the wardrobe, washed her face, fluffed her short hair, applied a little eyeliner, watched the mesmerizing fish and examined the decorative artifacts throughout the room, the hour was over and Jacob was knocking on her door.
“What’s he like?” she couldn’t help asking, even though she’d know for herself in another minute.
Jacob paused for only a second before answering. “Charismatic. Valarian Kaspan leaves his mark.” A small smile curved his lips as though at some inside joke.
“I feel like I’m about to meet Oz,” Akila said as they approached an open archway. Through it she could see a wall of glass and a stunning view of the ocean.
For once, Jacob understood her reference. “Except Mr. Kaspan is no fraud. He truly is great and powerful.” His tone was almost reverent, a far cry from the frustration she’d sensed earlier. Apparently he was very conflicted about his feelings for his “master”.
Then there was no more time for talking as Jacob ushered her into the large, airy room and she beheld her host. Her first impression was that, despite the generous size of the living room, the dark-haired man seemed to fill it. He sucked up all the oxygen and the light. His eyes, trained on her, were midnight black like his hair and his skin was olive-tone. He was not overly tall, yet seemed enormous and quite overpowering as he strode—no, glided—across the floor toward her.
“Ms. Massri, I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation.”
To be entered in the draw for Bonnie's ebook Vampires' Consort, answer Bonnie's question above: do you prefer day or night walking vampires, and why? Or make some other comment on her post. The contest will end at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.