A Dark Night's Melody: First Stanza

Don't talk to strangers,
'Cause they're only there to do you harm,
Don't write in starlight,
'Cause the words may come out real.
Don't hide in doorways,
You may find a key that opens up your soul,
Don't go to Heaven,
'Cause it's really only Hell.
Don't smell the flowers,
They're an evil drug to make you lose your mind,
Don't dream of women,
'Cause they'll only bring you down

--Dio, "Don't Talk to Strangers"

The dim light of the nightclub seemed to be the only constant; that and the teeming masses that frequent these places. Every night, it was a sea of faces in the darkness and the haze of smoke. His parents would probably be upset to find him at such a place, if they were alive still. They weren't; he was on his own, and in a way, that suited him just fine. There was always that part of him that was alone in a crowd.

He flicked back a lock of his wispy, silken hair from out of his face. Despite the dingy, dirty, dark atmosphere of the dive--after all, a struggling band really couldn't be picky where they managed to land a gig--he had all the grace, beauty and nobility of a grand nobleman from the Old Country. Strange that after all this time in America, his bloodline seemed to have bred true. Of course, the wealth of that old nobility hadn't remained the family's lot, but the keen intelligence and the envious luck that had kept them at least middle-classed had seen them through the generations. Mom had been a teacher, seeing it being her duty to properly mold the minds of youngsters--including her own only child. Dad had managed to be the yuppie type, getting into computers at just the right age. A damned shame that some drunk driver had splattered them all over the highway around Christmastime. Though everything had passed to him, he was downright lonely at times. He really missed their nagging at his laziness and doing nothing with his life.

He readjusted the weight of the acoustic electric guitar on his shoulder, the stage lights shining down on him as he sat there on the stool front and center of the band. Having found it rather warm during the middle of the last set, he'd slipped out of his black t-shirt. Clad now in just black cowboy boots and very tight leather pants that showed his legs to quite an advantage, he knew that he had to look like some sort of angel, what with the light shining over his fair skin and hair that looked like it was made of spun gold. Elegantly nimble hands strummed a practice chord on the guitar as his mind wandered slightly. After all, the rest of the band was getting a bit liquored up at the bar during this break.

So what if his paternal line had once been dukes in Spain? As far as he knew, his aristocratic good looks were probably the only real legacy of that. After all, he'd had pretty much a normal childhood for an upper middle-class family that doted on their only son. He had gone to the best private schools--Catholic ones, of course, God help him if Mom and Dad hadn't done their best to keep that family tradition going--had been pretty much the spoiled brat. Bright, possessing a critical eye, a keen wit, masculine beauty, graceful strength and a talent for music, writing and drawing, he'd been a sort of "golden boy". And had found that it was bland indeed. Life wasn't really a challenge, so he made it so, rebelling against his parents and running with what they would consider a bad crowd.

He'd lived a bit of a double life, being the dutiful son, doing well in his schooling, pretending to hold up to the religious beliefs of his parents--he'd found, however, that he was actually an agnostic; he just didn't have their, or rather Mom's, faith--in the light of day, then sneaking off to be with his friends in the band and the rough and tumble reality of trying to get enough attention to make it in that scene. Granted, they'd managed to start making a few waves; after all, he was truly talented and had the looks and presence needed to be a centerpiece, and the rest of the band wasn't shabby either. However, he knew that Mom really couldn't be happy to look down from Heaven, or wherever, and see the places where her precious son had ended up. Don't worry, Mom. Once we make it, I'll be able to stay out of dives like this and make sure I'm in the "nice" places I really ought to be. Places where the de la Vegas belong, in the circles of the beautiful people.

On their own, his hands strummed out a melancholy melody, shifting to the classical guitar style one often associates with Spain. The emerald-green eyes--large, long-lashed, full of his troubled emotions--narrowed slightly as he pushed away his thoughts, calling to mind the next set of songs they were planning on performing to that sea of bland faces. Looking down at the sheet of paper taped to the floor, the list of chosen cover songs written out in his elegant penmanship, he smiled just a bit as he recalled his mother rapping his fingers lightly with a pencil because he wasn't making his "o's" just right. God, I miss you both. I'm sorry I couldn't be the perfect son you wanted. And I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you that I loved you before you were gone.

"Hey, Zoey? You ready?"

He looked up and over as the drummer slid his solid form behind the impressive drum kit just behind the blond guitarist. One nice thing about having a bit of money--at least the band could get decent equipment. It made the music so much better, having *good* instruments, and his discriminating ear couldn't stand for them to play inferior stuff. "Yeah, Rick. Now if the rest of you would just stagger back . . ."

"I know, I know . . . I told them to get a move on and that the natives were getting restless."

A soft sigh escaped from between his sensuous lips as his emerald eyes glanced over to see what was keeping the other band members. After all, they weren't getting paid to sit around but to perform, and the crowd was starting to get slightly antsy. He strummed on the acoustic electric guitar again, and that little signal seemed to work. The keyboardist, bassist and rhythm guitarist quickly joined the pair there under the stagelights and took up their positions. Good, at least he didn't have to get nasty. They knew better than to really annoy Zoisite de la Vega.

Zoisite. It really was his name, though he insisted on being called "Zoey" by everyone. Zoey, not Joey, as he would often have to say. Chalk that name up to his mother, who was an avid gemstone fan; something about that mineral had appealed to her enough to saddle him with the very unusual name. At least she had the good graces to give him a halfway decent middle name. Santiago--Saint James--the patron saint of Spain and, hopefully, of himself. Although, if he really thought about it, there was something cool about having such an odd name. Not like there was hundreds of Zoisites running around to confuse everyone.

They were ready to go. Slipping his slender, gracefully muscled body off its perch on the stool, he let his mind wander into that shining place it always went as he tapped into his talent and started to play, his melodic tenor the perfect, sweet counterpoint to their music. He always seemed to soar on the wings of eagles as they played, somehow more vibrant and alive in these moments--and in any other moments when he was writing or drawing; the arts seemed to be something more real than anything else that he did--than at any other time. Perhaps he was chosen by the Muses as an instrument of expression, as his mother used to kid him about. He really couldn't say.

Soon enough, it would be over, and he would go back to life as usual for a while, until that next bright moment of creativity came. Maybe that was a bit of a tragedy in and of itself, that one that had seen only twenty-three years could feel so jaded about life in general . . .

This was not, as many of Elisabeth Maurier's peers would believe, the best place for any of them--especially her--to choose for entertainment. Yet she'd never really cared what her peers think; poseurs, most of them. Foolish children. Most of them believed their unlives to be the license to a never-ending party; many of the rest buried themselves in overly dramatic angst. Either way, she had little more than a sort of contempt for them. Twelve hundred years had given her a touch of intolerance for such self-centered, infantile behavior.

She wore black--a short, tight, sleeveless black velvet dress that clung to her, caressed her. Silky black nylons climbed her long, elegant legs; a black velvet choker ornamented with a tiny gold rose encircled her throat. Diamond studs glittered in her ears.

Her hair was a rich, dark-chocolate brown, so dark it looked nearly black in the dim light of the club; the few lights showed red-and-gold fire hidden in the lustrous strands. It was long--falling in dancing swirls down her back, past her waist. The heavy mass looked almost alive, teasing around her magnificent curves, a black beret with a silver-and-black rose pin cocked at a jaunty angle atop the waterfall. Her face was a redefinition of "beautiful"--and she was hiding the full impact behind the power called Mask of the Thousand Faces. It wouldn't do to blind the poor mortal children, after all. Her eyes were large and liquid, looking almost dark brown toward the centers; the outer edges of her irises, though, were vivid green, strikingly lovely. Her lips were soft and full, tinged a dusky rose tonight; her nose was very slightly snubbed.

She could hide much of her beauty without much effort, but there was far more difficulty in hiding the aura of power and command that surrounded her; most of that could be tidily passed off as the queenly grace she carries herself with, but in truth, it was the strength of her Presence that made it so obvious. Some of the Kindred were uneducated enough to consider someone of two, three hundred years to be an elder; she was an elder in truth, powerful not only by time, but by blood--only four steps removed from Caine, a vampire of the Fifth Generation.

When she came up to one of the tables nearest the small stage, it took hardly more than a meaningful glance to convince the kine to abandon their place to her. With a snap of her fingers, she could have anyone in the room--male or female--at her feet; with the same ease, she could intimidate them all into a panicked flight. The notion amused her somewhat.

Then the band came onstage, and she exerted herself to restrain her Majesty. It wouldn't do, after all, to be distracting them . . . and she was suddenly distracted by the lead singer.

Un si beau jeune homme . . . such a beautiful young man--like an angel. As fair as she was dark, and ah--such a voice. And talent. She had little liking for much of the modern music; most of it seemed so grating on her ears. This, though . . . this was different. Normally, she closed her eyes when listening to music, just to experience the sound--this time, though, she kept her eyes open, fixed on the undeniably gorgeous young man whose sweet tenor soared so effortlessly, blending perfectly with the instruments to create something exquisite.

Her ears took in the achingly lovely sounds; her eyes roamed over the one responsible for them. Ah, Dieu, he was as exquisite as the music: well-proportioned, leather stretched tightly over his legs, his torso muscled sleekly, like a dancer's. That long, wavy, silky-sheened golden hair, surrounding a face that Michaelangelo would have ached to sculpt, a perfection of masculine beauty with enough femininity in it to make it something ethereal; those eyes, green as the rarest of emeralds.

I want him. After twelve centuries, she wasn't often affected like this--but she was a Toreador, and her clan adored everything that was beautiful. Each member of that clan had their own standards of beauty, of course . . . and Elisabeth's were quite high.

This young man met those standards. Obviously talented, physically perfect; with hardly an effort, she reached out to touch his mind ever-so-lightly with her own. He was absorbed in what he was creating with his voice, with the guitar, but she could sense the quick intelligence beneath the surface of his focus. She didn't merely want him for an evening's entertainment, she realized; perhaps--just perhaps--this one might be more . . .

She made herself wait. It always seemed better for the waiting, the anticipation. When the band was finished, she rose slowly from the chair, letting her Majesty flare just a little to bring the young man's eyes to meet hers.

Come to me . . . It wasn't Dominate; she disliked using the power to control minds directly in that fashion. She was not a Tremere or Ventrue to command so peremptorily; she liked to seduce, to entice, to fascinate. One of her clan's main powers was Presence; she used a lesser form of that Discipline, Entrancement, to captivate the gorgeous young man, to call him to her like a siren.

Perhaps he'd have followed her without the Entrancement--as she walked slowly to the doors of the club, the sway of her hips beneath the black velvet was entrancing all by itself. At the door, she paused, turned, looked back at him; another soft brush of her mind against his, a whisper within the silence.

I will love you like none other, for I have died a thousand tiny deaths and every time I died I thought of you . . .

Mother of God. It was the only thing he really could think as his emerald gaze became captured by the stunning beauty that seemed an angel of the night. Ah, it's truly blessed are the ignorant, isn't it? The dark beauty would probably be faintly amused at the delicious irony.

It wasn't often that a presence made itself known from that sea of faces. After a year scrambling for gigs of any sort and then playing them, the crowd easily became blended in one's memories. At least the dances sponsored by the schools had a few memorable moments, when the scene was still new and he truly believed that he could be God's gift to the music world. Dreams are never easy to chase after, as he's found out.

Normally, once he'd "zoned out" into that bright, shining something during his moments of performing, he didn't come down until that moment of artistic Nirvana was over. But tonight, a shadow intruded within that brilliance, a shadow that seemed to beckon and entice. A darkness that resolved itself into probably the most perfectly beautiful woman he'd ever seen in his twenty-three years.

Black clung seductively to her, like she was the chosen lover of the night. Her hair was a luxurious mane of darkness that rippled and shimmered with the deepest of fires. Her face was something almost beyond belief, something that seemed only possible within the mind of a true artiste, and her eyes . . . God, someone could drown in their depths. It was all he could do to keep performing, and it took all of his will to not let that shining place slip away, to not falter in the music. The shadow seemed far more thrilling at the moment than the music that was his usual passion.

How he made it through the rest of the performance without screwing up was still a mystery, though once he'd noticed the mysterious woman with the discriminating air, he'd started performing just for her. Behind him, he could vaguely hear the snickers and groans of jealousy of his bandmates. Once again, Zoey was suckered in by a gorgeous woman, and once again, Zoey was the one that got the attention of said woman.

It was a given, all the other band members had agreed, that Zoey pretty much got what he wanted. And it looked like that he would get it yet again.

As the final chords of their set and their performance died away, Zoey found himself staring again at those fascinating eyes. There was a quick moment of dread; did she find his talent good enough? He'd wanted to impress her, to make himself and the music he wrought stand out from the crowd. Why? He didn't know. It just seemed something that ought to be done. For some reason, her critique and her assessment mattered.

When he realized that she did approve, that she wanted him to follow her, he found himself letting out the breath he'd been unknowingly holding. Normally, he'd go back to the green room to relax and come down off his artistic high, once more slipping into the trappings of a child of high society. The somber clothes and leather would be put away, replaced by a perfectly tailored suit; the untamed mane of spun gold would be tied back into a neat, unobtrusive ponytail. Tonight was not a normal night.

"Where the hell is he going?" Rick frowned, glancing over to the other three musicians.

"Looks like it's off to get a piece of ass. Again." That was the slightly resentful voice of the keyboardist.

"Gotta agree with Tony. Lucky stiff," groused the bassist.

Rick couldn't help but frown just a bit as he watched Zoey step off the small nightclub stage toward the mysterious and damned frightfully alluring woman that paused at the doorway to the nightclub. It wasn't really like the golden-haired singer to run off without bothering to put his shirt back on, let alone haul off after someone without "decompressing" with the band in the green room. Then again, there was a first time for everything, and he knew that Zoey had been depressed over something of late. Shrugging it off, he figured that the guitarist would catch back up to them when he was ready to. He was a big boy now and could look after himself.

He needed to follow. Nothing else really crossed his mind as he made his way across the nightclub floor. Nor did he really notice that he'd not bothered to slip his shirt back on. The few hopeful fans that clutched at him or tried to catch his attention as he elegantly strode through their midst were pointedly ignored. He only had eyes for her, the one that beckoned to him with the merest of glances and the seductive sway of her hips. He carried himself like an aristocrat, maybe another unconscious legacy of the blood from which he sprung; a seemingly gorgeous noble making his way through the dingy rabble. As he approached the doorway, he reached up with the elegant fingers of a hand and brushed his wispy hair from his emerald gaze, smiling at the angel of the night.

Elisabeth's eyes seemed to burn across the smoky air of the nightclub like twin lasers; her senses were acute, sharpened not only by Auspex but by long, long years of reliance. She had heard every word the other band members spoke, and she--the one who'd been nicknamed "Dark Lady," "Angel of Mists," and a hundred other titles--did not appreciate being called "a piece of ass."

It was very petty, but when she was caught up in such a purely humanlike emotion as desire, other such baggage was hauled along with it, including a sharp reaction to bruised ego. She reached out to the three, one after the other, flicking a harsh mental reprimand to each. They'd be spending at least a week nearly sleepless from nightmares, thanks to the command she'd just issued to their subconscious minds.

With that childish revenge taken care of, the Toreador could turn her full attention to him.

Dieu, he was even more beautiful at close range. That smile was both shy and almost unconsciously sensual, the golden hair looking as fine as silk, the green eyes so bright and clear--and carrying that hint of bemused adoration that Entrancement tended to create in its targets.

As he lowered his hand from brushing his hair out of his face, she caught his fingers gently; her skin was noticeably cooler than his, and she was enraptured all over again by the warmth of his supple, young, living flesh. He seemed to shiver a little, as though her mere touch sent bolts of awareness through him.

"Come with me," she whispered; her sultry voice held just a trace of a French accent, enough to soften the consonants, give her even more of an exotic air. Folding her fingers around his, she led him outside; the chilly night breeze made the poor child shiver. Ah, careless, careless, Elisabeth, she chided herself silently.

Her sleek, black limousine was waiting, as always; her driver opened the door promptly, granting his mistress and her prize entrance into the vehicle. Black Italian cut-velvet covered the lushly cushioned seat; the windows were darkly tinted, though the shields that could be put in place to block the sunlight completely were not in evidence. Between the jump seats was a small bar, stocked with ice, champagne, brandy, Chivas Regal, and two pints of O-negative--the latter carefully camouflaged in a dark green glass bottle with no label, tucked down into the back corner of the ice container, out of direct view. She disliked the slightly bitter, plasticky taste of cold blood, but at times, there really were few options.

A sable stole lay in a plush heap on one of the jump seats; as the car door closed, she reached across the compartment to retrieve the rich fur, draping it around the young man's bare shoulders. Her fingers glided softly along the smoothly chiseled line of his jaw as she finished the little task.

"We can't let you catch cold, now can we, beautiful one?" she murmured softly, watching his gorgeous face. "Is there anything you might like to drink? . . ."

Cold. Colder than expected, like she's been standing outside. The touch of her hand on his made him shiver. But before he could really, clearly, think on that--was it the chill of her flesh, her sensuous touch, or something else that made that shiver run down his spine--he heard her soft words. Her voice was every bit as beautiful as she was, the perfect musical accompaniment to her visual presence. And it was indeed the most natural thing in the world to silently go along with her request.

He did have to wonder about his sanity, though, the moment he stepped out into the street. It might have been springtime, but the air held a definite chill, especially after the close, smoky quarters of the club. Maybe I ought to ask her to wait a moment and let me get my shirt and coat? A shiver ran through him as the night wind made its presence known with a vengeance. His long hair fluttered in the invisible eddy like a silken banner, and he hesitated a step as he folded his free arm over his chest; the fingers of his other hand tightened just a bit within the grasp of the fascinating woman's hand. Huddling up slightly--and even then, he seemed to have a bit more grace than the general teeming masses of humanity, almost looking like an adorable waif--he opened his mouth just a bit, as if to say something, but stopped as the car door was opened to her. All right, I'll live. I'll be warm enough in the limo. Geez, Zoey, you can sure be a dumb-ass at times. Going outside half naked . . .

He entered the passenger compartment after the mysterious woman, once more tossing her a shy but rather appreciative smile; of their own accord, his hands caressed the black velvet covering of the seat. His smile deepened in appreciation of the luxurious surroundings.

That expression faltered, shifting into one of mild astonishment as the brunette beauty wrapped the fur stole around him. And that expression then flowed into one of gratitude as he absently snuggled into the rich, sable fur, the long-lashed emerald eyes fluttering partially closed at the caress of her fingertips along his jaw. His was a face beautifully suited to the expression of emotion; it could be fascinating to watch how that countenance shifted with each emotion he felt. Nimble fingers of a hand caressed the stole as his gaze returned to her. Again he gave her that brilliant smile.

"Thanks for letting me borrow this. I'm usually not so absentminded to go running off half-naked from a concert. You're too kind."

His voice was soft-spoken, sweet. Definitely masculine, but holding the ephemeral tone of femininity that his physical form had. The melodic tenor was a voice ill-suited for such coarseness as shouting obscenities; no one really would be able to take a "fuck you" seriously from that voice. But singing and normal conversation . . . Those were different matters entirely. He could probably easily enchant another mortal with those silken tones.

"Well . . ." That elegantly fluid countenance of his took on a thoughtful expression as he considered her second question. "If you happen to have a bottle of Amaretto in there, I'd be interested in a shot of that. Otherwise, I'll just pass." The large, clear, emerald eyes once more fastened upon the angel of the night, and he held out a hand in greeting. "Excuse my rudeness for not introducing myself beforehand. Zoisite de la Vega, at your service. And you are, if I may be so bold to enquire?"

She couldn't help but just watch him, reading the play of emotions across his expressive face. Dieu . . . so young and open, unlike many of the children of this time--embittered and jaded, many of them. Posturing and posing, trying to show nothing of their real selves behind the mask. It was almost funny how they never realized that the mask did indeed show very much of their true souls.

His smile was bright; her answering smile was darker, the slow curve of her dusky-rose lips enticing. He had such a voice--ah, the Daughters of Cacophony would snatch him up in an instant, as would virtually any Toreador with an ear for music. She chuckled softly. "I'm afraid the stock in here is limited--just champagne and Chivas Regal, and a little brandy. There's a larger selection at my home." She leaned back in the seat, reaching up to take the velvet beret from her head, setting it in her lap.

"Zoisite? A very unusual name." She extended her right hand, laying her fingers over his--not a handshake, but an elegant, archaic gesture. She was both slightly startled and rather pleased when he lifted her hand to his lips, dropping the lightest kiss over her fingers. This one knew real politeness, not relying on the superficial forms of the decade. That was encouraging. "My name is Elisabeth Maurier."

She let him keep custody of her hand for the moment as the car pulled smoothly away from the curb and rolled out onto the street. He looked like he was examining her nails--perfectly manicured and painted a shade of rose that matched her lips. A gold lion's head with emerald-chip eyes surmounted the gold ring on her middle finger--a tasteful, modest, quietly-expensive trinket.

When she'd enjoyed his endearing shyness for several minutes, she tugged him very slowly and subtly to her. He hardly seemed to realize what she was doing, until she drew her hand from his grasp and slipped her arm around him, her other hand coming up to capture his chin gently, her fingers fanning against his cheek as she gazed at him for a moment.

"So beautiful," she whispered, and covered his mouth softly with her own.

He'd lapsed into appreciative silence as her sensual voice--God, he nearly shivered in pleasure every time she spoke, her voice seemed that melodic, that full of sensual promise--answered him, the emerald eyes demurely closing partway to watch as she slipped the beret off her head. "Well, then. As I said, I'll pass for now. But perhaps there's something more appealing that you have at your place."

Ah, he was smooth, slipping into the game easily, that voice of his perfectly suited to carry the subtle tones of innuendo. Not bad for one so young; he certainly at least had quite a bit of raw talent.

"Yes, quite unusual. I do have to agree on that." He faltered just a bit when she placed her hand on his--one certainly didn't expect that move these days--but his training in the niceties of polite society and proper manners that his mother had insisted on him learning served him well. He recognized the gesture for what it was, and he responded accordingly by raising that exquisite hand to his soft lips for a kiss of greeting. "My mother really liked the gemstone, and she thought it would make for a memorable name." His breath was warm on the dark angel's skin, a pointed reminder of his vibrant, mortal youth.

Again that shy but sensual smile crossed his lips. He felt the car begin its journey, but really paid it little mind. After all, it wasn't every night that he'd managed to capture the attention of so captivating a woman. "Elisabeth." He repeated her name, sounding out the syllables in his sweet tenor. "Quite the noble name for a noble woman."

His eyes remained focused on her hand, taking in the details of it. Pale, perfectly formed, the nails painted the same alluring shade of rose as her lips, it seemed as if it were the hand of a true artist, that such a work of art by nature would almost certainly be capable of creating artwork of its own. Then his gaze was captured by the lion's head ring on her hand. Leon . . . The symbol brought to mind some of his heritage; his family was a branch of former grandes of Leon. And he was an avid fan of lions and other such felines. There was something thrilling in their predatory grace.

Wake up, Zoey. This seems so *unreal*, and yet . . . God, it's certainly an interesting dream. Oh yes, he knew that his good looks--he was well used to being called "pretty-boy" among other things--and his apparently sweet demeanor opened quite a number of doors to him, and he was used to charming all sorts of women into giving him whatever he wanted. But this one seemed almost beyond belief. Too good to be true. And yet, he just couldn't help feeling a bit of satisfaction being there with this gorgeous creature. I think I'm in love . . .

He was still caught up in the rapture of just being there with her when he suddenly realized that she was right there, next to him, slipping an arm around him. When her hand caught his chin and her fingers touched the skin of his cheek, he once again became aware of how cool her hand felt. Quite the difference between them, since he was rather warm himself now in spite of being half undressed.

His head tilted slightly to one side, the earring in his left ear--he had only that one piercing, and the stud was a cabochon of some sort of gemstone that was the same color as his eyes but flecked with ruby red spots--catching what light slipped through the silken mane of his spun gold hair. He almost looked like he was puzzling something out; that is, he looked like that until his eyes stared into her fascinating gaze yet again. He caught his breath and held it, hypnotized by her.

Sweet Mother of God, her kiss . . . He really couldn't think, the caress of her lips against his intoxicating. The long lashes brushing against his cheeks as he closed his eyes to better savor the sensation, his arms coming up to embrace her, he surrendered to her kiss. Never had he felt quite this intensity before . . .

Normally he was the one on the aggressive side, fishing out what he wanted from those dazzled by his stunning good looks and cunning wit. He knew how to play people in a way that rivalled his playing of a musical instrument. But there was something breathlessly thrilling about being the one played, if that one was a master at the art, as he was swiftly finding out . . .

Elisabeth felt a sweet finger of pleasure gliding down her back as Zoisite--Dieu, such an exotic sort of name--responded to her, slipping his arms around her, surrendering to the kiss. Many of those she singled out for her attention always tried to be aggressive at first, macho; that tended to disappoint her. It wasn't so much that she consciously sought dominance in her relationships; it had just happened that way so much over the centuries that she'd become accustomed to it.

Mortal partners usually deferred to her because of her beauty, her aura of power, the fact that she was quite obviously able to take care of herself. Kindred lovers deferred to her because she was an elder by both age and generation, because they knew her power and feared it.

Oh, this one was sweet. She could just sense that he was used to being the aggressor, the one who took what he wanted; unfortunately for him--perhaps--she was also accustomed to the dominant role. And she'd had far more experience in the art. She thought for a moment, fondly, of Madame de Pompadour, the famous (or infamous) courtesan; she'd been startled to find that the lady could even teach her, a centuries-old Kindred, more than just a few things about seduction. There had been others over the years, vampire and mortal alike, teachers and students who helped her to hone her sensuality into a semblance of perfection.

She urged him slowly back to lie along the seat; her body was a graceful arch over him, one hand set beside his head to hold her weight, the other hand stroking and playing with the silken, spun-gold hair. The kiss deepened, grew more intense, more passionate; she didn't have to rely on any special vampiric powers here. All she needed was the power that a woman held over a man, and that she certainly had.

He'd noticed the coolness of her flesh; it took only a moment to urge a little more blood to the surface of her skin, flushing it with warmth. He was so involved in the kiss that he probably didn't even notice--and if he did, he'd probably pass it off as her just being someone who took a while to warm up after they came in out of the cold.

She was running her free hand slowly down over his tightly muscled chest when the car shuddered violently as the driver bore down hard on the brakes, whipping the sleek black vehicle sharply aside. Bracing herself on the seat, she flicked out a tendril of thought to learn what was happening. Through the driver's eyes, she immediately saw the seven motorcycles that were harassing the limousine. The car whipped aside again, and Zoisite slid rather ungracefully from under her to fetch up against the door.

Stupid, she grated silently. Bikers always seemed suicidally dumb to her. I will never quite understand these idiots . . .

It happened just as she realized it was going to happen, realized that she could glimpse the flash of fangs as the hellions laughed and shouted to each other. One of the bikers screamed up perilously close; the window glass shattered with the impact of a tire iron or baseball bat. That wasn't all, though--the bastard must have had Potence, yanking the door open despite the lock. She whirled, snarling, reaching out, but he was just a little closer. Zoisite got neatly snagged by the waistband of his pants and hauled violently out of the car just as one of the other bikers zipped up beside and shot out the right rear tire.

Immortal and powerful and pissed or not, she still got bounced around to an aggravating degree as the limo shrieked off the highway and rolled down the embankment. It was rather fortunate that it had rained recently; the ground was soft and muddy, cushioning the impacts somewhat. At least the car wasn't too badly damaged. What was really bad was the fact that when the limo came to rest--on its side, of course--the door that was skyward and clear was buckled inward, making a normal attempt to open it impossible. She reached up and slapped it.

The door popped clean off the car with a shriek of tearing metal. Elisabeth was ungodly strong . . . and just as ungodly fast. She was out and running before the door even hit the mud.

The bikers weren't on the highway, though; they must have taken a turnoff. She paused at the side of the road, throwing her head back, inhaling. She sorted out the regular smell of the road--asphalt, rubber, oil, carbon monoxide, gasoline--and managed to catch a whiff of something that made her go cold inside with dread. Graveyard stench . . . musty soil, faded flowers, the faintest corpse-reek.


Only Sabbat spent any length of time in graveyards. Their Creation Rites required such a setting.

I bet they mistook me for some Camarilla Lick with a nice pliable toy. Her eyes narrowed as she swept her keen gaze around, searching; mentally, she recalled a map of the city, seeking the nearest graveyard. That was a very bad error indeed . . .

Like a slender, supple reed, he bowed to her will, her obvious expertise and skill. Certainly his family's culture prized machismo, but he was one that swiftly adapted to whatever would get him what he wanted. And since she was willing to do the work of the seducing, who was he to even argue? It's rather fun to just lie back and enjoy the ride.

He went with the flow, responding in kind to the increasing intensity. Words and thoughts flew from his mind; he felt himself sinking into a sensual sea of emotion. The only things that existed were the sensations of the moment. The touch of her hand in his hair, the feel of her leaning over him, the warmth of her--he must've been imagining that cool feel of her hand, because the fingers that glided down his bare chest under the sable wrap were warm indeed--the passionate, very skilled kiss, all of it combined into a heady liquor that left him feeling intoxicated and lightheaded. Too bad it didn't last.

Mmm? He felt the shudder of the vehicle even through the pleasurable haze. Then the second abrupt turn broke him out of that ecstasy and solidly back into reality. The black velvet under him suddenly didn't feel so soft and comfortable as the force of the limousine's momentum forced him across its surface. Slamming up against the unyielding door, he softly grunted as the air was knocked out of his lungs. There was a muted crack as the back of his golden-haired head slapped against the heavily tinted glass. Even so, it was a good thing that he managed to curl up, because the next thing he knew, there was a resounding smash as the window behind and above him shattered. Dark crystals of tinted glass showered him in an obsidian rain.

Startled, he started to turn his head, sending pieces of glass glittering down to the floor of the limo. What the-- He never got any farther on the thought, for just then he heard the unearthly *pop* of the door as it was yanked from the vehicle. Viciously cold night air swirled around him, chilling him to the bone again. His golden hair rippled around him, obscuring his vision, and the stole around his shoulders ruffled sleekly in the wind.

Then came the sensation of floating. It probably would've been something even pleasant had it not been so violent. The shrill whine of motorcycle engines filled the night, along with the triumphant hoots and hollers of the drivers. Finding himself in an unearthly grip, he quickly realized that no amount of agility would help him squirm free. Biting his lower lip and shivering from the biting chill of the night, he held onto the black fur stole and forced himself to wait. Now wasn't the time to panic; if he was alert, he just might find an opportunity to get the fuck out of Dodge, so to speak. After all, were they intent on offing him right away, he'd be a bloody corpse right at the moment. For what it was worth, they seemed to want him alive, and where there was life, there was hope.

Madre de Dios . . . I just hope I don't freeze to death before we get to wherever we seem to be going . . .

Second Stanza Story Index The Silverlands