From the author: The Count is sick at the sight of vampires -- uh, conjoining with other species. Humans, and werewolves -- what will be next? But the Count is heading for a surprise.
“But I am a creature of the night,” Justin said. “And you – you’re a child of the sunlight. The sun I can never again see. Part of a world that is now denied me.”
Tania held him closer, speaking into the folds of his dark jacket. A tear glimmered in her eye. “I don’t care – I just don’t care! We can find a way. Love will find a way!” She pressed a hand against his chest. “Sometimes I think – it seems like I can almost – feel a heartbeat,” she whispered.
The moon shone through the branches at the edge of the graveyard, throwing dappled shadows against his face. “That can never be, my love.”
She drew back and looked up into his face with a wild determination in her gaze. “Then – bite me. Bite me, Justin! Together we can roam, eternally –“
Justin twisted himself away, squeezing his eyes shut. “No!” he cried, anguished. “To take away your humanity – your brightness, your goodness, your light – I could never do such a thing to you! To condemn you to walk the night in search of blood – what a horror!”
“Oh, it’s not so bad.”
That hadn’t been Tania’s voice.
Justin opened his eyes just in time to see a cowled, dark figure drop Tania’s lifeless body to the ground.
“Count!” he said. “What – what have you—“
“We’ve talked about this,” the Count said, wiping blood off his chin. “This vampire – human mating thing – it’s just not natural. You’ll thank me later.”
Justin fell to his knees next to the body of his beloved. “Tania!”
“I guess I’ll see you around,” the Count said.
“Then it’s together we’ll walk the night,” Adelia said, slipping the ring onto her finger.
“Smile for me, love,” Trevor replied, cupping the side of her face.
Adelia looked down. “When I smile, you can see my – you know.”
Trevor laughed. “I don’t mind your fangs, Delly. Besides, they’re nothing compared to mine! Little things, just two of them, one on each side—“
And now Adelia laughed too. “Yes, but yours only come out once a month!” she said. Then her mouth opened into an ‘O’ as she saw a hand come out of the darkness to seize Trevor’s hair and pull his head back.
The Count bit deep and drank hard, and let Trevor’s body drop.
Adelia spread her arms wide. “What are you doing?” she wailed. “I know all about your – your crusade; but Trevor wasn’t human!”
“Werewolves are about as bad,” the Count said. “Even putting aside the fleas -- once a month evilness? Dabblers! Where’s the commitment? Where’s the follow-through?”
The Count turned to go with a swirl of his cape, then turned back. “’Children of the Night’ is not just a goddamn phrase, you know!” he said. “It used to mean something.”
The Count slipped down the alley, shaking his head. What was it with his people these days? The lovers they were hooking up with. Humans and werewolves. Sprites. Angels. Leprechauns. Ghosts. And then there was that one vampire with the unicorn – uggghh. It revealed a basic self-loathing, a disgust with the darkness and death and joyful cruelty of their world.
But such a thing was surely just a fad. It would not last. It could not remain. In time, his vampire kindred would understand that there is no fleeing the darkness.
Until that day came, he would be there to remind them.
The woman had wandered off the brightly-lit street and had come under the trees of the park, in search of better reception.
“So now you can hear me?” she said into her phone. “Good. Now tell me what Whetstone is up to.”
The Count moved silently toward her. The back of her neck glimmered in the light of a streetlamp, and the Count was on his lunchbreak.
“Oh he did, did he?” she said. “OK, listen here. No, no you just listen. If they want to test our resolve, we can play as rough as they can. I want you to get control of that company. By the weekend. And then we’ll just gut it.”
The Count paused.
“When I say ‘gut it,” that’s just what I mean. Tear its head off, and replace the employees with part-timers so we can skip the healthcare and benefits. We aren’t going to make money by running a goddamn social services agency, you know.”
She closed her phone and spun around. She glanced at the Count. “And who are you?”
He paused a moment, savoring the waft of malevolence washing over him. “I—” in the face of that cold glare, he couldn’t give her his assumed name. “I’m Steve Mertino,” he said. “Stephen Mertino.”
“Well, little Stevie, I’ve got 911 on speed dial and I’ve got a gun in my purse, so take one more step and it’ll be your last.”
The Count – well, Steve – spread his hands. “Please,” he said. “Who are you?” “Andrea Calderwood, if it’s any business of yours.”
“I read about you in the paper. You’re the CEO of one of those bailed-out finance companies. And you just accepted some kind of huge bonus. Then upped the credit card fees. That was you.”
Andrea frowned. “I get paid just what I deserve. What are you, a reporter? Some kind of liberal?”
Steve smiled. “Not at all, Andrea,” he said. “I admire your ethics. I never thought I’d get a chance to meet you! And I think – I feel – I hope – that we may have a future together, you and me.”
“Well,” Andrea said, “I’ll admit, I like your smile. Come on. Buy me a drink.”
This story originally appeared in Love, Time, Space, Magic.