In the back of a roadside pizza place, three tables were taken by a large group of people talking together. While some of them were wearing suits and formal dresses, others were dressed in sweatpants and tank tops, yet from their conversation it became clear that they had just attended the same event together. Their animated conversation was louder than the music blaring from the overhead speakers, and some of them had coats or large bags that they stuffed under their chairs.
"For fuck's sake, Donovan, what were you thinking?" A red-headed woman in a black business suit asked as the rest of the people at her table laughed uproariously.
A man with a neatly trimmed goatee, presumably Donovan, set down his soda and shook his head at the others. "Wouldn't you like to know? None of you can prove that it was me. Maybe it was Jack's doing. Or maybe it was all part of Sam's plans, ever think of that, Tessa?"
More laughter bubbled up in the group, someone patted Donovan on the shoulder. Jack, an androgynous-looking person with jaw-length hair who wore beautiful pumps under their suit, made dismissive gestures at Donovan while others told each other that Jack would never do such a thing. Meanwhile Sam, a dark-haired man wearing a white suit with a black shirt, sat quietly in the corner eating the last of his pizza crust, his white fedora lying next to his elbow.
"Better not talk about Sam like that…" Tessa glanced at Sam and then looked across the table at Donovan again. "His plans have proven to be… flexible in the past." The laughter prompted by this statement was softer, perhaps nervous or tired, but Sam himself only smiled as he dabbed the corner of his mouth with a napkin.
"While that was all very funny," Jack addressed the whole group. "A club of weekend vampires like us have more important things to do than unfounded accusations and rampant speculation. If you could all pay up to Iris, we can start to head home. See you all next month." And Jack rose from their chair to let a blonde woman in a black dress pass. She started to go around the tables with her purse and everyone paid her for their food, so she could settle the bill for the whole group.
When Iris left his table, Sam rose from his seat and put his hat back on. People milled about collecting their respective bags and coats and saying goodbye to each other, and through that shuffle Donovan moved over to Sam and laid his hand on his shoulder. "You won't hold it against me, right?"
Sam narrowed his eyes at him. "All is fair in love and war. But I don't believe in spite." He took Donovan's hand off his shoulder and shook it politely. "See you next time."
He made his way to his car and hit the road, with his white suit jacket and hat on the passenger seat. No radio, just the sound of the engine as he drove through the dreary Sunday night traffic back home. Sam enjoyed the quiet after a weekend of everyone talking his ear off. He enjoyed the little mind games he could play with people at these events, but it put him in an overthinking, suspicious mindset, and that would take a while to shake off. When he was at the pizza place, Sam couldn't help but feel like someone was watching him across the room, and now that he was behind the wheel, that feeling was still following him, like a car in the distance that he couldn't quite make out the colour and brand of.
He knew the road well, he didn't need to navigate, which just meant that his mind had more time to wonder about that car. To wonder about who could be following him, why anyone would want to stalk a guy like him. He looked behind before he made a left turn and then shook his head. His imagination was running away with him and he really needed to keep it in check. In the game, suspicion was useful and it was fun to anticipate how others would try to counter his moves, but in the real world he didn't need to worry about that.
When he finally rolled the car into the big parking garage across from his apartment building, it was dark and deserted. He knew the place well enough that he rode past the spaces that were always taken near the main exit, and parked close to the back stairs that would quickly get him across the street and to his home. He scooped up his bag and clothes to take them home and locked the car. When the lights of the car went out, he stood there for a moment, in the silence of the garage, with only the harsh fluorescent tubes in the staircase to light his way. Again, that feeling of being watched and followed crept up on him, like there might be someone in the impenetrable shadows behind the cars.
"The best way to carry a hat…" He mumbled to himself as he put his jacket and his hat back on and started to lug his bag up the stairs, trying to ignore his paranoia. As he made his way up the stairs and across the empty street, he jangled his keys in his hand, looking for the small one that would let him look in the mailbox. He retrieved the local newspaper and a postcard from his mailbox and then headed to the elevator, where a woman in a long overcoat had already pushed the button and was waiting silently.
He nodded a mumbled greeting at her as he stuffed the newspaper into his bag and examined the postcard. It had a familiar-looking hotel on it, and on the back were only the words: "welcome home" written with a thick red sharpie, no name, no address and no stamp. Puzzled, he examined the postcard more closely and it turned out to be from the hotel where he had spent the weekend with the other vampire roleplayers.
The ding of the elevator roused him from his thoughts and he made eye-contact with the woman as he followed her through the doors. She was pale and strikingly beautiful with deep blue eyes and wispy, strawberry blonde hair. "Hi Sam," she said with a smile as she pressed the button for his floor and the button for the floor above that.
As the elevator went up, he was stunned, still trying to process what the postcard meant, and now he was also trying to remember if he'd seen her before in the building. She wore black boots and gloves with the coat, which seemed overdressed for this weather. Her eyes… Sam caught himself staring and looked down at the postcard again. He didn't know how she knew his name and his floor.
The elevator opened and he walked out without looking back at her, he didn't want to make her uncomfortable. Behind him, just before the doors closed again, she said: "It's not paranoia when you're really being followed."
Sam froze. He looked back at the closed doors. Did he hear that right? Why would a neighbour say such a thing? He looked at the postcard again, and the big red letters suddenly looked ominous to him. His heart beat a little faster as he walked to his flat, jangling his keys again to find the right one. When he used it to open his front door, he was surprised to find it already unlocked.
As he pushed the door open and dropped the bag on the floor in the hallway, he went into full alert. He left the front door open as an easy escape route and reached into the utility closet for the nylon training sword he kept there along with some of his other martial arts stuff. He gripped the sword firmly as he walked into the living room to turn the lights on.
The room looked exactly as he had left it. His coffee mug still stood next to the mouse of his computer, the desk chair was angled as if he had just got up. The ironing board was still in the middle of the room, because he had ironed his shirt right before putting it on. His jaw clenched with nerves, he poked the window with the sword, but it was closed and still locked, just the way he had left it.
He sighed. "The caffeine makes me jittery," he mumbled, returning to the hall to close the front door and put the sword back in the closet. He shook his head to himself as he brought the bag to his bedroom to put his clothes in the laundry. Maybe he had forgotten to lock the door properly before he left. Maybe he had misheard what the woman in the elevator said. He put his hat on the rack and took his jacket off. As he put it on a hanger, the postcard fell from his pocket. The red letters glared at him from the floor. Welcome home.
He shook his head again and went into the bathroom. "Must be a stupid joke," he mumbled. "Maybe Donovan." With one hand he casually loosened his tie as he turned the light on with the other. On the mirror, someone had scrawled in big red letters: "Take your tie off".
He froze. His blood ran cold as he stared in the mirror, his hand still resting on the knot in his tie. Was it just the white light of the bathroom or did he look paler than before? How long ago were those words written? It must be a coincidence that he was just taking off his tie. It must be. He touched the mirror, he could feel the texture of the thick red permanent marker.
Ghostly piano notes suddenly played in the living room. Sam recognised the song immediately, an acoustic version of "Something I can never have" from his favourite Nine Inch Nails album. The song started with a tense, unresolved piano line and gradually grew into a heart-wrenching lamentation. He hadn't listened to that album in months. Feeling dazed, he turned to go to the living room and dug his smartphone out of his pocket, wondering if he had accidentally activated the music. But as he reached the doorway and looked into the living room, his breath hitched and he dropped his phone on the floor.
The woman from the elevator stood in his kitchen, looking in his fridge. She wore a white dress with black lace, her long coat and gloves hung discarded over the ironing board. Sam stood in the doorway, trembling and speechless, as he watched how she opened the bottle of juice he kept in the fridge door and drank straight from the bottle.
"You make this all go away!" The singer of Nine Inch Nails wailed from the speakers by the tv.
Sam cleared his throat and found it difficult to raise his voice louder than the music. "Who are you?"
She put the bottle down on the kitchen counter and languidly licked her lips. She didn't seem to notice him at all.
The music continued: "I'm starting to scare myself!"
He bent down to pick up his phone and used it to turn the music off.
"Aw, I was enjoying that." The woman said in a husky voice. "The agony is delicious."
"Who are you?" Again, he felt hoarse. His heart pounded in his chest as he stepped into the room.
She leaned against the countertop and inclined her head at him. Her eyes looked large and bright and they seemed to stare straight into his soul. "My name is Audrey, but you may call me Sire."
Her voice sent shivers down his spine. He felt paralysed, fascinated by her eyes and her figure in the form-fitted dress, but afraid to approach her. But he could still speak, just like he had done all weekend. "And what are you doing in my kitchen drinking my juice, Sire?" The sarcastic tone was a futile attempt to regain control of this preposterous situation.
"It's my kitchen and my juice. And you're mine too." Her eyes held him captive as she moved towards him, leaving the bottle of juice open on the countertop. She made slow, stalking steps, making no sound whatsoever, as if she wasn't really there. Her voice however was almost tangible, like a cloud of perfume wafting towards him and intoxicating him. "Didn't I tell you to take your tie off?"
Involuntarily, his hands pulled his tie loose and opened up the top buttons of his shirt. The way she held his gaze took up all his attention, he felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a truck. But he still managed to defiantly ask: "What do you expect from me?"
She forced him back against the door frame, grabbing his shoulder with one hand and cupping his jaw with the other, the tip of her finger stroking his five-o'clock shadow. "I want you to whimper and wince." She whispered in his face. "You may pretend to be the godfather among vampires on these weekends, cold and calculating, playing the other players like puppets on strings. But I know what you really want."
He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes. She had him cornered with her gentle touch, no possible escape, no way to resist, except for his words. "Why do you think you know what I want?" His voice was coarse and raw.
She giggled. Her voice turned into a slow, drawn-out sing-song. "Are you sure that's the question you want to ask? Don't you want me to tell you what you really want?"
His heart pounded in his throat and no matter how hard he tried to swallow it back down he felt dizzy, despite his back against the wall. "How would you know?" The words came out of his mouth far more shaky and choked than intended. He could feel her fingernails on the skin of his throat and it made him sweat.
She pulled up her leg and pressed her knee against his thigh, slowly pushing up towards his crotch. "How would I know you?" She laughed again as she brought her lips closer to his face. "After all the time I've spent following you. Watching you. Reading you. Molding you." Her hand closed around his throat, her fingernails digging into his skin. "After I've crawled through your dreams into the recesses of your mind. Like a song you love but haven't heard in a long while. How would I know, indeed."
When he opened his mouth, she put her finger on his lips while making soft shushing sounds, clenching his throat with her other hand. He winced and tried to wiggle his hips to get his erection further away from her knee. It made her chuckle and he finally opened his eyes.
"Look deep into my eyes, Sam." She blinked once to draw his attention. "Your resistance is running out. And no matter how smart you are, you delicious boy, in a battle of your will against mine, you have no way of winning. Surrender to me. You are already slipping. Why would you prolong this agony?" She licked her lips as she let go of his throat.
The world around her swam out of focus and a feeling of vertigo made him sway on his feet. A sigh escaped his lips. Why were his arms and his body so heavy? It was strangely hard to think, as if her piercing stare penetrated his mind and pushed out all other thoughts. Although… not all. A detached feeling came over him, as if he was sitting on the couch watching Sam standing there, pinned against the door frame. As if he could see how his eyelids started to droop and his jaw went slack as she stared him down. As if he could see how helpless he was against her power and how much it turned him on. It was not just her leg against the bulge in his trousers, and not just the intimacy of her breath on his face and the way her hands touched him. He was overwhelmed and that aroused him most of all.
"Good boy…" She blinked once again and as she smiled her long fangs became visible. "You are mine, aren't you?"
"I am yours, Sire." The words fell from his mouth in a breathy whisper he couldn't control.
"You cannot resist me anymore." She grinned and her eyes smiled.
He felt weak and shaky. He hardly recognised his own voice responding to her. "I cannot resist you anymore."
She let go of him and took a step backwards while her gaze still kept him pinned. "You are my helpless thrall."
"I am your helpless thrall." He leaned heavily against the doorframe, his knees were too weak to hold him upright anymore.
"Give yourself to me then, thrall." She commanded.
His arms moved automatically, his hands reached up to open his shirt collar and bare his left shoulder. His eyes closed and his face turned away to offer the left side of his neck to her. "Please take me, Sire."
For a moment, everything was silent as she stared at him with delight in her eyes. And then she embraced him and sank her fangs into his neck to drink.
A sinking feeling came over him as his knees buckled and his eyes rolled up into his head. It was so much more than a sensual kiss, there was such unexpected euphoria in being drained, as if the lethargy growing inside him was made of warm light. He let out a moan of pure abandon and then everything went dark.