Free Read: Gathered Here This Night
This was originally published as part of Just One Bite, Volume Four, a short vampire romance anthology, put out by All Romance. The anthology is no longer available and rights to individual stories have reverted back to the authors. It was written in 2011. Just keep that in mind.
Gathered Here This Night
Ada Maria Soto
Simon leaned against the balustrade and looked out at the city lights. He wondered how they would look in a week. Would they be darker, brighter, would they sparkle in the same way, or would they be dull and flat? He let himself sway slightly to the music coming through the bay doors. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Not that Simon could have told you that just a few years earlier but it was one of Anne’s favorites. The big hit of 1901. Simon always told her she was showing her age. She’d give him a shove and tease him about his Nirvana albums.
He heard her bare feet on the rough tile of the balcony. She was telling him she was there. Her arms slid around his waist and her cheek rested against his shoulder. “What are you thinking about?” she asked.
Simon turned around and pulled her close. He placed a kiss on the side of her head. She’d cut her hair short again. She said it was the same bob she’d had in 1922. He took a breath and wondered how she’d smell in the morning. He hoped that it wouldn’t change too much. To him she always smelled sweet. She sighed contently against his neck. With her breath he felt himself filled with certainty and knew it was time. “I was thinking…”
“I was thinking, we should get married.”
Anne pulled away and levelled a look at him. Simon tried to hide the fear of her refusal even though he knew it was useless.
“You do know what’s happening tonight, right?” she asked.
“I mean after you turn me into an undead, bloodsucking, creature of the night. I think we should get married. You know, have our friends there, my family.”
She raised a single perfectly arched eyebrow. He was sure she’d been practicing that move since 1966. “And you just thought of this?”
Simon slipped his hand into his pocket. He’d first thought about it about five minutes after they met. If it weren’t for the whole vampire thing he would have proposed years ago. Possibly on their first date.
“You get to put permanent claim on my ass in a few hours, I think I’m within my rights to ask to stick a ring on your finger and give dirty looks to all the men who are going to be eyeing you up for the rest of eternity.
“Within your rights?” She gave a ballsy little head shake she’d probably picked up in the 70s.
He grinned then pulled a velvet box from his pocket and dropped to one knee.
“Anne DeLay, fairest thing under the moon light whom I love, quite literally, more than life itself, will you do me the honour of allowing me to marry you?”
He opened the box. Anne gave a little squeak and put her hands to her mouth. He’d spent a year looking for the right ring. He found one that had a large opal surrounded by emeralds and diamonds and held in place by sculpted gold flowers and the hands of two beautiful women. The dealer assured him it was made in 1890, the year Anne was born.
“You really want to marry me?” There was a tiny quiver in her voice.
“More than anything. I was thinking the rose garden in the park just after sunset. We can get a judge or maybe one of our friends could get one of those Universal Life Church things. I’m going to have the rest of eternity to spend with you and I want…” Simon swallowed hard. “I want to do it as your husband.”
Anne blinked away a couple of tears then nodded and held out her hand.
Simon could feel his own pulse begin to calm and knew Anne could hear it. He wasn’t actually sure what he would have done if she’d said no. He slipped the ring on her finger. Her hands were cold but they’d be warm soon enough. She’d glut herself on prepacked blood so she could control herself when the time came. Simon had laid in the stock himself, type AB and a bit of O.
Early on he’d been told of changes gone bad, of souls that fought too hard and bodies that didn’t survive the change. To Simon the stories sounded less supernatural and more like immediate hemolytic transfusion reaction complicated by hypovolemia and shock. So along with making sure she’d be a blood type match to him he’d also subtly set aside plasma, adrenalin, some extra type AB, abacavir, type III Interferon, and a defibrillation cart that was due for retirement. He knew it wasn’t particularly romantic or ritualistic but he was a doctor first and initiate vampire second. He wanted to get through the night some flavor of alive.
Anne pulled him roughly to his feet and he stumbled, trying to keep his balance. Soon that wouldn’t be a problem either. He’d be able to match her strength for strength. She kissed him, driving him into their loft. He ran his tongue along the points of her fangs which had already dropped. He loved the way it made her moan and heat up. He wondered if his own fangs would be as sensitive.
They collapsed onto their bed, her hands slipping under his shirt and his working their way under her dress. He rolled over pinning her beneath him. There was a knock on the door.
Simon closed his eyes. “It’s Meg,” he mumbled.
“Maybe if we ignore her she’ll go away.”
“I can hear you two in there,” Marguerite d’Anduza called from the other side of the door. “And I can smell the two of you down the hall.”
Simon groaned as Anne wiggle out from under him to open the door. “You two should be saving it for later,” Meg admonished as she swooped in.
“How ya’ doing, Meg?” Simon asked.
Meg smiled at him. “It’s not 1349.” That was her standard greeting. Simon could only assume that 1349 had been one bitch of a year. He wondered if in seven centuries he’d be standing in front of some terrified mortal and saying ‘Hey, it’s not 1994’ (Cobain died, his dad split, and Jenny Thompson kicked his ass so hard he cried in front of his class).
Meg shrugged off her coat revealing a flowing black dress that was moulded to her figure and pooled around her feet. Simon blinked a few times. It was the first time he’d seen Meg in anything but jeans.
Simon was still trying to unrumple himself when Anne decided to show off her ring. Meg turned a sharp eye towards him. “Young man, you and I need to have a little chat.”
Simon didn’t try to hide his fear. He’d learned that you can’t hide emotions from people who can hear your heart race and smell your sweat. And he was afraid. Meg might have only been five foot two but she had seven centuries and royal blood behind her. And as leader of Anne’s undead coffee club if she decided not to like him things could get tricky.
Officially they called themselves a coven. Simon called them the coffee club. They got together every week or so, poured themselves blood, wine, or occasionally coffee and proceeded to gossip about what was in the news or bitch about how things were so much better when they were young (except for Meg who’d been through a couple rounds of the black plague).
Before Meg could start the interrogation there was another knock on the door and Roderick let himself in. Simon relaxed a little. Roderick was the only male in the coven and easily the least blood thirsty of the lot. If anyone could keep Meg from killing him outright it was Roderick. He was dressed in skin tight black everything with black eyeliner and black nail polish, which meant he hadn’t dressed up at all.
He looked around. “Okay, who did what?”
Anne held out her hand. Roderick gave a squeak possibly an octave higher than Anne’s then turned to Simon. “Oh sweetie, we need to talk.”
“That’s just what I was saying.” Meg pointed towards the kitchen door and Simon went where pointed.
“You two are not allowed to hurt him in any permanent fashion,” Anne called out just as the door swung shut.
Simon turned to face the jury.
“You proposed to her.”
Simon could feel the cold radiating from Meg’s stare. “Yes, I did.”
“And being bound by immortal blood isn’t enough?”
Simon took a very deep breath. “No. It’s not. I love her. As important as this is, it is, at the end of the day, a biological exercise. I want to stand up in front of people I care about and let them know that I love her.”
Roderick all but melted. Meg squinted at him. “Love fades. Passion, lust, most of these things do not make it through even one mortal lifetime. What makes you think you won’t be begging for a divorce in 50 years?”
Simon had the answer to that question ready. He’d assumed Anne would be the one asking it. “Because I like her too. She’s my best friend. She makes me happy. She makes me laugh. Even if there wasn’t lust or love I’d want to go through tonight because I want her in my life. But there is lust and love and that just makes it better. Makes it special. Makes her special.”
Roderick was making little cooing noises. Meg still looked like she wasn’t buying it even if Simon’s heart rate was telling her the truth.
Simon wasn’t sure how to explain. He stared up at the kitchen ceiling still smudged black from Anne’s last cooking attempt. “When I was about three months into my residency I was going to drop out. I was miserable. I couldn’t do anything right, I couldn’t answer any questions right, the nurses hated me, the other residents hated me, the patients didn’t like me, I’d just lost all mojo. I didn’t know how to be a doctor and I didn’t know how to be me anymore. Then one night I’m down in the ER at about three in the morning, the place is filled with drunks and I turn around an Anne is standing there and she is wearing this little black dress and I mean little. You could have stuck the whole thing in a standard sized envelope. She looked like a goddess. And if that wasn’t stunning enough in each hand she had a pizza. She walked over to me, dropped the pizzas on the nurses’ station, gave me the dirtiest kiss possible and walked out, right in front of everyone. And after that…” Simon gave a little shrug. “After that the mojo came back, I got good at being me again. Now any woman who’ll show up at your work dressed like a sex goddess is special and worth keeping, and any woman who will bring you double pepperoni to work at 3 AM is special and worth keeping. One that will do both and offer immortality? I am many things but I’m not an idiot. Anne is one in a century and then some and I truly, honestly love her. I just hope she loves me or at least doesn’t get tired of me too quickly.”
Roderick yanked him into a hug. Simon struggled for breath. “Oh, sweetie of course she loves you.” Roderick let him go but still held him at arm length. “I have known Annie since she was breaking in her first fangs and believe me she has crushed more men under her stilettos than I have and in half the time. She never once said one word about putting someone through the big makeover until she met you.”
Simon hadn’t known that. He knew she hadn’t made another vampire but not that she’d never even considered it.
Meg sighed. “I am afraid he’s right. Anne has always shied away from the idea of offering the change to anyone. At least until you showed up.”
Simon knew that couldn’t just be a matter of romance. While Anne had never shared the details he knew she hadn’t been given the option of becoming what she was. The knowledge that he was the first person she was willing to go down this road with puffed up his ego just that little bit more.
“I will do my best to make sure she never regrets it.”
“Damn right you will.” With that parting comment Meg left and Roderick pulled him into another hug.
Simon was sure the coven was screwing with him, that this was some sort of hazing. They were standing around chatting, sipping wine and mostly ignoring him. He felt like he’d wandered into someone else’s cocktail party.
He took another sip of his orange juice and tried to keep calm. He could feel his heart pounding so hard that he was sure the completely mortal couple across the hall could hear it.
Simon heard a throat clear. He turned and saw Anne standing behind him. He could have died from just the sight. She was wrapped in the same dress as the first night they’d met. It was dark blue like a summer sky at dusk. It hugged her body and flowed around her knees. It had been at a jazz concert in the park and she had been standing there by herself, just moving to the music. Simon watched her move for an hour before getting up the courage to go to her and say hello.
The room got quiet.
Meg approached and Anne went to her. Simon put down his drink and stood up straight.
“Doctor Simon Anderson, we have all gathered here this night to ask a question of you. Tonight you will, if you agree, be killed and, with luck, resurrected into a new and extended life where you may see the stars in a thousand years but you will never again see the sun. Do you accept this offer?”
“Yes.” Simon didn’t even hesitate. His eyes were locked on Anne but what he saw was forever stretched out in front of him with her by his side.
Meg turned to Anne. “Anne DeLay, do you agree to give of your blood to bring this man to the other side and then guide him with the wisdom of your greater years.”
Anne smiled. Simon’s heart swelled. “Yes,” she answered her sweet voice ringing through the room.
“Then so it shall be.”
A heavy chair was brought over and Simon sat. He felt Roderick’s hands on his shoulders. He knew at some point his body would panic and he would fight and it would be Roderick’s job to hold him in place.
Anne stood in front of him. “Are you sure?” she asked one last time.
“Yes.” Simon reached up and brushed her cheek. “I love you. No matter what happens tonight.”
“I love you too.”
Simon’s heart gave an extra thump in the middle of its racing. He started to pray to anyone listening that he would get to hear those four words again. He was aware of the audience as Anne’s fingers went to the buttons of his shirt. Her fingers were warm and felt so delicate as she caressed his chest.
She pulled the shirt over his head then straddled his thighs. She gave a wicked little smirk and Simon just knew she wasn’t wearing underwear. He pushed down the sudden desired to call a halt to the bloodletting and just drag her back to bed.
She kissed him. Her lips tasted of blood and her mouth was hot. Simon knew it could be their last kiss or the first of millions. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist. He breathed deep trying to pull in her sent and flavor. She pulled away from the kiss and rested her cheek against his before placing small gentle kisses along the line of his jaw.
Finally her lips started to work their way down his neck. Simon held her tight.
“I love you,” Anne whispered against his throat. He felt more than heard the words and then her fangs slipped in.