An ancient melody carried down the river as Dmitri washed off the stench of several days of hiking. It had the distinct cadence of an opera score. He hopped out of the river. He’d been following the echo of that song for three years, but this was the first time it was as clear as the fresh autumn air.
Dmitri could feel the pull in his veins. Renee was close.
After she’d disappeared three years prior, he’d searched for her in every myth, superstitious legend, and snippet of folklore he could find in the annals of small-town historical societies and rural libraries. All signs pointed him to the Green Mountain National Forest in rural Vermont.
As he reached into his rucksack for his clothes, he heard something rummaging through his camp. He wouldn’t stick around to find out what it was. He’d been stalked by enough vampires to know the signs. This one was not Renee, and it was not friendly.
Dmitri abandoned his quest for clothes. He slipped on his boots, grabbed his axe, and ran.
Every day he was in these woods his blood got richer, he got more sluggish, and the creature that was stalking him got less patient.
But Dmitri wouldn’t give up. Before entering the forest, he could only remember the song in snippets. Sometimes he’d dream part of the melody back into existence. But the moment he stepped into the woods, Renee’s song hitched to his pulse as though his heart was the metronome that drove the score.
Whatever that was, it wasn’t normal. Renee knew it too, that’s why she’d disappeared.
But if he didn’t find Renee in the next few hours, he’d be forced to let the vampire following him feed just to stay alive. Dmitri wasn't confident he could overpower the vampire in his condition. He’d already pushed his body past its limits.
When Dmitri was twenty-three, he was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare blood condition that caused him to produce too many red blood cells. He required blood withdrawals once a week to keep from getting fatal clots.
Although his overly rich blood was poison to him, it was like catnip for vampires. Renee wasn't immune. She’d smelled him from twenty miles away. She’d saved him from a vicious attack by one of her own kind.
If Renee was as close as he thought, he wouldn’t have to find her. She would find him. He just had to stay alive until she got to him.
What was taking her so goddamned long?
Dmitri chopped through the underbrush. Dark spots clouded his vision, but he wouldn’t let it slow him down. He looked around the woods, hoping for some sign of Renee other than the increasing volume of her song.
A branch snapped not one hundred feet behind him. The music went silent. He froze. The music had never gone silent before, not since it first started. The darkness of the forest closed in on him.
He was at least fifty miles from the nearest highway. Up until this point, Renee’s song had felt like protection and courage. Without her protection, he was nothing more than prey for any hungry predator that sniffed him out.
The vampire’s icy hand gripped his shoulder as its fingernails drew blood along his collarbone. Dmitri shoved the butt of his axe backward and ran downhill until he tumbled into the middle of a narrow dirt road.
The vampire was catching up quickly. Dmitri looked in both directions. He heard tires crushing the soft rocks up the winding road. Those cold as ice hands wrapped around his throat again. This touch was nothing like Renee’s. This touch was death.
"I like the lively ones,” the vampire said as it hopped on Dmitri’s back and fought him for access to an artery.
The lights of a car bounced over the treetops. The vampire turned toward that light for a split second. Dmitri put all his force into the backward swing of his axe. He lodged it in the vampire’s shoulder.
It wasn’t good enough. It had to be a full decapitation, or he’d keep coming back. Dmitri didn’t have the strength to pull the axe from the vampire’s back and swing again. The vampire knew it.
The vampire walked toward him, hovering over his wobbly figure. His turquoise eyes and auburn hair were so beautiful, Dmitri almost forgot what kind of creature he was. He almost forgot that he wouldn’t show him mercy. The vampire pursued him swiftly, not deterred by the axe hanging out of his shoulder.
A car flew around the bend in the road right as the vampire pinned Dmitri to the ground. Dmitri heard the car accelerating as it approached. He didn’t have time to think. The car swerved left, then right as the driver clipped the curves, kicking up a dust cloud that made it nearly impossible to see. Nearly, but not quite.
Dmitri shoved the vampire as hard as he could into the car’s path and covered his eyes as the wheels skid to a halt. He heard the thud. When he opened his eyes, the creature was gone.
Dmitri pulled himself to his feet to inspect the scene.
The car was a classic beauty, an old 1967 Jaguar E-Type. The door opened and the opera started again, so loud now that it was like an entire orchestra was reverberating through the symphony hall of his body. Dmitri covered his ears but couldn’t get away. His head started pounding.
Dmitri saw Renee’s red stiletto heels first, then her wide-legged trousers and revealing halter top.
“That’s going to cost you,” Renee said, inspecting the man-sized dent in her hood.
She looked just as stunning as the first time he’d seen her. She was tall and slim with fire red hair, dark red painted lips, and unblemished skin. Even out here in the sticks, she had a certain grace about her. That beauty he’d come to dread in the others, he could only adore in her.
“You idiot,” she slammed the door shut. “I told you to stay away.”
Dmitri stepped toward her before collapsing to his knees. He couldn’t move. His nose started to bleed from the pressure of the loud music building in his head. He needed to get to the hospital and fast. No. He didn’t need a hospital anymore. He just needed her.
“And you brought company too. Who’s your friend?”
“Not a friend,” Dmitri said, out of breath.
Renee moved quickly and stealthily through the trees. She pulled the vampire by the ear and dropped him to the ground in front of Dmitri.
“Not a friend, indeed,” Renee said, gripping the axe in his back.
She placed her heel on the creature’s back and pulled the axe out. He groaned and fell to his face.
“That’s going to leave a bruise. What’s your name, ‘not a friend’?”
“Been nibbling for long?”
She turned back to Dmitri.
“No wonder this monkey was clinging to your back. He’s just a child. Mind telling me what you two are doing in my woods?”
“I followed him,” Joplin said.
Renee sauntered to Dmitri.
“I thought I told you to take care of yourself so creatures like this don’t come sniffing.”
“You mean creatures like you?”
She drew her finger through the blood dripping from Dmitri's nose and licked it.
“You’re a mess. Where the hell are your clothes?”
Dmitri smiled, “It’s good to see you too, sweetheart. Miss me?”
“How’d you find me, Dmitri?”
“How do you think? I followed the song.”
“Impossible,” Renee crossed her arms.
“About that. It’s so loud right now, I can’t hardly hear a word you’re saying. Could you turn down the volume or something? God, I’ve got a splitting headache.”
Renee lifted his chin until their eyes met.
"Sing it to me.”
“I don’t have much of a singing voice. Not like you.”
He had heard that Renee sung opera in Florence in the seventeenth century, and he believed it.
“Sing it anyway.”
Dmitri hummed the melody as best as he could manage. As he sang, Joplin fell to one knee and placed his hand across his heart.
“I apologize, Renee. I didn’t realize he had your protection.”
Renee turned to Joplin, "I obviously haven't done a very good job of it. Let's call this a misunderstanding."
“Thank you,” Joplin bowed his head.
“But if you don’t get off my mountain in the next five minutes, we’ll call it trespassing. Understand?”
Joplin stood to leave.
“Tell the others he’s mine. And remind them that I don't like company.”
He nodded and fled down the mountain.
“So then, about you.”
“I’m yours? Are you finally ready to claim me, Renee?”
Dmitri barely finished speaking when his eyes rolled into his head and he black out, surrounded by that music. Renee swooped down and caught his head before it hit the ground. She pulled his head to her lap and stroked his hair.
“Ridiculous man. You really should have stayed away.”
Renee picked up his arm and sniffed from the vein at his wrist to the crook in his elbow. She traced that overused vein in his arm until his cock started to twitch awake. Dmitri grabbed his cock and groaned.
"That’s what I thought. Faker.”
“It’s so goddamned thick, Renee.”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
Renee ran her hand to Dmitri’s cock. His heart beat so loud at every pulse point that his entire body felt like it had been hit by a defibrillator.
“Please, do it fast. It’s too loud.”
“Do what fast?”
“I am not your doctor.”
He shook his head, losing consciousness. She smacked his face so hard he came to.
“I want to sleep for a while.”
“I don't think so. I think it's time to wake up, Dmitri."
He groaned, then nodded.
"The way you are now, bloated with all this blood, I won’t be able to hold back. When you reach that line between heaviness and lightness, pull me off. Promise?”
He gasped awake when Renee wrapped her icy cold fingers around his neck and licked the line of his artery up his neck.
"Promise?" she whispered.
"You won't kill me."
"There are worse things than death, Dmitri. Promise me."
Renee swaddled Dmitri against the fabric of her clothes. She sunk her teeth into his neck. He could hear her singing in that glorious contralto and the pain, the fatigue, that incessant pounding in his head all started to fade away. Her song spun through his veins.
“I’ve been dreaming about your bite."
“Is your cock always hard in your dreams?”
“Always,” Dmitri smirked.
He shifted onto his knees and straddled her across his lap, giving her better access to his neck. He pulled her hips forward. She gasped off his neck and looked down.
"I don't remember you being this bold in Boston."
"You scared the shit out of me in Boston."
"You should be even more scared now."
"You've been serenading me for the last three years, Renee."
"Exactly. You should be terrified."
Renee sunk her teeth deeper into his neck and drained the blood that was poisoning him. She drank until the heaviness lifted, his strength returned, and the song grew louder.
As all the blood pulled up his body to her lips, his cock rose sharp and greedy between his legs.
Renee moaned and rubbed against his shaft. The way her feeding made him feel was unparalleled. She wanted his blood inside her, and he needed to put it inside her any way he could, every way.
Dmitri unbuttoned her pants and pushed them to her knees. He slid his cock to her icy cold, wet center and her song filled him so completely that he thought it might break him. He needed to bury himself in her until she was almost warm, almost human, until that song softened to a lullaby. Dmitri wrapped his hands under her ass and picked her up, feeling better than he’d felt in weeks.
He leaned her against the hot hood of the car as she greedily feasted on his neck. He thrust his hot cock deep into her center. She moaned and sucked so hard he felt the drop immediately.
This was the space between heaviness and lightness. Dmitri had to stop her, but he wanted to float a little bit on those high notes. He wanted to feel that airiness as he fed her. He pulled his cock to her entrance and thrust again. No one felt like her. He could feel his blood warming her. He could feel – shit. His fingers were tingling. He was going to faint again.
He knotted his fist through her hair and pulled her off his neck. She growled and hissed as she released.
He wiped the blood off her lower lip and pressed his lips to hers, lapping his tongue over hers, battling her for that last taste of his blood. She bit his tongue, moaning and sighing into him, letting him replace her blood lust with his passion. He released her lips. Renee stared at him with clear eyes.
Dmitri thrust deep inside her once more before collapsing his head to her shoulder.
"I can feel you shrinking."
"Brutal," Dmitri laughed.
“You pushed it too far. I warned you,” Renee said.
He shook his head.
“Just give me a minute to recover.”
“You’re too weak. Get in the car.”
He shook his head but was too tired to protest.
She crawled out from under him and grabbed her pants from the road. Dmitri leaned over the hood of the car. Her song was still present, louder than ever. He could feel her needs building in his body. Could she hear it too?
“Do I need to carry you?” Renee asked.
He knew she could. She was at least three times as strong as him when he was at full strength, despite her slim frame and his muscular physique. He shook his head and took a deep breath.
“Don’t try to be a tough guy, alright? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve carried you.”
“A guy has his dignity, Renee.”
She brushed the dirt off her knees.
“Suit yourself,” she climbed into the driver’s seat and watched him struggle.
Dmitri used the car as a crutch as he made his way to the passenger side and collapsed into the leather bucket seat. Renee pulled the seat belt across Dmitri’s lap and grabbed a scarf from the glove department.
“With your chiffon? Do you think this is our first meeting? You’d never forgive me.”
“I’ll never forgive you if you die in my car, weakling. Besides, the smell of your blood is distracting enough without you having an open vein right next to me.”
Dmitri pressed the scarf against his neck. She was just as spunky as he’d remembered her.
“You’re not taking me back to the city are you?” Dmitri asked.
“There is no going back, Dmitri.”
"Because I'm yours?" Dmitri smiled.
“Don’t give me that smug look as though you’d been planning this all along.”
“Three years I’ve been looking for you, Renee.”
“Am I supposed to be impressed by that? Three years is hardly a good night’s sleep.”
“In human years, it’s not an insignificant commitment. Consider it a romantic gesture.”
“Let’s talk about that song.”
"What about it?"
"How long have you heard it?"
"Since the first time you touched me in Boston.”
“You didn’t say anything.”
“I didn’t exactly know anything about your kind. For all I knew, every vampire walked around with a symphony following them that only I could hear. But I haven’t heard it with anyone else. Only you.”
“Of course, you haven’t. You shouldn’t even hear it with me.”
“You make beautiful music, Renee. Honestly, it’s haunting. I couldn’t stop dreaming about that song and your cold lips. For the last three years, I’ve been sitting in the clinic every week with an I.V. in my vein wishing it was your teeth.”
She groaned, “Don’t say something like that, or I’ll pull over and feast on your groin.”
“Don’t say something like that, or I’ll let you.”
“And why are you naked?”
"I was bathing in the river, then I was being followed. I didn’t have time for clothes.”
“You managed your boots alright."
"Are you bothered by it?"
"By it, do you mean your cock?"
She glanced at his lap. His cock started to twitch awake.
"Maybe you should pull over, Renee."
"That’s not just a song, Dmitri."
"It’s a mating call. No one should be able to hear it except one person.”
“So, you have the hots for me too?”
“It’s not the same for someone like me. It’s not just infatuation or a desire to fuck. A mating call is much more intimate, permanent.”
Dmitri smiled, “You want to have my babies? Geez, that’s deep talk for a first date, but alright. Why the hell not? I mean, I didn’t exactly pack my condoms, and you said there’s no going back.”
Renee slapped him upside the head.
“Have you ever attracted a human with your mating call before?”
“Never. I’ve been singing that song for two hundred years.”
“You sure know how to make a guy feel special. So, there’s really no going back?”
“Why, have a girlfriend back home? A job you can’t live without?”
“Nothing like that. I came out here for you. I've been looking for you. I know what I want. I’m just afraid you’re going to leave again.”
Renee glanced at Dmitri.
“Where would I go, Dmitri? This is home.”
She raced up the mountainous road. She didn't put her foot on the brakes until she reached the driveway. A baroque mansion jutted up from the earth, starkly out of place with its surroundings. It looked like it had been there for centuries.
“This is where we live?”
Renee punched him in the shoulder.
“Punk. This is where I live. Don't start putting your name on the deed just yet.”
Dmitri got out of the car and wandered around the property.
“I’ll find some clothes for you,” Renee called out as she walked toward the front door.
“Got any apple juice?”
“Are you four?”
“I want to boost my blood sugar a bit, then I’ll be good as new.”
“Good as new for what exactly?”
“Mating or whatever. Now that I know you’ve been waiting to be fucked by me for two hundred years, it’d hardly be polite to make you wait another day.”
“You’re asking for it, kid. I didn’t say anything about waiting to be fucked. And two hundred years isn’t even that long.”
“Yeah, sure, but fucking some rando isn’t the same as fucking me, is it? I’ve got that hot, thick blood that turns you on.”
Renee blushed. He could get used to that. It made him stand a little taller.
“There are some fruit trees in the garden. You might find something ripe.”
Dmitri wandered around the property as the opera vacillated between softer and louder volumes depending on her nearness. He picked his way over the ripe fruit. Renee was probably feeding half the forest animals with her garden.
“I do rather like watching you walk around my gardens naked, Dmitri.”
He finished the apple and tossed the core before turning to her. She held out a white t-shirt and slacks in his size.
“Who did these belong to? Your last mate?”
“Are you jealous?”
"Of course. I’m only human, Renee.”
“I forgot how funny you are.”
“So, what now?”
“You put on your pants, and I try to make you scared straight. I try to talk sense into you. I try to convince you that being chosen by me is an awful fate.”
“Give it your best go, but the pants stay off. I don’t want to wear some other guy’s pants. And I want to see your eyes on me.”
“Been visited by many Joplins’ since I last saw you?”
“Enough to know you’re different. The young ones are the worst. They’re vicious and impatient and greedy.”
“You’re wrong about that, Dmitri. The young ones may be impatient in their approach, but those of us that have been around for a while are much more ruthless. Me, for example, I’d sing a song for two hundred years just to attract you to me. I’d keep you alive and at my mercy for the next sixty, seventy years, feeding off you regularly. I’d keep you just strong enough that you’ll live, just weak enough that you won’t be able to run away. I’d keep you on this mountain until your dying breath just for my pleasure.”
“That might scare normal humans, but you forget, if you don’t feed on me regularly, I’ll die of a blood clot in one week, two weeks tops. And you might get carried away sometimes, but I don’t believe you’d want me too weak to run. If I’m too weak to run, I’m too weak to fuck, and that wouldn’t please you at all, would it, Renee?”
Dmitri stepped toward her.
“I can hear you singing for me,” Dmitri wrapped his arm around her waist. “If I had known what it was, that no one else could hear it, I would’ve dropped everything the first time I met you and followed you here.”
“You don’t understand what you’re doing. Mating isn’t the same for us as it is for you. It’s not a one-time hookup.”
“Good, because that would make the next seventy years of feedings awfully boring.”
"What did you come here for, Dmitri?"
"You. You're not the only one who craves it, you know?"
"I want to feed you."
“You know I can’t turn you even if I wanted to. You’ll age, and I won’t. You’ll die, and I won’t. You’ll suffer, and I …”
“Don’t tell me you don’t suffer. I’ve looked into your eyes. You’ve known much more suffering than me.”
He ran his hand along her bare back.
“So, if you’re putting out a mating call then you’re fertile?”
She smacked his chest.
"And if I can hear it then that means you can have children with me?”
“They won’t be like you.”
“Good. I’m not a well man, as you know. I didn’t think I could ever have children. Can you imagine the little monsters we'd create?”
“I can feel your blood moving in my belly.”
Dmitri pulled off her shirt and rested his hand on her stomach.
“Just wait until you feel my come moving in your pelvis.” He reached for her pants, “Now, let me hear you sing.”