Forbidden Alliance A Werewolf's Tale
Author:Danae Ayusso

Was I seriously going to dinner with a vampire?

I looked over at Tanis; his attention was on the road while his fingers agitatedly drummed against the steering wheel.

Huh, I guess I am.

“So, this isn’t awkward at all,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Tanis asked without looking at me.

“Well...you’re super quiet all of a sudden. Is that because you’re tired of spewing out whatever’s in your head or because I make you nervous?” I growled and snapped my teeth at him.

He laughed. “Ooh scary.”

“Sarcasm noted.”

“It is the spewing thing,” he admitted.

“Ah, I don’t mind. It’s refreshing to find someone who’s completely honest, even when they shouldn’t be, and even if they only want me for my body,” I teased and he laughed but didn’t deny it...or confirm it. “Bellingham’s a better choice,” I said, trying to change the subject since that one was suddenly making me slightly depressed and really self-conscious. “I don’t feel like running into anyone from the Res.”

“Ashamed to be seen with a vampire?” he mused.

“No. I was thinking of your reputation. If you hadn’t noticed, not many people like me. The ones who do are either the few friends I have, my family, or those trying to get in my pants. But enough about me,” I said and smiled wide; I just couldn’t find a damn topic that didn’t make me uncomfortable. “So you’re a vampire?”

Tanis rolled his eyes but nodded.

“And you eat human food?” I pressed.

“Is this going to be a Q and A thing?” he asked, sounding slightly amused, slightly apprehensive, but mainly cautious.

“Yes,” I sang and batted my lashes at him.

“I will only answer your question if you answer one of mine in return,” he countered.

Damn it...that sucks! But I’m curious. What’s the worst he could ask?

“Deal,” I said.

Tanis smiled wide, his sexy eyes beaming with excitement. “I can eat human food, however, not all of us can,” he explained. “That is why me complexion is darker than the others. The nutrients from the food help to maintain me body, keeping it more humanlike...more human than most, me mum says. It also keeps me body temperature warmer than theirs; I am not as warm as you, but warmer than the others...it is caused by the slowed circulation,” he explained before I could ask, and he pressed the back of his hand against my cheek.

I fought to keep from moaning; the temperature was comparable to walking in the rain in the summer, the sensation that the warm wind caressing your skin causes to roll up your spine...I liked it much more than I should have. Most noticeable wasn’t the temperature of his skin, rather, it was the softness of it; it was like refreshingly cool cashmere.

“I suppose the human diet speeds up me circulation more,” he said with a shrug, pulling me from the perverse fantasies that were starting to drift into my head. “That is why you were able to bloody me lip so easily when we were playing football.”

“I’m sorry about,” I apologized again but my words came out as a timid whisper.

He lowered his hand and I fought the whimper of disappointment building in my throat.

“No worries,” Tanis said. “Believe it or not, vampires are not hard as stone, and some of us are rather soft and squishy,” he teased and I giggled. “So, my turn,” he teasingly sang and smirked when I groaned.

Uh oh...I don’t like the expression on his face.

“Why are you here?” he asked. “Not on earth. Not in Washington. But here, and more specifically, with me. You know that I am a vampire, and you know what my main diet consists of, and yet you are here with me. Alone. Why?”

“Hmm…” I said and pretended to think about it. The answer was so simple...so simple in fact that it was embarrassing. “I’m not scared of you, if that’s what you’re asking,” I blurted out as I scrambled to find an answer that wasn’t a complete lie but wasn’t as pathetically embarrassing as the truth-truth.

Tanis looked over at me and cocked an eyebrow.

“I could totally kick your ass if it came down to it,” I smugly informed him.

That was it, he laughed.

“Thought you’d like that,” I mumbled. “Do you promise not to laugh?”

“I promise.”

Dignity was going out the window.

“As strange, and unbelievable, as this is for me to say,” I said softly, studying my hands, “I trust you. I think it has to do with the way you look at me.”

Tanis swallowed loudly. “What do you mean? How do I look at you?”

I smiled despite myself. “You don’t look at me as if I’m dinner, if that’s what you’re wondering,” I teased and he shook his head. “Honestly, you don’t look at me like everyone else does. Yahto and my family look at me as if I’m a delicate doll or something. Everyone else looks at me as if I am an outsider, an abomination who shouldn’t be allowed to live. And the men look at me perversely. You, however, don’t. Is it because I’m not like you? Because you don’t find me attractive? Because you’re gay?” I shrugged and he softly snorted. “Either way, it’s nice and a much welcomed change.”

“I am not gay,” he assured me.

“Didn’t think you were,” I informed him. “You look at my boobs too much to be gay.” I winked when he blushed. “My turn! Why did you move here?”

Tanis ran his hand through his hair and looked out the windshield more intently than needed. “Because of me sister,” he answered quietly. “Vampires have to maintain an inconspicuous lifestyle, obviously. Even with modern society’s fascination with vampires and the mythical world, and their overly active imaginations and seeming acceptance of vampires…what they perceive and have insultingly coined vampires…there is still an unspoken law of our kind that demands our existence remain in the shadows and out of the perceptions of humans.” He sighed, shaking his head; obviously that was the wrong conversation to bring up.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “You don’t have to tell me…you can use a lifeline if you want!” I assured him with a face-consuming, completely fabricated, smile.

Tanis looked over at me from the corner of his eye and chuckled once, humorlessly. “I will reserve my lifeline for another time,” he informed me with another chuckle, a genuine one. “Our coven is more inconspicuous than most because we do not actively hunt humans…feed on them to the point of death,” he explained when I gasped. “We stroll... While we were in Paris, Georgiana got a little carried away at a party and ended up draining four people; one was a politician’s daughter. Needless to say, because of that clanger we had to leave in a hurry.”

Holy shit!

That wasn’t what I was expecting to hear.

Huh, and here I was under the delusion that vampires aren’t as bad as Hollywood, the elders, and history has made them out to be.

Oops, my bad.

“Oh,” was all I could say, and even that was nearly impossible to articulate.

“Are you scared now?” he asked quietly, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.

“No.”

“Liar,” he said and sighed. “I am not like me sister. Honestly, I cannot stand her and have tried to stake her more times than I can remember. Vampires are every bit as terrifying as you were led to believe. However, some of us are different from the others. I will not hurt you, I promise you! I have not taken a human life from feeding in over two hundred years.”

That’s good to know.

“How old are you?” I asked.

Tanis wagged his finger at me in a scolding manner. “It is not your turn, cheeky bird.”

“Whatever,” I huffed, rolling my eyes and pouted, causing him to laugh.

He slowed the SUV and pulled into a parking spot that had just opened up in the front of a nice restaurant, cutting off another vehicle.

“Wait, why are you stopping?” I demanded in a panic, looking around and fought to keep from snarling when the driver of the car Tanis cut off started to get out of his vehicle.

I will rip your throat out if you lay on finger on him, I silently growled.

“We are having dinner,” Tanis reminded me—tone noted—and apparently he wasn’t at all concerned by the potential human drama he caused with his European styled James Bond parking stunt.

“But I can’t afford this!” I argued, my eyes going between him and the pissed off man fast approaching from behind us.

Did he not hear me when I said McDonalds?

Tanis rolled his eyes and got out of the SUV.

“Hey!” the other driver yelled. “You cut me off!”

Tanis looked over at him and cocked an eyebrow, his top lip snarling upward, revealing his small, white fangs, and the man, who was easily six inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier, paled considerably and immediately started backing away from him. Tanis continued to glare at him, a soft snarl of a growl rolling from the base of his throat until the car peeled out and sped away, running three red lights in the process.

“Bloody wanker,” Tanis hissed under his breath.

That was interesting and kind of hot.

He then opened the door for me, once the apparent danger had passed, and a warm smile filled his face. “I am taking you to dinner and I do not do fast food,” he smugly informed me.

I continued to sit there with my arms crossed over my chest and chin jutted out; I rather deal with the pissed off giant whose spot we took then deal with the smug vampire looking at me.

Tanis may not do fast food but I don’t let people pay for me.

“I will throw you over me shoulder and carry you in there like a pouting nipper,” he warned.

Unfortunately, I knew he was serious and would do just that.

I huffed and got out of the SUV, causing him to laugh.

“There’s no way we’re going to get a table,” I amusingly informed him, eying the line inside.

Thank god! One awkward situation and argument avoided.

“Miss Jay Dee, it shall not be a problem,” he smugly informed me.

Tanis held the door open for me and waved me inside. I wasn’t dressed for a place like that. Hell, I still had axel grease under my nails! But the annoying vampire testing my patience was oblivious to it.

“I shall return momentarily,” he said and winked at me, then headed towards the hostess.

“Jackass,” I mumbled and he chuckled under his breath; obviously his vampiric hearing was better than I thought it was.

Tanis leaned over the podium and the hostess gazed longingly into his eyes and her mouth fell open slightly but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.

What in the hell? Ew, flirting much?

After a minute, Tanis looked over his shoulder and motioned for me to join him. To my surprise, we were escorted to a private table in the back of the crowded restaurant which was quiet, secluded, and really romantic.

Either he’s going to kill me or seduce me...please be the kill me thing. I don’t think I could resist him if he actually made an effort to seduce me! Ooh, that is so, so bad. I can’t believe I just said that! Huh. Do I want to be seduced by a vampire? Actually, Tanis isn’t vampirey at all...then again, what is? Should he be faster than a speeding bullet, sound the like Count from Sesame Street, and be cold as ice and sparkly? Ugh! If he was any of those things I would have kneed him in the balls for taking my seat in Creative Writing before siccing the boys on him. Damn it, I’m so out of my element right now but the seducing thing could be interesting.

Stop thinking about Tanis seducing you! I mentally scolded over and over but it did very little to alleviate my nerves.

Once seated and alone, I leaned across the table, closing the distance between us. “How did you do that?” I whispered, looking around to make sure that we really were alone—I didn’t want to share him, and was secretly hoping for the seducing Jay Dee thing.

“Do what?” he asked, seemingly uninterested and looked at the menu.

There was an air of confidence, pride and superiority, smugness and old world refinement about him that annoyed me, but strangely turned me on at the same time. When he was a smug jackass like that, I wanted to hit him; but when he opened the door and ordered for me, helped me with my jacket or did something overbearingly chivalrous like that, it turned me on.

I had issues.

“Get us a table like that!” I softly snapped at him, annoyed by his smug, hotness. “Did you give her a big tip or something?” I demanded under my breath; I hated it when people threw money around frivolously.

“No, not exactly,” he said, still sounding uninterested.

I softly growled under my breath and he chuckled.

“Flirting, figured as much,” I mumbled and leaned back.

Since the vampire across the table from me was irritating the shit out of me at that moment, and I was having problems not envisioning choking him out while attacking his pouty, sexy, velvety looking lips with mine, I looked around the restaurant, trying to look at anything but Tanis. The restaurant was nice, cozy, and romantic—as nice and romantic as you could find in an out of the way town like Bellingham I suppose. I had heard of the place but had never been there before. Nineteen-dollar appetizers and thirty-dollar main courses were not something I would spend money on.

When Tanis noted that he was irritating me, and that I was still growling at him, so he smiled. “Flirting?” he asked, overly amused, trying to steal my attention.

Of course it worked, it always did.

“I assure you, Miss Jay Dee, I was not flirting. It is a vampire thing,” he teasingly informed me.

“Huh?” I asked dumbfounded and he chuckled. “Explain...please?”

“I am not supposed to reveal the secrets of my people,” he said ominously with a mischievous smirk pulling at the corners of his sexy lips.

I leaned across the table, batted my lashes, and pouted my bottom lip out. I’ve never been good at flirting but I wanted to know everything about him.

Tanis laughed, shaking his head at my antics, and pushed my pouting bottom lip back in with his finger so I snapped my teeth at it. He quickly pulled his hand back and laughed even harder. “You are a naughty little bird,” he said, then licked his lips—maybe I wasn’t as bad at flirting as I thought I was. He leaned across the table, closing the space between us, his eyes moving over my face many times. “It is called thrall, or compulsion, depending on where you are from or how old you are,” he explained. “Thrall gives the wielder the ability to put a suggestion into someone’s mind.”

I’d only heard of stuff like that in books.

I guess all of those hours of mindless reading weren’t in vain after all.

“So you thralled the hostess into giving us a table?” I surmised.

“In essence,” he said. “I suggested that my name was on the top of the reservation list thus that is what she saw.”

Damn, that’s impressive...and seriously messed up.

“So it’s evil?” I blurted out.

“No,” he said and laughed again. “I mean, I suppose it could be used for evil. Then again, everything can be used for evil if you think about it. Like you for instance, you are the embodiment of evil and yet you do not even realize it,” he informed me.

My head tilted to the side. “What do you mean?” I asked the obvious.

The mischievous smirk was back and his eyes worked over my face many times. “You have no idea just how very evil you are. You possess an innocence which my presence has never had the honor, nay, the privilege, of being blessed with before, and that is what makes you so very evil,” he amusingly informed me and his finger softly started brushing against the back of my hand.

“Oh,” was all I could say, and even that I struggled to articulate...that vampire was one to talk! He was obviously the evil one between us. “Are you flirting with me?” I asked because I honestly couldn’t tell.

The smirk became even more predominant on his face. “Me? Never,” he purred and I lost the battle and whimpered which caused him to chuckle. “Back to your initial question,” he said, reassuringly patting my hand in an almost parental manner. “Usually thrall is a means of causing mischief or a tool for protecting oneself from humans…it is easier to thrall them into thinking that they cut themselves shaving than having them try to explain fang marks on their wrists.”

I snorted, rolling my eyes. “Nice,” I scoffed and he smiled; Tanis wasn’t nearly as funny as he thought he was.

“Romeo uses thrall to get laid when needed,” he said. “Usually he does not need to, however, sometimes mothers and daughters need persuaded into…never mind,” he said and cringed, effectively wiping the smirk from of his face, making him appear as an average, embarrassed, run-of-the-mill teenage boy. “Do you know what you would care to order?” he mumbled, his cheeks flushed from embarrassment.

“Ew,” I said, making a face. “That’s a mental picture I could have lived without.”

“My apologies,” he said, and a small, sheepish smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Remember, Miss Jay Dee, you make me blurt out what is in me head. What would tickle your fancy this evening?” he asked, motioning towards the menu in front of me which I still hadn’t looked at.

I rolled my eyes, opened the menu and promptly closed it.

“No.”

“Yes,” Tanis sang.

“Why?”

“Miss Jay Dee, I asked you to dinner,” he said as if it were obvious, because let’s face it, it was really damn obvious. But what wasn’t obvious was the reason why.

“Mr. Ashton...Tanis, you have to give me something here. A reason. Please.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Because I asked you,” he said, sounding unsure, as if he was trying to figure out where my question was leading.

I shook my head. “No. That isn’t good enough. Give me...you have to...why? You just met me! If you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of a freak show…ask anyone, and…I mean…I don’t know what else, but you’ve gotta give me something here...other than dinner. Please,” I practically begged, whined and pleaded all at once.

The things that silly vampire reduced me to doing.

Tanis nodded, seemingly understanding my qualm. “Because I asked you to dinner,” he said with a warm, reassuring smile. “It has been far too long since I have enjoyed a meal with someone, let alone someone that...” he paused, his eyes moving over my face many times before he smiled fuller, seemingly finding what he was looking for, “…someone that is such intriguing company.”

I snorted; he was so full of it.

He shook his head, appearing mildly amused yet slightly frustrated. “As strange as this might be for you to hear,” he whispered, “especially coming from a vampire who is over three hundred years old, I find you very interesting and I enjoy your company very much.”

That was the most romantic thing I had ever heard in my young life…and that admittance was pathetic on so many levels that it wasn’t even funny, but pathetic-ness aside, it made me feel really good but super paranoid and suspicious at the same time.

“You’re so not getting laid,” I accidentally blurted out and instantly cringed, quickly hiding my flushing face behind the menu.

Tanis laughed, shaking his head but didn’t say anything.

God, could I make myself look more pathetic and stupid if I tried?

When the waitress came over to take our order, Tanis motioned to me so I reluctantly opened the menu and looked.

Great, no pressure!

“Ladies first,” he teasingly sang so I kicked him under the table, getting a grunt in return.

Cheap, cheap, cheap. What’s the cheapest thing on here? Oh God, there’s nothing cheap on this damn thing! Eleven bucks for a plate of soggy lettuce tossed with dry shaker cheese!? You’ve got to be kidding me! I’ll just get a stupid coke…Jesus, that’s five bucks! This cannot be happening. I got ten bucks…crap. Maybe he’ll let me owe him the dollar and change for tax and tip if I get the stupid salad...I hate salad. Damn it! I’m so hungry I could eat three of their signature forty-dollar steaks. Ugh!

“Um…” I nervously gnawed on my bottom lip, trying to find the courage to ask if it was okay to pay him back the buck and change difference for the salad.

Tanis raised an eyebrow, his head tilting to the side to regard me as if he could read my mind.

Oh shit! He better not be able to read my mind…if he sparkles in the sun, that’s it, I’m staking his ass myself!

“Caesar salad?” I meekly ordered and instantly cringed when Tanis made a disgusted, scoffing sound—that I foresaw.

“No,” Tanis said in a clipped tone. “We need another moment. Please bring us a bottle of Baroli Barolo,” he ordered, his voice soft and velvety and, once again, I fought to contain the whimper building in my chest.

“Can I see your ID please?” the waitress asked and nervously tucked her hair behind her ears.

Lovely. Just because I’m a werewolf doesn’t mean that I’m a goddamn ancient. I’m only seventeen! Oh, that isn’t good. He’s over three hundred years old…that makes me jail bait and then some! Well, that answers that. He took me to dinner simply because he’s amused by the little wolf girl...by the young kid sitting across from him. Since I can’t keep blurting stuff out, can’t keep from undressing him with my eyes, can’t stop envisioning attacking his lips with mine…that sucks. Jay Dee, you were obviously giving yourself way more credit than you were due.

Tanis looked intently at the blushing, flirting, young waitress and I fought the snarl that was suddenly tugging at my top lip, and I bit my tongue as it fought to growl that he was mine. Tanis smiled when the waitress made eye contact with him. His pupils completely dilated, covering the beautiful blue and silver with black. “We are both twenty-one,” he said in a deep, sexy voice. “Thus there is no need for you to verify our ages.”

“Oh, okay,” she said breathlessly as her chest frantically rose and fell with each rushed breath that broke past her lips, tiny beads of sweat dotted her hairline, and she licked her dry lips. You could smell the heat rolling from between her legs and it was stomach turning; nothing screamed romantic dinner like the stench a slutty waitress.

I slid the butter knife off of my napkin and my hands painfully wrapped around the shiny metal, quickly turning it into origami under the table. I was seriously envisioning phasing right then and there so I could rip her throat out.

“Would you like a complimentary bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne?” she asked, inching closer to him.

Touch him, I dare you! I mentally hissed.

Tanis looked from her to me and his brow furrowed. “No thank you, the red will suffice,” he said dismissively and waved her away. When the waitress was gone, he leaned across the table. “Is something wrong, Miss Jay Dee?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head; thoughts that dark and animalistic were as foreign to me as the possessiveness and attraction I was feeling towards the vampire on the other side of the table. It scared me that I was having such dark and bloody, homicidal even, fantasies...all of which obviously revolved around Tanis... No, not revolved around, he was the source of them! I was certain of it, and I wasn’t entirely sure if I liked that or not. No creature, especially a man for that matter, should have that type of influence over someone, just like thrall.

“It doesn’t matter,” I mumbled. “Was that thrall?” I asked, changing the subject, and opened my eyes and looked at him.

He smirked, possibly sensing that I was about to go all wolf girl up in there and needed a distraction, and by God, he was damn sexy when he smiled like that—a kid in a candy store caught stealing and trying to talk his way out of it—so of course it was the distraction I so desperately needed. “Yes,” he said, batting his lashes at me. “Rather impressive, is it not?”

“No shit,” I snorted. “Make me do something,” I said, and bounced up and down in my seat. Now that was interesting and helped to push the dark thoughts from my mind.

Tanis cocked an eyebrow. “Like what?” he asked apprehensively.

“Nothing I’ll kick your ass for,” I strongly suggested with a smirk.

“Very well,” he said with a dramatic sigh before looking intently into my eyes. Again they dilated and the beautiful silver-streaked blue was replaced with black. “Order something and do not fret the price,” he said, his voice was beyond sexy and like velvet as the words rolled from his lips. His warm breath washed over my face and caused me to bite my bottom lip as a screaming line of desire shot through me—that was a first and it was more than welcomed.

Yes, Tanis’ suggestion was suggestive and, by far, was the sexiest thing I had ever heard, but there was nothing there that would make me do what he was telling me to do.

“Miss Jay Dee, do not fret the price,” he continued. “Simply order whatever you wish. You may even order one of everything if it tickles your fancy,” he purred with a smirk.

Huh? Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of mental intrusion or something clouding my mind and telling me to do it? I mean, the tickling thing is a suggestion that I’m more than supportive of...bring it back to the appropriate, Jay Dee. You’re getting as bad as that skanky waitress who was practically dry humping his leg!

I’ll admit, I wanted to do what Tanis suggested simply because he asked me to, but at the same time, I wanted to bite him because of what he was telling me to do...because he was telling me to do something! Had he never been around strong werewolf women before? We don’t take kindly to being bossed around. If anything, it was a one-way ticket to an ass kicking.

“Anything you want,” he repeated, then licked his lips.

The annoying vampire didn’t play fair.

I snorted, rolling my eye. “No.”

“Wait, what?” he stammered, confused. “No, what?” he asked, shaking his head to clear it, and his pupils contracted, revealing the beautiful blue that swirled with metallic silver when he was excited, but at that moment they swirled with confusion.

“No,” I mockingly sang. “I’m not going to order one of everything just because you said I can. You really are pushy and bossy,” I informed him and his eyes widened. “And let me give you some words of wisdom, Old Man; strong women don’t like being bossed around, regardless of how charming the man that’s doing the bossing is. Honestly, I don’t know what the deal is with those other broads, but that wasn’t very convincing at all.”

Tanis leaned back and pushed his hand through his hair in frustration; his expression was masked with confusion and fascination. “I cannot believe that did not work! I put a thousand times more effort than needed because of how bloody stubborn you are.”

“Hey!” I whined, throwing my napkin at him.

He ignored me; Tanis was obviously consumed with the failing-to-thrall Jay Dee debacle.

“Huh,” he huffed, sounding aspirated. “You must be immune to it...or extremely hardheaded, thus immune to it.”

I made a face at him and he chuckled.

“It is rare, not entirely unheard of for someone of my age, but very rare,” he continued. “However, it is hard to tell though because your eyes are black. Usually I can confirm effectiveness when the subject’s pupils dilate. However I cannot tell with you.”

I huffed. “So I’m broken. Lovely.”

“No, not at all, Miss Jay Dee,” he assured me. “It is a very, very good thing. Especially with Romeo around, he has taken notice of you.”

My mouth fell open; Romeo had taken notice but not Tanis—that sucked.

The waitress returned with some bottles of imported water and the wine with two glasses, and instantly I was glaring at her again.

“We will take one of everything on the menu, minus soups and salads, with dessert and dessert wine,” Tanis ordered, never taking his eyes off of me and smiled smugly when I turned my attention, and glaring, from the waitress to him—now I was glaring for an entirely different reason.

You had to give the smug vampire credit, he was smart. I would say that he should have been because he’s over three-hundred-years-old, but I’ve known some five-century-old werewolves that acted like five-year-olds, so age obviously had nothing to do with having brains.

The waitress pushed her chest out and huffed, trying to get his attention. “I get off at nine,” she whispered.

“Sod off,” Tanis snarled, startling her.

It took all of my conscious effort to keep from doing the happy dance and singing at the top of my lungs that he just blew a skinny twenty-something off so we could be alone.

“I applaud your effort,” I absently said, watching from the corner of my eye as the horny waitress disappeared into the kitchen to put our order in; I was rather confident that she was crying.

“It was nothing really,” he informed me, his tone made it more than obvious that he was being a smart ass, and, yet again, it stole my attention.

“You’re a smart one,” I said and he nodded, “ass,” I quickly added and he chuckled. “You’re a smart ass. But enough about you…” I tried to sneer but ended up smiling when our eyes met.

Tanis nodded and brushed against the side of my foot with his. “I will give you that, sometimes I can be an unmitigated and comprehensive arse,” he said and I fought to keep from swooning—everything he said with that sexy British accent of his was hot; there was no way he didn’t know that he was turning me on. He was a vampire after all, so his senses should have been as heightened as mine...possibly even more since he was so much older. “I quickly figured out with you, Miss Jay Dee, that I mustn’t give any options and simply do as I wish, yet I must offer a give to me take so I do not appear, as you put it, bossy.”

Damn it. I can’t argue with him there.

“Have you had Italian before?” he asked, and opened the wine.

I shrugged, watching him curiously.

“You must allow the wine to breathe,” he explained and I nodded even though I didn’t know what in the hell that meant.

“Mom’s spaghetti and Chef Boyardee,” I admitted, answering his initial question, and instantly wish I hadn’t; now I was making myself look like bleached out reservation trash.

Tanis chuckled. “See! Consider this an educational experience. You will sample various pastas, sauces and Italian cuisine, enjoy lovely wine and phenomenal company-”

“Who, coincidently, is the epitome of humility and modesty,” I dryly added and he smiled wide.

“But of course! It is a date with a purpose,” he teasingly informed me.

Wait, did he just call this a date? Oh my god! I’m on my first date and I didn’t even realize it!

“This is a date?” I asked, wanting to confirm what I think he just said.

His cheeks flushed an even deeper shade of rose. “But of course. I am dressed to impressed and you are,” he looked up at me and smirked, “good company.”

I rolled my eyes and pouted.

So I’m nothing but entertainment for the bored old vampire?! That’s just great. If that’s the case, why didn’t he hit up one of the girls who were desperately trying to get his attention and in his pants in Creative Writing or Gym? At least they would have put out instead of silently staking claim to him like some kind of possessive alpha male in a pack of bitches in heat. Seriously, why would he bother with the werewolf outcast of the Lhaq'temish? Obviously he either has too much time on his hands or he’s not right in the head. Yup, that’s my awesome lack-of-luck; I go on my first date at almost eighteen-years-old, with a three-hundred-year-old vampire nonetheless, and I’m merely here for his entertainment.

Whatever.

Not thinking about it, I grabbed the glass of wine in front of me and drank it in two unladylike gulps. It wasn’t bad, I wasn’t used to drinking wine, sometimes Jack and beer but that was only on rare occasion, and I motioned for a refill.

“Are you going to be okay to drive since you’re drinking?” I asked; it would the responsible thing to be concerned with, not the most important thing, but the only one that wouldn’t make me look any more pathetic or desperate than I already felt.

“Yes,” Tanis assured me, refilling my glass.

Thankfully the appetizers came; I was so hungry I could eat the ass end of a horse. Again, Tanis dismissively waved away the waitress who was so desperately trying to get his attention and dropped the paper coaster with her phone number on it that she discreetly slipped under his napkin to the floor.

That’s so damn hot.

He handed me a small porcelain plate and motioned towards the appetizers covering the table. “Me system processes alcohol differently than yours,” he said, addressing my drinking and driving concerns. “It would take many, many gallons of wine for me to even feel squiffy.”

That was an interesting bit of information, and obviously a major difference between vampires and werewolves: werewolves got drunk as shit just as a human would, gallons of overly priced wine wasn’t necessary. I saw Jarvis get shitfaced off the two cans of Pabst he stole from our uncle’s cooler when he was fourteen.

“Why do it then?” I asked.

Tanis absently shrugged. “I suppose I drink it because I enjoy the taste of a fine wine...it reminds me of home,” he added the latter as more of an afterthought. It was more than obvious that his mental and verbal filters were suddenly missing, and that he just admitted something that he possibly hadn’t spoken about in centuries. It made me feel good that he was so comfortable around me that he could open up, but it scared me at the same time because it made me as vulnerable as he was inadvertently making himself. “Clean water was not something that was in great supply when I was a nipper, thus we would have wine with nearly every meal.” He absently swirled the wine in his glass, intently watching the dark red liquid slosh around in the delicate crystal stemware as it formed a small vortex.

“How did it happen?” I whispered.

Again, he shrugged but I don’t think that he actually heard my question.

“I mean...you didn’t bite yourself and turn into a vampire, right?” I clarified and nervously picked up a bread thing that was on one of the plates and sniffed it.

Tanis looked up at me and chuckled. “It will not bite,” he assured me before snapping his teeth at me and I blushed. “No pun intended, of course. It is Bruschetta,” he explained and I cocked an eyebrow so he clarified, “which is crostini with tomato, basil, garlic and fresh mozzarella. Splash some of olive oil on it since that is how the Italians eat it. And to answer your question, I did not bite meself. Me sister and I were bitten by our older brother who had been turned eight years prior. d’Artagnan was the eldest of nine siblings.”

My eyes widened as I slowly chewed, trying to swallow the lump in my throat so I didn’t choke on the overly priced Italian food.

“Sickness swept through our village, killing nearly three-quarter of the villagers. Only meself, Georgiana and d’Artagnan survived in our family. Fearing for our livelihood, d’Artagnan went in search of a wealthy bride. He found one, however he found more than he was bargaining for: she was a vampire. Eight years later, when I was barely nineteen years of age, he turned us and we have been vampires ever since.” He looked up at me. “Not the romanticized tale that you were expecting, was it?”

I shook my head before I could stop myself.

A small, sad smile pulled at the corners of his mouth but it quickly fell so he turned his attention back to his wine. “Hollywood and lonely spinsters with too many cats and a typewriter have romanticized vampirism into something dark and sensual yet beautiful; a way for love to last for all eternity; a means to never have to say goodbye; a commercialized means to push one’s sexiest and undermining to a woman’s worth religion on the unwitting preteen masses. But very rarely do you hear of the penned tale of one’s own brother that viciously, like a starved, blood crazed animal, sank his fangs into the flesh of his own little sister and brother, force feeding his polluted blood into their mouths, forcing them to forsaken all they knew and once loved. Like a thief in the night, he took away our futures and the destination which awaits everyone: the serenity and absolution of death.” He looked up at me and the ancient sadness and regret that was so very visible in his eyes caused mine to tear up.

“I am so sorry,” I whispered. “About your sister and what your brother did and...your family and...” my words trailed off; what was there to tell him that he hadn’t already heard countless times before throughout the centuries?

Tanis laughed once, humorlessly. “Thank you, Miss Jay Dee, but there is nothing to apologize for, and as for me family, they died long ago. I do not remember their names or what they looked like; memories fade with time. It is a give and take...you give up your past to embrace the dark gift. Georgiana wanted it and I did not. However, d’Artagnan did not give us a choice, as usual.”

I gasped; Jarvis would have never done anything like that to me, and I wouldn’t have done it to him...we loved each other because that’s what family was: love.

“Well, I suppose he did give us a choice,” Tanis said, bringing his glass of wine to his lips, “however when I said no, he took it as a yes and did what he wanted,” he snarled the last part before taking a drink, draining his glass in two gulps. “Do I hold ill-will towards him?” he rhetorically asked, refilling his glass. “Not anymore. A part of me got over it after the first century, but there are always those moments that get me knickers in a twist. Are you enjoying the food, Miss Jay Dee?” he asked, changing the subject.

“It’s good, thank you,” I whispered, not even remembering what the appetizers tasted like; hell, I didn’t even remember eating any of them. I was too wrapped up in the story of Tanis Ashton and the overflow of ancient emotions that wrapped around each word that left his lips to worry about myself, food, or my empty stomach.

“Think nothing of it,” he said with a warm smile.

Thankfully, the rest of dinner was filled with lighter conversation. We laughed, teased, told jokes and talked shit to each other, but most importantly, we were both smiling and it was simply because of the other.

Dinner was...it was the perfect first date, it honestly was. I sampled off of every plate. To my amazement, everything was delicious and it was the perfect way to have dinner—not that I’d ever admit to Tanis that he was right. By the time dessert came, five or six bottles of wine were gone and I had moved my chair next to his so we could share the delicate desserts...that was my excuse, honestly, I couldn’t stand to not be near him any longer. And I don’t know what made me do it, most likely it was the wine, but I did, I flicked a spoonful of chocolate mousse at him, hitting him in the cheek with it.

“Miss Jay Dee, this is a fancy restaurant,” Tanis scolded with a smile.

I pouted my bottom lip out. “Sorry. Want me to lick it off?” I teased.

His eyes widened so I did just that, I licked the little smudge of dessert off of his cheek.

When I was done, I smiled at him but his eyes were closed and he wasn’t breathing, and my smile fell. “I’m sorry,” I instantly apologized.

“Do not apologize, Miss Jay Dee,” he said and opened an eye, looking over at me. “That was most enjoyable. I guess we should have started with dessert,” he purred.

“Ha ha,” I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Goddamn wine.”

“Goddamn wine indeed,” he mused, licking his lips.