Rafaela shoved him away, breaking his hold on her. Chest heaving, gut taut, she did her best to ignore the fact she wanted him. She always did. Even after he ravaged her family, killing some, turning others, she couldn’t resist his touch.
“I have work to do, Dirk.”
“Why, Rafaela? It’s almost Christmas.”
“No rest for the wicked.”
“And I would know.”
Her smile was tight, forced. He took a step away, shaking his head.
“Thanks to you, I have to find new accommodations. Someone burned crosses on my lawn.”
“What did you do to upset the neighbors this time?”
He turned to her, eyes sad. For a beast of his caliber, the sight was alarming. Rafaela took a step back, stance defiant.
“Must we always do this? Every time we see one another, we fight.”
“Maybe that’s because our vocations are diametrically opposed.”
“Oh, stuff it, Ella. You could kill every vamp in the world, and probably will. It won’t change the fact I love you and you love me. Will you cut a guy some slack?”
“You kill, people, Dirk.”
“So do you, Rafaela. Case in point, three friends of mine only today.”
“They were monsters, just like you.”
“I’m a man. Grant you, an undead one, who feasts on blood. . . . But I’m no more of a monster than you are.”
“You killed all my friends and their guests.”
He pointed at her, angry. “An assumption. Yes, I had a snack.” He peeled a dried patch of blood from his chin flicking it away after examining it. “But I didn’t kill anyone. Check for yourself. Your friends are fine. Unconscious, but alive.”
“Then who’s that?” She pointed to the blood stain on his shirt.
“Female guest about twenty-six, busty. O positive with an undertone of A. Very tasty vintage.”
“And you swear she’s alive?”
“Alive and sleeping. I do have some scruples, Ella.”
“Why did you come here?”
“I’m lonely. I thought you might like to spend the holidays together.”
Rafaela rolled her eyes, laughing. Dirk didn’t laugh. His eyes were solemn, his mouth in a soft, full bow. He took her hands, gazing into her eyes, Fortunately, vampire Hunters were immune to mesmerizing, but he still had the uncanny abilities of a human man. Dirk was nearly a hundred and fifty years old. He knew how to get around a girl’s defenses. He’d done it successfully with her for nearly a full century and he knew exactly what buttons to push.
“Please, Ella. I may be a monster, but I still don’t want to spend the holiday alone.”
In point of fact, neither did she. Since she had no idea where most of her family was, she had no one to spend time with. A hundred years of vampire slaying had kept her from making friends with the humans around her. She’d found out the hard way that friendships made you vulnerable and got innocent people killed. She’d forged relationships with other special people, like Claudette and her family, reluctantly. They were better able to defend themselves if an irate vampire came calling.
“You can pretend that you aren’t lonely, Rafaela. But I know you are. Hell, I’m lonely too. What you do is far harder than what I do. I survive, even lead a fairly comfortable existence from time to time. But you—my love. . . . You work so hard, hunting a race who wish only to coexist.”
Rafaela’s face had softened as he spoke, but when he said this last, her expression hardened once more.
“You say that after you devoured my little sister in her sleep? After you ripped out the throat of my brother and turned my parents? You attacked and killed half my family, the other half you turned into monsters like yourself. That is not peaceful coexistence.”
“I didn’t say it was peaceful.” He smirked, raising an eyebrow.
Rafaela rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. “How can you make it into a joke when I don’t feel like joking?”
“Because our existence is a joke, as is life itself. The irony that we should meet and fall in love does not escape me. In fact, it haunts me daily.”
“No, that’s just me tailing you.”
“Why don’t you just end it, Ella? You say you’ll kill me every time we meet. You promise death, yet you don’t deliver it. Why do you string me along?”
Rafaela blinked, drawing herself up as she gazed at him. “You want me to kill you?”
“I didn’t say that.” He flashed a toothy smile. “Please, spend Christmas with me.”
She sighed, shrugging. “Why not? There’s nothing else for me to do. But conditionally.”
“All right.” He sounded dubious, but intrigued.
He pouted, hands in his pockets. “But you love it when I bite.”
She didn’t address that comment. “You know what I mean, Dirk.”
“Obviously.” He held up his hand as if swearing on a Bible. “I swear. Won’t dine on humans while we are together. But a light snack of stored blood. . . .”
“Is acceptable.”© Dellani Oakes 2105