I’m waiting at the back table of the Rose and Thorn café near the display counter of muffins and raisin cookies, trying not to fiddle with my phone. It’s late. He’s late. A single attendant, engrossed in a holiday cookbook with a Christmas Tree on the cover, leans against the counter, occasionally jotting down things in a notebook. I glance out the window and spot the crescent moon, partially hidden behind wisps of clouds. It’s a dark night. I check my phone. My paper cup of black drip has long sat empty.
A bell rattles against the thick glass, giving away the overdue entrance of a man with a large aquiline nose, long fringe, and full-length coat. The attended is startled out of her list making. The newcomer scans the café and spots me. He smiles. I’m completely blown over.
He approaches me, hand outstretched. “Sorry, I’m late.”
I shake his hand. It’s cool, though it is cold outside. I’ve been waiting for over half an hour, but I don’t mind. There’s something completely alluring about Felix Domitius. Not too tall, but taller than me; not so dark, a little pale actually; and handsome, in a refined kind of way. But that smile, the light in his eyes when he sees me, I’ve got his full attention and it sends shivers through my body.
I know what he is. I’d hoped. I’d assumed. I was pretty sure now.
“Don’t suppose you’d like something to drink?” I ask, already guessing at the answer.
He shakes his head. “No, I’m fine.”
I scan the café again. Nobody but the attendant, who ignores us in favor of yuletide cookies and buttercream frosting. We sit at the table, across from each other. I drop my voice, lean toward him, and say, “I have some questions. I, ah, know what you are.”
Felix stills for a moment. His eyes bore into me. “Why do you want to know?”
Why. Not what. Not how.
“I’m an author, and I want some… authenticity. Even if nobody else knows it’s real.” I reach out, but don’t touch him. “I won’t tell a soul about you or that my information is true.”
He sighs. I bet he was wishing for a quick snack and a romp in the ol’ coffin. I’d still feed him (assuming it didn’t change me in any way), if he wanted. I’m always after new experiences.
“I’m so easy to peg,” he says, sounding almost put out.
I sit up straighter. “I’m not the first?”
He shakes his head. The dark fringe of his hair ghosts across his forehead. “No. I’ve had three other writers corner me as well. I should background check my dates to assure they aren’t writers.” He pushes my empty coffee cup towards the side of the table, as if trying to keep his hands busy.
I laugh. I can’t help it. Once I catch my breath, I say in a sultry note, “We can still have that date.”
His eyebrows raise at that. “Then, ask away.”
I nod and get out a notebook. “So, biting. Does that turn someone?” I felt this was a very important question to get out of the way.
He shakes his head. “No. A person must be completely exsanguinated and then fed the maker’s blood.”
I feel heat in my cheeks. “Well, guess the after-interview date shall include a bit of fun.”
His nervousness is gone as his grin goes feral. He leans forward. I catch a glimpse of his teeth, very white, with pointed canines, and the scent of sunflowers in summer. “Then, this will be a good exchange.”
“Sunlight, garlic, stake through the heat,” I continue, wishing for the interview to be over already.
He leans back again. “The rumors are all over-inflated. I am not dead until dusk. I enjoy spicy foods. But anything will die with a stake through the heart. I’m as vulnerable as a human.”
I didn’t quite believe that, but went with it. The man obviously needed to keep some things vague.
His hand goes to his neck, but I can’t see what he’s touching under his dress shirt. Some symbol of his devotion to a higher being? “Many of us are deeply spiritual. They say we have no souls, but who can define a soul? Is it measurable by scientific means? There is evil in all quarters. We have souls as any of you have souls. To suggest our existence is an affront to God is just another way for people to build up their fear of us. It seems everyone wants something to be afraid of. Living a safe life is boring.” He flashed his teeth again. That tingle of anticipation surfs through me. Would the bite hurt? Be pleasurable? How would I feel knowing I’d nourished another so intimately?
“Forever. Do you have forever?”
He shrugs. “What is forever? I know many elders who are very old, but age wears one out. The world changes so quickly, especially now, that I cannot keep up, and I am not so old. There is value in staid expectations. Now, so many things that were once undignified are commonplace.”
I could understand that. I wasn’t some young colt myself and the world baffled me. Which led me to—
“So, do you have a preference for sixteen-year-old innocents?”
He laughs again. I could just sit in the rain of his laugh and soak it all up for decades, letting it nourish my spirit.
“As a dalliance, some love the innocent. As a partner, someone to walk the road with you? I prefer experience and wisdom. Yes, the young as not as jaded. Every experience is fresh. That is a treasure that dissipates in those who have lived the ages. But I find I am understood better, that I feel more comfortable and compatible with those of mature years.”
He reaches over the café table, palms up. I set down my pen and let him take up my hands. “Please, understand. There is a depth of feeling in us. A depth of connection. We want to find those who can enhance us, who make us feel grounded or a part of a greater whole. We desire this above all else. If we find a person who can meet those needs, fill that gulf, it is a glorious thing and little else about the wrappings matter.”
“Sounds like some fated mates kinda trope.”
His brows bunch in confusion. His fingers gently squeeze mine.
“Well, like you are looking for a soul mate.”
The confusion dissipates, and he nods, rubbing his thumb over my palm. “Something like that. But it’s not just one person in the universe.” He hums a moment. “More like one type of person where we can find that connection.”
I lick my lips. His eyes follow my tongue. A connection. My heart beats hard and I can feel it pounding just under my sternum. A familiarity envelops us. I am suddenly hyper-aware of him, his touch, his summer scent, his intense gaze. “So, shall we save the other questions for later?” I ask, overtaken by everything, by the moment and the tension and the opportunity. But mostly by him and his earnest, open eyes.
I could turn away, but this evening I feel more alive. More free and capable.
“If it is your wish,” he says, his gaze roaming over my face, taking in who knows what information. His smile broadens. “I think I would like that very much.”
We stand, and together we leave the café and are welcomed into the night.