Under Cover of Darkness
By Laura Feltyberger
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Lesson One

Michael Darnay woke with a tremendous thirst. He made his way into the bathroom for a sip of water. The water tasted funny, like it was spiked with lemon juice. Then he remembered one of his first lessons since coming here to live with Sedrien and Gavriel.

“You may drink or eat normal food, but I would advise that you do so as little as possible; only enough to keep up appearances.” Sedrien had lectured. “Your vampire body will not like much of it, and what you may feel up to consuming will not taste the same as you remember. Your hunger now is for blood. I will teach you to feed on strong emotion eventually because it is more humane and safer for us as well.”

Michael drank more water despite the sour taste. He’d drunk blood last night-- from a bottle rather than a living victim-- and the taste of it lingered on his tongue, taunting him.

“It’s easier to start this way. You’ll have to learn to hunt, but for now this is more convenient.” Gavriel said. He had a connection who sold him blood from the blood bank. He even kept some at the club, a dangerous proposition. He called it his private reserve and it was locked up in his office, stored in a wine bottle for camouflage. Michael now knew that Martine had been drinking it the night they met. Gavriel had fed him the bottled reserve in small rations, allowing Michael to become accustomed to the taste. His hunger had grown, and tonight Gavriel would teach him to take from a living donor.

Michael’s head had reeled for the first few days after his rebirth. The revelation came that Gavriel still lived on blood alone, while Sedrien possessed the same ability Martine had: the ability to drain sorrow and suffering from a victim. Because Martine had given him her blood and her life forces, Michael would also be a Psionic. But he had to crawl before he walked, and that meant he had to learn to feed on blood before he could take emotion.

Gavriel knew the seedier side of Manhattan and knew it well: where to find black market blood, where the underground vampire clubs were located and which were safe, which clans and gangs operated in what neighborhoods. Of course he knew where to find willing victims, the ones who enjoyed the drain of blood and relished it. Tonight Gavriel would introduce him to a human who would teach him the fine art of seducing a victim.

Gavriel led the way into the noisy club. It was formerly a warehouse on the river and retained much of the original decor. It wasn’t The Captive, but then again they wouldn’t find their quarry at The Captive. Kids dressed in designer rags with rainbow colored hair lounged on cable reels and wooden skids as the industrial music blared. Gavriel looked out of place here, but still dangerous enough that no one approached him. A girl with fuschia spikes of hair grabbed at Michael’s jacket, trying to detain him. He wrenched his arm free of her grasp and ducked around a corner to catch up with Gavriel.

Gav was talking to a woman at the end of the makeshift bar. She wore a short black dress with green stockings. Her shaved head sported a tattoo of a dragon that wrapped around from one temple to the other. Various chains and cords wrapped around her neck and wrists; silver rings lined the edges of both ears from the lobe all the way up; her hands were decorated with henna. She eyed Michael as Gav whispered in her ear. When he finished speaking she left Gavriel and walked deliberately toward Michael. Taking his hand, the girl led him deeper into the bowels of the warehouse.

“Why do I feel like my Father just bought me my first hooker?” Michael asked.

She laughed. “I’m much better, Baby. Trust me.” They entered a room that may have once been an office. Much of the space was taken up by a huge oval basket chair with a worn black cushion surrounded by bright satin pillows. The girl fell back onto it and invited Michael to join her.

“Don’t worry, Baby. You’re safe here. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” She slid her shoes off and they hit the floor with a loud clatter. She raised up on her knees and pulled Michael by his lapels to the edge of the chair. He took her hands and lowered them.

“I don’t know if I feel right about this.” he said.

“Baby, I know this is your first time, but you need to know how to feed yourself. You can’t live on the bottle. I’m doing this because I like it, not just because Gavriel paid me. After all, I could have refused him if I wanted to.” she touched the corner of his frowning mouth with her short red fingernail. “I’ve had a lot of feeders in the past, and most are lousy at it, no finesse. I have a chance to make sure you learn how to do this right.”

That got a smile out of Michael. “So what now?”

“Sit down, get comfortable. Feeding is kinda like when your mother breast fed you as a baby. We should both be comfortable.” She laid back in the cushion, holding a hand out to him. Michael put one knee into the cushion and lowered himself beside her. He took off his jacket and tossed it aside. She snuggled up to him.

Her fingers went to the buttons on her dress, opening the tight black garment to reveal a thin black silk chemise underneath. She undid the tangle of chains around her neck to reveal a pattern of scars along her neck and collarbone where previous patrons had fed on her. Michael touched them gently.

“They don’t hurt, they just look like they do.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I don’t want you to either.” she chuckled. “I’ll make sure that by the time you leave here tonight you won’t hurt anyone else you try this with.”

His fingers traced a soothing gesture across her throat, over her scars. She shifted a bit and sighed.

“That’s good. A gentle touch is always nice. I think you’re gonna be a natural at this.” She watched the crease between his brows deepen as he stroked the marks on her neck.

“You’re Psi aren’t you?”

He looked up. He had no idea anyone who wasn’t Psi themselves could tell.

“How did you guess?”

“It’s in your eyes, that pain that newborn Psi’s get. Who saved you, Baby? What was her name?”

A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Martine Darnay.” The silver chain beneath his shirt shifted and he felt the heat of the locket against his skin.

She placed a wayward lock of his sable hair behind his ear. “I never met her, but Gavriel spoke of her. I’m sorry for your loss.” She stroked his cheek, bringing his face closer to her. “I can make you feel better, if only for a little while.”

Michael took her hand away from his face and studied the winding vine pattern tattooed on her skin. Beneath the reddish brown stain he could see the blue of her veins, luminous and inviting.

“Can you smell the blood? It’s waiting for you. “

He did smell it: rich and deep and sweet. The scent was even stronger at her throat. Two arteries ran there and the urge to sink his teeth into her was strong. But he was determined not to hurt her. The man he had once been prevented his animal nature from taking over.

Michael put his mouth on her collarbone, kissing the scars as if he could heal them with that soft touch. She sighed and arched her neck.

“That’s good, take your time. If you lure her with desire, she’ll welcome your vampire’s kiss. She may not even notice the marks, just see it as a love bite. Slow and easy,...”

Michael kissed down her throat and collarbone and lower. He licked the skin between her breasts, smooth and unblemished. He looked up at her, eyes closed, head thrown back against the cushions. His mouth descended upon her again.

If she hadn’t been waiting for it she never would have felt the pinprick sensation of his bite. He was good, good enough that she’d welcome him back again. She looked down and saw him licking blood against her white flesh. The sight struck a chord deep inside her, and she held him to her chest as he fed.

She stopped him before long. She could only stand so much blood loss in one night. Michael was only her second feeder, but he would be the last for tonight. She let him feed a little longer than she would anyone else; he was fresh, and he needed more.

After he quit feeding he lay beside her, his head pillowed on her stomach as her blood raced through his veins. She stroked his hair absently, letting the dizziness settle. She took a piece of hard candy from her pocket and sucked on it. When his rush had subsided he sat up on the edge of the couch. The hunger he had felt earlier had waned. He felt stronger, more in control.

“What’s your name, Baby?” she asked.

“Michael Darnay.” he said. She blinked at the name. She sensed his grief when he used Martine’s name as his own.

“I’m Winni. Any time you need me you just ask. I’m all yours.”

He helped Winni to sit and put her shoes on. They walked back through the warehouse arm in arm, Winni leaning on Michael for balance. He helped her to a seat at the bar where the bartender placed a plastic cup of orange juice in front of her. She gestured to Gavriel who leaned forward to hear her over the music.

“He’s the best I’ve had yet. Are you sure I was his first?”

Gavriel stared at Michael wide eyed. Michael was watching a young girl in a tiny dress dance precariously in five-inch stilettos. He recognized the hungry look on Michael’s face. Michael walked over to her and swung her into his arms, a predatorial gleam in his eyes.

“He’s precocious for his age.”

End of Lesson One

Lesson One
 Lesson Two
 Lesson Three
 Lesson Four
Lesson Five

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