TITLE: thus far untitled
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
She was waiting for him at the bar when he came in for work. This surprised him; he knew her well enough – he prided himself on thoroughly researching his prey – but he did not think she knew him beyond a name and a face.
He shrugged off his coat and bundled it under the bar. “What can I get for you tonight, Phoebe?” he asked with a well-practiced smile. “It is Phoebe, right?”
“Nothing. I want to be sober tonight –”
“How about a Coke, then?”
“I want to talk to you,” she said.
“Sure – but make it quick. I've got a job to do, after all.” His smile did not falter, though the set of her jaw did not bode well.
“All right then.” She flipped her hair out of her face – though it was lank and dull and generally unfit for flipping. “I'm onto you.”
His heart skipped a beat, without fail. “Well?” he prompted.
“You're a vampire.”
He laughed in her face. “I get that all the time, you know. It comes of being stringy and pale and not getting out much. Look, my day job is in IT. Is that all, or do you want the Coke?”
Phoebe crossed her arms on the countertop and waited as he made up several patrons' orders. He attempted to, but couldn't, ignore her; she had parked herself on the stool and clearly refused to leave until he heard her out. He finished up the first round of drinks, wiped his hands on a dishtowel, and asked with a huff, “What, still here?”
“Yeah. I told you, I've got to talk to you.” She lowered her voice and added, “I know you're a vampire, Duane – I've checked.”
“You've... checked.” He raised an eyebrow, hoping she wouldn't catch on to the dishrag twisting between his fingers under the bar top.
“Yep.” She pulled a small, round object out of her purse – a pocket mirror. “And I can prove it.”
Before she could so much as blink, he lunged across the countertop and snatched the compact from her hand. “What do you want?” he snapped, all semblance of civility vanishing.
“I want you to turn me,” she said, unfazed.
Duane leaned forwards, his face just inches from hers, so she could smell the blood on his breath and see his needle-sharp canines peeking out from behind his lips. “You have no idea what you're asking,” he growled.
“I think I have some idea, Duane. Whatever you might think, I'm not some naïve twit who reads trashy vampire romance. I've done my homework.”
He raised his fist – clenched around the rag and mirror – and squeezed. “You don't know the half of it, mortal.” Shards of glass littered the wooden countertop between them. To her credit, she did not flinch.
“You don't know me.”
He tossed the dishtowel behind him, the mangled mirror frame clinking against the floor. Leaning back, he bared his teeth in a feral grin, like a wolf regarding a particularly reckless fawn. “And if I say no?”
Phoebe placed her palms flat on the bar top and in a hard voice, said, “Turn me, Duane, or I'll out you. I mean it.”
“Careful there, Phoebe,” he said, quirking an eyebrow and carelessly pouring someone another beer. “The last person to threaten me didn't survive to carry out the threat.”
“I'll do it right here, right now. I've got another mirror in my pocket.”
Even in the dim lighting, she could see his eyes darken – they were now pitch black – and his canines lengthen, like cat's claws unsheathed. He was no longer smiling. “We'll talk. Later. I've got a job to do,” he said. “Now get out.”
“I'll be seeing you later, then,” she said, hopping off the barstool. He turned away from her, and did not see her settle down in the far corner of the room.
Phoebe waited until the last patron had stumbled drunkenly from the bar; she approached as he was locking up. “I know you're there,” he said without looking away from the register.
“I know you do. You're a vampire, after all.” She pulled out the stool directly across from him and sat down. “You mind turning up the light? You can see in the dark, but I can't. Not yet, anyways.”
The lamp overhead turned on with a half-hearted sputter. Duane got a proper feel for her without the dim, multicolored lights and the overpowering stench of smoke that came with the customers – and she was a right mess. She was thin – too thin, by human standards – with dark hollows under her eyes and a faint sheen of cold sweat he could smell from a mile away; she looked ready to topple over from sheer exhaustion, holding herself together and upright by force of will alone. It's too soon, he thought, recalling the first time he'd fed on her, a mere eight months ago. It doesn't usually go this fast.
“Why?” he asked her, though he suspected he already knew. “Why do you want this?” His tone said, If you don't read trashy vampire romance, you'd better have a damned good reason.
For all her easy confidence, she hesitated, lips parted, poised on the brink of a response. Finally, she said, “You won't tell anyone, will you?”
“One secret for another. I suppose that's fair,” he replied. “Give me the mirror.”
Phoebe slipped it from her jeans pocket – it was a little square one this time, without a cover – and placed it face-down on the countertop. Duane ground it into the wooden surface with the heel of his hand, until the largest sliver of glass was no bigger than an ant. “You were saying?” he asked when he was through.
“I...” Phoebe took a deep, rattling breath. “I'm HIV positive. I don't want to die.”