WARNING: 18+ ADULT EXCERPT
PLAYING WITH A VAMPIRE
“Live for love. Without love, you don’t live.” ~ Source Unknown
FUCK, I MISS THE OLD DAYS!
Of course, the old days to Gregori Van Zant happened almost four hundred years ago. Leaning into the upholstered back of the booth, he finished the snifter of imported Cognac Paradis while contemplating the events of the last few months.
The rhythmic trill of music played in the background. On the raised stage, the scene with a visiting Dom vampire and his slave had finished. They were an interesting pairing, but boring and mismatched in his opinion.
But, what do I know?
Could his existence find an even keel again after how Dragos Munteanu had disrupted the norm? The spread of a deadly virus and introduction of the highly addictive drug Blue into the mainstream of humanity edged on insanity, but if it had worked, would’ve been a brilliant move by Dragos. Gregori had to admit that much about the maniacal vamp and he almost got away with the plan if not for Gregori and other vamp leaders. To hear the FBI and V Bounty hunters talk, they were the ones who thwarted the plot. Working with humans wasn’t his first choice, but he had no other at the time. Now, the humans were riding high on their success.
Is that why I’m so pissed off at everything lately?
“Master Gregori, would you like another cognac before the next scene starts?” The vamp waitress’ dulcet voice wrenched him from the doom and gloom thoughts.
Hooded silvery gray eyes glanced up to peer at the scantily clad server. “Yes, thank you Sheena.” The young woman had been in his family for almost twenty years. She’d not changed since the day he turned her. Innocence still graced her happy disposition despite what he had to do to save her.
“Very good.” She removed the empty glass and napkin then departed.
Cognac Paradis. What the fuck Stefan? What the fuck indeed. He never drank the strong liquor before Stefan introduced the concoction to the Transfixed and the Black Rose V Clubs as the House Special. No doubt, a blend Stefan brought from one of his European quests. Do vamps get depressed? What’s wrong with me?
Gregori hated the hard stuff. Normally, he drank blood wine, but for some brain fart reason, he took up the foul concoction when Stefan left his employ and moved to Miami Beach. The kick of the drink made his insides warm and fuzzy, and reminded of him of the time spent as a young rogue vampire a couple centuries ago.
Ever the watchful master and lord of his domain, Gregori surveyed the club as he pushed the ugly thoughts of his early years out of his head. Humans and vamps played together, having blood and sex exchanges, with a twist. He’d brought a new and edgy take on a lifestyle club in Virginia Beach twenty-odd years ago. After leaving the New York family, he headed south and landed at the Beach. He never left and when he took over the Mid-Atlantic Blood Family, he revitalized it, but he’d become bored.
Patrons were happy, but something didn’t seem right anymore and he grew weary with the same political bullshit in the town. Nothing excited him, made him feel like his existence have the spark he used to have. Dragos had at least sparked things for a bit, but within weeks the adrenaline high faded.
His new V existence began with similar exuberance at first, reveling in the power that came with the change. At the time, the world welcomed him into the dark, cruel, brutal, and bloodthirsty realm of other vampires. Humans were easy to take and he had no remorse for doing so. They’d treated him with disdain from the day he was born and he owed them nil in return. Women were the easiest. He viewed them for what they were, vessels for his physical pleasure and bloodlust, nothing more. Until he met Lady Johanna van der Ghent in Antwerp, Belgium.
Damn, I haven’t thought of Johanna in ages. It must be the liquor.
Sheena returned with the House Special and placed another cocktail napkin before him and the drink on top, “Your cognac, Master Gregori.”
“Thank you, Sheena.”
The centuries old thoughts about Johanna stirred emotions. The memories and pain were buried deep. He’d locked them away long ago, never wanting them to surface again. Tonight they did, but why?
Just what the world needs a manic-depressive vampire.
He snickered and sipped the foul drink, sliding the biting liquid across his tongue and down his gullet.
Ah, Johanna, the once lovely and vibrant beauty I would have risked everything to make mine forever.
The woman ruined him for every woman that followed. She’d taught him not to trust another again. Or, love.
The tempo of music shifted from soft jazz to loud alternative instrumental. The Dom for the next scene stepped up on the platform and began prepping the area. The naked submissive knelt on the floor at the edge of the stage.
Gregori’s bottom lip twitched then his attention passed from watching to the memory of Johanna. Their liaison progressed over several months. He’d been happy for the first time, either as a mortal or vampire. Nothing prepared him for what happened one cold, snowy night.
He took another sip of the cognac, closing his eyes as the burn traveled through his body. When he opened his lids, the Dom on stage had moved the submissive to the table and strapped her in the restraints.
I’m a cold-hearted bastard no one loves. Just the way I want.
The crack of the whip in the hands of the Dom on stage jerked Gregori away from the pain he’d suffered centuries ago.
Squeals turned to moans as the strikes repeated over and over on the bare ass of the submissive. The scene did nothing for him. He felt numb, then irritated. This dark funk he’d been in had to end or he’d lose everything he’d built. Powerful and influential politically, he’d learned to use those qualities to seduce any woman he wanted. After that fated night, he was jaded to all of them and used their bodies for sex and blood, but never, ever opened his heart. Never letting them close enough to know his secrets.
Damn, had he gone beyond the point of no return for love to soften his doomed darkness? Did he even have a heart and soul to soften after years as a bloodsucking beast? It had been a long time to be alone without love, he wasn’t sure if he knew how to love again after the cold-hearted existence he’d led.
“Gregori? Earth to Gregori,” the harsh nasally New Jersey twang of a female voice said, tugging Gregori from his hypnotic thoughts.
Blinking, furrowing his brow, he gazed up, meeting the eyes of Teanna. A young female vampire, who was quickly becoming a real pain in his ass with the annoying questions she posed every night. She’d recently joined the family and definitely spoke her mind. Probably too easily. Her mouth and attitude could cause him trouble. He regretted accepting her into the fold. “How are you tonight, Teanna?”
“May I sit, sir?”
He nodded and flicked his hand to the chair across from him.
The tall, lanky and normally blonde vamp smiled, revealing her fangs. “Bored. I’m waiting for my human baby boy to show up. He said he’d be here by eight. Probably couldn’t make up an excuse to his nagging wife.” She pouted. “Or, he missed his flight.”
“He had a business trip in Florida somewhere. She’s probably picking him up and he can’t get away.”
Gregori snickered and raised the snifter to his lips. The beautiful Teanna turned many a man’s head, vamp and human, married or single. Her dark blonde tresses hung to her shoulders on a good night, but this evening she opted for a short bob wig. The striking contrast of her pale skin and the dark purple tinted hairpiece against the emerald eyes captivated even him. The scent of her blood aroused him, but he dared not pursue the urge. Her wildness reminded him too much of another from his past.
“You like the new color Master? I think it’s flattering to my skin tone, don’t you agree?” Raising a hand, she puffed up the synthetic strains.
With a crinkled brow, he studied her. The way she flitted from one idea or mood concerned him at times. “Yeah, if you like neon purple against pasty white.” The comment must have offended, watching her expression turn from happy to venomous. Clearly, she cut those large green orbs directly at him. The statuesque vixen could be evil if pushed. Since joining his family, he had her in his bed only once. Despite the fact she damned near ripped his skin to shreds she was a good fuck and nothing more. He initiated new females as part of imprinting them to him through sex and a blood exchange. One night with the little wildcat satisfied him for an eternity and had no plans to venture down that path again.
“Why are you getting attached to a human? The union will be damned before you get started. You can’t trust them, Teanna. He’s most likely toying with you for the sex and blood. He gets high. Use him, but don’t make your relationship out to be more than it is. Trust me.”
“He’s different. We have a deep and true love for one another. He just needs to get over the guilt about leaving his wife. He’s supposed to tell her he’s divorcing her to be with me in the next day or two. He’ll be here tonight.”
“I’ve heard that old story before. He’s not dumping his wife. From what you’ve said, this man is too attached to his human mate. I’ll be real surprised if you see him.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Gregori. I have persuasive powers. His wife can’t compete against this.” She puffed her breasts out and gave him a beguiling gaze—sultry and smoldering green eyes focused on his. He didn’t like where the conversation ventured and needed to change the subject, but first...
He stroked his large hand along her arm. “In the club, you will call me Master Gregori or sir. You’ve slipped several times recently and I didn’t correct you because you’re new to my family. Don’t let it happen again, Teanna.” The edges of his full lips tugged at the corners, but he resisted showing her any emotion.
“Good. As far as your persuasive skills, I know yours are very compelling.”
“Too bad those abilities didn’t work on you. I certainly tried, but you’re such a dark and morose kind of guy. Just as well. I like my men to make me laugh. You need to let a little love in that stone heart of yours. Maybe you’ll enjoy yourself more.”
His eyes narrowed. “Love is not a necessity to revel in my existence, Teanna. I’m quite content running the family, clubs, and all the benefits that come with my position and powers. I don’t need to change who I am.”
“Master Stefan changed. Maybe you could too.” Her tone was playful, but Gregori didn’t feel the twangs of love, only…complacency.
Taking a long swallow of the cognac, he answered her ploy to get him to lighten up. “Master Stefan didn’t change. He adapted for his human mate, Alexandra. I don’t change for anyone that’s why I’m known throughout the Blood Families as a cold-hearted bastard and don’t take any crap off anyone.”
“Ah, Master, that’s not true. You’re a pussycat. You take care of all of us. I’m so glad I came to your family. If Master Stefan could find someone even a human V bounty hunter working for the FBI, surely you can too. There are plenty of V’s and humans to make you happy.” She winked.
Did Teanna seriously think I’d be interested in her? She was nothing more than a member of his family, owing him loyalty and profitable means to his business. He smiled. “That’s sweet of you to say, my dear, but don’t mistake my kindness for attraction.”
Attention turned from him. Gregori knew she didn’t hear a word he said. “Oh yay! He’s here.” She returned to stare at the scowl on Gregori’s face. “I told you. Don’t ever underestimate my talents to persuade the male species. If you do, you’ll lose.” As she rose from the booth, she leaned over and kissed him, hard but dispassionate. With the grace of a ballerina, she twirled around and pranced toward the darkened silhouette of a man standing near the entrance of the backroom.
Gregori must’ve read her signals wrong. She’d dropped their conversation like it never took place. The thought niggled at the back of his brain. Could he find love even after swearing off looking? If Stefan and Alexandra succeeded, despite the obstacles they encountered, why couldn’t he try again?
The lights dimmed and the emcee walked out on the raised platform, the spotlights following him.
Gregori raked fingers through his long black hair as he watched the scene finish and another prepare. What the fuck am I thinking? Love. Everyone wants the fairytale happy ending these days, V or mortal. Poor Teanna, young and naïve, will learn. Humans don’t fit into our world. Love is only for their fragile lives, not for us cold-hearted beasts of the night. This is who I am and intend to remain as such, the Master and Commander of the Mid-Atlantic Blood Family.
After a vampire existence of three hundred and sixty some years, changing his personality to fit into the human world wouldn’t work. Humans would have to bend to his will.
“To hell with love, I don’t need or want it,” he murmured, then gulped the remainder of the Cognac Paradis.
“Are you okay, sir?”
“Yes, I’m fine, Sheena.”
“May I sit?”
He nodded. The night would be one of those, he supposed. The V women often came to him with their troubles. He’d kept his door always open for the young ones, but especially for Sheena.
Watching her slip into the chair Teanna vacated a few minutes before, he couldn’t help but smile. Sheena was an innocent young woman when he first met her twenty, no closer to twenty-five years ago. He’d become her protector and at times the lines between him as her sire, mentor and Master of the family blurred. She took pleasure pushing him, but let her go only so far before he set her in her place.
“You don’t look your usual happy self, young one. What is it?” he asked, leaning closer giving her his full attention.
“Oh, I’m fine. I’m worried about you.”
Gregori raised a brow, leaning back in the booth. “And why is that?”
“Sir? You’re my Master and Commander, but you’re also my friend. May I speak frankly?”
He wasn’t sure where she wished to go with the conversation. Probing into his personal life had always been off-limits and he hoped that wasn’t what she alluded to. “Of course, but there’s nothing to be concerned about, Sheena.”
She shook her head. “Forgive me, but I don’t believe you…sir.”
“Is that right?”
She lowered her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. “You haven’t been the same since you went to Miami to help Master Stefan. The family doesn’t have an enforcer, is that why you seem so worried and sad because Master Stefan is gone?”
The corners of his eyes crinkled as he studied Sheena, assessing the situation. He’d always known she was a bright girl, but he never thought her smart enough to figure him out. Keeping thoughts and feelings hidden were crucial in his position. “Master Stefan wasn’t just the family enforcer, he was, is, my friend. He is sorely missed here, but he’s content with his new ranking.”
“Sounds like the party line statement made for public relations, sir. You’re not fooling me. You know you can always talk to me. Lord knows, you’ve always listened to me and offered wise counsel. Reciprocation is a good thing. You know a ‘paying it forward’ kind of thing.”
“I’m in a melancholy mood, that’s all. Nothing for you to worry about, little one.”
“You miss him and you’re worried about not finding a new Enforcer, am I right?”
He reached over the table and touched the tip of her nose. “I can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
“No, Master.” She grinned.
“I’m concerned with no one answering the call. Stefan was the best I ever had. Fortunately, Dragos was our greatest threat and he’s currently residing as a guest of the federal government in Washington D.C. awaiting trial by the Vamp High Tribunal. I can’t imagine another V planning a similar coup anytime soon.”
“I know, but I heard rumors Dragos hired a high-powered attorney and might beat the charges.”
“Not if the FBI has anything to say about it. They’ll use every legal avenue available to keep Dragos incarcerated as long as possible.”
“You sure, Master? I thought to capture him took all the Master and Commanders working together.”
“It did. I don’t mean to worry you, but I’m afraid in the end, Dragos will win out. I have serious doubts of humanity’s bureaucratic policies and predict the powerful vamp will find a key to get free. I need to find a Sergeant Palatine Enforcer soon. Just in case.”
“Thanks for the warning, sir.”
“Are we good? Any other concerns?”
“I should ask the same with you, sir.”
Gregori had a boat-load of concerns lately, but talking with Sheena about such matters wouldn’t alleviate the pain. Johanna’s image appeared clearly in his mind. The last look of fear in her eyes would forever be etched in his brain. Those were some of the darkest days in his existence. The guilt and disgust he felt were his cross to bear for the next hundred years before Sorin Bochinsky found him. Emaciated for lack of blood for longer than Gregori could remember, Sorin took him in. Sometimes Gregori wondered how things would be different if not for his friend.
Fuck! I miss the old days!
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