A Taste of Blood is a short prequel to the Véradó series.
Anna is meant to be with Joel, it’s written in the stars and written in the tides.
But Joel is a vampire.
The motorbikes drew up outside the huge, oak gates. Simultaneously, their engines were shut off, shocking the dark, dusty road into silence.
Displayed above the gates, a large wooden sign with the words ‘Zeus Xenias’ burnt into it, welcomed the vampires home. As they dismounted their bikes, they were greeted by a small group of people who’d gathered outside, eagerly awaiting their return.
Blood and dirt covered their shirts, and with satisfaction displayed on their faces, they made their way inside. Their evening’s work was done. Order had once again been restored to the chaotic town they’d adopted as their home and for the moment, their ongoing debt to the island had been repaid. Now it was time for recompense. They thirsted and their waiting disciples were keen to be the ones to sustain them.
Once inside the ancient courtyard, they continued up to the weathered-oak bar. Strings of lights shimmered on the breeze and the air held the subtle fragrance of the ocean.
The bartender, sporting a pink mohawk and various tattoos, glanced up as they took their places. With a warm smile, he poured their preferred bourbon into the waiting glasses, before returning to his duties.
From the far side of the courtyard, a Hispanic woman walked gracefully towards them. With each step, her black, silk dress caressed every inch of her body. Her dark hair was scooped into a sleek bun, leaving her slender neck exposed and vulnerable. Homing in on her target, the woman’s lips curved into a subtle smile and her undiluted accent chimed in his ears. “Marshall, my darling…I’ve missed you.”
Sliding his hands down her arms, Marshall pulled her closely towards him. With the warmth of her skin threatening to melt his hardened exterior, he inhaled deeply, but it wasn’t her floral perfume that enticed him—it was the metallic scent of her blood that swept through his mind.
Leaning down, he whispered, “Bonita,” and brushing the hollow of her neck with his cool, hungry lips, continued, “I’ve missed you, too.”
Chapter One—Burnished skies
“We’ll be back soon—okay, hun?” And then a distant, “Don’t worry about her, she’ll be fine.” They were the last words Anna heard before the cloud of dust and fumes from her companions’ motor-scooters completely engulfed her.
‘Companions’—she liked that word. It put to rest the idea that Sarah and Lisa were ever really her friends. Friends wouldn’t do that—they wouldn’t leave you at the side of the road, in a foreign country, with nothing but a broken down bike and a fiver in your pocket.
Choking the dust out of her lungs, and to the trill of crickets, Anna grasped the red-hot handlebars and proceeded to push the broken down scooter towards the grass verge where it came to an abrupt halt. Wow—it didn’t seem this heavy when the Goddamn thing worked.
Dry heat penetrated her back as she pushed the machine along the road, her sweaty hands losing their grip on the hot plastic.
They’ll be back…they wouldn’t really leave me here…would they?
It was nearing the end of their two-week holiday on the Greek island of Crete. The trio had been on their way to Hersonissos, where the party of all parties was apparently awaiting them—according to their holiday rep, that is. Although, Anna couldn’t help questioning what that really meant. The posters hadn’t given her much to get excited about. Over the previous fortnight, she’d about had her fill of cage dancers and half naked foam fights. As much as she liked clubbing, she preferred nightclubs with a certain degree of class.
With the breeze rustling through overhead olive branches, she turned, kicked the stand and wedged the bike upright against the curb. Crossing the road, she headed towards the ocean wall and the stunning views it promised to convey.
Dressed in a denim skirt, a red vest-top and matching ballet pumps, there was no hiding against the rustic backdrop. A glance at her watch told her it was 6:58pm but to Anna it already felt much later.
Perched on the wall, with her back to the road, she waited, watching the sun poised above the ocean. Slowly the vast orange ball moved visibly closer to the water, burnishing the sea with fire.
As the crickets grew louder, another quick glance at her watch revealed she’d been alone for over an hour. Her throat was dry and a hard swallow only seemed to make it worse. Trying to repress her anxiety, a mental tot-up assured her that her friends should have been back by now. Surely, by now, a trashy blue tow-truck with the words ‘Bob’s bikes’ or something just as shoddy should have been pulling up in front of her—and perhaps a mean looking mechanic would get out and try to pin the blame of the breakdown on her. Bastard!
As the sun touched down upon the ocean’s sparkling surface, she imagined she could hear the hissing of fire meeting water, and the cloud of steam it would create rushing towards her with the speed of a hurricane.
The far-off drone of an engine broke her daydream and caused her to turn. In the distance a white speck was moving along the road towards her, but it didn’t resemble a tow truck, and the harsh choice quickly entered her head. Have continued faith in my ‘flaky as hell’ friends or flag down an axe-wielding homicidal maniac? Hmm, choices.
Either way, by now, she was certain someone would die. Shutting her eyes tightly, she imagined strangling her friends as they lay in their beds that night—ooh the satisfaction, and then smiled in the knowledge that she’d never hurt a fly—and never could.
The white Ford passed her by without ceremony and the road returned to cricket infiltrated silence. Turning back to the ocean, darkness crept along the shoreline and began to threaten.
‘Leave the bike,’ for Gods sake, why didn’t I think of that before? Stop being so damn loyal. If they can’t supply a scooter that works, why should I stay out here babysitting that hunk of rubbish? How far did I come anyway…four…maybe five miles. I can walk that.
Leaving the moped parked by the side of the road, she took a deep breath and prepared to embark upon the long, arduous walk through the darkness towards the town of Malia—the little town that had been their home for the past two weeks.
The moonless night left only the reflections of the ocean to guide her route as she continued along the elevated main road. Cars were sporadic, and each time one passed, her heartbeat hitched. As she walked, darkness consumed her and her eyes couldn’t focus anymore. She closed them, and then opened them again—no difference.
It was a yellow taxicab that finally bothered to stop. Although it overshot her by several hundred yards, the sound of reverse gear engaging brought hope to Anna’s heart. The cab peeled back along the street, screaming like a banshee through the darkness. A hot/cold sensation of relief tinged with trepidation stilted Anna’s breathing. As the cab drew to a halt, the driver was already winding his window down. A green magic tree masked the smell of cigarette smoke belching through the open window.
“Need a ride?” His Cretan accent was strong, and his unshaven face leery.
“Err, yeah, I guess…actually, you know what—I’m fine.”
“Really? You’re at least eight miles from anywhere, here. I can take you wherever you want to go.”
“Am I? Is it really that far?”
“It really is. Please, get in the back and I will take you home.”
Reaching into her pocket, her hand clutched the scrunched up five Euro note, hoping it would be housing a load of change, but alas, it wasn’t. “I haven’t got much money.”
“How much do you have?”
“Five is okay.”
Forcing herself to relax, she reached for the door handle, but as she did so, the thunderous roar of an enormous motorbike stopped her in her tracks.
As the bike’s engine chugged and heaved in the silent night air, the taxicab sped off leaving Anna and her empty hand reaching into space.
Soon, no more than twin red lights—staring back at her like the hounds of hell were all that remained of the taxi.
Reluctantly, she turned to see who—or what had frightened the driver away so hastily. And there, sitting astride the most enormous black and chrome motorbike, was a huge figure of a man, his wild, blond hair dancing on the breeze. Dressed in heavy biker leathers, he simply stared at her, with eyes as deep as the ocean.
Anna’s heartbeat thundered as she dragged the hesitant air into her lungs. Goose bumps crept from her toes, up her legs, and broke out over her entire body. She could almost feel each one pop through her skin and graze the cool night air.
‘Run,’ is what her head was screaming, but her legs refused to move. Each breath rasped in and out of her trembling body at a rate she couldn’t regulate. She tried to speak, but nothing coherent came out. “Wha…?”
The frozen figure remained on his bike, watching her, like an eagle eyeing its prey.
Finally she spat out the words. “What do you want?” Shaking her head, her eyes stung and she blinked repeatedly in an attempt to relieve them.
Still the man said nothing, but as she continued to stare, she noticed his features soften and a smile play onto his face. The wind whipped at his hair and his pale skin gleamed in the darkness. Wrapping her arms around her body, Anna stole a deep breath and composed herself. Tearing her gaze from him, she turned to walk away, hoping she was still capable of such a basic skill.
The speed in which she was scooped up onto the back of the bike, was so swift, her brain didn’t have time to register. She had no choice but to cling to the bulk of a man controlling the bike as they sped down the road at what felt like a hundred miles-per-hour. Panic didn’t have a chance to fight with the surprising acceptance of her situation and the relief it brought her. Shielding her face behind his back, her arms had his chest locked in a vice tight hold.
With the power of the wind forcing her eyes closed, she clung on tightly, letting all of her other senses discern her surroundings. Their speed left the deafening noise of the engine behind them, and the sounds of the night were allowed to filter in. The crickets, the ocean, the wind in the trees, nothing was missing. “Why aren’t I afraid of you?” she asked, but nothing came by way of a response.
A potent mix of leather and bike oil filled her nostrils along with the unfamiliar scent of the man she held. Breathing him in, she let her hands explore their prize. With her eyes still tightly closed his face already seemed engrained on her mind. His frame was solid, and muscular. “You’re not…you’re not a cage dancer, are you?”
She thought she heard him laugh, but no further reply was given.
The speed of the bike slowed, and she blinked her eyes open. Familiar lights of Malia town crept into view and they were soon upon them. The Beach Road was bustling, and despondency caught hold. “We’re here already…so soon?”
Towards the bottom of the road, the bike pulled up to a bar where a pink neon sign boldly read ‘Oileus’. Smoothly, the bike drew to a halt, and the man got off. He placed both hands gently around Anna’s waist and lifted her high into the air, and before her feet touched the ground, he kissed her like his life depended on it.
Once again, Anna couldn’t breathe. Moths coursed around her insides, their delicate wings fluttered in her stomach, brushing and tickling every nerve ending.
Finally, her feet touched the ground, but as she opened her eyes the bike was already disappearing out of sight. A hard, sharp, gasp of air rushed into her lungs, just in time before her brain was completely starved of oxygen.
Chapter Two—Scents of summer
On the pavement, alone in a crowd of thousands, Anna stood waiting, for what…or who, she didn’t know. Music pulsed all around her and the air was infused with the impending scent of summer. As a voice chimed from behind her, Anna’s consciousness returned.
“Hey, are you okay?”
Turning her head in the direction of the voice, Anna focused on the pretty girl addressing her. Short platinum blonde hair spiked off in all directions, numerous tattoos adorned her arms and heavy black lashes framed her pale blue eyes.
“Oh…err—yeah, I think so, thanks.”
Leaning in, the girl whispered into her ear, “I see you met Joel.” Her smile was clearly audible.
“Joel? …You know him?” Anna pushed her light brown tangles away from her face, feeling unkempt after her impromptu bike ride.
“You could say that.”
“Who is he?”
“He’s Joel—like I said.”
“I meant, well is he…is he okay? I mean…”
“You mean, is he dangerous?” Her tongue peeked cheekily through her teeth.
“Hmm, something like that.” Anna could feel herself flushing, but fought the sensation.
“No, I don’t think so. I think if he wanted to hurt you, you wouldn’t be standing here with me right now.”
Anna didn’t quite know what to make of that response. Shaking it off she replied, “And why exactly am I standing here with you?” Aware her voice was beginning to convey her annoyance at this girl’s apparent upper hand, she tried to keep it in check.
The girl hesitated. “I’m not sure. I guess Joel wanted us to meet.”
“I don’t know…unless…” She stopped, but the sparkle in her eye continued her story for her.
“So, who are you?” Anna asked.
“Kelly! I work here. And you are?”
“Well, hey Anna. Wanna come inside for a drink. I think that was probably Joel’s intention.”
Feeling a little more at ease in Kelly’s company, Anna replied, “Sure?”
Inside, the bar was heaving. Rock music banged in time to strobe lighting and the dance floor rippled and swelled with dancers. Kelly gestured to a colleague who, in response, thrust two bottles of Budweiser towards her.
“Here,” she said, handing one to Anna and quickly chugged back her own.
Obligingly, Anna took a swig. The cool larger fizzed in her throat easing its way down. Relief was instant, and she quickly followed it with the remainder of the bottle.
Heaving herself onto a barstool, Kelly questioned, “So, are you a worker or a tourist?”
“Tourist.” For some reason, Anna felt ashamed by her reply.
“And when do you go home?”
“I’ve still got a couple of days left. God I wish I didn’t have to go.”
“I don’t know—I guess it’s because things like…‘this’, don’t happen very often back home. My friends—the ones I came here with, are all I have, and to be honest, they treat me like shit, you know.”
Kelly nodded. “Huh, yep I get it. Look. Once I’m done here, I’m heading off to the beach with some friends. Wanna come?”
“Joel might be there.” Kelly coaxed with a beam.
An uninvited smile formed on Anna’s face. “Well, in that case…”
“Really…?” Was Anna’s reaction as Kelly brought her pink Viper moped around to the front of Oileus.
“If I’d never seen another moped in my life it would’ve been too soon.”
“Oh, really, why?”
“Long story—never mind.” Grinning Anna hopped up behind Kelly and braced herself for the ride.
It wasn’t long before they drew up on the sands of the local beach and as the engine shut off, crisp sounds of the ocean filled the night air.
“Come on…” Kelly chirped before making off across the dunes. Anna’s head buzzed with curiosity as she ran to catch up.
Across the long stretch of beach, the blaze of a bonfire beckoned and several dark figures sat around it. High flames turned the beach orange and caused long fluttery shadows to spill across the sand.
“Woo—hoo,” screamed Kelly, and all the figures turned to face her.
As they got closer, Anna recognised Joel and she couldn’t prevent her full grin breaking through. He’s here. Oh, my God, oh my God…
As Joel stood waiting for her, his coy grin matched her own. Biting her lip, she tried to look confident, but knew she was losing the battle.
Slowing to a more respectful pace, Anna approached him. “Joel…?” she questioned.
A slight nod confirmed his name and his smile was effervescent. Dropping his gaze he simply laughed.
“Well…hey, Joel, I’m Anna. It’s good to meet you…again.”
Without a word he reached for her, wrapped both arms around her and homed in on her lips with his.
Following a deep, intense kiss, Anna asked, “Is that how people greet each other around here?”
“Sometimes,” Kelly whispered from behind. Laughing she skipped away and stood beside the fire. The flames seemed to lick at her skin turning her platinum hair, golden. As Kelly relaxed with her friends, Anna glanced at each of them in turn.
Three younger men stood, talking, and drinking, and Kelly looked at ease in their company. Sitting close to them was a woman; her dark hair and olive skin told Anna she was probably Spanish. Ensnared in her arms was a man—even sitting down, he looked tall and well built. His dark hair was long, almost touching the sand. And as Anna glanced at the pair, the woman’s eyes flitted up to meet her own. The look she conveyed was an obvious warning and Anna was quick to drop her gaze. Seconds later Joel grasped her hand and then proceeded to lead her away.
Around the opposite side of the bonfire, Joel planted himself on the sand and beckoned Anna to sit beside him. Needing no more encouragement, she obliged. The fire’s warmth was intense, but soothing. Waves of heat distorted the view along the beach and the ocean seemed like a mere memory.
Sidling up to him, as discretely as possible, Anna absorbed his scent—his aura, and felt hypnotised and completely relaxed. Through her lashes she glanced up at him. “You don’t say much, do you?” she stated.
Joel raised an eyebrow.
Reaching up, Anna pressed her hand to his cheek and for a few moments just held it there. His rough skin felt cool and soothing.
“It’s odd really. You don’t seem like a stranger to me. It’s like…like you’ve always been there. Does that sound too cliché?”
The dark ocean was only just audible above the hissing and spitting of the fire, and steel grey ribbons of smoke were swallowed up by the eternal night sky.
Letting out a huge sigh, Anna said, “Why couldn’t I have met you two weeks ago?”
Chapter Three – Alone
Gesturing for Anna to stay seated, Joel got up and headed over to the others. Kelly was quick to take his place.
“Well…?” she asked.
“What do you think of Joel?”
“You are kidding, aren’t you?”
“No. I’m guessing he’s pretty into you—so what about you?”
Really? He’s into me? Stifling her enthusiasm, Anna responded, “Yeah—I reckon I could get pretty into him, too.”
Once again, her eyes sought Joel. He was standing with the tall, dark haired man. Although they didn’t appear to be talking, they seemed to be engaged in some kind of silent contemplation. Looking awkward and superfluous, the Hispanic woman began walking towards Anna and Kelly.
“You must be Anna.” Her Spanish accent was melodic and carried on the breeze.
“That’s right. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“My name is Bonita.”
“Nice to meet you, Bonita.”
Staring Anna up and down, she replied simply, “Mmm.” Bonita’s hair was like molten chocolate, and her skin, flawless. Dressed in a dark brown strapless dress, her figure was to die for and Anna clawed back the feeling of inferiority.
“And what brings you to our little beach tonight…Anna?”
“Oh…err, Kelly invited me. I met Joel today, and Kelly thought I might like to come here to see him again.”
“Is that right.” Her eyes narrowed and her lips hesitated. “You’re lucky you know.”
“Yes. You chose the right one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I’m sorry you don’t know do you.” A sly smile shaped her features.
“Bonita!” Kelly scolded.
Anna pushed, “What don’t I know?”
“I’m sorry, it’s not for me to say,” taunted Bonita.
Frustration, laced with fear, gnawed at her. “Kelly…what is she talking about?”
“I’m sorry too, Anna. Bonita shouldn’t have said anything. But she is right—it’s not for us to say.”
“Should I be worried?”
“No…not at all. Look, relax, Joel’s coming back.”
It was difficult not to be reassured by Kelly. She seemed to have such a gentle nature. Bonita, on the other hand, she couldn’t quite fathom.
From behind, Joel wrapped his strong arms around Anna and rested his head on her shoulder. At the same time the dark haired man summoned Kelly and Bonita over to him. Although Anna couldn’t hear what was being said, something told her their evening by the fire was coming to an abrupt end—and she was right. Joel spun her around, and kissed her with just as much passion as the first time. And with her head still spinning, he left her on the sand.
Gathering herself together Anna turned back to Kelly and Bonita. “Who’s that other man?” she asked, pointing to the man with long dark hair.
“His name is Marshall. But he is of no concern to you, mi amor,” purred Bonita.
Acknowledging Anna’s discomfort Kelly put her arm around her. “Oh don’t mind her, she’s can be a bit possessive sometimes.”
As Anna watched, Joel and Marshall made their way across the sand towards a pair of huge motorbikes, and were quick to disappear from sight. Clutching her shoes in one hand and the skirt of her long dress in the other, Bonita, too, headed off across the sand. Kelly reached out and clasped Anna’s shoulder. “Sorry, sweetie, they had to go.”
“Oh,” she responded. “Will they be back?”
“Not tonight. Come on, I’ll take you back into town.”
* * *
Anna closed the door to her hotel room and rested her back against it. Wow, was all she could think. Wow...
Laying in her bed, with the no-vacancy sign periodically flashing streams of unwelcome blue light into her room she closed her eyes. Sleep was quick to claim her, but as it did, her dreams didn’t feel like her own.
Anna found herself standing alone, beneath a tree, but she wasn’t really alone. There were people all around her, but not with her. The feeling was odd—lonely even. She stared up into the silvery branches set against the jet-black sky. Fairy-lights and coloured lanterns illuminated bare branches, in place of leaves that clearly no-longer grew there.
Her attention diverted to the image of Joel, standing by what appeared to be a bar with other people she almost recognised. The atmosphere was quiet—tranquil, and Joel looked up. She smiled but his gaze appeared to be looking straight through her. Anna turned to see what it was that had caught his attention, and was stunned to see his very same image walking in through open gates towards her.
Chapter Four – Unwelcome sight
The slamming of the apartment door, and subsequent drunken giggling tore Anna from her dream. “What the hell?” Groaning, she forced open her eyes.
“Shhh…shhhhh.” Then more giggling constituted the response.
As Anna’s bleary eyes slowly focused, the sight of her friends wasn’t a welcome one.
“Hey, Anna,” slurred Sarah, as she stumbled into the side of Anna’s bed. “Did you have a good night?”
Lisa was already locking herself in the bathroom—and the subsequent sounds of dry-heaving—and not so dry-heaving, told its own story.
“You are kidding…right?”
“What? Aww you’re not mad with us are you? We did try to get hold of the rental guy but…well…my mobile was completely out of juice.”
“Then why didn’t you go back into town and get someone? You left me there, all by myself.”
Sarah laughed. Her mousy hair looked lank after a night of heavy partying, and what was left of her makeup, seemed to have drifted southwards. “What…you’re all right. I knew you would be. I have complete faith in you. You’re very…resourceful.”
“For God’s sake, Sarah, anything could’ve happened.”
“But it didn’t.” Her raised voice conveyed her annoyance. “Christ, Anna won’t you just relax. Nothing happened. You’re okay, we’re okay, now go back to sleep.
It was clear that arguing with a drunk wasn’t going to be productive, and Anna didn’t have the energy to continue. “Fine. But this isn’t over.”
* * *
The following morning, Anna bypassed her comatose companions, trying hard not to wake them. After a refreshing shower, she grabbed her book and headed out to the sun-terrace for some much craved solitude. The late spring sunshine beat down on her tender skin, and the air was filled with the sweet scents of wisteria and jasmine. An hour was all she asked, but thankfully was blessed with more than two before the forlorn pair emerged from the darkness of the apartment, like two bears emerging from hibernation. Sarah hid her red-rimmed eyes behind a pair of dark glasses, and, as ever, Lisa followed suit.
“Morning, hun.” Sarah’s usually high-pitched voice was course and gravely.
Anna didn’t respond. Picking up her glass of fresh orange, she slurped and then noisily turned the page of her book.
“Shame you didn’t come with us last night. We had a real blast. Lisa had her face stuck to this God-awful guy most of the night. It was hilarious.”
Still Anna didn’t respond. I can see why Joel prefers silence, she thought.
“Not still pissed are you? … Jeeze.”
Slamming her book on the table, Anna got up. “Go to hell, Sarah. I’ve had it with you two. You’ve gone too far this time. I’m not your doormat. I should never have agreed to come on this holiday. I know you only needed me to share the cost of the apartment. You never wanted me here—God, I’m such an idiot.”
Laughing, Sarah muttered something to Lisa. And although Anna couldn’t be sure, it sounded a lot like; “You’re not wrong.”
* * *
Heading down the Beach Road, with her book in hand, Anna watched the workers hosing down pavements and laying out tables in anticipation of the lunchtime rush. A pretty ice-cream parlour caught her eye and seemed like the perfect place to unwind. Wicker furniture and brightly coloured floral hanging baskets created a cheery atmosphere that she hoped might rub off. Calling to her from the menu was an enormous strawberry sundae that she was unable to resist, and without hesitation, she ordered.
As she tucked into her ice cream, and flicked through the pages of her novel, it was Kelly’s bubbly voice that interrupted her this time.
“Hey you…what are you doing here?”
“Oh hi, Kelly. I’m err…just reading. I couldn’t stay at my apartment. I’ve had it with those two.”
“Mind if I join you?”
“No, not at all.” Anna handed her a spoon, grateful for someone to share the gargantuan dessert with.
“Great, thanks. I usually hang out at Oileus at lunch time, but they’ll only get me working, so this is way better.”
“You’re so lucky, you know,” Anna stated.
“You get to live out here, in this heat and sunshine.”
“Yeah, it can be pretty nice, I guess.”
“And you get to hang out with…”
“With Joel?” Kelly’s cherry pink lipstick glistened in the sun.
“Well, yeah, that too.”
“You know…you could stay here. There are plenty of jobs, and I have a few contacts who might be able to help. In fact, the guy who owns Oileus, Demitris, also owns loads of other bars and restaurants around here. I could have a word.”
“I don’t know. I have a job back home.”
“And is it a great job?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Think about it. What have you got to lose? And you wouldn’t be alone out here. You have us…if you want us.”
“Huh, you’ve no idea how tempting that sounds.” Anna took a huge spoonful of ice-cream while taking in some of the sights the busy street had to offer.
Kelly continued, “Anyway, our little gathering was cut short last night. Joel and Marshall had to help out back in town. They promised they’d come back tonight…if you’re interested.”
Chapter Five – Joyride
For what seemed like forever, Anna waited inside Oileus for Kelly to finish her shift. And as the last few inebriated customers left, she wondered if she had enough energy remaining to keep up with the ever-bubbly Kelly that night.
Standing outside the front of the bar, Anna waited while Kelly disappeared around the side. Soon the familiar pop-pop of the viper starting up resonated around the buildings, and sent a shiver down Anna’s spine. The noise, however, was soon drowned out by the thunderous throbbing sound of a much, much larger machine.
As Joel pulled up in front of her, Anna grinned. “You again,” she whispered.
He wore faded jeans, heavy biker boots and a white T-shirt, and his loose blond hair fell lazily about his shoulders. Without getting off the bike, he simply smiled. This time, Anna needed no further persuasion. Her whole being felt drawn to him, and she had no intention of fighting it.
Clasping her arm around his, she hauled herself up and straddled the bike behind him, pressing her body firmly against his. The bike was quick to take off, and all Anna heard, when she looked back, was a distant and somewhat annoyed, “Hey!” coming from Kelly.
As the bike drove on into the darkness, Anna asked, “Where are we going?” But just as expected, got no reply. With her arms wrapped tightly around him, she wanted to absorb his warmth, and let it seep into her body, but he felt cool—surprisingly so. It didn’t stop her though. She pulled herself in close and rested her head on his upper back, feeling his strength as his muscles rippled beneath his clothing. The ride took them along the main road, beneath towering rock-faces, and adjacent to luscious olive groves. But in the darkness, all colour was gone, and the whole world took on a monotone hue. The flimsy chiffon fabric on Anna’s top billowed with the breeze and her shorts left her legs exposed. Joel dwarfed her petite frame and she felt small. But it was a feeling she was growing to love.
The ride was long, but not long enough for Anna’s liking. Soon they were, once again slowing down and Anna realised they were back at the same beach they visited the previous evening. It seemed that they had gone full circle, and Joel had taken her on nothing more than a heavenly joyride. He pulled up on the sand, and shut off the engine. But it was clear that he had no intention of letting Anna off just yet. He turned to her, and with his back to the handlebars, pulled Anna into him. With cool hands, he brushed over her arms and clasped her hands, guiding them back around his body. He then cupped her face and homed in on her mouth with his.
Joel’s kisses were like nothing Anna had ever experienced before, or believed she would again. The strength—the passion and the intensity stole her consciousness and her whole body craved so much more. There was a wildness about him, an untamed wanting that he didn’t seem to be in full control of. For a moment she wondered if she could be the one to tame him. But in all honesty, she liked him just the way he was.
The sound of people, not too far away, was a distraction she was trying to avoid. But it was Kelly’s contagious laughter that wouldn’t be ignored.
As she broke Joel’s embrace, the taste of blood lingered on her lips. She eased herself off the bike and reached for his hand. “Come on,” she beckoned, and led him across the sand.
Once again, Kelly was in the company of Bonita and several others Anna didn’t recognise.
Kelly called out, “Hey, what happened to you?” The sly grin on her face told Anna that she knew very well what’d happened, and Anna didn’t feel the need to respond. Letting her bashful expression do the talking, she kept on walking towards her new friend.
“I love it when we all come here.” Kelly announced.
“Oh, yeah. You’ve gotta meet my friends. This is Jon, Andy, Fenny and Chris. Oh…and this is Joshua. At the mention of his name, Joshua turned to face them and Anna froze. He was the absolute spitting image of Joel. She swallowed hard, it felt like all of her Christmas’s had come at once. Kelly laughed hard and her eyebrow shifted upwards, “I didn’t tell you. Joel is one of a pair. That’s right, Joshua is his twin.”
Identical twins? Anna’s dream flashed into her mind as her eyes flitted between Joel and Joshua. Wow. There really are two of you. “So you all hang out together all the time?” Her question was directed at Kelly.
“You really are so lucky. You have to go a very long way these days to get a group of friends like this. My friends abandoned me yesterday, to go clubbing in Hersonnisos. They just left me at the side of the road. I’d never do that to anyone.”
“Ahem?” Kelly teased.
“Hmm, well, okay, but that was different. Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve got to get on a plane with them tomorrow.”
“You don’t have to go, you know. There are other ways.” Kelly whispered before bouncing to her feet and taking off across the sand.
With thick fingers, Joel traced up and down Anna’s arm—his touch sending shockwaves through her system. As his arm crept around her shoulder, he leaned in and met her lips with his. Oh my God. With each kiss, his need seemed to intensify. Unable to break from his embrace, she sank into him, absorbing everything about him. As his mouth moved along the line of her jaw, she whispered, “Tell me more about these ‘other ways’.”
But Joel said nothing. Instead, he stood and pulled Anna up beside him. His eyes glistened, reflecting the night sky and all its embellishments.
Towering over her, with the ocean breeze playing his hair, Joel laced his fingers with hers and escorted Anna away from the fire. In the distance, where the sea caressed the shoreline, Kelly was dancing with her friends in the shallow surf.
Joel placed one hand on each of Anna’s shoulders. This time, his mouth didn’t seek hers. This time, he homed in on the side of her neck, and his teeth nipped and teased her warm skin.
“Mmm, so you wanna play?” Anna teased.
Joel’s affections became insatiable. Low growling noises emanated from deep within him, and Anna’s heart pounded with wanting. The sultry sounds of the night were muffled by the noise of her pulse racing in her ears. A slight stinging sensation caused her to flinch, but not enough to want to stop him. Letting out a long sigh, she said, “This is crazy. Or is it me who’s crazy. Look at you…I should be scared of you…but for some reason, I’m not.”
Joel simply laughed.
Curious about Kelly’s words she asked, “Is there another way? I mean—Kelly—what did she mean by that?”
With a nod, Joel grinned and looked at Marshall. For a moment, he just stared at him, and then, Marshall approached. “Anna?” he asked. His voice was deep and his accent soothing.
“Hello, Anna, my name is Marshall.”
“Yes…I know.” Marshall…the name suited him. Although polite, this man seemed dominant and far more serious than his friend. Dressed in bike leathers and a crisp white shirt, his black hair fell across his face, partially concealing his features. He, too, was tall and far bigger built than any other man she knew.
“It seems my brother is quite taken with you.”
Brother? She found it a little hard to believe that these two were related, with their distinctly different colouring. “Taken with me?” she replied, fighting the burning sensation in her cheeks.
“Yes, and apparently Kelly has suggested you could stay out here in Crete?”
“Is that something you would consider?” His inquisitive tone was soft and gracious. Hardly fitting to the man conveying it.
“I guess…maybe…I mean…I don’t know. I’ve only just met you. How do I know I can…trust you?”
“You can trust us. We are peaceful and ask no more than loyalty and respect. In return, we can give you family and a sense of belonging.”
“Family? Are you in some kind of a gang?” she blurted.
Marshall laughed. “No…I don’t think we’ve ever referred to ourselves as that before.”
“Then what are you?” She wanted to understand.
Through the fire she caught Bonita staring back at her. Thankfully she no longer appeared to be threatened by Anna—well, why would she be? It was fairly clear Anna’s intentions were towards Joel. Beaming from ear to ear, Kelly came bounding over. “Well… are you going to stay with us, Anna?”
Ignoring the interruption Marshall continued, “We are simply a family, not one born of flesh…but of blood.”
“I don’t…” Anna shook her head in confusion.
“Don’t you get it?” Kelly interjected, seemingly unable to contain her excitement. “Marshall, Joel and Joshua—they are immortals—they are vampires!”
“Yeah—how cool is that?”
“Ha! You are kidding me…tell me this is a joke?”
Kelly’s expression didn’t change. “No, it’s not a joke. Don’t worry though. They won’t hurt you. This isn’t the dark ages you know, vampires can control themselves—if they want to.” Like a child her grin was enduring and her eyes sparkled with excitement.
Anna couldn’t quite grasp her ability to accept the situation. “This is crazy.” Although she was thinking allowed, Marshall responded.
“Crazy—perhaps, but like I said Joel is very taken with you. He wants to know if you would like to stay here—on this island, and spend more time with us—with him.”
Vampires? “I—I would but…it’s not that simple. I’d need to find work—and a place to stay.” Vampires…
Snaking both arms around her waist, Joel pulled her into him. His hold was firm but gentle and once again, Anna melted.
“Don’t worry—we can organise those things for you. But please, Joel would like an answer. He is young and can be very impatient sometimes.”
Joel lifted Anna’s hand and brought it to his lips—the chivalrous gesture conflicting with his rugged appearance. Oh my God—oh my God—oh my God…
Directing her conversation to Joel, Anna said, “But I only met you yesterday. How can you know you want this so soon?”
Silence was Joel’s only response.
Anna pushed, “Please, will you say something…I’m really struggling here?”
“It’s no good,” Kelly interjected. He doesn’t speak. Neither of the twins do.
“Then how do you know this is what he wants?”
“Oh believe me—he’s let it be known,” she replied.
Chapter Six Turning of the tide
Walking along the shoreline, with white foam fizzing around her toes, Anna’s footprints were deep and precise. She’d needed time alone—time to digest what these people were saying to her. That they are vampires—did they really think she was that gullible? That she could possibly believe such utter bull? But as much as she didn’t want to…she did.
Subconsciously she rubbed the side of her neck, and then glanced at her hand. Blood was smeared, tarnishing the tips of her fingers, but the sight didn’t disgust her—it simply confirmed it.
Glancing back along the beach, fire rose out of the ground in a fountain of flames. Figures milled around and even from that distance she could tell which silhouette belonged to Joel. Sitting on the sand, she hitched her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. The tide seemed to lap at the shore in slow motion. Each time, swirling foam drew back and disappeared forever into the blackness. I don’t believe it—I don’t believe it—I don’t believe it… She tried hard to convince herself, but knew she was failing.
As she shivered, one by one the hairs on her arms stood up and she pulled her knees in tighter. A glance at her watch told her it was two forty a.m. Her friends would either be back in their apartment or waist high in foam by now. A large sigh escaped her lips and she bowed her head. The plane ride home was not going to be fun. How could she speak to them now? Anything could have happened, and they clearly didn’t give a damn. She could’ve been picked up by some psychopathic serial killer for all they knew…for all they cared. No this time she was through with them.
As the image of her friends faded, in its place manifested a clear picture of Joel and she wondered how well matched they could possibly be. Anna had always considered herself to be a bit of a hippy-chick a far cry from the biker-chick type she assumed Joel would be more suited to. Joel…a vampire—a vampire—a vampire… The words spun around in her mind. This is crazy…but I can’t get on that plane tomorrow.
Scanning the shoreline, her eyes fell upon Kelly. With a look of excitement lighting her features, it seemed she couldn’t hold herself back much longer. So in an attempt to put her out of her misery, Anna let her grin signal her invitation. And, it seemed Kelly needed no further persuasion. Already bounding across the sand, Anna stood to greet her.
“Are you okay?” Kelly asked. “I realise how tactless I must have sounded. It’s only that I just love seeing Joel like this. He deserves to meet someone like you—someone with depth and understanding. The twins…they are very special, and it takes a certain type of person to understand them.”
“I think I get that. But why me?”
“Because you haven’t questioned. You seem to accept him for who he is, and I can’t tell you how much that means to him.”
“Are you like them…are you one of them?”
“A vampire—me?” Kelly exploded with laughter and Anna could feel her embarrassment spilling out.
“Don’t be. It’s me who should be apologising. No, I’m not a vampire. Neither are the others. We are Véradó. We are the ones they rely on to help them maintain a normal existence in this world.”
“Véradó? I’ve never heard that word before.”
“I’m not surprised. It is Hungarian. It means we give them our blood.”
“Oh.” As Anna’s mouth stuck in the shape of an ‘O’, her breathing hitched and she physically felt the colour drain from her face.
Acknowledging Anna’s sudden fear, Kelly responded, “Honestly, Anna, it’s no big deal. Vampires need to feed, and this is the best way for them. It’s how they control themselves.” She lowered her voice, and a huge grin moulded her features. “And to be completely honest, it feels mmm…amazing.”
“And what’s in it for me?”
“Well, for a start, you get to be with Joel. You will become a part of something very special. Something most can only dream of. Marshall and the boys, they will be there for you, protecting you and welcoming you into their world. I’ve been a part of it for a few years now, and I’ve never looked back.”
“Tell me this is above board. No drugs, and no…well, you know what I’m asking. Jesus, do you realise how dodgy this whole thing sounds?”
“Yes I do, and no there is nothing like that going on here. These are good people, who just happen to be immortal. They would never do you any harm, and if you are not happy, you can leave at any time. All I can tell you is that they’ve given me something worth living for. My life before—back home was pretty awful. All I ever wanted was to be loved, and now—here, I am.”
“I don’t need rescuing, Kelly.”
“I’m not saying you do. You will still live your own life here, but they can find you legitimate work, and joining us each evening will give you a purpose and sense of belonging. This is a family—and that’s what is being offered to you. It’s your call.”
Anna fell silent. Staring out into the night, she contemplated the situation. It was hard not to believe Kelly. Although a stranger to Anna, and despite her appearance, there was something uniquely innocent about her. Unable to deny her need for the warmth of family, she could feel herself caving, and just at that moment, Joel came up behind her and rested his head on her shoulder. As his calming aura penetrated her, her lips automatically formed the words.
“Yes, I think…I’d like to be a part of this.”
Kelly literally bounced with joy. “Woo-hoo,” she screamed.
Wrapping his cool arms around her, for the first time in a very long time Anna felt warm and wanted.
Chapter Seven – The beginning
With arms inter-locked, Kelly escorted Anna back towards the fire. A few paces behind, Joel seemed content to let Kelly fill Anna in on her potential new life.
“So how long have you been out here?” Kelly enquired.
“Just two weeks. How about you?”
“Coming on four years, now. Like you, I originally came out here for a holiday. I wanted to get away from things back home…you know.”
“You said you are a Véradó?”
“Yes—but not to Marshall or the twins. I am Véradó to Katya.”
“Yes. She is the only female in the coven. I think you’ll like her—although she is pretty strong willed. It’s Katya who showed me this way of life, and like I said, I’ve never looked back.”
As they approached the fire, the flames were dying down and the heat far less intense.
Marshall waited for them. In spite of his biker clothes, his demeanour appeared serious and businesslike. With a grin permanently etched on her face, Kelly handed her new friend over to him, and then stood aside.
For a moment, Marshall stood, his attention flitting between Anna and Joel. Breaking the silence, he said, “You know what we are now, Anna, and you know what it is that we do?”
Anna nodded. Sweat slid down her back, and her pulse quickened.
“But despite everything, Kelly tells me you want to stay here, on this island, with us?”
Again, she nodded.
“Do you understand what you are committing to? Joel is a vampire. For some time I have been looking for someone to assign to him—someone grounded and loyal. He needs a constant in his life, like Bonita is in mine.”
Bonita’s eyes shined at the mention of her name.
“Okay?” Anna replied.
He continued, “Our world is secret, and it has to stay that way. The bond you will experience with Joel will stop you being able to tell anyone our secrets and it will also create a compulsion that will draw you to him. The compulsion is not manufactured by us, it’s just the way it works.”
The words Marshall spoke weren’t filtering in. Anna could feel herself trying to absorb them, but they just didn’t seem real. Feeling a cool, reassuring hand on her shoulder, she glanced up into the eyes of a vampire…her vampire. And at that moment, nothing else mattered. Joel could be hers—this man could be hers—all she had to do was say yes.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what he is—I just want to be with him. I know it’s only been a couple of days, but I can’t bear the thought of leaving tomorrow and never seeing him again. If he wants me…then I want to become his Véradó.”
“You are sure?”
“I am sure.”
“Joel…” Marshall gestured for his brother to hand Anna over—and he did. Gently Marshall’s hand slid down the length of Anna’s arm and he lifted her hand to his mouth. Watching intently, Anna held her breath and watched as his lips gently kissed it. Slowly, he turned it over and centred on her wrist—on her vein. For a moment, his mouth lingered on her warm pulsating arteries, and suddenly she became very aware of the blood coursing through them. Bracing herself, she drew a sharp inward breath…but as his razor sharp teeth penetrated her skin, she felt nothing.
Within moments Marshall released her hand, and Joel once again pulled her to him, his hold firm and protective.
Squealing with delight, Kelly stated, “You did it…you let him take your blood.”
“Uh huh. You’re one of us now. Anna, you are a Véradó. Welcome to our world.” Spinning around on the sand she grabbed Anna by the hand. “Come on…”
“Why…where are we going?”
There’s this little place I want to take you. It’s called Zeus Xenias…and believe me—you’re gonna love it.”
If you enjoyed this short story, why not check out the first novel in the series: