As a creature of the night, he'd lived a hundred lifetimes. Some might grow tired of the bloodshed, living in secret, and perhaps even the very act of existing itself. Not so, Vlad Tepes, as he was most popularly known. The most grueling thing had been the loneliness. When you lived as long as he had, you would fall in love, but know that no mate could live as long as you. Even if you turned someone, as he had with Cleopatra, Nina, and scores of others, it wouldn't last long. Love was meant to burn brightly at first and then smolder for a normal, human lifetime. He would never stop trying though.



This night found him on the rooftops as many did. He'd come to New York from London a century ago, and if he loved any city as much as he had that one, it was this glorious beast. Louder than any place he had ever lived and surprisingly filthy, there was a predatory nature to it that resonated with him. The phone on his hip buzzed. Someone was approaching the door to his penthouse. He dropped lightly to the balcony and walked through his bedroom and onto the summit of the staircase that lead up to it.



The doorbell rang, and he looked at the screen of the wonderful device that never left him. It was the woman he'd invited up from last night. He'd attended a fund raiser for a local politician, and she'd been radiant then. He saw from the picture that even in more common clothing, she was no less beautiful. He touched a button and spoke. "Come in." Gone was the Transylvanian accent. Even his Received Pronunciation had mellowed. There was still something exotic in his speech patterns and intonation.



The lock clicked, and she came in. Her name was Veronica and he loved the way it rolled from his mouth. She wore a simple, black sheath dress that hugged her curves without being immodestly tight. It did reveal an expanse of fair skin, leaving neck and shoulders exposed. Hair, so black it was nearly blue, was pulled back from her face and hung straight to mid-back. She looked up and steel gray eyes smiled at him, matched by the one on her face revealing straight, white teeth. "Mr. Lewis. So good to see you again."



He came down the stairs, his black suit impeccably cut and allowing for freedom of movement when needed. The tie that disappeared into the waistcoat was a deep burgundy and a gold stick pin, in the form of a winged serpent, held it in place. "Please, Veronica, I would love it if you would call me Bill." He returned her smile.



They met at the bottom of the stairs and hugged, kissing one another lightly on the cheek. He could smell her perfume, but underneath that was the warm copper tang of her blood and a trace of something he couldn't quite place. Fear? Nervousness? No, that wasn't it.



"Bill it is. Thank you for having me over. I'm eager to understand how I can help you." Veronica looked around, taking in the opulent setting. The furniture and paintings were expensive, but tasteful, the color palate warm and earthy.



Bill gestured to the nearby couches, set facing a low table and the simulation of a fireplace. "Please, have a seat. Can I get you something to drink? Wine? Scotch, perhaps?" He knew she was a scotch drinker.



"A scotch would be lovely." She sat on the couch and crossed her legs, causing the black dress to rise just above her knee. She wore no hose and the flats she had on would have been possible to run in, even if they weren't the sneakers all Americans seemed to wear these days. Not that she'd be able to run far enough or fast enough. The small bag that hung from one of those milky shoulders was placed on the smooth granite surface of the table.



He poured them both a generous three fingers and added just a splash of water to each. He came around to the couch and held out both, allowing her to choose.



She took the one from his right hand. She sipped it and rolled her eyes upwards slightly. "Oh, this is delicious. An Islay and at least thirty years old." She set her glass on the table.



He chuckled and sat nearby. He could sense that whatever discomfort she felt earlier was gone. "You have excellent taste buds." He sipped at his own drink and set it near hers. "I am a man that believes in cutting right to the chase. I have to admit that I invited you here under something like false pretenses."



Grey eyes flicked to her purse and color appeared in her cheeks. "So, you don't need someone to write your memoirs?"



He tilted his head. There was the scent of fear he relished. "Do not worry, my dear." He narrowed his blue eyes slightly and focused his will on hers. "When I saw you last night, I felt something."



Veronica squirmed a little in her chair. She was bracing to grab her purse.



"Relax." He put some power behind the word. "I mean you no permanent harm."



"Please, I just want to go home." The muscles in her arms and long legs tensed and relaxed, as her desire to grab her purse and run warred with his command.



"You will, my dear. First, I must tell you that you need to sleep." He waved his hand theatrically. It wasn't necessary, but he had always enjoyed the little flourishes. Dark hair whipped as she shook her head back and forth. "I won't." She yelled and managed to grab the bag. She flicked it open and pulled a small book and a silver flask from it. The bible had a simple, black leather cover with a gold cross on its spine. "Back, demon." The cap to the flask spun off.



The tang of holy water filled his nose, and he backed away from the book. "I see that you suspected who I am."



"More than suspected, I knew. I put myself in that place last night. I've done some research on you, Mr. Lewis. My family has been following the path you left for quite some time. My great grandfather nearly put you in your coffin permanently." The smile on her face was wicked now that she had the upper hand.



"Ahh, a Van Helsing? I thought for sure I'd rid myself of your family ages ago." He relaxed as best he could with the threat facing him. "Where is your stake? Your garlic?"

"I don't want to kill you right away, Mr. Lewis. You see, I do want to write your memoirs. There is quite a bit of misinformation floating around out there. I wish to set that straight. Can't do that if I kill you."



A deep sigh made his chest deflate a little. Not that he needed the breath. "That's a shame." His eyes flickered to the left. "Shoot her in the leg."



A small caliber pistol shot cracked the air.



Veronica screamed as the bullet caught her in the shin. She dropped the Bible and the vial.



"I did well, master?" Maria, the great great granddaughter of one of his former pets, held the smoking revolver out just in case another shot was necessary.



"You did very well, my faithful servant." He walked over to where Veronica lay writhing on the floor, her blood pooling on the tile floor. "As for you, did you not think I would check on your background? It would serve me well to have someone as knowledgeable as you at my side. And turning my old enemy's offspring would be to my advantage in so many ways. It doesn't hurt that you're also beautiful and strong willed. Breaking you will be a pleasure."



Veronica grabbed the Bible as she groaned through her teeth in agony.



"Quaint, seeking help from the good book in your time of need." He stepped forward and punted the holy water out of her reach. "I can wait until you pass out from blood loss, or I can merely have my pet here relieve you of it. But I will give you a moment to make your peace."



"Very good of you." Veronica grunted out. She thumbed through the Bible until she got to the place holder, a red ribbon. With the spine facing out, she pressed her face to the open pages and kissed the spot in question. Then she closed the book. "You won't get the chance." Her eyes fluttered closed and the book fell to the floor.



He rushed to her side and knelt down. "What did you do?" Her chest had ceased rising and falling. There was a medicinal scent on her breath. He didn't know what she had taken, or how, but it was a toxin of some kind. There would be no taking of her blood. She died the true death. He knelt beside her and began beating her with clenched fists. Dull smacking sounds were soon replaced by wetter and wetter noises and the breaking of bone.



Eventually, the anger and loss he felt was assuaged by the violence. He stood, shaking bone and tooth fragments from his knuckles. The blood and gore spattered suit would need to be incinerated. The elegant jacket slapped against the floor, followed soon by the shirt and pants. "Maria, burn everything. I must bathe. When I come out, I expect this mess to be cleaned up. If it isn't, there will be no punishment for you tonight."



"What about her meat, Master?" The creature moved closer, her scarred face showing the evidence of past punishments that she held so dear.



"No doubt it's spoiled by whatever she took. Burn the book and the holy water too."



He turned and walked towards the stars, his naked form angular and well-muscled. It was the body somewhere between that of a dancer and an apex predator. He had just mounted the second step when the explosive in the bottom half of the flask went off. Bits of his servant, as well as blessed silver pierced his skin in a hundred places. He screamed in agony and fell forward. The flames spread, and he knew the fire fighters and police would be here soon. They would find the bodies of the dead women, and he would have much explaining to do. It would be days before he would be able to move properly. Weeks would pass before he would be able to work around the system and get his life back in order. He may even have to flee into the countryside. As he thought about these things, he began to laugh.



For all of the ennui of undeath and the lack of love in his life, he would embrace the hatred of his enemies, the closest thing he would ever have to a human connection.