Single, slightly pale, male vampire, searching for lonely male vampire. Must enjoy carry-out in a bag, strolling the cemetery under a full moon and watching poor-taste horror flicks. No vengeful sword carriers, please. Age isn’t an issue. Furry puppies not excluded.
Cassidy read the script then burst out in giggles. She hid her face with the paper until Andrew ripped it from her grasp and scowled.
“What?” She seemingly tried hard to stop laughing, but couldn’t quite do so as her lips continued to twitch. Holding her stomach, she erupted in another round.
Andrew hoped the stern frown on his face and the displeased thinning of his mouth would warn her that he wasn’t the least amused.
Sitting up straight, she snatched the paper back. He knew she took this project seriously, pulling out all the stops to get him hooked up with another guy. She had his best interests at heart, but he wasn’t sure she was going about it the right way.
Yeah, he wanted to find a lover, a companion. Sort of. But, somehow, putting an ad in the local paper didn’t seem like the ideal route to track down the best man for the job. “This is ridiculous. I’m not looking for a plumber, Cassidy.”
Her lips twitched once again. “You’re kinky. Really kinky.”
“Huh?” He blinked, having lost the trail of her warped mind.
“All those tubes and snakes. Let’s not forget the butt crack when the guy bends over.” She laughed so hard she snorted.
The temptation to start yanking his hair out increased by leaps and bounds.
“Oh, my.” She sucked in air, flicked her gaze to him, then straightened her back and simmered down—mostly.
We’ll see how long that lasts.
“I don’t think it’s bad at all.” He stuck his nose in the air, feeling put upon by her mild criticism and obvious humor at his expense.
“It’s not bad, it just needs an adjustment or two.” She chewed on her nail as she reread the submission to the singles section in the local paranormal newspaper.
She covered another laugh with a cough.
Andrew arched his eyebrow. The action conveyed that he was quickly losing patience with her. Normally, it worked. Today, he wasn’t betting on anything. After all, he sat in front of the computer, ready to type in a ridiculous ad for a boyfriend. The idea still hit him as preposterous.
“Well, let’s see. The last line about the puppies.”
“What’s wrong with it? Although I would prefer another vampire, I suppose if the right werewolf came along, I’d give him a try.” He puffed his chest out. “I’m nothing if not an equal-opportunity dating sort of man.”
“Uh-huh. And the way it reads people will either think you’ve got some sort of kinky dog fetish, are into bestiality, or both.” Another round of giggles escaped. “Or are into cradle-robbing those werewolves.” She tamped it down to a silly grin. “Shame on you being prejudiced toward old shifters. You, being positively ancient, shouldn’t throw rocks at glass houses.”
“I’m not prejudiced,” he bit out. “And not ancient, either.”
She waved the paper at him. “Furry puppies not excluded.”
“Argh!” Andrew grabbed the paper from her hand, wadded it up and tossed it over his shoulder. The pile littered the floor, nearly covering the small area behind his desk. He rested his face in his hands. “I give up.”
“Hey, it’s not that bad. We can fix this.” She picked up another piece of paper and a pen.
“I haven’t dated in five hundred years, Cass. Even if another man was interested, I wouldn’t know what to do with him.” The admission escaped on a thready whisper. He hated bringing up the past, but he needed her to understand a few things. No telling who she’d find for him if he didn’t lay down a few basics. He blew out a long breath and focused on her again.
She blinked at him with wide eyes.
He lifted his head and read the question plastered on her face. Unable to resist, he rolled his eyes. Again. “I still know how to do that. At least I sure hope I do.” His chin fell to his chest. The earlier enthusiasm dissipated as he considered how long it really had been since he’d bedded a man. Long enough for a few generations to come and go.
“Awww. Don’t worry. So, you haven’t been in the game for a while. No biggie.”
“Five hundred years is ‘no biggie’?” He gawked at her.
She grinned. “Nope. Because you have me.”
He groaned dramatically. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“Hey, have I ever led you astray?”
He opened his mouth, preparing to recite the long, continually growing, list.
“Don’t answer that.” She cut him off before he could utter a sound. “It’ll be just fine. We’ll find you the greatest man ever.” She tapped her chin with the pen. “What could possibly go wrong?”
He dropped his forehead to the desk.
“Let’s see. Single male vampire searching for his match. Has to be into men, enjoy great literature and nightly strolls under a moonlit sky. Must love cats. Vampires and shifters preferred. Humans need not apply.”
Andrew lifted his head and watched her scribble the words on the paper. They sounded better than his, but not by much.
Why don’t we just put the truth in the paper? Fuck buddy wanted. Fur bearers and vampires only. Must like cats and crazy, almost human, women.
Finished, she peered up to meet Andrew’s gaze. “What do you think?”
“I think I need a bottle of tequila.”
She grinned. “It’s not that horrible.”
“Says the woman who’s not trying to find a date through the classifieds.”
“We could try that online dating thing again.” Cassidy lifted her chin in challenge.
He growled well enough to make any werewolf proud. “No way in hell. Not again.”
“What? I thought you liked all that cybersex stuff,” she asked with more than a hint of amusement in her tone.
“All the men lining up to chat with you, one hand on their dick, just beating away. I bet that guy, Hank, is still around.”
Andrew flashed his fangs in warning. “Cassidy…”
She tilted her head, as if pondering the mysteries of the dating universe. “Although, how they were able to type, I don’t know. Maybe they had one of those computer systems that transcribed while they spoke. Since you can’t type worth crap, I bet that made it really hard to have a conversation and jack off at the same time.”
“Cassidy…” His tone became less patient and more frustrated with her outlandish exaggeration of the topic at hand. His sex life—or lack of one—was off the list of potential discussions and she knew it. However, that didn’t even make her pause when she was on a roll. The girl knew how to needle him, that was for sure.
“Wonder what kind of program knows all the bad words anyway? Your birthday is coming up.”
“Cassidy!” The outrageous suggestion launched over the line by about a mile.
“Yes?” She smiled innocently.
He knew when to throw in the towel. “Just give me the bloody paper.” He took it from her, but not before he saw the victorious expression on her face. Using his index fingers, he slowly typed the message into the computer and hit the Send button. His stomach knotted. A bad omen.
“I can’t wait to see how many inquiries you get.”
He leveled a look at her. “Why do I feel like this is a bad idea?”
“I don’t know.” She grinned, kissed him on the cheek, then darted out of the room before he could scold her for such outpourings of affection. Though he really didn’t mind, he’d never let her in on that particular secret. Didn’t intend to, either.
He shook his head. She was a mess, to quote modern slang. Yet she proved entertaining. Most of the time.
He turned his attention back to the computer, noticed the confirmation that his ad had been placed and drew in a deep breath. Uncertainty lingered, as did his wishy-washy commitment to the idea of dating.
He’d been a strapping lad of twenty-four when turned well over six hundred years ago. Without an ounce of royal blood or even a distant relative of a gentleman, he’d subsisted by traveling from place to place, earning a meager living performing manual labor, all before he’d even known vampires existed. He’d worked farms and docks, laid bricks and mined for coal, anything to earn him a penny or three. Along the way, he’d sought companionship with men. A means to help shorten the long, cold nights and to make the world seem a bit brighter and upbeat, despite the rough conditions he’d endured every day of his life.
Then a chance had paid off, netting him a job on a large farm and a meeting with the owner, Gareth, who’d turned out to be a rather unique man who’d happened to change his life forever. A downfall or an improvement, he still wasn’t sure. But somehow he’d survived to this day.
Survived. An appropriate term. Despite the hardships, he’d enjoyed a decent existence, even found happiness with his sire for a while. Love made the world brighter. Until Gareth had passed. The pain of his loss had hit hard then finally subsided, leaving a vacant spot in Andrew’s heart, begging to be filled.
Every person Andrew cared for had died. His family. Gareth. The crux of being a vampire, Andrew supposed, but it still hurt. He’d begun to wonder if loneliness wasn’t a mixed-bag component in exchange for the gift of immortality.
Through the years since, Andrew hadn’t been able to find that missing piece to complete himself. Time after time, he’d been let down. Hopeful relationships just weren’t to be. One-night stands became the norm until they too became lacking. He wanted what he’d had before—love. Instead, he’d discovered a hodgepodge, ranging from strictly hot, fast sex to stalkers. Men wanted him for many reasons, none of them seemed to be the right one. Finally, in pure frustration, he’d given up, turning his attention to other pursuits. They never quite filled the void, but he didn’t complain. He had a pretty good life, compared to where he’d come from. No more scavenging for meals or rubbing his frozen toes in an attempt to keep frostbite at bay.
Yet every time Andrew glimpsed a couple holding hands, kissing or smiling at each other, jealousy reared its ugly head. He wanted what they had. Still to this day.
A little bored with everyday life, Andrew filled his hours with hobbies and reading. Many nights he’d walk around, checking out the world. He’d met many of the other local vampires doing the same thing. Though most were decent, he’d never felt a spark for any of them. Loose friendship, sure. Lust and the potential for love, no. He considered himself a loner, perfectly happy sitting at home and watching the world pass by.
Enter Cassidy into his life.
She’d arrived on a whirlwind and never slowed down. He deterred her as nicely as possible only to find she stuck to him like a burr. Her zaniness made him laugh, while her wayward thoughts had him rolling his eyes. At first, he’d labeled her nuts, then he’d decided she was exactly what he needed—in a sisterly, best friend kind of way. Opposites attract, or so the saying went. Andrew believed it when it came to Cassidy and him. She’d never met a stranger and could chat with anyone. A people person, she was in her element no matter the situation. Andrew preferred quiet places, plenty of alone time, and possessed a strong filter from his mind to his mouth—which Cassidy seemed to lack. She embraced life, always wanted to venture out to see the sights and have new experiences. Andrew preferred his oversized leather recliner stationed perfectly in the library, surrounded by his immense book collection, especially on cold days. His adventuresome spirit had been tamed long ago. Now, he much preferred hanging out in the quaint but tidy house he called home.
Except for nights like this when Cassidy dragged him into another ridiculous scenario.
A little, fuzzy gray kitten peeked around the corner, spied the wadded-up papers and dashed in. She batted one around, then went to another. Chloe, the runt of the litter and one of the cutest.
Andrew watched as the rest of the family appeared one by one to join in the fun. The six babies sported different-colored coats, probably testament to their various fathers. Their mother, Gracie, had showed up on his doorstep about three months back. Cassidy had brought her inside and pampered her like a queen. Oddly enough, Gracie never appeared upset or skittish around him like most animals did. She settled on his lap often and purred at his gentle petting. Seven weeks ago, she’d gifted them all with six little tyrants who’d taken over his house. They climbed the curtains, knocked stuff off tables and got into anything they could. Andrew’s once quiet home had turned into a kitten nursery—a chaotic one at that.
Initially, he hadn’t been thrilled, but those little babies had grown on him. When Cassidy mentioned adopting them out, he’d put his foot down. After all, they had a home. Right there with him and his best friend.
Yet as happy as the cats and Cassidy made him, something was missing in order to make his life complete—a lover. Someone to snuggle with under the covers during the cold nights. Someone to share secrets and adventures with. Someone who could love him for who and what he was. Someone to grow old with. Well, as old as vampires could get.
Andrew wasn’t sure such a person even existed. He’d looked. Often.
Chloe climbed up his leg and perched right on his lap. She stared up at him as if demanding service or reading his thoughts, he couldn’t decide which. Automatically, he stroked her soft fur.
“I have a bad feeling about this, Chloe.”
She purred loudly and closed her eyes as he scratched under her chin. “I tried to get out of it, but you know Cassidy. A dog with a bone when she has her mind made up.” He whispered the truth. She’d pretty much run over his objections and shoved him back into the dating game. Reluctantly, yes. However, now that he’d arrived, he vowed to give it a good shot. A total waste of time if he didn’t.
He and Cassidy had met a couple of years back and hit it off as friends. From what she’d admitted, much later, at first she’d been drawn to his slightly unusual looks. The jet-black hair cut short and clean. Wide shoulders and chest that trailed down to a narrower waist. A butt she could bounce a quarter off—and had done so once just to test the theory, much to his chagrin. Those were her words. He saw himself more average. Never a ‘chick magnet’. Not that it would have done the women any good.
“You’re a complete package, but your eyes are your greatest asset,” she asserted—often. She’d told him the piercing blue reminded her of the stormy sky. An apt description, he supposed, because stormy fit his personality as well. Proud, dominant and pensive to the core, he didn’t put up with tomfoolery.
How many times had she reminded him to lighten up or risk death by a heart attack? Nearly as many as he’d rolled his eyes at her. Which happened to be a lot.
He took life way too seriously, which was where she came in, according to her.
“Comic relief, that’s me,” had become one of her most favorite phrases.
They’d been friends for a while when the day she’d come home from work to find a burglar in her apartment had changed things. The guy had wanted to make sure she’d keep quiet and smacked her around enough to leave a few bruises. She’d blabbed, all right—to the police. They’d chalked it up as just another burglary. Andrew, on the other hand, had taken the offense personally. He’d moved her in with him and promised she’d never had to worry about the bastard again.
To this day, Andrew had never told her what had happened to the guy who’d broken in and hit her. Preferred not to. As far as he could tell, though, she was fairly certain the bastard no longer existed on this earth—and that his afterlife wasn’t filled with happiness and a temperate climate. She’d be right, too.
Chloe rubbed against his hand, begging for more petting.
Andrew soaked up her unconditional love until she caught sight of one of her brothers’ tails flicking from side to side. In a flash, she jumped down and pounced. The fight was on.
An electric current in the air stirred through the area. Andrew jerked his head up, spied a tall, dark-headed man looming on the other side of the study, and frowned. Big, powerful and ruggedly handsome in an ancient Greek kind of way, the man carried himself with pride and more than a hint of confidence. Considering who he was, the arrogance went with the territory.
At least he’d ended up across the room, well away from the rest of the playing kittens. Andrew would never forgive the guy if he squished one.
“Death.” Andrew offered up the lackluster greeting to Hades, Cassidy’s father. The god popped in now and again, always without warning, and with a gigantic chip on his shoulder. The guy knew Andrew’s name, but stubbornly refused to use it. That alone pricked Andrew’s annoyance nerve.
“Where’s my daughter?” Hades clutched a laptop in his hands. He’d traded in his regal robes for black jeans and a Hawaiian shirt heavy on the greens and blues. White sneakers completed the package.
Secretly, Andrew missed the traditional garments. The bright, flowery shirts didn’t do much for the guy and they came pretty damn close to turning Andrew blind with their brilliant, brash colors.
“Coming!” Cassidy’s voice carried up to them from downstairs.
Andrew heard her footsteps on the stairs announcing her imminent arrival. She hurried in and rushed over to give her father a hug.
“Daddy. This is a surprise.”
Hades embraced her warmly before stepping back and holding out the computer. “I can’t get this confounded thing to obey.”
Andrew bit his lip to keep from grinning. Obviously, since Hades ruled the Underworld, he also expected anyone and anything to follow orders. The fact that a little computer stymied him amused Andrew quite a bit.
Bartholomew, the little white kitten with a single black spot covering one ear, trotted over to Hades and latched on to his shoestrings. He grabbed one with his claws and teeth, then started to pull with all his might.
Hades glanced down and smiled. “They’re growing.”
Cassidy beamed with pride as she took the laptop from his hands. “They’re a handful, but we love them, anyway.” She nodded toward the door. “Let’s go downstairs, sit down and see what the problem is.”
Hades bent over, gently picked up Bartholomew and tickled under his chin before handing him to Andrew. He tilted his head in acknowledgment before following his daughter out of the room.
Andrew understood the gesture. While he and Hades weren’t best buddies, Hades mostly approved of Andrew. Considering Andrew was a vampire and fell outside Hades’ realm, that said something.
The kitten growled and attacked one of the buttons on Andrew’s shirt. He grinned and let the baby have at it. Just like he did with Cassidy and the rest of the little cat family that had essentially squatted in his house.
Yeah. I’ve mellowed over the years. Big time.
The truth was he wouldn’t give them up for the world. After being alone for so many centuries, he understood the value of love and acceptance.
He put the kitten back down on the floor and flicked one of the paper wads in front of him. Bartholomew swatted it and the chase began.
Andrew watched him for a second longer before turning his attention back to the computer screen.
Now, if he could only find a man who fit him to a T and meshed well into his already established family. A challenge, but not impossible. He just had to find another vampire who liked cats, tolerated the god of death popping in unannounced, accepted a spunky almost-human woman with a penchant for meddling and wouldn’t mind dealing with him for the next millennium or so.
Not impossible? Yeah, right. More like about the same odds as a zombie apocalypse in the next decade.