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When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. -

Shakespeare’s 29th Sonnet
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"Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out."
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SUBSIDE


Sensing Merck’s turmoil, understanding it, Deacon didn’t press for their meeting. Two days had passed and each of them Deacon waited in the same pew more than aware he was not coming. Not because he plundered his mind. Deacon hadn’t. He sensed it in his bones.

Ahh, the affect this holy man had on him.

Had it been anyone else, Deacon would have hunted them down, extinguished his desire immediately.

Today, as sun began to set, he felt Merck enter the sacristy and heard water run briefly. Standing, Deacon walked to the confessional and slipped behind the curtain. Shortly, the door beside him opened and closed quietly. He began with, “Father, I have…”

Abruptly cutting Deacon off, he asked, “Must we talk religion tonight?” A sigh signaled Merck’s weariness. “Seven hundred and thirty years?”

“Give or take quite a few hundred. That’s when I last confessed. Right around the time I became aware Catholicism resonated with me for whatever reason.” Silence wore on. “Father?”

“Call me Merck.”

“Does that ease your conscience?”

“No.” Deacon heard clothing rustle. “Why Deacon?”

“It’s… I may have been one of the first. Anno Domini, what year precisely I don’t recall, although, Stephen had been stoned to death and martyred. I opened my eyes in a meadow strewn with red lilies, and…and I…was.”

“I see.”

“What do you see, Merck?” Again, the swish of material. “Are you removing your robe?”

“My cassock.”

“I’m okay with that.”

Merck grunted. “And if you were not?”

“I’d ask you to put it back on. Merck?”

“Yes.”

“Were you concerned for me in the alley?”

“As I would be for anyone.” He paused. “I don’t use this confessional much anymore. Most parishioners are satisfied with face to face.”

“Are you saying you’d prefer we do this somewhere else or that you wish our sessions to be face to face?”

“Somewhere else but I like not seeing you.”

“Why?”

“You must know considering you ransacked my mind.”

“I’ve not taken that liberty since you asked me not to.”

“But you could?”

“At any time, yes.”

“I see.”

Deacon stretched his legs out which left expensively shod feet visible beneath the curtain. “I promised to listen to you.”

“I have nothing to say.”

“Tell me when you began feeling disdain for your religion.”

“You tore that from my mental path.” Fingers laced through the ornate screen separating them. “I don’t know God anymore.” Deacon observed knuckles whiten as they tightened around wood. “I’m not sure I ever did.”

“Yet you went through with the Rite of Ordination?”

“I wanted to make a difference.”

“Have you?”

“Not nearly half what I set out to accomplish.”

“Perhaps there is another way.” Deacon recognized confusion once again. Stronger this time and, Jesus, he didn’t want to care. Needing to stem his feelings, he asked, “Why don’t you want to see my face?”

Merck’s fingers unwrapped from the screen. Feet scrapped as he stood, and Deacon heard the door open and close. Not sticking to his vow, he entered Merck’s mind; he shoved past visions of parishioners, words on paper for Sunday’s Mass. He moved to thoughts marauding along his mental path of leaving Deacon alone in the confessional.

More than anything in the world—Merck wanted to walk away and not look back.

When Merck snatched the curtain aside, so riveted on the priest’s unrest and the fact that he might care, Deacon was caught totally off guard. Let this go, damn it. “Why can’t you look at me?” A cacophony of doubt blared in Deacon’s soul. Let. Him. Go!

“Because I want you. I can’t keep you from my mind… Not your reading it but, Lord, all I think about is you.” Merck’s head bowed dejectedly.

Deacon spread his legs, tugged him into the room and used fingers to nudge his chin up. “Look at me.”

Anguish darkened brown eyes to almost black. “Why me? Why?”

“Because.” He reached behind Merck’s neck, pulled his head down, and whispered, “I need you.” And you’re close enough to the edge to have answers or at least search for them.
DRINK

Thirst rode Grayson Colter like the skeleton of death, its boney knees digging deep into his soul. His dry mouth hung open catching moisture from the air. The scent assailed him and his nostril’s flared as he twisted in every direction. The smell of sex mingled with the tantalizing aroma of food—blood. Her blood.

Master of this land, he wouldn’t allow anyone else to have what he wanted. Astor’s henchmen escaped this time but would pay dearly for what they’d done. First, he needed to find her. Weak from battle, his senses weren’t as sharp as they should be and he wouldn’t be able to hold the shape of his raven long. Where was she? The heartbeat, faint, slowed even more and made it harder to locate but Gray had to find her before she died. Her life’s force would be no good to him then. His eyes swept the barren, stony landscape. Why couldn’t he see her? No holes or craggy rocks to hide behind. The Joshua trees were green and full. Could she have climbed one in her condition?

Time ran out as sunrise peeked over the horizon. Only minutes left before it would be too late. Using what strength he had, he became mist and floated invisibly across the dust basin. This would give him a little more time. A glint of something shiny protruding from the tree closest drew his attention. He streaked toward it. The ring she’d stole from him. Its glittering jewel is what would save her.
And him.

He needed to hurry. Her body lay draped over a limb, blood streamed down her arm. Weakness for sustenance overtook him. Gray materialized and gently lifted her from the tree holding her close. God forgive him for his need, but he was helpless to fight the pull of her sweet blood. Her fingers were drawn to his lips and he suckled ruby red liquid dripping from them. He savored the taste of her as it soared through his veins. Vowing to take only enough to save himself and get them to safety in a nearby cave.

Rays of light burned his skin. Her life’s force gave him energy to clothe himself and keep the sun at bay for a short while. Enough. The voice whispered in his head. He released her fingers and He lifted straight into the air leaving a whirl of dust as he sped toward a cave he’d used often when caught by daybreak in his desert home. Skin puckered, forcing a groan of anguish through dry lips. A ragged sound escaped his throat in a whoosh of air when he spied the cavern’s opening. His pain eased at hearing water lap against rock. Dank, musky darkness welcomed him inside the cocoon of safety. The warm pool of alkaline water would help him heal. Their clothes vanished and he dropped neck deep into the wetness holding her gently in his arms. Though she barely moved, Gray yet smelled life in her. He wouldn’t let her die.

Saliva pooled in his mouth. Drink. He must quiet the hunger.

His tongue licked out, tantalized by lingering sweetness on his lips. He looked forward to the task of cleansing her, his mouth touching every crevice. His dick hardened at the vision in his mind of sinking into her body. Christ, he hoped he could at least wait until she healed. Gray used cramped fingers to brush damp hair from her forehead wishing he could see her blue eyes. Dark lashes fluttered on pink cheeks. Why had she run from him last night? And why can’t I read her? He’d have to wait for her to gain consciousness for the answer to his first question. The second baffled him. Only one other could help him understand that. The bastard he’d pledged to kill for letting his brutes hurt her. Astor Cade. Another master vampyre who visited Colter lands often.

They were best friends—the oldest vampyres in the States.

He went over last night in his mind.

His and Astor’s parties always got out of control. Humans arrived in droves, hangers-on looking for drugs and excitement. He didn’t know why he continued to put up with his best friend’s bullshit. But he did because they’d spent decades hunting and living together. 
Gray lived on inherited money. Millions. He managed it well and and had never done an honest day’s work in his life. Astor was blue collar when made by a maniacal vamp who later died, deservedly, at the hands of a scorned human woman.

Tired of his life and the same crap every day, Gray had decided not to host the parties any longer. When Astor turned up last night followed by three or four hard core blood and drug addicts, his first instinct was not to allow them entrance, but bored and in need of diversion, he relented.

Where she came from, or when she arrived, Gray didn’t know. He spotted her across the room and his dead heart damn near struck a beat. Hair deep red, styled short and close to her face, looked feathery soft. His fingers itched to run through it. Sparkling blue eyes gazed at him, and when she turned, she presented him with the tightest ass he’d ever seen. His sharp vision saw no tracks on her arms which were bare. A skimpy royal blue outfit hugged her like a second skin and hid very little. Breasts mounded out of the top.

Gray’s nose pinched as he drew a deep breath into his lungs. Fresh, clean soapy scent assailed him, but it was the smell of sex that almost toppled him. Mystified, he couldn’t wait to get closer. Sex over the ages had practically become a bore and he partook only when he wanted to. He tried to enter her mind without success. What the fuck! Puzzled, he kept her under close scrutiny. Everyone else’s thoughts dripped into his mind, cluttered his head. He usually had no trouble blocking voices out. Tonight, she distracted him.

She glanced nervously about and when she moved to the stairs, he followed her. Taking the steps two at a time, she disappeared. He stayed close behind her cloaking his presence. She peeped in door after door, ending at his room. She’s a damn thief.

Lucky, or she knew gems, she took the best piece from his jewelry box. The antique ring belonged to someone very special from his past, someone who’d been dead for centuries. Humans were easily manipulated and had he been able to reach in her mind, Gray would have stopped her. He’d spent too much time learning to blend in with society to strike out as he would have done decades ago.

But that’s another story.


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