“You don’t know how to take no for an answer, do you?” he said, casting the jacket across the room.

“That wasn’t a no,” I teased, moving closer. “So, you gonna show me this vampire, or what?”

“Why, Ara?” He took a small step back. “What’s with the sudden change of heart?”

“It’s not sudden—not for me. I just…I like you.” I walked forward and linked my fingers together behind his neck. “And I’ve kinda come to terms with this vampirism thing, I think.”

“You think?” he said through a smile.

“Yeah. I guess…I guess I’m ready to know all of you.”

“No matter what—even if it scares you again?”

“I don’t know if it would, David. I…can’t you tell?” I touched a hand to my chest. “I trust you.”

He took a breath and cast a long glance to the darkest corner of the closet. “That’s a pretty convincing argument, I must admit.”

I grinned at him. “So you’ll do it? You’ll bite me?”

“Even if I show you the vampire, Ara, I can’t actually bite you.”

“Because if my fangs break your skin, you’ll be injected with venom.”

“So, if you’re injected with venom, you’ll…it’s just a bad idea.”

“Oh.” We stared into each other, both of us clearly thinking it all through, and in the dim light of the room, his eyes almost looked black, as if the pupils had flooded the green, like dark desires overshadowing sensibility.

He unlatched my hands from around his neck. “We should get back out to rehearsal.”

“Wait.” I grabbed his sleeve. “What if…I mean, when humans bite playfully, we don’t actually break the skin.” I looked at his neck. “Can’t you do it like that?”

“I—” He frowned, thoughtful. “I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this with a human before.”

“Well, here.” I leaned closer. “Let me show you how it’s done.” Before he could stop me, I pushed his jaw to one side, rising onto my toes as my teeth glided over his flesh, coming closed again with a mouthful of David between them. Under the moisture of my tongue, his sweet scent became his flavour—the lovely orange-chocolate replacing the gritty, salty taste I’d expected.

I bit down harder then, with every ounce of force I could muster, catching the tendon in his neck, feeling his jaw stiffen, his arms tense, his ear move away from my cheek as he opened himself up to me, and I loved it.

“Oh, Ara, you have the sweetest little bite.” He placed his fingers loosely around my face, but they went tight suddenly and he pushed me away. “Ouch!”

“What’s wrong?” I wiped my mouth dry with the back of my arm. “Did I hurt you?”

“Yes, you little leech.” He cupped his hand over the bite then looked at it. “I may not have a heartbeat, but I still feel pain.”

“You’re bruising.” I squinted through the dull light to see his neck.

“Are you kidding me?” He laughed, scooping his hands under my bottom, lifting me so my legs wrapped around him. “That felt amazing. It hurt, but damn it was hard to control myself.”

“Yes.” He looked down to where the apex of my thighs met his stomach. “I wanted to do…things to you.”

He reached up slowly and slipped the shoestring strap of my dress down my shoulder. “Very bad things.”

“Show me, then?” I closed my eyes and tilted my chin up—exposing my throat. “I’m not scared.”

“I know,” he said. “Which is a very big turn-on.”

“Urgh.” He rolled his head back. “Don’t do that adorable giggle. You’ve no idea how crazy it makes me.”

I did it again, laughing louder when his upper lip and nose pressed into the sensitive hollow of skin between my collarbones, the stubble on his chin scratching my chest. “That tickles.”

He grazed his teeth playfully along my flesh; they felt sharp, like the edge of a blade. I knew the control he would’ve used to stop them cutting, but for some reason, a deep part of me, a part that rose too close to the surface, really didn’t care if he cut me. I wanted to be cut by him.

“Is it normal for me to think this way?”

He laughed into my skin, kissing but not biting. “Yes.”

“No. I won’t. But I am going to feel your flesh against my teeth.” He turned us to the side and placed me on the table, stepping in closer until his hips once again rested between my thighs. “Do not scream,” he warned. “It will only excite the monster.”

His hands flew up and tangled in my hair, his thumbs on my cheeks, holding my face in front of his. “If you do…you will die.”

I held my breath, lost in the intensity of his penetrating gaze. But something inside told me not to worry. Maybe it was the way he held me, his hands so tight around my face, or maybe it was the concern in his own eyes that made me sure he would never let himself destroy me. My jaw jutted forward a little, my bottom lip catching his in a delicate kiss—a wordless reassurance. He kissed back, his eyes closed, his lips soft, moist, cold, like the lips of a person who just ate ice. And as it intensified, as his hands slipped beneath my dress again, finding my hips, bare and waiting, I grinned playfully, resting back on my hands. Undress me.

“Jesus Christ, Ara.” He became as taut as a statue. “You don’t know how close you are to losing your innocence right now.”

“Maybe I’m ready for it.” I lifted my dress a little.

David stood taller, looking down at my floral-print undies. “To lose your virginity in a closet space?”

I parted my legs a little more, inviting his touch to where his eyes and thoughts lingered. “Yes.”

His heavy breath stopped, his hand slowly reaching toward my upper thigh, then he grabbed it firmly, letting his thumb fall against my delicates. “You shouldn’t play games like this with a dangerous predator.”

“It wouldn’t be a problem if that girl would stop showing the vampire parts he’s wanted to see for the longest time.” He lowered my dress and smoothed it over my legs.

“Did you ever think maybe she’s wanted to show him for the longest time?”

“What is wrong with you?” he said with a smile. “Why do you say things like that? I want to do any number of unsavoury things to you, right now, including kill you. Can you comprehend that?”

“That’s what makes this so romantic. I know you won’t, even though you want to.”

He shook his head, frowning over a smile. “Only you could think something like that is romantic.”

“David.” I ran my fingers from the tip of his hairline, over his skull and to the back of his neck, feeling his hair slip through them. “You’re a vampire. Don’t even pretend you don’t think it’s romantic.”

A breathy laugh parted his lips. “I really love you, Ara. You are just so perfect for me.”

I rolled my head to the other side, lengthening my neck. “Good. Then show me what it feels like to be under the spell of the vampire.”

“No. I mean…” He looked at my neck, running his thumb over the pulse. “You know my teeth are sharper than yours. Even if I only use my front teeth, chances are I’ll cut you.”

“You won’t.” I smiled. “I know you can control yourself when it comes to me.”

“Yes. Eat you, feel your blood pulse under my teeth, see the life leave your eyes, breath leave your lips.”

“I know.” He laughed timidly. “It’s a vampire thing, and I—I’m afraid I might enjoy hurting you, Ara. If…if we do this, and the vampire in me takes control, there will be no going back.”

“Perhaps. Or I will not be able to stop thinking about killing you—hurting you—even after the day is done and we’ve parted ways.”

I thought about that for a second, feeling a mischievous smile creep its way into the corners of my eyes. “Then it’ll be a true test of our love, won’t it?”

“No,” he said, sweeping my hair away from my shoulder. “It will be a test of my willpower.” And before I could respond, his teeth started my heart, coming closed tightly around my flesh. I squirmed, a cold shiver running down my spine while hot blood rushed up under the grip of his bite. Everything in me from toes to shoulders tensed, the tendon in my neck going rigid like wet rope, and all the nerves under it screamed out in agony while my heart pleaded for more, my flesh burning in an intensely good way. He kept his fangs distant, but every now and then, they brushed against me like the pointed tip of a blade run softly over flesh.

“Bite me harder, David.” I grabbed his arms, digging my nails in, half pushing him away, half pulling him closer. I felt his body turn cool against mine, like the heat of desire pushed his hunger deeper, making him icy between my legs. And he became more ferocious, losing himself to the bite, his hands searching my body wildly, travelling under my dress, demanding my craving skin crawl into his touch. I crossed my ankles over his hips, imagining my clothes were gone and I could feel his bare chest smoothly against mine.

“David?” I squeaked as he bit down harder, pressing me against the chairs stacked on the table. “David, it’s hurting a bit.”

“Shh.” He shoved the chairs off with a quick push and rolled me onto my back as they crashed noisily to the floor. The people outside laughed raucously, their familiar, human sounds setting my heart on fire.

My neck burned where he pulled away, but he didn’t stop; he moved to the other side and wrapped his lips hard around my skin as I pushed against him. I felt the scrape of his fangs, sharp, as if he’d cut through, stinging like a thousand hot little needles under my skin.

He cupped a hand under my bottom, slipping my underwear past my hip on one side as he dragged me closer, thrusting his pelvis into mine. And though I wanted him to—wanted him to make love to me right here on the table, I also wanted him to kill me. I could see it all, as if his intentions became my thoughts. But I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want David to have to live with the regret of killing me.

“Don’t what?” He looked down at me, confused.

I shoved him away and rolled up to stand—darting across the room to the safety of the wall. “Why did you do that?”

“Do what?” He appeared in front of me, eyes wide, pupils completely swallowing the green. “Do what, Ara?”

“Oh, my love.” He reached for me; I yanked away, the energy between us turning stone cold. “Ara, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realise you were frightened.”

“I asked you to stop.” I looked up at him. “That’s a pretty clear indication, don’t you think?”

“Yes. But, I—” He rubbed his brow. “I didn’t hear you. I only tasted your tears.”

“I was drawn in completely. Compelled by the scent of adrenaline—the fear—it makes the hunger unbearable.”

“But—” I cupped my hand to the burning on my neck; he hadn’t broken through. “You didn’t bite me.”

“Ara?” He frowned as if the suggestion insulted him. “I would never do that. I always had control over that. I just—” he turned away, “—I couldn’t control the vampire.”

“Isn’t it the same? I mean, the bite is the vampire?”

“No.” He scratched the back of his neck. “The bite is the hunger. The lust before is the vampire.”

“Oh.” I touched my collarbone. “So, you wouldn’t have bitten me?”

He rushed in close and cradled my face in hands. “Not in a million years.”

“I—” He closed his eyes. “I can hear the resonance of your voice in my head now, but I was so lost in your velvet touch, I could think of nothing but…”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t have done it, anyway. Not with you.”

“Not with me? What do you mean?” I folded my arms as he walked away. “What wouldn’t you have done with me?”

Ignoring my question, he leaned against the table and reached his hand out.