To one side of the room stood a bar. More sleazy women were wrapping arms—and in some cases, legs—around the men, helping them feel good. I could not, in all honesty, figure out which of them were vampires and which were humans. Dispersed throughout the room, many tables where filled with people playing cards, or some other game of luck. I was sure one crowd had gathered around a black jack table by the up and down flux of cheers and groans.
“Well, it's been a while, but I do welcome my lord, Prince Jett, and Skrlock of Wallachia. Welcome! Welcome!” Our greeter stood tall, but not taller than Jett, at six-two with wide shoulders and a narrow waist, he wore a silky white shirt, black vest, and black pants ending where the black boots came below his knees. Slavic features were framed by straight hair that grew well past his shoulders, and gray strands seemed to be evenly dispersed among the darker brown strands, and this made it appear an unusual color. I met his eyes, which were a watery blue, and averted mine at once when his thrall hit me. I automatically went into my I'm-not-interested-in-becoming-your-blood-host mode. Unnecessary, since my ring was protecting me. But, still, I didn't want to encourage him.
“As I recall, Skrlock, you usually enjoy our sedentary brands, and might I say, we've got more than we normally do. Fresh in, tonight, in fact!” the man informed. He then turned to me. “May I have the pleasure of knowing who your guest is?”
“This is Sabrina of—”
“Just Sabrina,” I interrupted Jett, giving him a significant look to make him understand I didn't want this one to know where I was from.
“Sabrina?” he said, thoroughly intrigued. He had a thin mustache, I only now noticed. “I am Alucard.” He bowed deeply, then, slid an arm around my shoulders and drew me toward the bar. I had to keep up with him and his long legs by scurrying along.
“What would you like to drink, Sabrina? I think our bartender can manage anything you request,” Alucard said.
I looked back to find Jett and Skrlock following close behind and relief washed through me. We were directed to unoccupied stools at the bar, but Alucard leaned one elbow against the bar, looking directly at me, waiting for my order.
“Oh, uh, I'll have a wine. Not too dry, sweeter than dry,” I said.
“Argent, wine for the lady,” he said to the man behind the bar. “The blackberry one, I think will suffice.”
“Anything you wish, master Alucard,” the man made a quick bow and turned to do as requested. No question in my mind the man was human.
“You, my dear, are absolutely mouthwatering,” Alucard said. His hand drew up to stroke my cheek. I flinched away and gave him an annoyed glare.
“My apologies. You belong to someone, of course?” He gazed back at Jett as though waiting for an affirmative answer.
I paused at his question, but since he asked, I rolled up the sleeve of my left arm and showed him Vasyl's old fang marks.
“Ah,” he said, nodding. “I see you have been claimed. Lucky vampire. What is his name? Perhaps I've heard of him?”
“No. I don't think you have.” The glass of wine was placed before me. I nodded at the man who scurried away to the next order. I sipped the wine. Delightfully sweet, I detected a rich blackberry flavor. I nodded my thanks to the barkeep, who pulled out another glass from underneath the counter. Understanding passed between us. We were both humans in a world where vampires ruled and enslaved us.
“Try me,” Alucard challenged, sliding his elbow a little closer to me on the bar. “I know many vampires, as they come through this establishment.”
“Okay. His name is Vasyl,” I said, a challenge to my voice.
“Vasyl, Vasyl,” he repeated, and then made a sucking sound against his teeth. “I must admit, I've never heard of him.”
“Sir, what would be your pleasure tonight?” the barkeeper asked Skrlock.
Skrlock, who sat on the other side of me, said, “I'll take a Poet, if you can manage that.” I watched the bartender turn to a glassed-in case where all the bottles were marked with words like Actor, Musician, Dancer, Singer, and such. When he opened the door a cool blast of air floated over me. I was not going to guess how they had refrigeration here. But it was possible that it was merely an ice block keeping things cool. The bartender grabbed a bottle with the word Poet printed on the label.
He poured the red stuff—blood—into an elegant, short-stemmed glass, and Skrlock eyed it. “This had better be the real thing,” Skrlock said in a warning tone.
“Oh, I assure you, sir, it is,” the bartender said amicably. Wide-eyed, he watched Skrlock and wrung his hands.
“Because the last time I asked for a Writer, and I got a Dancer.” Skrlock made a face, sticking his tongue out. “Most horrible! I wanted to move all about the room for three hours after! You know I prefer Artists, Writers and Poets. They are mostly sedentary, moody and thoughtful.”
“Yes, sir. I don't know how that was confused. I'm most sorry, sir.” The barkeeper said. Sill wringing his hands, his eyes flashed between Alucard and Skrlock as he brought the drink to his lips for a taste.
Skrlock took a sip. We—me, Alucard, and the barkeeper—waited almost breathlessly for his verdict. He closed his eyes and one eyelid fluttered.
“Ah,” he gasped. “Exquisite! Delightful!” He slapped several copper coins down on the bar. I noticed they were small—no larger than a penny, but thicker and shaped in a rectangle. “For both of us.”© 2012 Lorelei Bell