Since vampires were universally loathed by humans, Niles Gule was left with the hard work of rehabilitating his species’ reputation single handedly. His brethren had waged war against humans for a thousand years, killing them, drinking their blood, terrorizing them on dark and stormy nights. Of course, the carnage had gone both ways. Humans had stalked, staked, crucified and sunburned hundreds of vampires over the centuries, leaving vampires justified in their rage. Niles, in his naïveté, being a youngster of only one-hundred-fifty-eight years, was on a crusade to end the dispute. Vampires weren’t required to hunt and kill humans nor were humans required to hunt and kill vampires. If vampires simply stopped munching on their neighbors, peace could reign over the earth, unicorns would cavort in forest glades and rainbows would embellish the sky.
Well… in a young vampire’s dreams it could happen…
Which explained why Niles had volunteered for the annual gala dinner to raise money for children’s charities being sponsored by the Baltimore Police and Fire Departments. He considered his service one small step of vampire kindness towards humans. Not that anyone in the crowded ballroom had a clue the tall, elegant, Nordic man selling raffle tickets was a vampire. Niles didn’t advertise his racial makeup. He preferred to do what earned him scorn by his cousins; he tried to pass as human.
That evening he wore his evening best, a custom tailored Tom Ford black suit and jacket paired with a Jerry Garcia How Fine purple tie and a Rolex watch (stolen from someone at some point in his past life). His corn colored hair was short and neat and like all vampires, he was clean shaven. His brilliant blue eyes cut a swathe through the room, devastating most of the women, and a goodly number of the men. His sultry expression won him not only melting come hither looks from the ladies, but an astonishing haul of money in his ticket pail. He merely cruised up to a gaggle of ladies dressed in iridescent sequined gowns, smiled provocatively, and asked if anyone wanted to buy something. He was astonished by the creativity of the women’s suggestions. He had no idea humans were so… inventive… when it came to sexual innuendo.
The event was fleecing the well-heeled of Baltimore at an incredible rate. While Niles picked pockets selling fifty-fifty and raffle tickets, a silent auction was garnering bids for bottles of wine, weekend spa treatments and tickets to Orioles games. When he cruised past the table and glanced at some of the bids, Niles’ eyes widened. Many a charity’s sponsor would go home happy that evening, he thought.
In the second ballroom, laughter erupted in waves followed by the rat-a-tat patter of an auctioneer. The high stakes prizes were for sale in there. Original artwork. An antique car. Cruises to Europe.
When he sold his last ticket, Niles cut through the throng and approached the business end of the room where the Ladies’ Auxiliary were holding forth managing the evening’s program.
Juliette Fountaine’s gorgeously painted eyes swept up at his arrival and her ruby lips curved into a welcoming, licentious smile. “Niles! How’s it going?” She adjusted her normally high pitched voice into something throaty just for him.
Niles set the pail of money on the table. “I’m sold out, Mrs. Fountaine. They picked me clean.”
The woman’s dark eyes brushed down his long, lean form. “I suspect they enjoyed it,” she murmured.
Niles’ lips twitched but he maintained his urbane expression. “Probably.”
She flicked a burgundy painted claw towards the auction room. “Since you’ve done your duty, why don’t you enjoy the fun? Might be something you’d like to bid on.”
With a nod, Niles accepted his dismissal from service and sauntered into the auction room.
The space was filled with people eating canapés from small plates, sipping wine from crystal glasses, chattering and laughing. Niles slipped through the crowd, nodding and smiling to people he knew, accepting lascivious looks from some he didn’t, until he arrived near the stage where the auctioneer stood.
Julia Fountaine, Juliette’s sister, draped in a black velvet gown, stood atop the stage as she brandished a microphone and exhorted the crowd to bid high. Niles stopped, surprised to discover just what was for sale. A huge, brute of a man in evening clothes who was, incongruously, flushed red to his neck. A whisper to the lady next to him told Niles the man was a fire fighter who’d been strong-armed into putting himself up for sale.
Laughter continued as various ladies bid on the poor gentleman who gracious grinned and displayed his muscles. When the final bid was called, he breathed a huge sigh of relief and leapt from the stage to disappear into the crowd.
“Who’s next?” Julia asked, scanning the crowd. “Come on, fellas! It’s for a good cause.”
Niles flinched when an arm grasped his and shoved him forward several steps. He whirled around to find Jonas Williams, his co-worker on the police force, grinning like an idiot as he used his bulky body to push the more slender vampire into the spotlight.
“Mr. Gule!” Julia crowed, extending her hand to grab Niles’ before he could snatch it away. “Now here’s a gentleman worth bidding on ladies!”
With Julia clutching his hand, Williams shoving him from behind and the entire world looking on, Niles found himself on the stage blinded by spotlights. His eyes immediately watered. He could see nothing except that blaze of light and the shifting shadows of the crowd around him.
“What service are you offering?” Julia asked him.
“Excuse me?” Niles couldn’t even get her face to focus.
“We can’t sell you, Mr. Gule. That would be illegal.” Julia’s voice purred as if she liked the idea anyway. “So you need to offer a service that the ladies can bid on.”
Niles stood dumb, having no idea how to answer the blatantly provocative request. Finally, he burbled the first thing that came to mind. “I can detail a car.”
“There you go, ladies!” Julia laughed. “Mr. Gule will wash, wax and detail your car. For a small fee. Open up those wallets. Let’s bid.”
Still blind, Niles stood on the stage while Baltimore’s wealthiest ladies bid on him. He was grateful vampires couldn’t blush otherwise he would have been redder than the poor fireman who’d preceded him. The bids were yelled gleefully and laughter raced around the room as women fought over the chance to buy the gorgeous man for a day. He tried not to hear some of the suggestions about services he could provide beyond a car wash. He wanted to die right there.
“Sold!” Julia announced. “For five thousand, three hundred dollars to the lady in red. Congratulations! And thank you. The March of Dimes will really appreciate your gift.”
A woman’s hand grasped Niles’ and eased him from the stage. As he blinked to see, Niles wondered why his buyer was being so solicitous of him since whoever she was couldn’t possibly know he was a vampire and blinded by the spotlights. An arm curled around his waist and helped him through the crowd.
Finally his eyes cleared and Niles found himself gaping at his own partner on the police force, Mariella Cruz.
“Cruz? You bought me?”
She grinned. “Yeah. Fifi needs a wash.”
Niles was about to ask how the little Latina, who struggled to aid her giant Mexican American family’s finances could afford such an outrageous bid. Then his eyes fell on Williams. Niles knew that although Williams was a low paid police officer, he’d inherited from a rich aunt and could afford such extravagances. His nemesis’ gray eyes were twinkling.
“You!” Niles growled.
Williams nodded. “Yep.” He elbowed the vampire and wiggled his eyebrows. “I thought I’d help the two of you out.” He pressed his hand to his chest. “Call me a fool! I’m a firm believer in true love.”
He chortled as he walked away.
Niles found himself standing alone with Cruz. Her dark eyes sparkled as she gripped his arm.
“Come on, Niles,” she murmured. “You owe me a night’s service.”
© 2017 Newmin