The deck was certainly public enough, Niles Gule thought as he followed the hostess through a sea of occupied tables. His dinner date had chosen well. The Rusty Scupper stood poised on the southern end of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, its huge sign as much a beacon to the city as the Domino Sugar sign across the water. A warm breeze ruffled the murky harbor as a water taxi chugged towards Fort McHenry. The sun had barely set. The sky was awash in reds, golds and purples. The lights of the city winked on one after another.
Yes, the deck was a good choice because violence threatened whenever two male vampires met. The Vanapir, alien wanders who settled wherever they found fertile fields, were territorial by nature. Just because they’d found bounty beyond their wildest dreams on this planet, this earth, didn’t mean that rule ceased to apply.
Not only was Niles dining with a male vampire, he was dining with an alpha male. Niles knew to be cautious.
His dinner partner didn’t rise when Niles approached the table. He remained silent, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses as the hostess handed Niles a menu and asked if he wanted a cocktail. He ordered his favorite, vodka, and sat down.
His companion waited.
Niles knew he came at a disadvantage. He’d pocketed his sunglasses deliberately to make a statement to this man. He just hoped the message was clear.
He was greeted in the high-pitched home tongue, a sound so piercing people a table away flinched. Fortunately they blamed it on a flock of seagulls.
“English!” Niles hissed. He shot his companion a nasty glare.
“My! My!” murmured his fellow vampire. “We certainly have gone native, haven’t we, Guldendal?”
“The name’s Niles, Gastondal.” He’d ceased using his Vanapir name two years ago.
His companion might have been Niles’ twin were he not several centuries older. Gastondal was an original. He’d landed with the ship and still knew where it was hidden. Niles had been born much later, after vampires had spread across the globe. He was an American. And proud of that fact.
The older man was as distinguished as Niles, tall, slender with hair that had once been blond but was now silvery white. He kept it neatly cut. His face was patrician and wore a supercilious expression, handsome even after five hundred years. His long fingers toyed with a tumbler holding a Bloody Mary. Niles knew the man had garnished the drink with blood. His sensitive nose smelled it. Human no less. This was going to be an unpleasant discussion.
“I hear you’re still on crusade,” Gastondal commented. His gaze wandered over the deck crowded with humans. Niles saw his nostrils flare at the scent of fresh meat.
“Yes.” Niles accepted his drink from a waitress. “Our behavior has to stop, Gastondal.”
“Why?” The older man kept his eyes on the crowd. “Our ways have worked for millennia, boy.”
“We’re a virus. A disease affecting the universe.”
His words brought a hint of smile to Gastondal’s pale lips. “A handful of pioneers lands on a promising world and begins to feed. We multiply and thrive. When the world can no longer contain us, we build new ships and explode into space, each ship seeking a new world to conquer. And thus do we spread.”
“Killing the world we leave behind,” Niles added. “Like a virus destroying a cell it’s used to replicate.”
Gastondal fingered his chin. “An apt analogy. You seem to have a problem with it.”
Niles gestured to the humans around them who had no idea two vampires were discussing their future at the Rusty Scupper. “This time we’ve gone too far. We’ve picked a world with sentient life. It’s wrong to hunt them like prey.”
“Why?” Gastondal’s brow furrowed.
“They have minds, emotions, hopes, desires. Just like us. They are just like us. Hell!” Niles shook his head in frustration. “They’re probably relatives.”
Gastondal’s lips pursed. “True. They probably are. What’s your point?”
“I think we should leave them alone. There’s food enough without eating humans.” Niles lowered his voice when a couple walked by. The perfume of their blood stirred his senses. He swallowed vodka to suppress his desire.
Gastondal’s smile deepened as he took a sip of his Bloody Mary. He offered it to Niles.
Niles fought the urge to snatch that tumbler. He was enticed and revolted at the same time. No humans, he reminded himself. Take one sip and you’ll lose yourself.
As if he’d read Niles’ mind, Gastondal commented, “You’re losing who you are. Becoming one of these.” He gestured to the crowd.
Gastondal seemed finished toying with Niles. He set the tumbler on the table far from Niles’ reach. “What do you want, Guldendal?”
“Peace with the humans. We replicate enough to move on then do so, leaving them to this world as their right.”
“What do you want of me?”
Niles jerked at the abrupt statement. “I want you to speak to the others. They might listen to you.”
Those lips twitched. “Why would I do that?”
“Because I’m asking you to.” Niles knew it was a forlorn request, but he had to try. He’d dared this meeting for just that reason.
To his surprise, Gastondal removed his sunglasses. His blue eyes studied Niles. “You’re really serious, aren’t you?”
The older vampire tapped his elegant fingers on the table. His eyes remained fixed on Niles.
“All right. I’ll talk to them.” He raised his hand. “I make no promises anyone will listen. Nor will I swear off drinking human blood. But I will talk to them. I’ll explain your suggestion.”
“Do you agree with it?”
Gastondal twitched his lips. “Maybe. Let me think about it.”
“No harm to us,” Niles prodded. “We just move on more quickly than planned. That’s all.”
Gastondal brushed his words aside. “Enough, Guldendal. You’ve said your piece.”
Niles rose. His hand fumbled in his pocket to remove a long thin box wrapped in shiny paper. He set it in front of Gastondal.
“What’s this?” the older man asked.
“A fancy fountain pen. Very nice. Every well-bred gentleman should have one.”
Gastondal’s fingers toyed with the box without opening it.
“But why give it to me?”
“It’s a human tradition,” Niles explained as he backed away from the table. “One you wouldn’t understand.”
As he turned his back on the older vampire, he murmured, “Happy Father’s Day, dad.”
© 2016 Melinda Newmin