I'm not sure this is exactly "romantic" but I did my best!
DINAH HAD BEEN watching them all night. She couldn’t help it, couldn’t hold back her fascination.
It was two men, both young, lounging in a half-circle booth across the barroom. One, a few years the elder—which looked to be late twenties—had a strong Latin face surrounded by shoulder-length, curly brown hair. In a pale face, his eyes were shockingly blue. The other man had a more delicate appearance, enhanced by waist-length black hair that gleamed silky in the low lights. His face had something of beauty to it, and soft charcoal lashes fringed his almond-shaped brown eyes.
But what she found interesting was when the elder’s full lips curved up, and he reached to knot his hand into the collar of companion’s shirt and drag him close. Their mouths met with laziness that spoke of long familiarity and affection, mingled with an ever-present undercurrent of lust.
With arched eyebrows, Dinah turned back to her own table to find that both Kate and Kris had been watching the men too.
Kate curled her lip. “God, that’s gross.”
Kris looked thoughtful, but only muttered, “Too bad; they were kind of cute.”
Dinah darted another glance at them. Even across the distance, she could see tongues. The twinges of excitement she felt embarrassed her. “Hot,” she murmured.
Kate glared. “Sick.”
Ignoring her friend, she shot them another quick peek, couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off them. They’d finished for the moment and were sitting with their elbows on the tabletop, gazing into lasses of beer that they didn’t touch.
Then the elder looked up and ice-blue eyes locked on her. She felt her green eyes go wide with chagrin and she looked quickly away. Not before she noticed that the younger man had seen her looking too. And that, she reminded herself, was why mother’s told their children not to stare.
“Dinah,” Kris broke into her thoughts. “Your turn to get drinks.”
She glanced at the empty glasses on their table. “Haven’t we had enough?”
Kris grinned wickedly. “What’s the point of turning twenty-one if you can’t get dead drunk?”
Dinah laughed. “Good thought. Be right back.”
She wove through the crowd, red hair swinging, just one more tall, narrow-waisted, full-chested girl in a room full of them.
She was gathering the drinks when she felt the tap on her shoulder and spun around to see the younger of the two men she’d been watching. He smiled, a white flash of teeth in a handsome face. She felt her face go red.
“Hi,” he said, and his voice was soft yet rich. “Join us for a drink?”
“Uh—“ She stared, dumbstruck. “What?”
“Drink. Beer? Whatever you want. Come on.” He slipped a hand on her back in a comfortable, friendly gesture and led her through the crowds. Too confused to protest, Dinah allowed herself to be brought back to the table where the elder waited, his blue eyes emotionless of they held hers.
“Oh,” she stumbled. “I—I was supposed to be----”
“Getting your friends’ drinks.” His nod was as cool as his eyes. “Taken care of.”
When she looked, she saw that a waitress was carting a tray toward her table. Kate and Kris were staring at her, and she looked back helplessly. “I shouldn’t---”
The tone of his voice was mild but commanding. Before she knew what she was doing, she was seated on the booth seat beside him and the younger was sliding in behind her, trapping her between them. Yet they didn’t crowd her, leaving nearly a foot on each side of her. The younger leaned against the wall behind them, while the elder fell into an easy slouch.
“It was . . . nice of you to invite me over,” she said, though she thought it was anything but.
“What’s your name?” the elder asked.
“Joseph.” He nodded to the other. “Cass.”
She glanced back at Cass and he smiled. She smiled back, a bit relieved by the warm reassurance he gave off with seeming unconsciousness. “Cass. Is that short for something?”
“Cassius,” he said.
“He was one of Shakespeare’s characters from Julius Caesar, wasn’t he? A conspirator against Caesar.”
“Yes.” His smile was pleased. “You read Shakespeare?”
“Community College. My professor has a love affair with Shakespeare.” She blushed at her words, and looked back to find Joseph smiling slightly.
“Cass is a big fan of the classics,” he said. “You two will find common interests.”
Cass made a small noise of surprise in his throat, but when she’d turned back to him, his face showed no distress.
“What are you majoring in?”
“Ah, a writer.” His brown eyes went liquid with interest.
She smiled. “I guess.”
“What type of journalist are you aiming for?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’d love to have some kind of column, in a paper you know, nothing specific, just someplace where I could write about whatever came to mind.”
“It sounds satisfying.”
“It is.” She was amazed to feel herself relaxing, beginning to enjoy Cass’s company.
“I’ve always wished I could write,” he said wistfully, “but I can’t seem to make the words come out right. I stick to poetry.”
“Oh, you’re a poet?”
He shrugged. “Somewhat. No Frost, of course.”
“Few of us are.”
“Maybe you will be.” His smile was an expression both warm and sad. “The journalist’s version, of course.”
She laughed, brushing off the odd desire she had to put a comforting arm around him. There was something about him that brought out the desire to protect and be protected. “Sure, maybe.”
She stiffened as she felt cold fingers close over her wrist. “Do you mind?” she asked Joseph icily, but he held fast.
“Cass is impressed by that sort of thing,” he said mildly, drawing her nearer to him, until she was so close she could feel his breath trickle out in soft whispers. “But now me.”
She held herself stiff, trying unsuccessfully to steady the quiver in her breath, and the quickened pace of her heart that was not—to be honest—all from nerves. “Just what are you impressed by?” she asked, then cursed herself mentally for playing into his game.
A lazy smile crossed his lips, lingering in his brilliant eyes. “I’ll bet you could guess,” he murmured, pulling her closer still, “if you tried very hard.” His hand slipped around the back of her neck and he reached up for her lips.
Overhead, heavy drumbeats throbbed and jagged voices screamed grunge rock. The smell of beer and cigarettes mixed with body sweat. Dinah was aware of none of it. From the first instant Joseph’s lips closed over hers, she knew nothing but him. Even Cass was forgotten. Her fright vanished under the persuasive pressure of his mouth, and she opened to him. She heard a low moan that must have come from her, and his tongue slipped into her mouth to stroke hers. Shuddery chills tripped through her body, settling into a hot, fluttering pack deep in her, throbbing. She lost herself to him.
His body felt cold against her warmth. She pressed herself against him, wanting to share her heat with him. He took his mouth from hers and ran it down to kiss open-mouthed at her throat. Her neck arched back to reveal its slender length to him, and she breathed in his scent, his rich dark scent, sly, sleek, secretive. Like, she thought, a cat back from hunting. Or one still on the prowl.
She uttered a small protest when he eased her away. But as soon as there was a distance between them, her head cleared. She stared at him, the man who had kissed her, and she shivered at his vaguely amused smile. What kind of man could spend hours kissing a man, and then leave a girl breathless? What kind of girl would allow herself to be left breathless by such a man?
Across the room, Kris caught her eye. Dinah flushed as she saw the shock there. Kate wasn’t even looking at her, but her face was seeped with disgust.
“I should go,” she said, half-rising.
Neither Cass nor Joseph made room for her to get by them.
“I have to get back to my friends.” She fought the anxiety rolling in her. “Can you just let me past? Cass?”
He shot her a long, sorrowful glance, then looked back at Joseph. Joseph caught her hand and yanked her back into her seat. “Not yet,” he said dispassionately.
“But---” “Shut up and have a drink.”
She caught the mug he shoved across the table at her, and beer sloshed over the rim and onto her hands.
Joseph and Cass’s gazes were locked, ice blue to warm brown. Joseph said softly, “It’s your choice.”
Cass looked at Dinah. Her heart beat a tattoo inside her chest. She understood. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did know, terrified, that something had just passed between them, and now she had been placed in Cass’s hands. “Cass?” Her voice trembled. “What’s going on?”
His eyes were gentle. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” she demanded.
He raised a slender, narrow hand to stroke her cheek. One long finger traced her jaw line. His hands were white, the blue veins just visible. “Have you ever wondered,” he said softly, “what life really is?”
“What?” The light trailing of his fingers over her face distracted her, and was suddenly more arousing than anything Joseph had done. “No.”
“I wonder all the time. Sometimes I think that life just means you’re walking the earth and that you’re breathing. But sometimes I think it must be something more complex, more intricate. More lovely. Maybe you have to feel alive. Maybe you have to be aware of the life singing through your veins, of your heart chanting.”
His black hair gleamed around his face. Dinah had an overwhelming urge to touch and see if it could really be as soft as it looked. She yielded, let her fingers reach and brush through his hair. It was as smooth as cool satin, flowing water like through her fingers.
Cass leaned to her, hands framing her face, eyes falling closed, and he kissed her. His lips were feather-light over hers, barely touching her, yet bringing all of her into tune with him. She felt herself fall into him, hands sliding to his shoulders, hands circling his neck, slipping deeper to tangle in his hair.
In another minute Joseph was pulling her away from Cass and into his arms. She surrendered to him as though she had done it a thousand times before, giving whatever he demanded, begging with hunger equal to his. His mouth took hers hard this time, savage, while his hands ran over her body, over her midriff that was bared by the small top. They raced up under the material to cover her chest, his mouth still devouring hers.
It was Cass who laid kisses over her cheek and jaw, down her neck. She shivered but wasn’t cold, was burning with desire for not one, but both of them.
As of one mind, they moved back, like animals moving back from a kill they knew they had secured. Joseph stood up and Cass followed. They would leave her, she thought, and, breathless and sagging in the booth, she didn’t know whether she was disappointed or relieved. Then Cass took her hand and pulled her up.
“Shh.” He laid a light hand on her back, guiding her after Joseph.
“This is crazy,” she said, but it was half-hearted. If she was honest with herself, all she wanted was to go with them.
They passed the table where only a quarter of an hour before she had sat with her two friends. She looked away now from Kate and Kris’s looks, ignored Kris’s soft, “Dinah.”
Outside in the street, she clung to Cass’s hand while Joseph hailed a cab. She refused to let reason crash in. This was her fantasy. She was damn well going to dream it through.
Then, in the backseat, they both set in again on her and she had not space left in her mind for thoughts not of shuddering delight.
The cab stopped in front of an old apartment building, and they led her up the steps, into the elevator, down a hallway, into a small apartment. She had no chance to see any of the room, for they herded her into the bedroom like two ravenous wolves with their newfound lamb.
Joseph gave several quick rips at her clothing, and it fell free, and she stood, naked, shivering, wondering how he’d managed that. Both Joseph and Cass stepped back from her. Unnerved by their stares, she folded her arms around herself, suddenly shy, and stood in the middle of the bedroom, wearing only high heels. The room around her was ivory-walled with red curtains, oak furniture, and a black king-sized bed.
Her gaze darted back to the two men and found Joseph staring at her fixedly with an unconcealed hunger burning in his eyes. His lips parted in a predatory expression and a low growl rumbled from his throat.
Cass laid a hand on his arm. “Not yet,” he reminded softly.
“I know,” Joseph, said, his voice angry. He grimaced. And then—Dinah stared in shock—two teeth slid down. Two long, slender, tapered fangs overlapping his canines.
“Joseph, not yet,” Cass said again.
This time it was a snarl he emitted, and he whirled on Cass, one hand grabbing his shoulder the other fisting in his hair, yanking his head to one side. His mouth leapt to the revealed neck. Dinah gave a little cry as she heard the sickening sound of teeth crunching into flesh. Joseph’s throat worked rapidly with his swallows. Cass winced but didn’t move, just draped one arm around Joseph.
When Joseph raised his head, blood dripped from his lips, coated his bared teeth. His tongue slid around the teeth, licked it off his lips. His eyes, clear again now, settled on Dinah. She stood motionless, head light, as he advanced on her. His hands settled on her bare shoulders, and she almost gasped; his hands were warm now. “Joseph?” she whispered.
His face softened. His arms drew her near and he cradled her like a child, hands soothing over her hair and down her back, his voice murmured unknown words into her ear.
It was Cass who broke the embrace. He took Dinah’s hand, brought her wrist to his lips. His brown eyes caught hers. His fangs slid down. He felt her shudder when they pierced the soft skin, but he knew it didn’t hurt. He slurped gently at the blood, far from the fierce demand Joseph had wrought on him, the kind of feeding that brought pain. He took only a little of her blood, then slid the fangs back into their sheaths in the roof of his mouth, all the while keeping his eyes on hers. So long as he kept her locked in his gaze, he could keep her from slipping into the faint her body longed for, its refuge against the jarring shock. And she had such beautiful eyes, he thought, large and green and as long-lashed as his. Her red hair spilled over her shoulders to twine with his.
He almost regretted that he had agreed to this. It was to be simple at first. One more woman to be found in an abandoned apartment, her naked body riddled by odd bite marks, her veins empty. But Joseph had seen his interest. Cass had liked her. He had wanted to know more about her. Now he would have forever to learn, as Joseph had given him forever.
Dinah shuddered when Cass released her wrist and Joseph took it up. He too held her eyes as he drank from her, and this time, he was gentle. She didn’t know that she trusted his gentle actions, or his blue gaze. The eyes were the windows to the soul. His were frosted over with ice as thick as Antarctica.
But it was he who was kissing her now, picking her up and lowering her onto the bed, pressing her into the quilts, lips running over her body. She moaned, she shuddered, and her fear was forced away by desire. Cass was with them now, and when she reached to touch one of them she never knew who she reached. Piece by piece their own clothing slid off until it was three bare skins sliding together like one skin. She lay with them, seeing their paleness beside her tanned body, not believing, but knowing.
“Now,” Joseph said, trailing a finger over the back of Dinah’s neck as she slept an exhausted sleep. His eyes went to Cass’s.
“Do you really want her?” Cass asked.
“She’s so young,” he sighed.
“So were you. So was I, once.” Joseph shifted closer to him, leaning over Dinah’s body. “You want her. I want her. We’ve been alone for too long.” “I know.” Cass looked down and his gaze lingered over the girl’s eyelids, wondering what dreams spun through her head. “I do want her.” Another sigh. “’Innocent blood we spill, and guilt-laden blood be our absolution. But shall we be absolved? Or to hell’s fiery pits must we be condemned? Cries in the night may be ecstasy, or might they be the moan of an innocent heart crashing to sin below?’”
Joseph’s won sigh was half-amusement. “God, I love your Catholic conscience.”
“Because you have no conscience.”
“Precisely.” His gaze shifted back to Dinah. “Now.”
Floating in the sea of the waters of slumber, Dinah felt the hands moving over her body, waking her. She drifted back regretfully, but when she came awake to find them both kissing her, Cass at her throat and Joseph slanting his mouth over hers, she could not be sorry. She arched, eager for them again.
Her eyes flew open as Cass’s fangs pierced her neck and he began slurping. There was nothing light about it. He slurped hard, intently. She tried to push him away, but he was made of stone. She tried to cry out, but Joseph’s mouth silenced her cruelly. He released her, clamping his hand over her mouth instead, and his own mouth fell to the other side of her neck. His teeth sliced into her. Terror laced through her veins, then pain, as they drew the blood out of her. Slowly, she felt herself growing weaker, until she lay unable to move.
Their faces rose into view, Joseph’s unchanging, Cass’s anxious, both sets of lips stained red with her blood. Cassius leaned to Joseph and sank his fangs into his throat, then drew back. Blood trickled down Joseph’s neck and chest. He laid himself over Dinah, positioned so that the cut dripped blood onto her lips.
“No.” Her voice was hoarse, shaking, as she understood. The blood slipped between her lips into her mouth. She closed her eyes, turned her head away.
“You’ll die,” he said coldly, forcing her head back and her lips open to let more of the hot liquid into her mouth. She tasted it, sweet, rich, tangy, and burning. She swallowed it. And then she couldn’t stop herself from swallowing the next mouthful. Or from latching her lips on his throat when he lowered himself, slurping, swallowing.
When he drew away, it was only to open Cass’s throat so the younger could move over her and offer his blood. She drank from him, then again from Joseph, and again Cass, all that they would give her. Then she shuddered as they came over her together again and reopened the wounds at her throat. She lay still, lost in a world of floating dreams as the edges of her vision began to blur, then darken. Then the world went black.
SLOWLY, DINAH FELT herself rise out of a blank, gray world of fog. She did not want to leave this world, but fought to stay blanketed in its concealment, away from feeling, away from thinking, away from knowing. But slowly, she rose.
She woke in someone’s arms. Her eyes struggled open and looked up into the delicate face of a beautiful man. He smiled gently down at her, and long, silky black hair brushed the sides of his face. He stroked a light hand over her cheek. “Good morning,” he said softly.
“Morning?” Her voice felt rough and gravelly in her throat. Blurry eyes stared. She lay in this man’s arms on a black bed, in a small bedroom shaded in burgundy, black, and ivory. “What is this? Where am I?” Her mind was thick like the fog she’d rolled out of.
“Do you remember anything?”
“Cass?” he prodded.
She shook her head, and then winced at the pain that echoed in it like marbles rolling around in an empty glass vase. “I don’t—I don’t remember. Please—what—”
“It’s all right,” he soothed, brushed his hand through her red hair. “You’ll remember. Do you want to get up?”
“I—yes.” She took his hand and let him pull her up into a sitting position. Her stiff body ached when she tried to stretch it.
The room was dark—why could she see everything perfectly?—because heavy red and black curtain were drawn over the two windows. She could feel the sunlight behind them. She could smell it. It smelled burnt and offensive.
Frowning, she looked back at the man. “I want to know what is going on here, and I want to know now.”
“Of course,” he began, and started to continue, but there was a soft click from the door of the bedroom as it opened. Another man stepped quietly in, this one taller and older than the first. His face was Latin with curly brown hair brushed easily back to brush the base of his neck in the back and blue eyes that were as cold as a clear January sky. Dinah’s eyes locked on his and they stared. Like the devastating sweep of floodwaters, she felt the crash of remembrance. She fell back into Cass’s arms, choking on a scream that wouldn’t quite sound.
“You’re awake.” Heedless of her fright, Joseph crossed the room and sat on the bed’s edge beside her. “Good.”
“What did you—did you do to me?”
“I bet you can guess.”
“Jo,” Cass said chidingly, but fell silent when Joseph’s warning glance touched him.
“Am I—?” Dinah broke off, a chill shuddering over her skin, the skin that she was just beginning to notice was icy cold. Was she what? She couldn’t finish the thought, because if she gave words to it, even in her mind, she would be insane.
She dragged in a deep breath. As the breath hit her lungs, so did a deep-anchored hunger that rumbled in the pit of her stomach. It built too rapidly for thought, all but making her keel over with its strength.
Cass reached for her as she panted in agony, but Joseph took her in his arms and brought her to him. His hand slid under her chin and tilted it up. “Do you understand?” he asked.
She stared at him, dazed. “What?”
With a muffled curse, he cupped the back of her neck and pressed her face to his bare throat. Startled, she tried to pull back, but he held her fast. Then she heard it. The slow, steady beating of his heart, the pounding rush of blood through his veins. She whimpered as a throbbing ache settled into the top front row of her teeth, just above her canines. She felt the sleek movement there, and two slender fangs slid down. Her tongue touched them tentatively, darting to their points, then ducking back to hide from them. But she understood, and the sudden blur of comprehension sent a thrill like excitement through her blood.
The hunger built into tension, and she no longer hesitated. She knew what to do. Her hands came up to clasp behind Joseph’s neck. Her mouth opened, teeth resting against his throat, and his skin shivered deliciously under her touch.
She felt Cass’s hands on her shoulders, comforting, urging. Cass, her brother; Joseph, her master; both lovers. Each of them belonged to the other two. As before there had been two, now there would be three who would love, live, and be.
Her fangs sank into his flesh and the blood rushed her mouth.