This is the opening of a somewhat-erotic novel I’m working on! Want to know more? Want to help out? Want to foster a society where pants are optional? Check out my revised Patreon page!

Alexander held the tips of Jamie’s fingers as he led her down the side street. The night was warm. The streetlights threw dirty-looking halos of light against the black sky.

Behind them came the occasional whisper of cars travelling down the main street, off to whatever business there was to complete at three in the morning. In time, even the swish of the artery gave way to the chirr of autumn crickets.

Alexander stopped. He held up his free hand. “There,” he whispered, nodding ahead of him.

The unicorn wasn’t much bigger than the trail ponies Jamie used to ride on as a little girl. Her amazement sloughed away when she could see, even in the dark, that the unicorn wore the same expression of dull interest and chronic exhaustion as one of those ponies.

It was eating out of a paper yard waste bag beside the curb.

“What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful,” Jamie lied, not wanting to hurt Alexander’s feelings.

And though the unicorn’s small stature, fed-up demeanor, and noisy eating (it picked through the sodden paper bag, smacking at dead leaves with mushy ivory lips) did little to remind Jamie of the delicate, long-legged equines she adored in fairy tales, her heart still pounded. The unicorn’s lionlike tail swished. Its horn was longer than her arm and was surrounded by a narrow cone of iridescent light.

She and Alexander watched the unicorn for a bit longer. It scooped stripped twigs from the bag with its teeth and dropped them in a boney pile on the street before nosing deeper into the bag, presumably looking for lawn clippings.

“Well,” Alexander said finally, “I guess we should get going. The restaurant we’re going to is 24 hours, so there’s no rush, but unicorns don’t like people staring at them for too long. Keep that in mind.”

They walked back towards the main street.

The restaurant was deserted, as Alexander hoped it would be. Everything was same as it had been for years, a rarity in the city. There were the greasy menus stamped with pictures of hamburgers and hot chicken sandwiches. There was the wood paneling indelibly soaked with fried food smells. And, most importantly, there was the gentle atmosphere and low lighting that discouraged raised voices.

Alexander took off his glasses and rubbed hard at the bottom edges of his lenses with the microfibre cloth he kept on him. He observed Jamie across the table in quick, snatched glances.

She tapped the bowl of her spoon, causing the handle to clack up and down in a telegraphic beat. Her astonishment at seeing the unicorn had burned away on the bus ride to the restaurant, and now she appeared to be tumbling through deep, disturbed thoughts.

Her emotions still seemed to be anchored, however. Alexander didn’t suspect she would fly away, and that was good.

Not to say Jamie wasn’t upset. And certainly not to suggest she didn’t have the right to be upset.

Alexander waited. The dam behind Jamie’s brown eyes likely had some hairline cracks skittering along it, and if he pushed, the whole thing might bulge and explode, and whatever was behind the wall—it was never anything pleasant—would rush him.

He couldn’t wait all night, however. He stepped in cautiously. “Forgive me for being direct Jamie, but I need to know. How close are you to your immediate family?”

“I—” she sucked her lips into her mouth. “Not very. I mean, I don’t have much of anyone left, really. All I had was mom, and she died three years ago. Not long after I turned 21.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. It was sudden. A heart condition—something genetic. To be honest with you, I was scared shitless I’d drop dead of the same thing. But I guess—” she managed a small grin, “I guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore, eh?”

Alexander shook his head and sipped his Coke. Ice cubes knocked against his teeth.

“Thank God for small favours, I guess.”

They both scanned their menus on and off as they talked, opening and closing them without absorbing what was on the pages. Their waiter started and stopped with each motion, commanded by the plastic magic. He shook it off and busied himself elsewhere in the restaurant.

“I’m going to come out and say it,” Jamie said, and now her voice was wavering. “I’ll bet you’re thinking it, too. I’m an idiot. A gullible idiot. Online dating’s for losers to begin with, and I fell for someone who—who makes a living feeding off fat chicks.”

“Hon, no,” Alexander said firmly, clapping his hand over hers, even though it was damp from holding his Coke. “What happened to you isn’t your fault. Don’t ever let yourself think that. That’s why I’m here to help you. I’ll be here when you need it, for as long as you need it.”

Jamie turned her head. “It’s been a weird couple of days.

“And I’ve only known you for a couple of days, but you’re wonderful. I promise.” Alexander smiled. “Don’t think the fool that did this to you is getting away with it, either. We’ll find him. He’s in trouble.”

“Christ. What did I expect from an asshole calling himself ‘Roan? What a dipshit name.'” Jamie went rigid and then suddenly flared, pulling her hand from under Alexander’s. “Fucking men,” she hissed, picking up her plate in both hands. She brought down one end on the table, but thankfully it didn’t break. She cooled a bit after that, but tears cut through the blush on her baby-round cheeks.

“Couldn’t leave me well enough alone,” she choked. “Had to give me his disease. Nothing will be the same. Nothing.”

Alexander said, “I won’t lie, Jamie. It won’t. But even though you have every reason to believe otherwise, contracting vampirism isn’t the end of existence. Remember that.”

Jamie dabbed her eyes with her napkin, said “sorry” and blew her nose.

“I bet you’re hungry,” Alexander said.

Jamie managed to smile again. “I am. I guess you’d know.”

“What would you like? I’m buying.”

“Steak. Rare. As rare as possible.”

Alexander nodded. “Good choice.”

They closed their menus. The waiter re-emerged and started towards them.

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