With just six words my doctor turned my life upside down. Six mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping words.
"You have an incurable brain tumour."
I almost laughed, but this was no joke. I had a month, tops.
Six months ago, I'd had all I could take of the dizzy spells, the nausea, and the sleepless nights. Finally, I broke down and took myself to see a doctor. When they kept calling me back to run more tests, I became a nervous wreck.
Now I had my results. I was only twenty-five, and dying.
My head reeled from the emotional blow I'd just been dealt, and I couldn't sit there a second more in that tiny, sterile office. Teetering precariously, I lurched into the front lobby and bolted through the front doors.
I'd gotten as far as the first block when the sound of hurried footsteps pounded on the pavement behind me. Couldn't whoever it was see I was upset and wanted to be alone? I turned to see Sebastian, the tall, dark, and handsome male nurse who'd befriended me while I sat through all the appointments in the past few months. He rushed after me, waving frantically to get me to stop.
I wish I could say I was happy to see him, but instead all I could muster was bitter sarcasm, and the haughty, self-centered viewpoint of one who felt as though fate were just sticking it to them one last time.
As he approached, I saw everything I'd worked so hard for crumble to dust in front of me. Those extra hours I'd put in at the office, the promotion, the fat bank account I'd never use, all had been for nothing. It seemed a trivial thing, but one of the things that really bothered me was the fact that the fantasies I'd entertained about Sebastian would never come to fruition.
Away from my family and alone in the city, he'd become my main support over the past few months. With his charming demeanour and rugged good looks, the handsome health care worker easily slipped past my highly guarded defences. It was more than that though. He seemed to understand what I was going through, calming me with his soft baritone, and working the knots out of my tense shoulders with his competent hands.
If I wasn't mistaken, he'd paid me extra special attention. I hated to think I was flattering myself, but there were times when I'd catch him staring at me with a look in his eyes of pure lust. In just a few appointments, my fashion sense had changed from sweats to miniskirts, and somehow, he'd managed to make me forget everything I was going through.
The time waiting, in that uncomfortable chair beside the front desk, had always gone by with lightning speed, as he unwittingly filled my head with erotic thoughts. I'd passed the time fantasizing about my mysterious companion instead of dreading the next test, starting at the top, with his lustrous, dark, wavy hair, and working my way to his firm, round bottom. He was a man who made scrubs look sexy, who gave new meaning to the stereotypical nurse fantasy, and whom I'd planned to ask out after all the tests were complete. He was the one good thing about my visits to the hospital, only now he was just another reminder of what I'd be missing out on.
I stood there wiping the tears that streamed down my cheeks as he caught up to me. Now, standing face to face, with the knowledge of my condition hovering between us like a sinking ocean liner, he seemed to grow awkward, as though he didn't quite know how to tell me why he'd chased after me. Even caught up in my own emotional turmoil, my body didn't cease to respond to him sexually. I felt the familiar tightening deep in my belly when I gazed into his warm dark eyes and the flutter of my heartbeat as its pace quickened in his presence.
An awkward smile flashed across his fine features, the nervous gesture emphasizing the prominent eye teeth I'd always found endearing. I searched his eyes for genuine sorrow, and finding none, I realized he didn't look upset at all.
It was then a new idea came to me. Maybe it wasn't bad news. Perhaps they'd given me the wrong information. Maybe I was just fine, and someone else was dying of a brain tumour. I clung to that last vestige of hope.
Then his smile faded, and he said, "Lydia, I'm so very sorry for your loss."
It was the polite thing to say, the clean up, the closure, the karma kiss-off. He rubbed my arm too fast, his motions quick and jerky, and he seemed to struggle with what to say next.
"I was wondering, now that you have your results, if we could get together?"
My mouth dropped open as I stared at him with disbelief. "Now?" I sputtered. "The last thing I want to think about is starting something new. Everything is ending for me, in case you didn't hear. I just want to go home and feel sorry for myself."
He gave a grim nod. "I understand that, but that's not why I followed you out here, well, not the only reason." He looked down at his shoes for a moment, as though gathering strength for what he was going to say next. "I can help you, Lydia."
The laugh that erupted forth had nothing to do with humour. It was harsh and bitter. "What makes you think you can offer me something all those doctors couldn't?"
A sudden gust of wind blew up, sending leaves and dust swirling about our feet. As usual, the streets were nearly empty as a result of a long cold autumn. I shivered, thinking I felt a surge of electricity in the air, something hotter and more welcome than a ray of sunshine on an overcast morning. Sebastian must have felt it too for he glanced over his shoulder and leaned in as though what he was about to tell me was top secret. "I can offer you eternal life, to continue living, forever."
I studied his face for signs that he might be joking, but by the look of his dead pan expression I believed he was serious. Then it struck me. "Oh my god, you're one of those extreme religious types. I should have known you were too good to be true. Here I thought--and you were just trying to save me!" Words failed me, my mouth drying up. I threw my hands in the air, exasperated, and laughed more than I should have, but I felt played.
He dropped his smile and forced a serious expression back on to his handsome features. "No, Lydia, this has nothing to do with religion. If you'll hear me out, you'll see."
As much as I didn't like hurting Sebastian, or being rude in general, I'd had enough for one day, and decided to take myself home. "Seb," I started, using the nickname I'd come to address him. "I'm a little distracted right now. I need to make a few lists, contact a lot of people, break the news to them, and then get my things in order." With that, I turned my back on him and walked away.
Then he said it, the one thing that could top being told I had a brain tumour. "Lydia, I'm a vampire," he blurted out.
I stopped walking, jarred by his strange admission. Turning around with slow deliberate movements, I fixed him with a level stare. "Well, I never saw that coming." My gaze made a brief sweep over his tall form, taking in his medium length hair, the black T-shirt under his scrubs, and his lean, muscular body. He was yummy, but he didn't fit the stereotype of what I knew of vampires. Where was the cape, the widows peek, the Victorian attire?
"You sure don't look like a vampire." I voiced my thoughts.
He smiled and scuffed his shoe along the concrete.
Even then, looking all coy and bashful, he was dreamy. I fought the urge to throw myself in to his arms and let him tell me any lacy lie he wanted to. This was probably just that, some lame attempt to get me into bed. Immediately I felt ashamed of those thoughts. Sebastian wasn't that type of guy. In the short time I'd come to know him, he'd been nothing but genuine.
His brow creased showing his earnest intentions. "I know this is hard for you, and I'm not a lunatic. I'm quite serious. Maybe if you could just hear me out?"
I crossed my arms over my chest, challenging him. "I'm listening."
He took a deep breath before plunging on. "Thirty years ago, I was a victim of a hit and run. A car came around a corner while I was out jogging at night. Clearly they didn't see me, but, then again, they didn't stop after they collided with me either. The heartless bastards left me there, lying in the middle of the road, while I watched their red tail lights speed away from the scene."
His eyes focused on something in the distance, but I suspected he was reliving the scenes in his memory.
"I can remember the pain as the life drained out of me, and then, out of the darkness, Joe appeared."
"And who, pray tell, is Joe?" I enquired, but Sebastian was too wrapped up in the retelling of his story to take notice of my cynicism.
"He'd dropped down onto the road from a cliff high above, landed as light as a feather from an impossible height." Caught up in his emotional tale, Sebastian's hand raised toward the sky.
I looked up half expecting to see the great looming cliff face.
"Joe circled my broken and bleeding body as though deciding what to do with me. I think I laughed, believing I was delirious from the blood loss, my mind conjuring up demons come to take me to hell. He certainly looked the part, all haggard and ghoulish, gaunt and spooky, as stereotypical as I've ever seen." A low chuckle sounded deep in his throat. "But I could see what he was."
His fiery gaze sought mine. He'd become so wrapped up in his memory of the event that I wondered if he remembered I was there. He blinked a few times and continued. "He didn't hide it very well, fangs the size of tusks protruded beneath his upper lip. Looked absolutely ridiculous, poor guy." He shook his head and chuckled. "No vampire should be saddled with such a weapon. It almost rendered him incompetent in the blood sucking department."
Sebastian seemed to come back to the point of his story with a start. "The point is, I wasn't afraid, probably because of his oversized fangs. Besides, I was too far gone for that. I didn't care when he knelt beside me and bit me on the neck either. I'd seen the pity in his eyes. He did it out of mercy." A brilliant smile washed away the seriousness of his tale. "Thanks to Joe, I'm standing here before you today, and it was because of him that I got the idea to help other people the way he helped me."
Closing my eyes against the strange image Sebastian had just invoked, I struggled to be patient. "Let me get this straight. You're a vampire, who seeks out people like me, who are dying, so you can bite them, and therefore...save them?"
Sebastian winced. "Yeah, that pretty much sums it up."
"What a devious deed, seducing those with nothing else to lose."
His mouth opened in shock as my brazen words cut him to the quick. "I like to think I'm offering hope, too," he interjected.
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. What he was offering was a fairy tale, or perhaps a nightmare. My suspicious nature questioned his motives, poked holes in his theory. The chances that it was true were slim to none. Only a fool would fall for something so ludicrous. The world was full of crooks who were experts in the con artist department. I'd always believed myself beyond such tricky; now I started to question my earlier presumptions. Looking at my sexy companion I wondered what other lies he'd told me. "And what do you gain from this?"
"Well, my clan is strengthened, and if you take this next step, they will be your clan too, your kindred. You will stay as you are, youthful, powerful, and beautiful, forever." He closed the distance between us, his hand sliding possessively around me, drawing me against his chest. He smelled of spices, and unmistakable lust. "Best of all," he spoke in a voice so low and husky I could scarcely hear him. "We could be together." His dark eyes smouldered with passion as he looked at me through a shutter of dark lashes. He'd never been so forward before. It was something I'd longed for, yet the timing couldn't have been worse.