By John Daulton
The sun loomed heavy in the summer sky, baking the dirt and steaming the air to molten humidity. Men worked beneath that white-hot orb, bent by its fire, digging, lifting, making. Some drove tractors, sheltered by small metal roofs as they stirred up clouds of dust. Others worked shovels and picks, sweating under yellow hard hats and dust-streaked tank-top tees which clung to the corrugated sculpture of labor-chiseled flesh.
Pam sat behind the wheel of her minivan and sighed wistfully as she watched them work. The air conditioner lifted a lazy strand of mouse-brown hair and sent it fluttering against her pale and slender neck. Traffic moved slowly through the single lane of orange cones until she finally found herself at the front of the line.
He stood in the center of the intersection, tall, swarthy, and sinewy. His leathery skin, stretched taut across muscles that were toned and deeply carved, glistened with a sheen of sweat that reflected the sun’s hot rays.
“Good lord,” she thought. She watched him directing traffic. His arms were strong and brown, his biceps young boulders that shifted each time he waved another vehicle through. A thrill ran through her body as her eyes traced the lines of his powerful frame.
Finally he turned to wave the cars in her lane through. He paused, caught her gawking at him, and gave her a knowing, deep-eyed look. His grin was almost a smirk. His eyes narrowed just enough to let her know he’d read her mind and sensed the girlish thrill coursing like electricity through her loins. His grin widened with her blush.
He was waving her onward, his sign turned to the “Slow” side, and the car behind her honked. She shook herself and drove past him, mortified. He stared as she went by, watched her every moment as she crept through the orange corridor of cones. He gripped the shaft of his long stop sign and leaned upon it with a single-noted laugh, the wind of humor expanding his brawny chest. His cheeks dimpled, and his grin became a smile.
The whole way home she wrung the steering wheel and swung back and forth between laughter and gasps of nearly teenage delight—and her at forty-something too! “Good God,” she giggled.
She thought about him constantly as she trudged through the tedium of another suburban day, and as the late afternoon approached, she could not help but wonder if he was still there.
Stupid, she thought even as she was walking back out to her car. What are you doing? But she got in and started it and headed back to the construction zone. It was after five. There was little hope that he’d still be there. But he was.
She pulled up and waited her turn. He was turned away from her and she had time to admire his wide shoulders and the angular taper of his strong back, his wedge-shaped grace. It made her think of a manta ray; simple, brown and elegant; a thing of Nature.
She noticed a large tattoo on his right shoulder and squinted, leaning near the steering wheel straining to make it out. It was a vampire, rendered in black, supporting a woman collapsed over his arm, her head back, her tender throat exposed to the predator hovering above her with his teeth bared and prepared to bite.
Something about that tattoo thrilled her, and she was startled when he spun to face her suddenly, staring straight into her eyes and staking her to her seat with the raw ferocity of his gaze. He shimmered in the super-heated air. She blinked several times. Did he just shimmer? That had to be the heat. Right?
He grinned and waved at her. She raised a hand and, with fingers barely unfurled, waved back. She could see him sort of chortle at the meekness of her wave, and he moved to her left as she passed. Something compelled her to roll the window down an inch.
“Pull over,” he said. Just that. He pointed to a stretch of dirt alongside the road with the simple motion of his head. One side of his mouth twisted up a bit.
Only an idiot would pull over.
So why was she doing it? She couldn’t even believe it as she put the minivan in park. He was walking over to her, his stop sign thrust unattended into the open mouth of a traffic cone behind him, left to mind the traffic on its own.
Shit, shit, shit, she thought. Her heart was racing. She kept thinking about the tattoo on his shoulder. The vampire. He was almost there.
He approached and she rolled the window all the way down. He presumed the invitation and leaned in, veined forearms resting on the window’s edge, a film of dust sticking to sweat-damp hair that looked very soft. He paused, closed his eyes and inhaled the air-conditioned air. Or her.
He looked at her. She could smell him, hot and near.
“Follow me,” he said. Half command and half question, his voice barely rising at the end.
Of course she wasn’t going to follow him.
Were his incisors longer than normal?
He straightened, walked past her car, and climbed into an old pickup parked nearby. It had a stretch of red tape bandaging a broken tail light.
There was no way she was going to follow him.
He drove off.
She blinked, incredulous, as she pulled out behind him and followed him a few miles until he pulled into a dilapidated old trailer park near a riverbank.
Jesus, she thought.
He got out of his truck and took a few steps towards a rather wilted looking trailer sitting on six blocks of cement. It was awfully small.
But she got out.
He turned, walked to the front door, and opened it. She couldn’t stop staring at the tattoo. The vampire moved on his skin as his muscles worked with the small effort of turning the key. It had to be that, the movement, that mesmerized her. This close, she could see the vampire wasn’t looking at his inken prey. It was looking out. At her.
Inside, the trailer was dark. The only light came coffee-brown through a drawn window shade. A lance of sunlight cut a plane of dust motes in the air.
He turned to her and reached around her to pull the door closed. The space was close. She could feel the heat coming off his body again. His chest brushed hers and she throbbed with the fervor of her pulse.
He smelled incredible. Unearthly yet entirely of the earth. Otherwordly. So unfathomably male.
She had to say something. This was getting intense. Her mind raced. Anything.
He turned and scraped a heap of clothing off the dilapidated couch. The motion scared the dust motes. Set them churning like a swarm of frightened gnats. She could see the vampire on his shoulder dimly as he stooped.
“Nice tattoo,” she said. Stupid! That wasn’t what she wanted to say.
“You like it?” he said.
“Yes. Very much.”
“Me too. I like vampires.”
“I am one,” he said.
“I am one.” His voice was changed. Less baritone than she recalled. But the grin was still exactly as before. Disarming.
She gave a nervous sort of laugh. Looked at him. His expression was blank except for the grin. Finally, she stammered a nervous, “What?”
“Nothing.” He motioned for her to sit.
She drew in a long, speculative breath, but still her body placed itself beneath him on the couch. He sat next to her, turned slightly to face her. A long, sinuous arm stretched towards her and rested muscular along the back of the couch.
“You’re pretty,” he said.
“I like pretty girls.”
He leaned forward and nuzzled her neck. She felt him breathing, heard the sound of air drawn in as he scented her. Warm skin touched her neck as his nose and mouth brushed the ivory flesh beneath her ear.
Her body quivered, but her mind still raced. What if he tried to bite her? That vampire thing was a joke, right?
He nibbled once, softly, mostly, and her hand moved reflexively to his chest just beneath his shoulder. She pressed her fingers so that they bent gently against him. His skin was damp and warm, his body yielding but firm, powerful beneath her touch. She felt her fingers tremble slightly. She still hadn’t decided if she was going to push him away or pull him close.
He kissed the nape of her neck again. Down to the softest turn of her tender throat. She could feel the rough stubble of his jaw. She leaned into him, felt him shudder, his thick-fingered hand sliding into her hair. He suddenly clutched her tightly with an impassioned fist. He pressed against her and gasped. His breath was a hot wind upon her flesh. He was going to bite her. She could feel it in her soul.
“Shit,” he said, and leaned suddenly away. “God damn it.”
“What?” she moaned. “What?”
The silly side of her, the hoping side, wondered if he was struggling with his conscience. Couldn’t bring himself to do it, couldn’t turn her, was unwilling to subject her to the life of a vampire.
He stood and turned away from her. He moved the half a step that brought him to the kitchen part of the trailer in, well, half a step. He seemed to be fighting within himself. His posture was anguished. His powerful hand gripped a dish towel seemingly of its own accord.
“Damn it,” he said again. “I hate that. That always happens. Son of a bi . . . ”
He didn’t finish. He fumbled with the towel before him, out her view, and then slammed his fist against the wall. “Bad vampire. Bad!” he cried.
“What?” she repeated.
“Sorry.” He turned back to her, the towel jammed into his waistband, dangling like a tattered loincloth over the front of his jeans. “I was hoping this wouldn’t happen again.”
“Wait, what?” She squinted in the dim light.
He stammered, looked away, mumbled something stupid, did everything to avoid looking down at his pants. Her eyes discovered, by his ocular omission, the vestiges of a still-blooming patch of darkness. She froze.
“Woah. Wait. Dude, are you serious?”
He looked sheepish. She rolled her eyes in utter disbelief.
A vampire? She must have completely lost her mind.
A plastic statue of Spongebob Squarepants stood on a shelf above the door, fangs and a black cape marking it as a kid’s meal toy dating back to Halloween. She saw it, shook her head, and moaned,
She stood and, with as much dignity as she could resurrect, left him. She climbed into her car, and resolved to, in the future, fantasize about doughier but much more intelligent men.
— The End —