By Kammy Gaffney
Rhaegal sat in the darkest corner of the bar and nursed his drink, as he studied the other occupants. He had kept his ears peeled for the local gossip for at least an hour, before letting himself relax, just the littlest bit, and nearly laughed in mockery of his own paranoia. No faerie bar, this... exactly how many fae would be wandering in this god-forsaken part of the country, and in the human realm to boot? His family should be safe here, for a little while anyway. The bar was little better than a rough-looking shack, and half of the inhabitants of the 'town' lived in trailers. Nothing here but sand, weeds, the wind wailing through the pines, and some very red necks. Not really his kind of place. His soul craved the elegant surroundings of his old home, and for a moment, he nearly dreamed, an annoying habit, and dangerous, when one was being hunted. But at least there was a home for him, in his dreams... the reality was so grim. Reality flatly stated that there wasn't a place for him or his family, in this world or the other. Reality was a fatherless bitch. He tossed back the rest of his drink, and scowled into the glass. The whiskey had been watered down, and it hadn't been very good to begin with.
Rhaegal looked up and studied the woman in front of him. She had a wealth of dark hair, piled on top of her head in a messy bun, dark eyes, surrounded by halos of pale blue eyeshadow, and lashes goopy with mascara. Her generous figure was nearly bursting the seams of her tiny uniform, composed of a black mini skirt, scoop necked red shirt, and a small, almost white apron knotted carelessly around her waist. There was a tray of empty glasses expertly balanced on one hand. She took his glass.
"I haven't seen you here before."
"I'm just passing through." He was always passing through, these days. "And I'll take another, so long as you leave out the water this time." His voice was deep, low, and vaguely raspy. There was an intriguing lilt to his accent.
The woman laughed. "That's just to keep some of the boys in line. You a driver?" The barmaid squinted at him. "I didn't see your rig."
"No, I'm not a driver." He didn't volunteer any more information than that. The stranger had the most startling blue eyes she'd ever seen, in a lean, almost predatory, face, with high, prominent cheekbones, black arched brows, and a full, sensuous mouth. "How about that drink?" he asked softly.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" The barmaid whirled and darted off, nearly tripping over herself in her haste. Rhaegal almost smiled, as he leaned back in his chair. She was pretty enough, for a human, even if she was wearing way too much makeup and cheap jewelry. He sighed. She was probably the resident heartbreaker of this dying place... or more likely, its resident whore.
At last call, she pulled up a chair and sat across the table from him, without even waiting for his invitation, which won Rhaegal unwelcome glares from the few other men remaining in the bar. The table was covered with cigarette burns, stains, and assorted graffiti, and it was so small, that even when Rhaegal drew in his long legs to make room for her, their knees rubbed.
"Hi, I'm Natalie," she remarked, candidly, offering her hand for a shake. Rhaegal took her hand, turned it over, and bowed his head over it politely.
"I am Rhaegal."
"Oh! Well that's an interesting name. Where're you from?"
The waitress dimpled. "Oh, so you've been to New York?"
The blue-eyed man nodded, as he sipped his drink.
"Oh, what's it like? I'd love to go there!"
"It's a crowded, hungry place, full of dreams, lusts, and terrors. A girl such as yourself would be lost there, swept away, never to be seen again."
The barmaid smiled. "I'm far from a girl, you flatterer. And it still sounds better than spending the rest of your life here."
Rhaegal nodded. "But there are some who would give anything to have any home, any place to live in peace, regardless of how mundane it would appear."
"Live here for thirty-some years, and see how you feel about it then."
Rhaegal's eyes twinkled a bit. "If I were made welcome, I'd stay a hundred."
She lowered her voice, and fluttered her eyelashes at him. "Do you have a room?" she murmured. "I'll show you a welcome... I'll even give you half price."
Rhaegal blinked. Perhaps it was his imagination, but it seemed to him that as the centuries passed, human women became increasingly bold. Or was that desperation? Well, no matter the reasoning behind the barmaid's invitation, it appeared that he would not go hungry this night. He had not always been so lucky, always finding it safer to err on the side of caution. As long as his children were fed, he did not care to press to his luck. He shook his head, and the woman handed him a card from the pocket of her apron.
"Why don't you just wait for me there?" she told him, as she rose from the table. "I've gotta help clean up."
Rhaegal gave her a suspicious look. Natalie laughed at him.
"Hey, I'm for real--I'm not gonna send the bouncers out to jump ya or anything--but those big lugs over there are gonna be hanging out in the parking lot, after the boss kicks 'em out and if they see you leaving with me, they'll probably wanna start somethin'. I'll be there, I promise." She winked as she rose from her seat, and tossed a little hand towel over her shoulder. "Trust me, Rhaegal, if you're as good as you look, wild horses couldn't keep me away. Now you better get goin', if you want a head-start on those bruisers."
Rhaegal rose from his seat, giving her a polite little bow, and pulled her chair out for her as well. "I will wait for you in my room then," he said softly.
"Don' t start without me," she smirked.
Rhaegal said nothing, just simply turned and walked away, giving a terse nod to the men at the bar. They watched him leave, with cold, unfriendly eyes. One of them spat on the floor.
"What's his story, Natalie?" he heard one of them demand.
"Nothin' much, Mitch. He's from up north. He's gotta girl waitin' for him that he's dying to get back to, but he's tired and needs a place to stop for the night. Must be some kinda girl, 'cause he's as whipped as the meringue on my pies."
"Heh, maybe he's a queer!"
"Maybe..." she agreed.
The door of the bar closed behind him, cutting off the rough laughter. Rhaegal walked to the edge of the parking lot, to the shelter of some big pines, glanced around, straining all of his senses to make sure no one had followed him. All clear. He looked down at the card in his hand. Pete's Place--Motel and Restaurant, Trucks Welcome. How about monsters? Rhaegal slid the card into his pocket, spread his wings and flew away. If he hurried, he'd have just enough time to check up on his children before he returned to meet Natalie.
* * * * *
Natalie swung into the parking lot, an hour later, dressed to kill, radio blaring, and the primer gray of her pickup truck matching the paint that was peeling from the posts, doors and shutters of the rundown motel. A great neon sign flung garish orange light everywhere, and the wooden door to the office was open. Natalie carefully pushed open the many-times repaired screen door, and gave a cheery hello to grizzled, balding, red-cheeked man who was watching television with his feet propped up on the counter. "How's it goin', Pete?"
"Why hello there yourself, Miss Natalie. Can't complain, can't complain. What can I do for you this fine evening?"
"Have you seen my date?"
"Tall, dark, long-haired, broad-shouldered, with eyes that could put Paul Newman to shame."
"Oh, you mean the Canadian?"
Natalie gave him a puzzled look. "What Canadian?"
"Feller had a funny accent, so I asks him where we was from. He said up North. I just assumed."
"Oh... yeah, that'd be him alright."
Pete chuckled. "He just blew in not ten minutes ago. Satin, is that his name? Is he some kind of a rock star or somethin'? Miss Natalie, when the hell are you gonna find a nice man and settle down?" He studied his guest book for a moment. "Oh, yeah, here he is. Mr. R. Sartain. He's up in room 203. Go on up."
"Thank you Pete." Natalie blew him a kiss, and headed back out of the office, being careful not to let the screen door slam behind her. She started up a flight of steps, and walked briskly down to the third door, her heels beating out a loud, echoing rhythm on the wooden boards. She knocked, firmly and briskly, all business. "Hello? Rhaegal, it's me."
The door swung open, and she nearly drowned in those piercing eyes. Dammit, what the hell's come over me?
He silently stepped aside, and let her in. The rooms here were all alike. Avocado and sunshine yellow, with all the trimmings done in brown and orange. Everything was either vinyl or wrapped in plastic. Anything of even the remotest value was either chained or bolted down. But at least the bathroom was clean, and the bed was large. She had suggested this particular motel for just that reason. There were inevitably a few cigarette burns in the plastic that covered the mattress, but the threadbare sheets were always clean, and there was an avocado green blanket, and a matching paisley comforter. The curtains over the single small window were avocado paisley too.
Natalie sat down on the edge of the bed, and smiled. "So what do you want to do first?"
"I'd like to reveal myself. I have not been entirely honest with you."
"Huh?" Natalie blinked in confusion. And then it was as if a light went off in her head. She saw Rhaegal--really saw him, and her eyes widened. "Who? W-what are you?"
"I am fae; I won't hurt you--please, don't be afraid."
"Fae? As in a faerie? You look more like a demon than any faerie I've seen."
Rhaegal raised an eyebrow. "How many have you seen?"
Natalie looked flustered. "Well, I haven't seen any, but I have lots of those pretty little pewter statues, you know, with the little crystals in 'em? There was one I didn't get, but I remember, it has wings like yours, but he was supposed to be evil, I think. Are you evil? Like a demon or something?"
"No, at least, I don't think so.... I am simply what I am. I am what it is in my nature to be."
Natalie didn't attempt to make any sense of his cryptic statement; she just sat there and gawked at him in awe. Rhaegal's tall, muscular frame was made even more imposing by the gigantic black leathery wings that curled around him, topped off by long, smooth, lethal-looking ivory talons. His beauty was other-worldly, but in a fierce, predatory, very sleek and masculine way, like some preternatural bird of prey. He made their surroundings seem even more prosaic by comparison.
"Um... so... what do you want with me?"
Rhaegal stepped up to her, slipped a hand under her chin, and raised it. "I need only to feed... then you may go."
She was trembling. "F-feed?"
He bent his long legs and crouched down before her, his steady intense gaze capturing and holding her own. He brought his face nearer, nearer... Natalie closed her eyes, and a moment later, felt his lips brushing her throat, butterfly soft. She heard him murmur something soft and foreign, musical sounding syllables that sent a thrill of delight fluttering up and down her spine. And then the vampire fae plunged his fangs into her throat, and the woman was lost in the rush of his desire, flinging her arms around him, and holding him as tightly as she dared. He moaned softly, and she echoed it with her own soft cry of pleasure. They remained as they were for long moments, Rhaegal drinking long and deep. He had gone hungry for a long time.
He released his embrace slowly, and she even more slowly, holding him close long after he'd let her go. He gently pried himself loose. He did not like to be held. She blinked, and looked up at him. "Stay?" she asked. He gave his head a little shake.
"I should not."
"I never intended to spend the night with you, child... I wished only for sustenance."
"But I want you to... will you?" Her eyes were pleading, her fingers knotted into the fabric of his shirt. Rhaegal sighed. He hadn't been with a woman of any species in over a decade, ever since... he closed his eyes, and shook his head again, trying to force the memory back--he didn't want to lose himself in a dream now, not at such a time. He felt soft full lips being pressed against his, and he felt his resolve weakening. "Stay with me... just for a little while. I've never seen anything so beautiful, and I'm never going to leave this town... at least I'll have one beautiful thing in my life to remember." Natalie's desperate need was more than he could bear. His own was running a close second. He sighed and slid his arms back around her, and gently pushed her down on the bed.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
The Drakthos © 2001 by KL Gaffney
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