A Taste of Midnight edited by Cecilia Tan

ebook $7.49
ISBN 9781885865526
46,561 words

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Contents:
Descend by Pagan O’Leary
Goddess of the Wine by Kate Hill
Waiting for Sunset by Elizabeth Thorne
Pale Smoke by Raven Kaldera
Would You Live for Me? by Mary Anne Mohanraj
The Only by Steve Eller
Initiation Into Club Sanguis by Renee M. Charles
Desmodus by Bryn Haniver
Tripping by Margaret L. Carter
Dream—Eater by Gary Bowen
She Who Waits by Catherine Lundoff

Read more for a hot excerpt!

Dream-Eater
by Gary Bowen

There are many breeds of vampires. Some have fangs that unsheathe like a cat’s claws, some have fangs like a snake that unfold from the roof of their mouth. Some have stingers in their tongues, and some have mouths like suckers that draw your intestines out through your mouth or anus. Some are smotherers who lie heavy on your chest and crush the breath from you; some have hands as gentle as a mother to hold a baby’s mouth and nose closed. Some eat blood, or semen, or organs, or shit, or life itself. I eat dreams.

I perch high above the city, roosting among the gargoyles of the cathedral. The grey slate roof is striated with subtle hues of green and purple. Moss stretches thinly across the surface of the roof, like a skin transplant that can’t quite take hold over a festering burn. Bits of lead gutter scrape loose as my claws shift and clench, shift and clench. I bring the pieces to my mouth and lick them loose with a long tongue, savoring the metallic sweetness of the lead. Lead is sweet, you know. That’s why children eat paint chips and the Romans flavored their wines with it. A steady diet gives gout—like pains in the joints, then madness.

My bones have ached for centuries. I am a dream—eater, and there is neither death nor madness for me. I eat the poisons of men and relish them. That my body is twisted and hunched is no indication of my mental state. I thrive on this bizarre diet of metal and dreams. I crouch with my brothers along the gutter, their mouths gaping to spew forth the acid rain collected from the roof of this holy place. They are sleek, hairless, male creatures, with leathery skin and clawed feet and hands. They perch like birds, as if they are about to leap into the air, but this cathedral was built in recent memory, and the artist forgot their wings.

Yet while my kind are almost extinct, I keep my watch. I fulfill my ancient duty, takinmy rightful place upon this house of god, for here, as ever, the demons gather. It will not be long. This city is like any other: The cathedral was built at the heart of the city, and then the heart died. The rowhouses that once sheltered doctors and lawyers are now home to adult bookstores and young men who drift along the sidewalk, eying one another with lascivious thoughts.

I know their thoughts, oh yes I do. And if I am disappointed in my quest for a worthy foe, then I will accept a casual lust as my fare for the evening.

The men below me are shadows to my vision, their needs and desires blackening them in ways they cannot imagine. They strut, the anonymity of the meetings making them divine, for on this night they are desirable. Any insecurities about too old or too fat or too short or too dull are wiped away by the god—like power of attraction. They know that all they have to do is nod and smile, and another man will be drawn to them like a worshiper to a pagan idol. They revel in it; it makes them feel invincible, even as it makes them vulnerable. Disease, murder, and despair, these are the demons that flock along with them. If I am lucky I will meet a real demon tonight, a daemon with a name and history. Though it may be my undoing, yet I long for a challenge, for something other than the relentless sameness of mortal passions. And if it ends in my death, so be it. I have lived a long time and I am lonely.

A blond man paces the sidewalk, his fair hair shining like a beacon in the night. I notice him, as I have not noticed other individuals, because he is so very fair he seems to cast a light about him as he walks. His tight jeans are molded to a fit a healthy body; his denim jacket swings easily from broad shoulders. The other men stir, standing up straighter, drifting along in his wake, pretending they don’t see each other, pretending they have no rivals for the attention of this newcomer.

He stops at the darkest shadow, and there is a flick of a cigarette lighter. He smokes easily, and I watch, not bothering to turn my sensitive ears his direction. I know what they say.

Then they surprise me. They walk not to the alley, or to a parked car, or a nearby walk up flat, but to the graveyard itself, shadowed over with ancient oaks, poisonous vines with beautiful white flowers climbing the wrought—iron fence. It is a private world of stone and shadow, and locked against the public. The blond man produces a bit of metal that gleams once in the street lights, then he deftly picks the lock. He quietly unwinds the chain and the gate creaks open. His dark companion, all black leather and need, slips through. He follows, then reloops the chain and hooks the padlock back in place, snapping it home. Dangerous, if his companion turns out to be a killer. But it keeps them safe from the police. Nothing is out of place here, so no one will stop and investigate.

I lift to a crouch, prehensile toes gripping the slippery roof, leaving gouges in the mossy surface as my claws find purchase. I rush to the end of the roof, wings partially unfurled against the night, cupping the air to make me lighter and less likely to slip. I am agile, but I can have accidents. Things can hurt me.

I claw my way up the gable and cling to the rooftree. An ornate iron cross decorates this end of the church, the end away from the street and the need to impress the lambs who push aside the heavy bronze doors and pass under the morose saints of the main portal. I twine myself around the cross, claws gripping slate and iron in a complex knot. My eyes rake across the graveyard, flicking across raised graves and wolfstones until I see darkness against the stone. There. They are kissing, mouths meeting while the dark one undresses the fair one, dropping his trousers to reveal pale skin and golden hair. There is no foreplay, no careful consideration of wants and needs and safety. The fair one bends over the grave, resting his elbows upon the tomb. The dark one unzips and mounts him quickly. It doesn’t last long, this heaving coupling full of need but devoid of passion. And yet, it has a primal immediacy, an animal satisfaction as the brain releases all its carefully learned lessons of respect and responsibility and is freed to feel nothing but the gratification of the body. It is appealingly simple, and my own organ swells in response to it.

I hear the young man, hear his gasp and grunts and fingernails raking the stone. For a moment my vision blurs and I am high among the cliffs, the dark stone louring above the nest where my mate crouches, tail twisting coyly around her body, red eyes beaming at me from the darkness. We know nothing of men and churches and dreams, we feast only upon each other, and I spring for the embrace.

I am flying, wings spread, the graveyard coming suddenly into focus beneath me, stones rushing up at excessive speed. The two below look up, jerk apart, and the dark one runs. My wings billow and I drift across the moon, sliding down the wind to land heavily on the brick pavement before the desecrated grave. The blond man is frozen, staring at me, blue eyes wide with fear and shock.

I am intimidating. I am over six foot tall and my wingspan is tremendous. I stoop, knees bending and shoulders bowing, my wings partially drawn in. But not fully. I don’t want to frighten, but I do want to overwhelm….

“You gave me a dream,” I hiss through pointed teeth.

He whimpers and pushes himself to his feet, hands fumbling to pull up his jeans, not bothering to tuck in his shirt. “What are you?”

“I am an eater of dreams.”

“Why are you here?” The ‘eating’ reference makes him nervous, and he’s stalling for time, one foot sliding back, trying to find the space between the headstones. I jump on top of the tomb and he shrieks in fear, turning and trying to run, but my wings enfold him. A wall of gray—black leather encloses him and he whirls to face me, face stark white with fear. His eyes dart across my face, my chest, my erection. Then he squeezes them shut.

“Please don’t hurt me,” he begs.

With my hand I caress his face. “No. I won’t hurt you.”

His eyes snap open. He is shaking in every limb. He does not gaze at me with red eyes full of lust like my mate did. I retract my wings. “You may go.”

His eyes roll left and right, trying to ascertain whether he is really free or not. Then he bolts, sneakers taking him silently across the bricks. “And don’t cruise strangers!” I yell after him. A moral lesson after all. I must remember my duty. But I do not believe in it, not now, not at this moment of loneliness pierced by need. I remain squatting on the grave, bald head in my hands, wings wrapped protectively around me.

Well, then. What of the other one? The one who was so dark he was almost a demon himself? Perhaps he will have a depravity that will nourish me more fully than these casual sins.

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A Taste of Midnight
edited by Cecilia Tan

A collection of eleven erotic short stories which explore the mysterious world of the vampire. This anthology includes stories by Pagan O' Leary, Raven Kaldera, Bryn Haniver and many more. Fall into the darkness and sensuality that is the vampire's world, velvet nights and sweet blood, like nothing you've ever experienced before.

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