Karolina Dalca, Dark Eyes by M. R. Noble

“Tom,” I said.

He grunted and shook his head. “He doesn’t have your number, so he resorts to tracking you down in your hometown?” he asked. “What a loser.”

Tom wasn’t a stalker. We were in the same program at university, and he was interning in the next town over. I stopped responding to his texts a while ago. Fighting the urge to plunge my fangs into his artery while we made out really put a damper on things.

I’ll probably die a virgin.

“We weren’t serious,” I said.

“Looked like he wanted to be,” he said.

“I stopped talking to him a while ago.”

“So, you ghosted him? Next time I see him around I’ll tell him to send a carrier pigeon.”

I rolled my eyes. “Listen, now’s not the time, Ro.”

“Why? Did something happen today? Is it the cravings? Do you need blood?” His hand brushed my hips, trying to draw me into his whispers. It would’ve have been a fatal idea, if the cravings were a problem at this moment.

He waited for my response and put his hand into my hair, grabbing a hand full. He let the strands run through his fingers.

The gesture sent an invisible caress down my back. Why was he doing this? He knew my secret. He knew seducing a hungry vampire was volunteering for a bloodbath.

“You’re lucky I gorged this morning.”

“I’m not scared,” he said. “Are you admitting it’s not the blood that has you red faced?”

I should have retreated, but I looked up and saw his chest rise and fall. The image of it without a shirt traipsed into my head, and then I was leaning against him. My eyes continued upward and…stopped. In the heat of the moment, I couldn’t get farther than his neck.

Carotid artery be dammed.

“I’m just stressed,” I said. “I’ve got to run, Ro. Mama’s waiting for me.” I shifted out of his arms and stepped around him.

“Okay, I’ll drop off the wood for the reno at your house on my way home,” he said.

I walked to the car trying to combat thoughts of Roman without clothes. My blood pumped hard behind my ears. I slammed the door shut and cracked a window. The cool breeze felt good on my face. Shit. I tossed the box of candies on the passenger’s seat. Besides wanting to be a blood bag, what did he want? To ruin our friendship over a lay? Even if we could have sex, I didn’t want to end up like one of the washed-up cheerleaders who screamed at him for not calling the next day.

On the drive home, I followed the edge of the forest ridge. We lived a half-hour from town. It was the price of an amazing view.

I drove up to our century-old home. Next to the historical plaque was a sign which read Dalca tilted sideways toward the ground. The September wind struck again. Dalca is my mother’s family name; it’s Romanian for lightning. Grandpa Dalca liked to brag it was the magic of our family blood which made us so lethal. He told me I had to fight like lightning itself.

I stooped to fix the sign, and then paused to eye the walkway. The weeds overtook the flagstone pattern which had been my summer project.

Mama and I had spent the last two years renovating the house. It was my way of spending time with her after my grandparents died. A way of telling her I was still here. It was almost done, but she kept coming up with trivial tasks. My heart told me she was afraid I wouldn’t be around much after.

I caught chill as the wind rose, carrying an early winter breeze. It rustled through the woods across from our house.

“Hey Mama!” I called as I stepped inside.

She stood over the stove, stirring some sort of red saucy stew. The house smelled of meat, nutmeg, and cloves.

A new can of cooking oil spray was on the counter. My bane and my savior. From the ripe age of two, my clothes had a habit of smoldering into flames on my skin when I threw a tantrum. Talk about the terrible twos. Raising a Fire Charmed child wasn’t easy. It’d cost Mama a lot of patience and extra cash spent on kids’ clothes. She’d come up with the idea of bewitching a can of kitchen spray as a magical fire-retardant. While most women put on their make-up in the morning, I had to spray down all my clothes.

I warmed myself over the fireplace’s fading embers, which dimmed to darkness. The hum of the power in my chest swelled forward, sensing its fallen comrades in the hearth, and restless from the half release at the police station. I held out my hands and dropped my control. Fire unfurled from my arms and into the fireplace.