Kat knew what he was the moment he walked into her pub.
It wasn’t anything obvious. His clothes were ordinary – no sign of a cape or decades out-of-date ruffles and lace. His skin wasn’t particularly pale. His soft brown hair held no sign of a widow’s peak.
And yet, there was something about the way he carried himself, moving through the throng of peak-time drinkers without coming into contact with a single one of them that made it clear he was something special… something other.
The crowd parted as he approached the brass rail.
Jake, one of the regulars, put a protective arm around the shoulders of his young (legal – but barely – she’d been carded) blonde date. The pretty redhead on his other side glanced at the newcomer, shivered slightly, and slid off her stool. Kat saw her absently finger her neck as she disappeared, heading toward the restrooms. Please be here with a friend, she thought.
The stranger took the vacated seat at the center of the bar, and fixed his brown eyes on her face. (Points for that. Most of them – the ones that preferred women, anyway – got stuck on the jugular, if they made it past the tits.)
Kat found herself drawn into those eyes. They weren’t the deep brown of black coffee, but warmer, like bittersweet chocolate. And his lashes. Most women would kill for lashes like his – long, thick – if he was old enough to be a day-walker, those lashes would make the sunglasses that were de rigueur among his kind pretty uncomfortable.
Still, to the untrained eye, nothing about him screamed bloodsucker. Sure, there was the inevitable sense of unease about him, but lots of paranormals caused that. Kat knew that this stranger, this man, was a vampire because of his lips.
“They all do it,” she’d explained to one of her bar backs a few weeks before. “Man, woman, doesn’t matter. They do that thing with their lips – as if they have to consciously hide their fangs.”
It wasn’t all that different from the way teenagers used to try and hide their braces, Kat reflected. They made their mouths a little wider, a little tighter at the corners. They did something with the upper lip to provide more… space.
And this guy. This guy had the perfect lips for one of his kind. They were the textbook soft M-shape. They were dusky pink but not so dark that you’d think he’d just fed. The top one held a hint of felinity. The bottom one was full, luscious. Even better, he had just the right amount of dark brown facial hair – more than a five o’clock shadow, less than a full beard – to accent that mouth.
Yeah, Kat thought, licking her own lips, definitely vampire. And a completely kissable one at that.
She’d dated vamps before of course. It was inevitable in her line of work. They kept the same hours, frequented the same spots. It was only natural.
It was also dangerous, which was why she didn’t do it often, and had established her own sharps precautions: Always take them to a hotel, never their place, and never, ever, your own place. Never let them pay. Never drink anything that isn’t clear – even a drop of their blood could put you in thrall. And the one rule that some women, she knew, found difficult: under no circumstances did you allow a vampire lover to be on top, at least, not unless you were into being a pin cushion.
“… you have my vintage?”
Kat shook herself out of her reverie. “Come again?” she asked, as if the noise was what had kept her from earing his question.
His cheeks dimpled slightly and he repeated his query in a voice that wrapped around her like velvet. Chocolate velvet. Bittersweet chocolate velvet. “I asked if you were Kat, and if you have my vintage?”
She quirked a flirtatious eyebrow at him. “Freshly corked.” She reached below the bar for a deep green bottle with no label, “Water, wine or…?”
“Neat,” he said. “Please.”
She nodded and poured the slightly viscous red liquid into a stemmed glass. To the casual observer, he’d be drinking red wine.
He lingered there until last call. Kat could tell that he was not only watching her, but also watching her watch him.
Between customers they chatted, doing the verbal dance that meant they’d likely be leaving together after last call. If Kat pegged him right – and she always pegged them right – he’d make a purposefully nonchalant invitation after the last employee disappeared out the back door.
He did, and she accepted.
The night air was damp and chilly as they left the pub. Invigorating. Walking next to him, she realized her head just crested the top of his shoulder. Perfect.
“My car’s over there,” she told him, indicating the parking lot across the street.
“I came on my own,” he said. It was the euphemism his kind always used when they’d flown or fogged from place to place.
“No problem,” she said. “I like to drive.”
She took him to a discreet boutique hotel that was halfway between the pub and her apartment. The night manager recognized her and handed over the key to her preferred suite.
In the elevator, she handed him a breath mint, which he popped into his mouth without question or pause.
There was no talking. She reached for the lapels of his leather bomber jacket at the same time he caught her by the waist.
Kissable, she thought. So very kissable.
His warm brown eyes glittered in the softly-lit room. “I know you’re called Kat,” he said, staring down at her. His dimples had come out to play again. “My name is – ”
“Shh.” She cut him off first with a finger, and then with her mouth against his. God, his mouth was exquisite. He tasted of wintergreen and danger, the faint tang of blood barely detectable. When, finally, she had to breathe, she favored him with another of her eyebrow quirks. “I’ll just call you Lips.”