“You’re the seventh son of a seventh son,” she said, leaning low over the bar with a smile on her lips. “That’s meant something, over the centuries.”
He didn’t ask how she knew; Claudia always seemed to know everything, and it baffled some people, but Eric knew she’d just been around long enough that she’d picked up parts of all of their lives along the way.
She was small, barely five feet though the heels add a few inches. She’d been a fair height for her day, of course, since not everyone who’s survived the centuries started out the veritable giant that Eric was in his own time. He watched people get taller and taller over the years, alternately pleased by what it meant for his chances of blending in and disappointed that he stood out less and less. Still, these days everyone who knows him knows he’s special, and that’s currently enough.
She’s small and slim though not in that supermodel sense, curves where he thinks there should be curves on a woman because he was born in a time when a perfectly flat stomach was not so very vitally important. After all, he’d only died looking the way he did because he’d spent so much time at war, half starved and freezing – he wouldn’t have minded always having enough to eat, having a choice whether he’d eat or not, having a choice to be overweight. There were times when all of his people were starving and all they could do to change that was hunt until the woods were next to empty, then raid whatever other settlements they could find. He misses his life, on occasion, but mostly it’s pleasant to find himself there in this age of excess.
“What are you trying to say?” he asks, leaning down against the bar himself, close up to her on his forearms. His long hair brushes his bare wrists and he smiles, predatory, the kind of smile he knows makes humans quiver and from there rethink their plans or just plunge in so much deeper. Some of them are so in love with death.
“I’m saying you’re special, Eric,” she says, the amusement on her lips and in her eyes. “Of course, we always thought seventh sons of seventh sons would have very special abilities… wizards, alchemists, something along those lines.”
“Not vampires, I take it.”
She shrugs. “My maker thought perhaps that was how we all came to be, in the beginning.”
She brushes back her long blonde hair, tucks it behind her ears in a gesture that’s all too human because he knows beyond a doubt that she can move faster than even his eyes can see. Eric can fly; that’s his gift. Hers is celerity, along with everything she’s learned in the millennia since her first death.
“Your maker was an ass.”
She chuckles. “Amongst other things,” she concedes. She leans forward, tiptoes behind the bar because she’s so small he could almost feel guilty for hiring her to tend bar, if he felt guilt, if she didn’t look perfectly at home. She reaches over and he watches her as she tucks back his hair next, fingers lingering at it, her gaze there too before her blue eyes return to his. “He called himself Ankhdjet, which I can assure you in Ancient Egyptian is highly uninspired.”
Her name these days is Claudia Metelli. He finds it amusing, something about little doll-like vampires with perpetual blonde ringlets since at the time they met for the second time he was reading that hilarious book by Anne Rice and that was precisely how she was wearing her hair. Of course, Claudia had not died quite so young as the Claudia in the book; she was born Claudia Pulchra Prima, somewhere around a hundred years before Christ, and lived to see thirty there in Rome. She’d been notorious in life, an unfaithful wife, an unfaithful lover, beautiful in the Roman way that contrasted with the Viking in Eric; they always looked so strange standing side by side, over a foot in height separating them though somehow it never seemed like she looked up to see him. She’d been a vampire queen in Scandinavia for hundreds of years before she’d tired of it completely. He’d never known her not to have that frustratingly regal air.
Of course, the first time they’d met she’d been a queen. She’d lived in Norway then, though there were official residences across Scandinavia; Eric was there with Godric, and Claudia was the first vampire queen he’d ever met. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected but she hadn’t been it, sitting there in the small, cold room, swathed in furs, solemn and motionless as a statue. She’d been perfect, and when she’d turned her gaze on him he’d felt oddly humbled – him, Eric, a prince, humbled! It fought with his sense of outrage until Godric told him she’d been alive longer than the two of them together.
Her reception room was glacial, down to the sheen over ice over the stone floor. Others were slipping as they made their way forward to petition at her feet; Eric was sure-footed as he was taken forward and introduced. He was a child of the snow and ice, after all, and one thing he did not miss about his former life was the cold. He knelt, and Queen Claudia smiled; she reached down with one small, cold hand, adorned with silver rings, and she brushed back his long hair from his cheek.
“You’re very welcome, Eric,” she told him. Her accent sounded strange to his ears. Godric explained later, when he told he everything he knew about Rome and Eric listened, rapt as he always was when Godric spoke.
Then, abruptly, Godric stood and left the room. Queen Claudia entered.
Her home was grand for the time. Eric remembered his own home, the hall of his father, small buildings, the stone that had been so hard to shape and lay and he knew from experience since even the son of a king didn’t escape such necessary duties. Claudia’s hall was the first castle he’d seen, small by standards he would come to know but discreet, made by vampires on the mountainside above a lake that froze over in the winter. She’d given Eric and Godric each a room, finished in furs, mattresses, furniture carved with skill. Everyone who visited there brought her gifts. And she kept a human village within her walls, kept them fed and well and warm as long as her court could feed from them.
When the queen dropped her furs, she was naked. Her intent was obvious. And Eric could certainly oblige.
He was far from humble in the bedroom. He swept her from her feet, held her to him, against the furs he was wearing; she wrapped her legs around his waist as he held her, this cold, hard creature in his arms who through his long, hard kisses he softened. He rested her back against the heavy wooden door and he kissed her, felt her fangs against his lips and tongue, felt them click against his own as her fingers went beneath his furs to his bare shoulders. She dug in her nails and he growled against her lips, turned, tossed her clear across the room where she landed on the mattress, amongst the fur blankets, the down-filled pillows, laughing with delight.
He went to the bed, stood at the foot of it and looked down at her, let his gaze move over her. She was small, white, a kind of odd perfection that he’s since found most of the elders have and even so, that perfection is just an illusion. He knelt, ran his big, rough palms up over her dainty little calves as he parted them, squeezed at her thighs, brought up her knees and pressed his mouth to the inside of one of them. Leaning up on her forearms, she looked at him expectantly. He hadn’t made love to a woman in years, something about the necessity of passing through towns without notice, feeding without ever being caught because then there were so many fewer people to feed on. One more thing he enjoys these days is how the human population is so wonderfully accessible.
He hadn’t made love to a woman in years, but it wasn’t as if he’d forgotten how. He’d been one of those men who’d had whichever woman he’d wanted back when he’d been alive – handsome and the son of a king, he’d been perfectly irresistible. He remembered the women he’d known before as he looked down at this vampire queen, the serving girl who he took in the stables every night for a month who bit down on her sleeve to keep from shouting out loud, the blacksmith’s daughter who’d taught him everything he’d needed to know about a woman’s body, his schoolmaster’s wife who he tested those theories on.
He bit lightly at her thigh, not breaking the skin, and she sighed. He glanced up from the curtain of blonde hair, fingers moving up, skimming thighs, skimming her stomach, coming down to the folds between her legs that he stroked lightly before he parted them. He rubbed lightly at the little nub concealed within, the pad of his thumb moving over it as he looked up at her, watched her reactions as he stroked faster bit by bit. Vampiric speed had always been useful but now he worked to an incredible rate, flicking his thumb over that spot that made her squirm against the furs. Then he stopped, pulled back his hand and replaced it with his mouth.
Vampires didn’t taste the same as humans, he found. There was so little about vampires that remained human at all, aside from the general form and the points of pleasure; he lapped at that spot as he teased his fingers back behind it, just the tips of his fingers dipping inside her, again and again. She arched her back; he reached up with one hand to tease the nipple of one full breast. She wasn’t quiet at all, as he supposed she never had to be up there in her own little village, queen of Scandinavia, the frozen north riddled with her spies. She moaned as he teased her with the tip of his tongue, and he pulled back again. She huffed and pushed back up on her forearms, brows raised.
“You’re a tease, Eric,” she told him.
He chuckled as he left the bed, cold stone floor beneath his cold feet, and he pushed the furs back from his shoulders. He let them fall to the floor, so deliberately let her see him naked there, his hand resting at his hips for a moment before one came down over the muscles in his stomach, over the coarse blonde hair that led down, and he circled his hard cock with his fingers.
“This is what you want?” he asked, amusement quirking his lips as he looked at her.
“Obviously,” she replied, her amusement matching his own. Which didn’t leave much left to discuss.
His body covered hers easily, that difference in height so far from apparent at this angle. She pulled him down against her as she lay there, hands at his hips, nails raking at his back, palms cupping his face as she kissed him hungrily all not necessarily in that order over and over again. She tasted sweet, tasted of fresh blood and spices he hadn’t tasted since his mortal life and he reached down, parted her lips again, a moment of teasing at that spot again before he guided himself into place. If he’d still had breath when he entered her, it would have taken it away.
They moved together. There were so many more things he knew a vampire could do with a vampire but right then that didn’t particularly seem to matter; he’d come to that later, he thought, and he did; she stayed the rest of the night in his room, slept the day through in that bed with him in the room with no windows. Godric joined them the following night and it started all over again. Three nights later, they left the castle and they went away, south, somewhere warmer where the superstitions were fewer, where Eric felt less and less at home, when the sun shone through more and more of the day. He didn’t see her again for centuries, when the castle was gone, seventeen years before Fangtasia. He hadn’t exactly missed her, and she hadn’t missed him. That didn’t mean they weren’t pleased.
Six sons of the seventh son had died before Eric was seven years old. He’d been a prince; she’d been a queen. Now there they were, the Viking and the Roman, the sheriff and the bartender, not quite reminiscing. He leaned in, kissed her quickly and Pam shot them a disapproving glance. He chuckled and Claudia shot Pam a wink, blew her a kiss. Pam didn’t really care, she just hated to be left out.
Catullus and Cicero both thought that they’d immortalised her, Clodia, Claudia, the beautiful scandal of Rome. Of course, words meant very little in that respect when she was actually immortal, and Eric had never cared for the Latin writers.
They left the bar together, Pam grumbling but coming along anyway. Claudia wouldn’t stay long, because she never did. But they’d all enjoy it while she did.