Amy's face was devoid of thought, Charley knew Dandrige had her completely and there was nothing he could do to break her out of it. There was only one way to save her and he had no choice. Skirting between people he made his way round the club and then stepped in front of them as they danced. Dandrige just smiled at him.
"Not her," he said, swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, "me."
For a moment Dandrige stopped moving completely and Charley glimpsed the supernatural beneath the human facade.
"You for her?"
Charley nodded; he would do anything to save Amy.
Dandrige's mouth curved into even more of a smile and then the vampire held out his hand; the same one Charley had stabbed with the pencil. Charley was terrified, but he reached out and let those perfectly normal looking fingers entwine his own. Amy stumbled off into the crowd as Dandrige released her and then Charley found himself walking towards the exit. His mind was still his own, unlike Amy, but the grip on his hand was unbreakable.
"Why do you fear me, Charley?" Dandrige asked as they stepped outside the club.
"You kill people," he replied with the absolute truth.
He expected some reaction then, maybe anger, but the vampire just continued to lead him down the street.
"So do Generals and men with guns," Dandrige said in a perfectly reasonable tone. "They kill by the thousand, I only kill one a night to feed. I am simply a predator."
"You murder them," he countered and earned himself a raised eyebrow.
"They come to me, you know," Dandrige told him in an almost conversational tone, "and I give them the most exquisite pleasure. To die is the ultimate adventure."
"I've heard them scream."
"You scream on a rollercoaster and that is pleasure," Dandrige countered. "Do you understand pleasure, Charley?"
The way Dandrige looked at him while speaking made him trip over his own feet. He looked back at the club, feeling lost and confused as the most incredible surge of lust ran through him.
"Forget her," Dandrige whispered to him, "you are mine now. I can show you reality, not childish dreams. Your friend Ed knows the truth now."
Fear erupted in Charley's mind, pushing away the lust and he couldn't help it, he struggled. The hand holding his was unmoving like a vice and he could not get away.
"Sleep, Charley," Dandrige said; "you cannot win."
It was little more than a tap on the back of his neck from the vampire, but he folded up like a house of cards. One instant he was fully aware and the next there was blackness. When unconsciousness finally lifted he found himself lying on a rug in front of a fire and all he was wearing was a pair of silk pyjama pants.
Sitting up rapidly he touched his neck, but there were no bite marks. He didn't understand what was happening or why he wasn't dead yet. When the door opened his heart beat sped up and adrenaline flooded his system as Dandrige walked in. The vampire was carrying a tray with a decanter of what looked like red wine and two crystal glasses on it.
"Relax, Charley," Dandrige said with a smile, "I am not going to hurt you."
He couldn't help glancing at the window; he did not believe it.
"What are you going to do to me?" he asked, afraid and yet morbidly curious at the same time.
Dandrige just smiled again.
"I find you remarkable, Charley," the vampire said, apparently ignoring his question. "You are the first person who has challenged me in centuries. I admire that ... I am attracted to that."
For the first time Charley became very aware of his state of undress and he realised Dandrige was only wearing slacks and a shirt that was unbuttoned. The drinks, the low lighting, the fire; he realised this was a place of seduction.
"You're gay?" he asked, not sure what to do at all.
"Oh, Charley," Dandrige said, "when one lives for centuries one doesn't limits oneself with labels. I am free and I go after anything I want, whatever it may be."
"What do you want?"
Charley knew he had gotten himself into this and there was no getting out. He had no weapons, no way to fight, but he refused to just give up.
"I want a companion," Dandrige told him; "someone with whom to spend the long years."
"What about Billy Cole?"
"Billy is my familiar, not my equal. I have been seeking someone to stand by my side for a very long time. Your courage in the club spoke to me and I realised I have been underestimating you."
"What about Amy and my mom and Peter?"
Dandrige walked over and finally put the tray down, kneeling down just in front of Charley.
"As they are yours to protect they would become mine to protect," Dandrige said, eyes running up and down his body. "I'm a thousand years old, Charley, and family is very important to me."
It sounded so straightforward when put like that, but Charley knew it was anything but.
"I like girls," he said, because he knew he could not live a lie.
"Surrender to me and what you are as a human will become irrelevant. Pleasure, Charley, that will be what matters. Once you are like me we can take pleasure in each other for eternity."
It was such a huge concept that Charley could barely comprehend it.
"And the others will be safe?" he asked, because that was the only thing that really made sense in his mind.
"You have my word."
He had a single moment of clarity then as he realised that if he had just not looked he would have been safe at home, completely unaware of Jerry Dandrige. It made no sense for a vampire to kill close to his home; it drew unwanted attention and it was that more than anything else that made him believe what Dandrige said.
As he watched Dandrige carefully reached over filled and then picked up one of the glasses from the tray, holding it out to him like an offering. It only seemed sensible to take it and his hand was shaking when Dandrige's fingers brushed against his own. He took a gulp out of the glass, hoping it would bolster his failing courage.
The wine was smooth on his tongue and he could tell it was expensive even though he knew nothing about wine in general. He could taste the age in it and it hit his empty stomach like a stone. However, he was pretty sure that could not explain the heady rush he felt sweep through him, leaving him panting quietly.
"What's in this?" he asked, feeling strange and just a little bit surreal.
"Wine," Dandrige replied, reaching out and taking the glass from him before he could drop it, "and a few drops of my blood."
For a few seconds Charley just stared at where Dandrige put the glass back on the tray and he realised he was already lost. He did not resist as Dandrige pulled him into a full kneeling position and lifted his chin.
"To be equals you must drink of me as I drink of you," Dandrige said and he could see fangs in the vampire's mouth. "Surrender to me and I will surrender to you."
Charley's head felt fuzzy, as if he had drunk far more than a mouthful of wine, but for the first time he sensed what was truly on offer. The blood let him see a glimpse of the reality that was Jerry Dandrige and he finally understood. He could feel the vampire's immense age and power and it awed him, because he sensed no deception; he was being offered everything. Looking into Dandrige's eyes he knew the truth of the vampire's words and, murdering fiend or not, he felt himself connect with Dandrige's ancient soul.
Closing his eyes he allowed Dandrige to hold him up and he slowly and deliberately leaned his head to one side. Breath on his neck made him tremble, but he made no move to resist. The pain of fangs daggering into his flesh was terrible, but it was swamped by the connection that flared between them, opening the flood gates for him to know the real Jerry Dandrige. This was not a glimpse or reflection; this was the real thing and it poured into Charley, taking away his mind.
When he woke it was to the sound of the front door opening. He was alone in front of the fire, but he could sense Jerry close by and he could also smell human being. Standing up in one swift move he walked to the door and stepped onto the landing. There at the bottom of the stairs was Peter with Amy standing incredibly close behind him looking very scared.
It was funny; he had expected to feel differently about them somehow, but he didn't. The same need to look after them was right there in his heart, but it was tempered with knowledge and reason far beyond his years. Looking over to the darkness at the other side of the landing he saw Jerry watching him and he felt needs and wants and warmth swell in him as never before. It took him a moment to settle his mind.
[Equal,] echoed in his thoughts and he nodded, because he understood that now.
[Allow me,] he sent back and Jerry smiled at him.
He padded on bare feet to the centre of the stairwell and looked down at his friends.
"Charley, oh thank heavens, we thought you might be injured," Peter said the moment he saw him.
"Go home, Peter," he said, stepping down the first stair, "it's over."
"He's dead?" Amy asked.
Her innocence shone from her and made him smile; he knew why Jerry had wanted her.
"Far from it," he replied, walking down a couple more steps, "but it's too late and you are not in danger anymore."
"Charley?" Peter asked, sounding worried now.
"The fight is over, Peter," he said, pausing mid staircase. "I have made a bargain."
He turned his head so that the marks on his neck would be obvious.
"Oh Charley," Peter said as Amy just gasped, "we can still save you. If we kill him before dawn..."
"I will remain just as I am now," he interrupted, not quite sure how he knew, but sensing it was true.
"Charley is not just my vampire child, Mr Vincent," Jerry spoke from the landing and Charley heard his maker step forward; "I have shared myself with him. He will be my consort and he is my equal."
"Charley?" Amy appealed to him, but he just waited as Jerry walked down the stairs to stand just behind him.
"Go home, Amy," he said, "no one will stop you or try to harm you. The danger is over and this is what I have chosen."
"But, Charley," she tried again.
"Amy," he made his voice harder, "I said go home. I swapped myself for you; you are safe, now leave."
"What are you going to do to him?" Peter asked as Amy burst into tears.
Charley relaxed backwards as strong arms wrapped around him.
"Nothing he does not want," Jerry said and Charley could hear the smile in the other vampire's voice.
"What about Mrs Brewster?"
It was touching how much Peter cared.
"Tomorrow night I will visit and tell her how Charley wishes to join my firm and be apprenticed to me. We do so much out of town work that of course he will have to stay here," Jerry said and it was clear everything had been worked out. "I am a vampire, Mr Vincent, but I am not unfeeling. I will protect those Charley cares for as if they were my own now that he has joined me. That includes you, in case you were wondering. I have a sister who enjoys the entertainment industry; I am sure she would be happy to help me get your old job back for you."
Peter clearly didn't know what to say to that.
"But you murder innocent people," Peter protested.
"I kill only those I need to survive, Mr Vincent," Jerry replied, "please do not make me have to kill anyone else."
"Leave, Peter," Charley added. "No one else has to get hurt."
"You really want to stay?" Peter asked, completely confused by him now.
He nodded and placed a hand over Jerry's where it rested on his chest.
"I am home now."
That seemed to take the last of the fight out of Peter and the vampire hunter left, leading a sobbing Amy. He hoped they would not return.
"Come, Charley," Jerry said, leading him down the stairs, "we must go below."
Glancing behind him Charley could see the pink of sunrise through the large window and he let Jerry take him down into the cellar. He was surprised to find Ed waiting for them; in all the confusion he had forgotten about his friend.
"Master," Ed said and bowed his head to Jerry.
"Hello, Edward," Jerry said in a fond tone, "it is time to sleep now."
"Yes, Master," Ed replied and there was something so relaxed about him that Charley could not fail to notice it.
Ed was always frenetic and tense and far too intelligent for those around him and Charley had never seen his friend quite so in place. They were blood sucking monsters, vampires, but it seemed to fit Ed perfectly.
Billy was waiting for them beside an alcove and in the alcove were two coffins, one quite large and one slightly smaller. Ed walked to the smaller one and Jerry lifted the lid of the other.
"It will be a little cramped," Jerry said with a smile, "but I will have a bigger one made as soon as possible."
Charley just nodded and climbed in with a little help from the other vampire. It took some shuffling and rearranging, but eventually they were curled around each other in the coffin.
"Sleep well, Jer, Charley," Billy said with a grin and then closed the lid on them.
Charley had always been a little afraid of the dark, but as cool blackness enveloped him all he felt was calm. The night had changed his life completely, but he closed his eyes and fell into the sleep of the dead without so much as a backwards glance. What he had told Peter was true: he was home now.