“Duh!”

“But-but — That’s –” Barb stepped back, her eyes wide as she stared at the nerd who had suddenly gained a lot of cool points. “Really?”

“Really.”

“Do you drink blood?”

“Yes,” he answered, exasperated.

Now Barb had stars in her eyes as she stared at the man lying across her dressing room couch. “Do you sparkle in the sun?”

“Spark — what?”

“Sparkle!

“Oh, no you didn’t!”

Barb’s eyes widened as Virgil forced himself to his feet, his eyes wide in horror as she stared in sheer amazement.

“What?”

“No, you didn’t just compare me to a poorly written emo jackass who needs to be written up for domestic violence!”

“But –”

“But what, Barbra!”

“I thought –”

“That what? Being a vampire would automatically make me cooler or something?”

“Well…”

“Well, what! What you see is what you get!”

“But…”

“You’re the same way you were when you were changed. I have asthma; I wear glasses because I’m nearsighted as hell. I stutter when I talk to women, and yes, I am a nerd! My amazing magic ability is that I don’t die. And I don’t sparkle in the sunlight. I combust.”

“Oh.”

“Now you sound disappointed. What? You think the whole universe is going to change for me just because I’m undead?”

“Well, most vampires, I assumed, were rich and…”

“Have you any idea how expensive it is to get someone to create a fake identity? How dangerous? Let me get something straight, Barbra. I am poor. I work very hard to make ends meet, and my options are rather limited — you know, that pesky thing about having to work nights to avoid a major case of sun poisoning? And let me tell you something. It gets expensive having to reinvent yourself all the time. De Vampre? My last coordinator’s idea of a joke.”

“But I thought –”

“What? Because I am paranormal, I suddenly become some bright and beautiful thing? No, Barb. What you see is what you get.”

“So… no riches squirreled away?”

“In this economy?” He rolled his eyes. “Please, woman.”

“But you’ve seen so much of history…”

“And most of it sucks. I was poor during the industrial revolution. Trust me, when you’re one of the faceless drones trying to work for a tuppence just to get some rotten, moldy bread… and don’t even get me started on the rats.”

“That doesn’t sound too glamorous.”

“Glamorous?” He sounded incredulous now. “There is nothing glamorous about history.” He sighed. “I ran from the Nazis, I worried about God burning my immortal soul. I lived through world wars and conflicts. I saw people die in the streets when a simple meal and some clean water could have saved them, and I watched the rich and the unconcerned walk over them like they were so much garbage. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot, Barbra. And most of it was not pretty or glamorous. Most of it was harsh and dangerous and disgusting. So please don’t compare me to a teenaged-looking pedophile with delusions of grandeur and a god complex. What I am is much more complicated and real.”

“So… no strength of a thousand men?”

“How about the strength of one man who works out a lot? Well, maybe three men, but I’m not one to brag.”

“You work out?”

“Hey, I was a fat kid when I was turned. Thank goodness we can work out and alter our appearance. I lived near Baden-Baden… lots of wonderful bakeries.” He sighed in what had to be fond remembrance. “My mother was a baker.”

“And the perfect complexion…”

“Thank God for Proactiv Solutions.”

“And… can you turn into a bat?”

“Can you?”

“No.”

“Well.” He threw his hands in the air. “There you go.”

“No wolves, either?”

“Only if I have a lot of faux fur and a hell of a lot of makeup.”

“I am so disillusioned.”

“Tell me about it.” He chuckled.

“What?”

“My main talent is that I won’t die easily. How about that? I may not be able to sparkle or fly you through the night skies, but I can competently speak fifteen languages, I can cook very well, I have hundreds of years of experience in pleasing my sexual partners, and I can take a bullet for you and then walk it off. Sound good?”

“Well –” She grinned back. “– it’s not sparkle in the sunlight and toss cars around with your bare hands good, but it sounds pretty damn real to me.”

“So, can I have a real date now?” he implored, clasping both hands under his chin, tossing his hair out of his face, and giving her the best wolf-puppy eyes he could manufacture. “I already took a knife wound for burgeoning love.”

She tried to hold in her smile, she really did, but at his antics it broke free, and she found herself giggling like a teenager. “Okay. A real date with food and wine and… You can eat, can’t you?”

“Yes.” He reached out and took her hands in his. “Blood just doesn’t have enough proteins to sustain us. I eat small meals and don’t even get me started on the bathroom process. It ain’t pretty.”

She laughed. “Need more fiber?”

“Need you to kiss it and make it better,” he corrected, bending over the few inches that put his face at perfect kissing position.

“Well, you are my hero and all.” Her heart rate increased as he moved his pastry-scented self closer to her.

This close, she could see the stubble on his face and see that his skin tone had nothing to do with a tan from the sun and…

She leaned up and pressed a kiss to his face.

“Oh.” She ran her hands over the broad planes of his shoulders, pressing the muscles and noting to herself that he felt warm and hard, like living marble. “It’s a start.”

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