1: Ten for the Ten Commandments
Sophie met the vampire while speed-dating.
There were twenty numbers printed on the paper, each with a tick-box next to it. So far Sophie had ticked two, slightly reluctantly, and she wasn’t all that sure about Number Eight: he’d had an annoying laugh that ended in a snort each time. It was a good thing, she told herself, that this wasn’t a professional event, just a charity do put on by their regular bar in aid of some cancer relief charity. She and Netta had only paid a tenner each to enter.
And oh, boy, are we getting our money’s worth, she thought, suppressing the urge to giggle.
‘I’ve got a classic MG that I’m doing up myself in my garage,’ said Number Nineteen hopefully. ‘I’ve just had the new front wing sprayed British Racing Green.’
This meant nothing at all to Sophie. She stole a glance sideways at Netta, perched just like her on a high barstool at one of those teeny little round tables you could never quite fit all your glasses on, her legs crossed, her foot twitching sharply as she listened to a beaky-nosed man talk. They had five minutes with each guy and this time it had turned out to be four minutes and fifty seconds longer than she needed to decide No. ‘Really?’ Sophie said.
Luckily, that was the moment the host by the bar picked up the wineglass he was using as a signal and tapped it with his pen. As the ringing died away all the men at the tables stood and started to move on.
Last one, thought Sophie.
‘It was nice meeting you,’ said Number Nineteen with gallant desperation.
‘And you,’ she said cheerily. No call to be rude, was there? He wasn’t going to be getting a tick though. He wasn’t going to be getting hold of her name or her e-mail address.
She was still looking down at her slip of paper in despair when the last of her ‘dates’ sat down in front of her, saying, ‘Hi.’
‘Hi.’ Then, looking up, Sophie thought: Oh … wow.
Maybe this was going to be worth doing after all. Number Twenty was easily the best-looking man of the evening. He was one of those scruffy stubbly dark-blond types with hair and skin sun-kissed to nearly the same colour, and rather thick eyebrows. She liked that outdoorsy look. His athletic build was well displayed by a white T-shirt. He grinned at her, an open easy grin. ‘You having fun?’
I am now, she thought, but said out loud, ‘It’s … different. I’ve never tried speed-dating before.’ What lovely eyes he had, she noted: brown, but flecked with gold. All the patter honed by repetition over the evening suddenly deserted her and she realised she was staring. To cover her unexpected awkwardness she took a sip of her vodka and orange, then berated herself inwardly for wasting time.
‘So.’ He put his hands on the table. Blunt hands with clean square nails, and a silver thumb-ring on the right. ‘Tell me about yourself.’
OK, so he wasn’t exactly bursting with originality either. It gave Sophie a little confidence back. ‘I work at an art gallery in town,’ she said. ‘A commercial one, not high art or anything – and I’m just an assistant – but I want to run my own gallery one day. I like hanging out with friends and going out on the town …’ She ground to a halt as she realised she was being obvious and dull. ‘What about you?’
He just sat and looked at her with his face almost alight, like he was full of sunshine. She could imagine him climbing a mountain or white-water-rafting or hitchhiking around Asia. ‘Me?’
‘You. You’re supposed to say something interesting,’ she reminded him.
‘Oh. All right then. I’m a vampire.’
She had, she thought, never met anyone who looked less like a vampire. ‘As chat-up lines go,’ she said, a little acid now, ‘that’s better than “I’m a serial killer.” But, you know, a bit worse than “I’m a big Star Trek fan.”’
‘You could try it in the Fox and Grapes though. They have a Goth Night on a Wednesday, I think.’
‘I’ll remember that.’ His brow furrowed humbly, but he grinned.
‘And to be honest,’ she said pointing at him, ‘even if I wanted to be impressed, that’s just not vampire at all.’
‘Your teeth. Unconvincing. Where’s the fangs?’
‘Really?’ She was actually enjoying herself now. He didn’t seem at all put off by her sarcasm.
‘Of course. Otherwise we’d be lisping and drooling all over the place.’
‘Hold on. I’ll just …’ He pursed his lips and wrinkled his nose back and forth as if something were stuck in his teeth. Then he peeled back his lips and opened his mouth. He had fangs this time: translucent as Chinese rice porcelain, sharp as thorns.
‘OK,’ she admitted. ‘That’s quite impressive. And … different.’
He shut his mouth and flashed his eyebrows in a smile, vindicated.
‘Did you show that to all the girls?’ Sophie turned to the table at her right. ‘Hey, Netta, did you get a look at these?’
Netta looked startled to be interrupted. ‘At what?’
But when Sophie glanced back, Number Twenty was gone. ‘I … uh …’
Gone. Completely gone. Sophie’s eyes searched the room. There were plenty of people in buying drinks, apart from those engaged in the speed-dating, but none of them looked like him. Sophie bit her lip. She didn’t understand where he could have disappeared to; she had barely looked away from him. She supposed that if he’d leapt up and hand-sprung backwards he could have jumped over the bar itself in time, but that was a bit too Ninja-like to be actually believable. She got up from her stool anyway, and walked over to the bar to check for herself. He wasn’t hiding down among the glasses and the plastic crates.
‘Weird,’ she said.
It was another three minutes before the last round of the speed-dating was over. They were the longest, most awkward three minutes of her life, but at last the chime was sounded and all the couples broke up and she was able to make a beeline for Netta.
‘Did you see where he went?’
‘The guy with me. Number Twenty … well, he would have been your Number Nineteen. The really good-looking one.’
Netta frowned. ‘Really good-looking? You sure?’
‘Oh, come on! Blondish, white shirt … nice teeth.’ She was even more confused now.
‘Uh, no.’ Netta looked down at her tick-sheet. ‘I didn’t mark him down anyway. I can’t really remember him, to be honest. There were so many guys, I suppose, Sophie: you just stop noticing after a while.’
Sophie passed her hand over her face. ‘Can we get out of here?’ It was the state of her own mind that was worrying her, but she tried to hide it. ‘I’m scared the one with the bad breath is going to try and carry on our chat.’
‘You’re not going to hand your sheet in?’
The piece of paper had grown damp in her hand, she realised. She crumpled it up. ‘No. I didn’t fancy any of them, really.’
Netta sighed. ‘Me neither.’
They made their way to the door – and there he was, Number Twenty, bathed in the magenta strip-light of the Bar Trattoria sign, chatting amiably to the bouncer. His eye fell on Sophie. ‘Hey there. You going before I can buy you a drink? I’m Ben, by the way.’
She blinked. Face to face with him once more, she couldn’t believe there was anything weird about him. Not that the teeth thing had actually worried her: she’d assumed that was just a trick of some sort. ‘Um. We thought we’d head out somewhere else.’
He glanced questioningly at Netta, who looked very pleased indeed. Plump and pretty, she always made the most of her capacious cleavage and now Sophie saw her swing it into action, turning those orbs on Ben like twin lamps, in the hope of dazzling him.
‘I’m Netta. Short for Agnetha – my mum was a big ABBA fan.’ She giggled. ‘We work at the same place, Sophie and me.’
‘Ah … the art gallery?’
‘Well, can I buy you both a drink then?’
‘I don’t see why not.’
Sophie shrugged and nodded, pushing any lingering disquiet aside.
‘You want to go to a club?’ suggested Ben. ‘How about the Rose Garden? We could skip the queue: I know the guys on the door.’
‘Sounds good,’ said Netta.
‘Yeah,’ Sophie agreed. The Rose Garden was expensive and she’d never been there.
He held the glass door open for them both and followed them out on to the street. Netta took the chance to catch Sophie’s eye and mouth ‘Hot!’ at her. Sophie wanted to ask her if she remembered him from the speed-dating line-up now, but she didn’t have the chance.
He didn’t let them down at the Rose Garden either, marching them straight up to the bouncers and inside, after a nod and an exchange of greetings. He made sure he paid too, and bought the drinks at the bar, slipping an arm round each of their shoulders as he stood between them and ordered, encouraging them to choose the fanciest cocktails they could find on the bar menu. The dancefloor wasn’t yet packed as it was relatively early in the evening, so there was plenty of space for the three of them to go on and dance together. He was a good mover, Sophie noted, though his eyes only really lit up when they played a remix of some jangling 60s hit by a group she was too young to be able even to picture. He flirted with both of them, paying each equal attention and obviously enjoying their company, wriggling up against Netta with a cheeky twinkle during a dirty song, dancing away insouciantly a moment later with an ironic wink at Sophie. Every move he made proclaimed: ‘I’m having fun and I’ll take the fun as far as you like but I’m not after anything heavy.’ His grin gleamed under the UV light, but his teeth were completely normal. Well, Hollywood normal.
Taking a break, they retired to a quieter corner to rest their feet for a few minutes. Netta went off to the toilet then. Normally Sophie would have gone with her, but they had a fresh batch of drinks on the table before them by this point and she wasn’t going to be so naive as to leave them unguarded, not with the stories you heard these days. Ben seemed nice, right, but …they didn’t know him. Not yet. You had to be careful, didn’t you? So she sat and they made light talk and that was when Ben kissed her, leaning in and brushing his lips softly to her own.
All the noise of the club seemed to fade to nothing.
Oh, thought Sophie in the sudden silence inside her head: Oh, I like this. She was flushed and warm from the dancing; his lips felt cool, yet the flicker of his tongue-tip hinted at a deeper heat. She could taste the tang of the lager he’d been drinking. His stubble was softer than she’d expected on her skin as his mouth moved over hers, swallowing her breath. And oh, his hands – one arm around her, smoothly, like she might startle: the other now on her knee, his fingertips the lightest of caresses, not at all intrusive even as they slid up the inside of her thigh, over the lace patterns of her black tights. His cool fingers sketched pointillist pictures of sensation on her skin as they played over the tiny holes in the lace, and Sophie felt a sly seep of moisture within her, a secretly avid response to his touch. And how she wished she’d worn stockings now, as he reached the hem of her skirt.
Ben’s tongue was in her mouth now, smooth as cream liqueur and just as sweet. Not boorish, not greedy. She wondered what it would feel like between her pussy lips and, catching herself at that thought, she squirmed beneath his hand and broke the kiss with a little gasp. His teeth caught her lower lip, gently, and she froze.
He let her go. He looked, with a faint but pointed smile, down at his hand on her thigh, as if surprised to find it there. She looked down too and they both watched as her legs eased apart to grant him narrow passage between thighs barely illuminated by the distant flicker of the dancefloor lights. Slowly his hand disappeared under her skirt, following that warm cleft. His cold fingers tickled their way, like water running underground, to the mound of her sex. His nail caught on the threads as he flicked it, quite accurately, over the hidden spot where her clit burned - and Sophie nearly left her seat, trying in vain to mask the spasm of her arousal. Ben scraped his finger up and down on the coarse weave, and smiled as he looked into her eyes. Sophie couldn’t grin; her mouth went slack instead as he played with her, her eyes glazing over.
Then he stopped and sat back, without haste. Sophie shook herself from her trance and realised that that faint bloom of light had been the door of the Ladies opening and closing, that Netta was on her way back over to their table. For cover she lifted her cocktail to her lips and sipped from the glass, crossing her thighs. There was a bubble of heat between them that glowed as she squeezed her legs together.
‘This might be a flash place but they’ve still run out of hand-towels in the loo,’ announced Netta cheerily as she sat down.
Ben casually rubbed his fingertips together and lifted them to his face as if inhaling the bouquet; the gesture was smooth and almost unnoticeable. ‘Hey, it’s always best when the girls are a little … damp.’ The weak joke made Netta squeal and pretend to slap him and he played along.
‘My turn then,’ said Sophie, rising. She’d had more to drink than she thought, it occurred to her as she staggered slightly. Or maybe it was just that her legs were wobbly.
‘Careful, love.’ Ben placed a hand lightly on her thigh to steady her. It didn’t help.
In the ladies’ toilet there was chill-out music playing and a row of mirrors a mile long for the customers to examine their make-up in. Sophie larded on another layer of lip-gloss and stared at her reflection, wondering if Ben was making a pass at Netta while she was away. She wouldn’t put it past him; he seemed the sort to try anything and his flirting was aimed in every direction. A critical examination of her reflection didn’t make her feel too bad, though. She was slimmer than Netta at least, though she’d never manage to match those fabulous tits. With a slight frown she undid the top button on her dress and tucked the cloth down to reveal more of the valley between her own, imagining Ben’s head nuzzling between them, his tongue lapping at the silky skin of her breasts. Even the thought made her wetter. God, he’d turned her on. She wanted more of that. She hadn’t particularly come out to get laid tonight – she didn’t count herself as that sort of girl – but now that it was looking like a possibility her pulse was running faster. She didn’t want Netta to snatch him from under her nose – and Netta was so much brassier than her and more likely to get what she wanted.
Maybe Ben was hoping to pull both of them, she thought suddenly. In the mirror her reflection blushed and her eyes snapped. ‘Oh,’ she mouthed with her bright fresh lipstick. That sort of implied he had a place of his own, if he was planning anything that elaborate. She’d never done it before but the novelty had a certain trashy sort of appeal – and she and Netta were good enough friends that it might work. They’d seen each other undress often enough, and talked about sex without any restraint. She wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of Netta.
It could be fun. Ben looked like, no matter what, he would be fun.
Making up her mind, Sophie returned to the toilet cubicle and pulled the skirt of her dress up so she could grab the top of her floral lace tights. It was a warm end-of-summer night after all. She could go barelegged.
By the time she left the Ladies she was wearing nothing beneath that short skirt at all.
Back at the table, she wasn’t surprised to see that Netta was sitting up close to Ben’s side and that his arm was resting down the back of the padded bench behind her shoulders. Nor was she surprised at his cheeky smile. But his words weren’t what she’d expected: ‘I was telling Netta here that I have a friend who’s an artist. A really good one. Sculpture mostly. You want to see his work?’
‘What – don’t you mix work and pleasure?’
‘I just … well … it’s pretty late.’
‘Oh, he’ll be in his studio. He likes to work late. It’s not far, if you want to take a look. And he’s … a really interesting bloke. You’ll like him. He’d like to meet you two, I’m sure.’
Oh, thought Sophie: that’s how it is, then. He was pulling on his friend’s behalf too. She tried not to consider whether she was disappointed or not.
It wasn’t actually all that late by the time they emerged from the Rose Garden; not that late if you were out on the lash on a Saturday night, that is: late for everyone else. Bars and takeaways were doing a booming trade but the only vehicles on the streets were taxis and buses and police vans. Ben slipped an arm around each of them.
‘Ooh,’ said Netta: ‘you’re cold.’ She was right, thought Sophie: he wasn’t icy, but there was none of the heat she’d been expecting from his body. That white cotton T-shirt might as well have been draped over a mannequin’s torso: toned and unyielding and cool.
‘Yeah, I am. I need you two to keep me warm.’
Netta giggled and pressed herself up against him in a hug that only looked innocent.
So Ben walked through the night streets with them flanking him, his arms around their shoulders, their arms about his hard waist. He steered well clear of loud and dangerous-looking revellers, but kept to the lighted main roads as if to reassure them. And he kept up a stream of chatter all the way, all about Warhol and Lichtenstein and other names Sophie knew she should have paid more attention to on her art-history induction course, until they crossed under a flyover and followed the road in a curve and there were suddenly trees and a big black building looming over them. A church. It stood in a little island in a whirlpool of main roads and it wasn’t floodlit like some of the city-centre churches. Victorian Gothic in style, its stones were black with soot dating back to the Industrial Revolution and it was close-grown with big dingy sycamores.
‘Here we are,’ said Ben, suddenly grabbing their hands and skipping them across the road under the nose of a taxi. They reached the pavement beneath a white streetlamp that made the building beyond look even more shadowed.
‘A church?’ asked Netta, pulling out of his hand. She wrinkled her nose. ‘It looks derelict.’
‘It’s an artists’ centre now. Naylor’s studio’s inside – see the light?’
They peered into the gloom, and Sophie was relieved to see that there was a glow high up in one of the tall stained-glass windows – though it barely showed through the encrustation of soot and the thick protective wire lattice over the exterior of the glass.
‘Looks spooky,’ muttered Sophie.
‘Looks like a place for freaks to hang out,’ Netta grumbled.
‘Aw,’ he mocked softly. ‘Are the little girls scared?’
Netta cast him a sharp glance. ‘Hey – how old are you?’ she asked. It sounded like a change of subject but Sophie knew where she was coming from. She’d assumed all along that Ben was their own age or thereabouts: mid-twenties at most. That’s how he’d looked under the indoor lights. But out here under the harsh white light of the streetlamp he looked suddenly older. It wasn’t wrinkles; he didn’t look wrinkled. It was something less definable, something about the way the shadows fell or the look in his eye as he derided their squeamishness. Something about his eyes, for sure – as he turned his face down to them he looked almost blind for a second.
‘How old do you think I am, love?’
‘Thirty? Thirty-five?’ Netta was being deliberately nasty, trying to get a reaction; Sophie could hear it in her voice. But Ben didn’t reply. He just smiled, and it was a different sort of smile to the others he’d used upon them. Secretive and coldly amused.
Netta readjusted her bag on her shoulder. ‘It’s getting late,’ she said in a hard voice. ‘You know, I think I’m going to go back. My mum’s coming over to visit tomorrow and I need to get up early to clean the flat.’
Sophie was surprised and dismayed. So, their hot date had turned out to be a bit of a cradle-snatcher – but did it really matter how old he was, when he was this fit? Wasn’t Netta over-reacting?
‘Don’t you want to meet Naylor?’ he asked.
‘Maybe some other time.’
‘You’d like him, I promise.’
‘Like I said, it’s late.’ Netta looked sharply at Sophie. ‘You coming then?’
‘I think I’ll stay.’ She saw the spark of shock and outrage in Netta’s eyes, the look that said: You can’t stay on your own. You stick with your girl friends whatever. That’s the rules.
‘You go home if you like,’ said Sophie, nettled. She wasn’t letting an opportunity like this pass. ‘I want to see these sculptures.’
Ben folded his arms, counting himself out of the discussion. For a moment the two girls glared at each other.
Sophie could hear the unvoiced accusation: On your own?
‘Suit yourself,’ said Netta with a sniff. ‘See you Monday.’ Unspoken was the sneer: Don’t come crying to me if it goes wrong. With an irate bounce in her step she marched away up the street, toward the neon glow of a Chinese takeaway sign and the taxi rank beyond. Sophie watched her go, then turned to Ben, who was waiting with eyebrows raised.
‘Sorry about that.’
‘Why be sorry?’ He took her arm and slipped his hand in hers. ‘Now I get to enjoy the undiluted pleasure of your company.’
Sophie’s pulse jumped, and she felt her sex clench in anticipation.
He led her into the churchyard, under the black shadows of the trees, and took her not to the front porch but around the north side of the building. The gravestone slabs had long been cleared away but a few table-tombs remained, and there in near-darkness he backed her up against a cold gritstone box and kissed her, harder this time.
Harder, deeper, hungrier.
Sophie slid her arms around his neck and ground her thighs against his, feeling for the telltale bulge of his erection. And oh yes, there it was – his cock hardening in response to her heat, her softness, her willingness. He put his hands on her waist and lifted her to sit on the tomb-top, and she opened her legs so he could stand between them, pressing up against her. Her skirt rode up, stretched tight across the very tops of her thighs. He took her left breast and squeezed it to the rhythm of his kisses, making her groan into his mouth. The sound seemed to galvanise him and he trapped her nipple between forefinger and thumb, twisting it until she squeaked again.
She’d never fucked in a churchyard before, she thought. It was exciting, in an old-fashioned way. His cock had clear definition now under the fabric of his trousers, and he was pressing right up against the mound of her sex, and she wondered if he’d realised yet she wasn’t wearing any knickers or whether his own clothing had fooled him. She wrapped her legs about his muscular ass. Her head started to swim; he seemed to have no intention of coming up for air.
Gasping, she broke from his lips. He laughed low in his throat.
‘God, girl: you’re hot, aren’t you?’
‘Uh-huh.’ She was seething with heat. She nibbled at his lips, finding them by feeling his face, and heard the hiss of breath between his teeth. He abandoned her breasts to push both hands up her smooth thighs, questing all the way to the top, finding the rucked-up skirt and then her soft, shaven, plump-lipped sex, a fashionable landing strip of hair the only veil to its nakedness. His thumbs plunged into the wet, twin divers, and she writhed with pleasure.
‘Oh, let me guess what you want,’ he whispered. It made her giggle.
‘I’ll give you three guesses.’
‘Really? One,’ he growled, massaging her clit with both thumbs. She arched her back, speechless. ‘Two,’ he continued, parting the folds of her sex and opening her wide with those thumbs, then working the rest of his fingers into the hot oil she was leaking, getting them good and slick, opening her up. ‘Three,’ he concluded, entering her with three fingers at once, his right wrist locked like a weapon, the muscles of his forearm tense as he pushed those fingers in deep, right past all those thick knuckles until he was holding her by her pussy, his thumb in possession of her clit – then out, then in again. His fingers were blunt and determined and brooked no refusal. Sophie jerked her hips and squealed and writhed, raking his skin with her nails. He pinned her with his other arm, pulling her hard against him. ‘Did I guess right?’
‘Mm,’ she nodded frantically, her lips bruising themselves on his hard jaw. She wanted his cock even more, but his fingers certainly had the right idea.
‘Then guess what I want, love.’
‘You want to fuck me,’ she whispered.
He chuckled – that dark low rumble again, deep in his throat. Lingeringly he withdrew his hand, enjoying her little whimper of loss. ‘Let’s go see my friend,’ he whispered, confounding her.
‘We walked all this way.’
‘Oh … can’t we … first …’
‘Don’t be impatient. Everything comes to those who wait, love.’ He tickled her clit teasingly, then slipped from her embrace, secure in the knowledge that she would follow. Sophie slid off the stone feeling like there was a hollow void inside her, and sure that Ben was getting off on her discomfort. She tugged her skirt back down over her thighs and brushed specks of lichen off her behind. She couldn’t care less about Ben’s friend or his artwork now, to be honest, but she wanted his cock so badly she would have followed him almost anywhere.
‘Ready?’ He took her hand and led her off, surefooted even in the darkness. He led her to a small door in the north wall, one so low he had to stoop under the arch. It was unlocked, and a light burned in the room beyond ...
[To be continued]