Blood Nor Money: Halloween in New Orleans


Halloween in New Orleans is a short story introducing three of the four main characters from Blood Nor Money.

Chapter 1


I blew the cheering audience a kiss, careful to keep my fan in place to preserve the appearance of modesty, despite the fact I was wearing tasseled nipple pasties and a sparkling thong. And heels, of course. I wasn’t a total animal.

My floor-length silver gown and white feather boa lay discarded on the stage somewhere behind me. One of the girls would grab them later. Tonight’s show was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Old Hollywood. Not my idea. I didn’t watch movies. It had gone down a treat with the crowd, though.

I bobbed one last curtsy before strutting off stage and letting myself into the dressing room to begin the tedious process of removing and storing my costume. When did my life become so repetitive? Perhaps it was time for something new. I could fake a dramatic death, spend a couple of decades in a new city. Though, the more humans traveled around, the harder hiding my identity became. Perhaps a generation in hiding instead. I could catch up on some reading.

Plus, creating a new identity was a nightmare these days. So much paperwork.

I left my staff at Sugar, the burlesque club I owned in Shoreditch, to clean up and close in the wee hours of the morning. The club kept me busy six nights a week from as soon as the sun went down to just before it came up. Since I slept during daylight hours, my time to myself was limited.

After two thousand years, you’d think I’d have had enough of my own company. Truthfully, I was the only person whose company I could tolerate for longer than a few hours.

I made my way into the locked back room then up the stairs to the apartment I kept over the club. It wasn’t my most luxurious property, but it guaranteed I could move between my home and the club without risking exposure to the sun.

The two-bedroom apartment was rather impersonal. The room where I slept was thoroughly blacked out, the other room served as a walk-in wardrobe, mostly for my costumes. The living room, dining area, and kitchen were all combined, a horrid interior design choice that appeared to have become popular in recent years.

What use did an immortal have for a kitchen? I’d much prefer the eyesore hidden behind a door that I never had to go through.

Needing to scrub the glitter off my lips, I let myself into the tiny bathroom off the living room. My dark brown hair was naturally curly, though it had been tamed into big, vintage-style curls and pinned back for my performance. I used a makeup wipe to scrub off the heavy eye makeup that rimmed my blue eyes, and the layers of red lipstick that were bright enough to be seen from the back of the room when I was performing.

A shrill ring interrupted my peaceful silence just as I got myself clean. I gave the phone in the living room a poisonous look through the open door before making my way over to it like it may explode at any second. I despised technology. The world had functioned perfectly fine without it for centuries. The antique rotary phone was the only exception I made, and only because I had been bullied into it. It was a demonic thing.

“Yes?” I sighed, holding the monstrous device to my ear.

“You know, if you get a cellphone then you'll know who is calling you before you even answer,” Marguerite drawled, her French accent still thick after a century in the new world. She emphasized it on purpose. It was part of her enthrallment. A girl had to eat.

“I pick up the phone and then I know. Why would I need to know before?”

“Pah, you are dreadfully old-fashioned. Technology is magical, you know. I look at my phone and voilà! I know the weather for the entire week. Can you imagine? Have you delved into the world of sex toys yet?”

“Sex toys,” I scoffed. “The concept is absurd, I have plenty to play with in bed without any accessories. Sex toys are for the uncreative.”

“You haven't tried the clitoral suction device,” Marguerite replied in a wise voice like she was giving me an important piece of medical advice. “You will never need a man again.”

I snorted, though the idea had merit. It was exhausting trying not to kill my partners. Though the idea of putting battery operated devices near my feminine parts was abhorrent. What if it caught fire?

“Did you call to complain about my aversion to technology?”

“I called because I am bored,” Marguerite said with a dramatic sigh. “My life has grown stale and unsatisfying. I need to be invigorated.”

“Why would you phone me? I have been stale and unsatisfied for centuries.”

“Oui, exactly. That is why we must invigorate ourselves! I propose a trip, we haven't seen each other in a decade.”

I massaged my eyes, trying to think of a polite reason to decline. Marguerite and I had learned the hard way that female immortals didn’t play nice with each other. We both had strong territorial urges that drove us to push for dominance when we were together. For the sake of our friendship, Marguerite and I only spent time in person every twenty years and only on neutral ground. It was ten years too early for another meet up.

“Come, ma chérie. You have never visited that club you purchased in New Orleans, and the new world is a delight at Halloween. You are missing out.”

“Travel is such a pain these days,” I muttered. It was becoming increasingly difficult for a dead woman to get through the elaborate human security measures.

“You can afford a private plane,” Marguerite pointed out impatiently.

“Fine. Fine. You win, I’ll meet you in New Orleans.”

* * *

Never again, I promised myself, exiting the airport in the middle of the night. I much preferred the old days when we traveled by boat. Much easier to avoid sunlight in a blacked out cabin.

Marguerite picked me up in a chauffeured limo, never one to do things by halves.

“Darling, you look exquisite,” she purred, leaning over to kiss my cheek. Her long blonde hair was curled and left down, the front pinned back. Marguerite still had a penchant for 1950s styling. Her burgundy satin tea-length dress nipped in at the waist and flared out into a full skirt. She wore a matching cropped jacket, bejeweled silver shoes, and dark red lipstick.

“I do not, I’ve been in a plane for the past ten hours,” I griped. “It was abhorrent, I am never visiting again.”

“Nonsense, it will be fine. We’ll go to the house, catch up, rest in the day, then go to your club tomorrow for Halloween,” Marguerite said easily, apparently having planned all of this out. “Will you be dancing?”

“I told the managers I’d be visiting, and they asked me to dance, so I bought a costume with me,” I replied with a shrug, downplaying my excitement. It was a small thrill to perform for a new audience. “Where are we staying?”

“I rented an old home in the French Quarter for us. I had blackout blinds installed.” I nodded my head. That would work. So long as it wasn’t Marguerite’s personal space.

“You left your lovers at home?” I asked, failing to keep the amusement out of my voice.

“No offense.” Marguerite grimaced. “If you’d looked at each other, I wouldn’t be able to decide who to kill first.”

“That is a dilemma,” I deadpanned. Marguerite always kept a harem of immortals around her, usually ones much younger who had no chance of overpowering her. I’d never seen the appeal. I avoided immortal men because I wouldn’t risk forming the kind of attachments that made me lose my head like an idiot. Been there, done that. But if I ever decided to pursue one, I’d at least want one who challenged me.

“Perhaps we could find you some while we’re here,” Marguerite suggested lightly, though I caught the glint in her eye. “Louisiana attracts all kinds, you know. Have you seen True Blood?”

“You know I haven’t, and you know I’m not interested,” I replied, examining my dark red nails. Perhaps I should have done something more interesting with them for Halloween. Cobwebs seemed to be a popular choice of decor this time of year.

“Perhaps you’re afraid of how much you’d enjoy a night between the sheets with a man who could keep up with you,” she challenged, blatantly attempting some reverse psychology on me.

I hummed noncommittally, not rising to the bait. I was afraid, but not for the reasons she thought. Marguerite and I never discussed the circumstances around my death or my turning, she knew not to ask.

“Maybe I’ll find myself a nice human or three in vampire costumes,” I offered when Marguerite tapped her foot impatiently for an answer.

“Pah, you are impossible,” Marguerite huffed, slumping back in her chair and crossing her arms. “Distract yourself with the fakes, but one day you’ll cave and try the real thing.”

Chapter 2


Before we even rounded the corner onto the busy Shoreditch street where Porcia's club, Sugar was located, I knew she wasn't there. Without her, there was no pull, no strong desire urging me forward. It seemed like supernatural mumbo jumbo, the kind of soulmate nonsense I would have dismissed in my mortal life.

After 2000 years subsisting on human blood, there wasn't much I didn't believe anymore.

“She's not here,” Louis muttered, wringing his hands in agitation.

If I believed that I was Porcia's soulmate, I had to believe Louis was too. He was 1400 years younger than I was, he'd followed Porcia for 1400 years less than I had, but I would be a blind fool to deny his attachment to her was any less unhealthy than my own. We'd come together when I helped him transition into immortal life, but we'd stayed together some six centuries because of our mutual obsession.

“I agree,” I sighed, pulling out my phone. It was unusual for her to leave Sugar so early, her routine was dependable down to the minute. I pulled up the social media page for the club I knew one of her employees must manage since Porcia has a strong mistrust of technology. She didn't have electricity installed in her main estate until the 1970s.

“Anything?” Louis asked impatiently.

Our lead dancer, Lady Lucy, is taking a well-deserved holiday this week, but FEAR NOT. Our Halloween show promises to be a spook-tacular show filled with ghoulish girls, bat-tastic bosoms, and moves that make you SCREAM.

I wonder if Shakespeare ever rolled over in his grave, seeing what had been done to the English language over the years. Louis and I had a drink with him once, when we’d all been living in Bishopsgate. Our home now was just ten minutes away in Spitalfields. Semper idem. Always the same.

“She's on vacation.”

“Check Marguerite's profile,” Louis urged. “If she hasn't posted anything, then Porcia, sorry, Lucy, is in Scotland.”

I grunted in agreement, navigating to Marguerite's profile under her current human identity, Violet Adair. She was Porcia's only immortal friend, and the biggest attention seeker who'd ever walked the earth. Despite the many obvious risks of courting attention from internet strangers—namely that she'd have to “die” in a few years and repeat the process all over again with a different name and the same face—she persisted in making herself some kind of online socialite.


Her most recent picture was of her blowing a kiss in front of an archway with ‘French Market’ across the top of it, a dark-haired woman next to her in a silky emerald dress shielding her face coyly from the camera. I didn't need to see her face to know it was Porcia. I'd recognize her by the graceful curve of her neck, her long elegant fingers, the way her chocolate brown hair curled just so behind her ears.

I'd recognize her by the feeling on my skin when she was nearby. A prickling awareness of the angel I could covet, but never keep.

Louis bent his head over my screen, examining the picture upside down.

“New Orleans?” he asked, glancing up at me in surprise. “She hates flying.”

“Perhaps she's considering another stint in the new world after she retires Lucy.” It wouldn't last if she did. Porcia had tried twice to move to America — in the late 1800s and again in the 1920s. She never stayed though, always drifting back to places she'd lived before. Usually ancient cities, cities she’d seen being built. We’d seen, not that she knew that.

“I wouldn't mind another extended vacation in the new world,” Louis chuckled, his thoughts echoing mine. “In the meantime, I assume we're spending the week in New Orleans?”

“Where else?” I called over my shoulder, already heading back towards our townhouse to make arrangements.

We’re coming for you, amor meus. We’ll always keep you safe, whether you want us to or not.

* * *

Avoiding sunlight made travel a logistical nightmare involving blacked out cars, UV umbrellas, and blacked out plane windows. Even when money was no object, it took a day to get up in the air. I was glad Porcia wasn’t fond of taking these trips often.

We’d scheduled it so we arrived in New Orleans at 9.30pm, giving us plenty of time to get to Porcia’s club before she’d inevitably perform. Even if she didn’t plan on performing, she wouldn’t be able to help herself. Porcia got the kind of rush from dancing that I’d only ever gotten from blood.

The car service dropped us in the French Quarter, where Halloween revelers were already gathering on the street, shivering in their scant costumes from the cool breeze that I barely noticed.

“Let’s check in and change,” I murmured to Louis, surveying our surroundings. “We stand out like this.”

“Looking forward to it,” Louis replied cheerfully, one step behind me as I forged through the crowd. “I haven’t worn that suit in a hundred years.”

I glimpsed the entrance to Porcia’s club, Wine & Whisky, in the distance. She’d never visited it in person, it was owned by her trust as were most of her other properties. That meant I’d never visited either.

It was cozy. A lounge at best.

“Luckily, I brought masks. We’re going to have to go in.” Louis’ eyes snapped to mine, filled with unconcealed excitement. This would be the closest I’d been to Porcia since she’d turned, and the closest Louis had been to her ever.

“Don’t lose focus,” I reminded him. “Don’t interfere. And most important—”

“Don’t get too attached,” Louis finished, some brightness in his eyes fading. “I know the rules. Never have hope.”

Chapter 3


The dressing room was even more chaotic than usual with the Halloween show. Women were rushing everywhere, half dressed, delicious veins on display. I should probably find someone to feed on tonight. It wouldn't be a good look to maul one of my own employees on my first trip into town.

I sat at the end of the row, pulling out my makeup case. Everything about me was designed to entice already—my skin inhumanly flawless, blue eyes sparkling, framed by thick black lashes. It took me about a quarter of the time it took human women to get ready for a performance. I admired their dedication.

As always, I put special emphasis on my lips, lining them first before using two red lipsticks to achieve the exact shade of crimson I wanted. To finish, I patted on a thin layer of red glitter to really make them sparkle and pop while I was on stage. It was a nightmare to remove, but it would be visible from the back of the club.

Marguerite came to join me as I finished removing my rollers and tidied my curls.

“What costume have you brought with you, darling?” she drawled, her accent even thicker than usual. She had a martini in hand, swilling it absently as she observed the backstage commotion. Not that alcohol got us drunk, but we could at least savor the taste of it.

“Sexy vampire,” I deadpanned, teasing up my hair at the front, gesturing at the costume hanging behind me. Bejeweled lingerie and matching under-bust corset, a long sparkling black dress, and a campy black and red vampire cape.

“Oh, that's such an awesome idea!” the girl next to me squealed, pausing the intricate spider web she was drawing up the side of her face. “You have such a vampy look.”

“Yes, yes,” Marguerite huffed, waving her hand impatiently. “A little uncreative, is it not?”

“No way,” the girl replied, assuming Marguerite was talking to her. “Guys love a good vampire. They'll eat it up.”

“Someone will most definitely be eating,” I muttered before shooting the girl a polite smile. I was impressed with what I’d seen so far. The club was small, but cozy and luxurious, decorated in heavy red velvet with traditional touches of cabaret.

“You like it here,” Marguerite accused with a slow, predatory smile. “Admit it.”

“I admit nothing, see you after the show,” I huffed, shooting her a glare. “Try to keep it in your pants when you see me up there.”

* * *

“Excuse me, miss, I don't have a stage name for you. What would you like me to introduce you as?” the DJ asked, pausing next to me in the stage wings.

“Lady Lucy, The Whore of Dracula,” I replied sweetly. He blinked uncertainly a few times. Burlesque was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but he was looking at me like he wasn't sure to ask if I was joking or not.

Mostly I was testing him. I enjoyed watching humans squirm in discomfort when their social norms were challenged. It was one of the few things that brought me joy.

He strode out onto the stage in front of me, and I watched with mild interest as he hyped up the crowd. I didn't bother listening to the words; they were always the same. Some variation of devastatingly seductive, the ultimate tease, dangerous attraction and so forth. They didn't know how right they were.

“Give it up for Lady Lucy, aka the Bride of Dracula!”

How disappointing. I wasn't even wearing white.

The band started, the sultry low jazz notes heralding my entrance onto the stage. The movements were instinctual by now — the slow sway of my hips as I walked, the teasing tilt of the knee, hinting at the prize found in between my thighs, the drag of my toes across the ground, each movement designed to entice, to stimulate.

I rolled my body up, highlighting my bust in my too-tight sparkling black corset before bending forward, a flirty look over my shoulder, showing off my derriere. All very hint, hint, nudge, nudge. The crowd whooped, catcalling right on cue.

From the center of the stage, I had an unobstructed view of my audience. The club was dim; the lighting designed to elicit a sense of mystery, but my eyes were made for darkness.

I spun, dropping my hips and giving the crowd an exaggerated wink as I pulled off my gloves, fanning myself like I could actually feel the temperature. There were raucous calls from around the room, both male and female revelers dressed in their Halloween finest and enjoying the show. Though two audience members at the back were noticeably still and silent.

Throughout the centuries, I had drawn my fair share of admirers—both mortal and immortal. I naturally drew humans and the newly turned to me, reeled in by my thrall. Immortals were off-limits, but if a human interested me, I kept them around for a while. Never long, just until my fascination had worn off.

My thrall didn't work on older, more powerful immortals. Aside from my friendship with Marguerite, we usually left each other alone, by mutual unspoken agreement.

Except for two. Two powerful immortals who had hovered at the periphery of my world for centuries.

They weren’t at the periphery today. They were right here in the room, and I didn’t know if it changed nothing or if it changed everything.

Chapter 4


My curious immortals were feeling bold today. Usually, they stayed far away where they foolishly thought I couldn't see them, watching like sentries. In the very beginning, there was only one, and I had feared him, but didn't yet feel confident enough in my new abilities to confront him.

But as years passed of him observing discreetly from a distance, never coming too close, but seemingly watching for any sign of trouble... his presence became a comfort rather than a cause for concern.

When the second one came along over a thousand years later, I could only assume my fan club was growing. It helped that they were pretty to look at.

I stalked back across the stage, twirling out of my obscene vampire cape, and draping it over one arm for a dramatic butt wiggle with my back to the crowd. That always went down a treat. The front split in my dress made it easy to pull it all the way to the side, revealing the scant pair of knickers I had on as I swung the cape a few times and tossed it to the side of the stage.

It gave me a chance to look back over my shoulder, hands resting on my hips, and examine the immortal audience members under the guise of flirtatiously catching my breath and toying with the crowd. The last notes of the song rung out as the band prepared the next number where things would really get steamy.

They stood at the back of the club, arms crossed over broad chests. Their vintage three-piece suits were well-tailored, expensive. Both wore Phantom of the Opera-style masks that covered half their faces, though it was pointless if they were trying to hide their identity from me. I'd seen them plenty of times before.

The one on the left was my original... stalker? My soldier. It was such an inelegant term, but I supposed it fit. He was enormous—tall, broad-shouldered, muscular. Built like the legionaries of my people. I was certain he was one of them with his olive complexion, strong jawline, Roman nose, and thick black hair. There was a rugged edge to his handsomeness.

His friend was all brightness and sunshine. My jester. His blonde hair was longer, curled at the ends, fair like his pale skin. His features were daintier, almost angelic, but the way he carried himself, his playful gait, it was all so mischievous. Everything about him screamed troublemaker.

It was easy to entrance humans with my dancing. I went through the motions and they fell all over themselves to praise me and drop their pants or lift their skirts. I could barely remember the last time I'd put in any effort. But I did tonight.

My number one fans were here, the least I could do was give them a good show. That was just good hospitality.

Still with my back to the crowd, I shimmied my hips, sliding my hands down to grip the sides of my dress. This was the moment the anticipation really built—the performance moving from flirtation to an extended foreplay, though it was all done in good taste with a sly smile and a playful wink.

Still wiggling in place, I flexed my fingers to seductively bunch the dress higher and higher. Slowly. Another peek over my shoulder, this time directly at the unblinking immortals. The crowd's wolf whistles grew louder as I flipped the hem of the dress up to give them a peek of jiggling cheeks in a bedazzled thong. Always a crowd pleaser.

As the saxophone took the lead, I turned to face the crowd, strutting to the front of the stage and pulling my dress back over my hip to expose the front of my thong, rolling my hips temptingly, before twirling across the stage, unhooking the dress as I want so it flew out behind me like a cape, exposing the full extent of my lingerie.

The crowd hollered, but I barely noticed them. They were here, but this was a private performance. I trusted no man—I didn't trust myself around men—but if I did... my soldier and my jester would be my first picks.

My eyes never left theirs as I spun the train of my dress behind me like a tail, strutting across the stage with a little more pep in my step than usual. Their eyes on me invigorated me like nothing had in centuries. Perhaps since I'd died. As much as I craved the excitement, I knew I could easily get addicted to it. To them.

Don't even contemplate it, Porcia, I scolded myself. Focus on the performance.

I dropped to a crouch and spread my knees wide, giving the audience just a tantalizing hint of the forbidden, before springing up and letting the gaping dress slide down my arms behind me with the barest shimmy of my shoulders. I turned before it fell completely, letting it drape underneath my ass and flashing my immortals a predatory look. One that promised blood and sex and violence of the most delicious kind.

The rising sound of the crowd penetrated my haze of visual foreplay and I tossed the dress away, dancing along the front of the stage with pauses at each end to give everyone a decent view. An appreciation of how pretty my lingerie was before I spun across the stage, removing the under-bust corset as I went and tossing it to the side.

It was far more comfortable to dance in just a bra and panties. I could show off all my most flexible moves. I dropped into the splits, throwing my head back like I'd just landed on an enormous dick instead of the stage floor, before sliding my leg under me until I was on my knees, my side to the crowd. I drew it out, bouncing up and rolling my hips, head tipped back in ecstasy to simulate fucking. My hands toyed lightly with the straps of my thong, with my eyes closed I could pretend it was someone else's hands. Or rather, two sets of hands. As cool and smooth as my own.

I supposed it was time to give them a little more. I got up slowly, stretching my limbs like a cat before turning my back on the crowd and strutting to the back of the stage where the band was seated. The audience loved to see me unclip the bra, even if I didn't pull it off straight away. The anticipation built, the air in the room thick with arousal.

Someone should really start sending me gift baskets for all the babies I was responsible for bringing into this world.

I spun on my heel, jiggling my breasts in my now loose bra, before spinning back to the band and pulling it off, twirling it in the air a few times before discarding it on stage. Most of the band members kept their focus, but for one young trombonist who looked up at me with awe on his face. Well, not so much at me as my tassel-covered nipples. The band always had the best view.

Bending down slowly, giving the audience an excellent view of my ass in a thong, I peeked at them between my legs before swiping the two black and red ostrich feather fans off the ground, fluttering them around my body and hiding my front as I turned my back on the band.

My jester's stoic expression had slipped. He was grinning impishly, teeth sunk into his lower lip as he watched me like I was a goddess put on earth for his pleasure. He had the mischievousness of a naughty schoolboy, but the confident swagger of a man who knew how to rotate his hips just right to make you come like a freight train.

My soldier looked tenser than ever, which I took as a good sign. It was a shame there were so many people in front of him, obstructing my view of his crotch. I'm sure that would tell me everything I needed to know about what he thought of my dancing.

I heaved my chest, panting like I was in the throes of the best orgasm I ever had, the feathers slipping off my chest as I did, showcasing my nipple tassels to the cheering crowd.

I ended the dance with my feathers above my head, fanned out over me, leg bent and angled slightly away from the crowd to showcase the long lines and smooth curves of my body. The crowd was on their feet, cheering raucously, demanding more.

The audience blocked the back of the club for just long enough, and I knew by the time they sat down, my immortals would be gone. They’d kept their distance for centuries. It would take more than one sexy dance and a little eye contact to convince them to breach that invisible line. Maybe it was for the best.

I had the feeling one night with them wouldn’t be enough for any of us.


Chapter 5


Calvus tugged me into an alcove near the exit while the cheering crowd stood in front of us, blocking our view of the stage and breaking the connection between us and Porcia.

She'd seen us. Porcia had seen us. I'd watched her from afar for over six centuries, Calvus had watched her for over double that. Not once had she given any indication that she'd seen us.

But tonight she had. Not just seen us, Porcia had danced for us. She moved like Calvus and I were the only people in the room. It was erotic, sensual, and game-changing. Right? This had to be the start of something. We couldn't pretend like nothing had changed.

“This changes nothing,” Calvus said in a gruff voice, turning to glare at me like he could read my mind. After almost 650 years together, he basically could.

“This changes everything,” I hissed, pulling my elbow free of his grip. “She saw us. She looked right at us and danced for us. How can you say this changes nothing?”

“She was playing. Toying with us. Having fun,” he responded, flicking one last longing look at the direction of the stage before pushing through the crowd of humans blocking the exit. Without him using his lure to thrall them, he was basically emanating predator waves, and the humans responded appropriately, dropping their eyes and moving out of his way. “Porcia likes to have fun. She likes to entice. To provoke.”

That much was true, but that wasn't what this was. She had been enticing the audience with her flirty winks, licking her plush lips, shaking those perfect breasts. That wasn't how Porcia had looked at us, though.

Porcia looked at us like she wanted to set a timer and see how many orgasms we could wring out of her body before it went off. She looked at us like we were a challenge that she wanted to take on.

She didn't look at us like she loved us, which was unfortunate.

“Some people would say that two millennium's worth of stalking is enough,” I remarked drily as we joined the Halloween revelers who spilled out of the bars onto the noisy street. “If you haven't found the balls to talk to her by now, I guess it's never going to happen,” I added with an exaggerated sigh, glancing sideways at him to see if I could provoke a reaction out of him.

Calvus spun on his heel—too quickly, considering the number of humans that surrounded us—and stepped right into my personal space. His usually stoic face, frozen in time at age 35, was set in a snarl that was usually reserved for immortals who infringed on our territory or looked at Porcia funny. I'd never seen that look directed at me.

“Stop this. Porcia does not want us. She does not form attachments. She prefers to be alone. I respect that by staying away from her because, as you well know, if I ever had her within my reach, I'd never be able to let her go. If you think you'd be able to, you're a fucking fool.”

The venom in his voice took me off-guard, and he forged a path through the crowd before I could formulate a response.

He was right; I knew he was right. It was the same thing I'd told myself over the centuries, forcing myself to stay away from the only woman who'd ever tested my self-control. Porcia was magnetic—beguiling, sensual, fearless. She'd been an advocate for women in a world that had been unforgiving to females—a feminist before the word had been invented. For two thousand years, she'd wielded her body like a trap and her mind like a weapon, carving out her own place in the world.

I admired her, coveted her. Loved her. And to her, I hadn't existed before tonight.

I followed the path Calvus had left, the heady beat of the club echoing distantly in the background, enticing me back. But I couldn't listen to it, I had to push on. What was the point? Calvus was right. I wasn't what Porcia needed. I'd suffocate her, demand more than she had to give.

No, this was for the best. We would continue to watch over her, to keep her safe. We'd love her for all of eternity and kill any immortal who showed a romantic interest in her. For her happiness, her safety. The crack in my chest that grew bigger with each decade that passed was worth it.

“You'd better stay away from us, la mouche,” I whispered, looking at the winking lights of the club entrance in the distance. “If you walk willingly into our web, we'll never let you go.”