Several impatient strides brought Julio Rodriguez into the back room where he found his assistant hunched over in a corner, staring at his tablet computers with feverish intensity. Julio frowned. If it had been any other 22-year-old, he would’ve assumed young Mr. Running Deer was enjoying some internet porn on work time.
But in this case that just didn’t seem likely.
“Hector!” he said sharply.
The younger man jumped. His head jerked upward; he blinked. An instinctively guilty flick of the wrist turned the tablet’s screen blank.
“Our appointment—it’s time for us to go.”
“Right, boss.” Hector tucked the tablet under his arm and retrieved his raincoat. He followed Julio out of the office. It was pouring again and he ducked into the passenger side of his employer’s Lexus without delay.
Julio pulled out into the city traffic and headed for one of Metro Vancouver’s newest and most distinctly upscale residential developments.
“Why did she want both of us anyway?” Hector asked. “Is it some really massive collection?”
“Don’t know. But she insisted—two appraisers or nothing. Never heard of this Melinda Black, but apparently she has considerable resources.” Julio turned left and in a few more blocks to the right. “What was so fascinating online anyway?”
“Oh, that?” Hector shrugged. “Just reading a retrospective piece on the life of your friend—the one who died mysteriously six months ago?”
“Alexander Sung?” Julio frowned again. “That was strange. He always seemed the picture of health. Then they find him on his bedroom floor—alone and naked, except for a freshly used condom and stone dead, not a mark on him? But as I told you, we weren’t exactly friends. He was one of my first clients. Hired me to evaluate the antiques he inherited from his father. That was almost fifteen years ago.”
“But you saw him around pretty often? Socialized with him?”
“Sure, later on.” Julio stopped for a red light. “He dove into collecting seriously from then on—made it part of his rich playboy image. As an appraiser, I get invited to some of the same parties as those types. You will too, if you stick with it—make a name for yourself in the business. What with his heritage and his Dad’s business connections, he focused on Chinese art pieces.”
The light changed and they drove on.
Julio nodded. “At first—that had been his dad’s focus. Later, he expanded into other periods—developed a good eye, too. Soon he didn’t need an expert to tell him what was worth what. So we only saw each other casually, from time to time, and that was fine. I’ve got nothing bad to say about him. We just weren’t buddies.”
“But everybody comments on what a total charmer he was. Even what I was reading—”
“Was that article’s author female, by any chance?” Julio glanced at Hector’s uncomprehending expression and chuckled. “I didn’t have the right—uh, physical equipment—to merit being on the receiving end of his full, over-the-top charm.”
“Oh.” Hector shifted under his safety belt. “I understand.”
“Relax, Hec. You do know most folks aren’t obsessed with antiques to the exclusion of everything else? Even experts like us. You’re allowed other interests. And you really ought to find yourself a girlfriend—or boyfriend, if that’s your thing. Keeping everything bottled up inside, you might explode someday.”
Hector squinted out the window. “Rains finally slacking off,” he murmured.
“Plenty of nice girls around,” Julio persisted.
“Like the ones you go for, boss?” Hector snorted. “A new stripper every few weeks?”
“Hey, I’m not that bad! Anyway,” his employer admitted with a grin, “Vancouver’s a major hot spot that way—even a bit notorious, in certain circles. But there are lots of other places, other ways of meeting the right one for you.”
“I guess so,” Hector Running Deer said without enthusiasm.
In due course, they arrived at their destination. They buzzed, identified themselves to the same sultry voice that had made the appointment by phone—presumably Ms. Black herself.
They pulled up to a midsized mansion—only an average structure in that posh neighborhood. The automatic gates closed behind them. “Trapped,” Julio joked and stepped from his vehicle.
Julio thumbed the bell and the door opened almost instantly.
His eyes met hers and somehow he knew this would be no ordinary appraisal job. By any standard, she was stunning. Her flowing red hair contrasted impossibly with the flawless copper skin tones and distinctive facial features of a full-blooded member of one of Canada’s First Nations, yet somehow that only added to her unique and undeniable physical appeal. And there was more—something that went beyond her sleepy-eyed stare and crimson-lipped, vaguely predatory smirk. There was a sort of energy she radiated, just standing there. It was pure and raw, and dangerous. Sensuality incarnate, she posed before them atop a pair of bright red, spike-heeled, step-in pumps.
“Ms. Black?” Julio said after twice moistening his lips.
“Yes. And you must be Mr. Rodriguez,” she purred in that blatantly seductive voice—the words innocent enough, yet delivered with a tone dripping with random eroticism of the most primal sort. Then her head tilted, that weirdly wrong yet eye-catching hair tumbling with calculated allure as she refocused a near-hypnotic gaze on the clueless Hector. “And his assistant, I assume? You have the look of one of my People, young man. I’m so glad you both could come, as per my request!”
One of her fuck-me pumps shifted sideways, drawing eyes to the thigh-length slit in her dress and the lacy elastic trim atop a black silk stocking.
Business, Julio Rodriguez reminded himself and forced aside the utterly insane impulse to grab her by that inappropriate hair, put her stocking-clad knees on the plush, cream-white carpet and stick his dick down her throat, then and there. What the fuck? Julio asked himself. He liked women and loved sex, but wasn’t crude or abusive by nature. What’s wrong with me?
He shook his head, asked if they might see her collection.
“Ah, the job comes first for you? I like that. Deposit your raingear over there.” She pointed at a small, neat alcove. “Then follow me!”
She turned on those spiked heels then paused to glance in Hector’s direction. But the youthful innocence of Julio’s assistant combined with his fixation on the treasures of the past seemed to shield him, at least partially and momentarily, from her less-than-subtle erotic emissions.
Julio had no such inadvertent defenses, however. Her torrid gaze returned to him and his heart pounded in his chest.
She nodded and started down the hall, the provocative swaying of her ass affecting him—drawing him onward as no woman ever had before. The hallway was lined with assorted wood carvings, figurines and abstract paintings—almost entirely of Native American origins and all of excellent quality. At its end, two especially wondrous and absolutely authentic Chilkat blankets flanked the entrance to her living room. A third hung above the archway, the triangular point of its bottom fringe dangling within millimeters of 6-1 Julio’s head.
“These are magnificent!” Hector said his dark eyes alive with reverence as they shifted from one 6-foot-long, cedar bark fiber and dyed wool wall hanging to another then to the third. “Very fine—and old. My own people traded in these things, though never made them.”
“Oh?” Ms. Black arched an unashamedly thick brow. “Which of the First Nations might that be?”
“These days,” Hector said without prying his eyes from the mystical artwork, “we call ourselves the Nuu-Chah Nulth, what others call—”
“The Nootka,” she interrupted. “Yes, I know your folk well. I have a century-old Nootka Hat in another room. These are from other tribes, naturally—two are Tsimshian, the one overhead is Tlingit.”
“The people who allegedly originated this unique art-form,” Julio commented.
“Are you Tlingit, Ms. Black?”
“No, Mr. Rodriguez. Nor am I Tsimshian. And please, call me Melinda. You are Julio, I believe? And this fine young man is—?”
“Hector Running Deer,” the younger man said indistinctly, still spellbound by the Chilkats’ abstract designs and stylized animal figures.
“Hector, then. But do come along, please? These items—proud parts of my collection, to be sure—are nonetheless familiar to me. I know their worth. It is only a few recent additions—things I am uncertain about—that I wish you to evaluate for me . . . . ?”
She beckoned with an extended arm and the men followed her through three successive rooms that were decorated by more of the same, plus an array of exquisite wooden furniture of assorted origins. But all of it was quite old, authentic and beautifully maintained.
Finally she paused at a hand-carved Spanish doorway. “I very recently broadened my collecting interests, so to speak. And as such, I acquired some new pieces to reflect that—courtesy a very generous gentleman friend.”
Julio’s eyes narrowed, though not in surprise. Of course, he thought with lustful passion, she couldn’t be more obvious if she wore a neon sign flashing ‘High-Paid Whore/Mistress’ hung around her neck!
“But I know little to nothing about antique pottery of this sort,” she admitted, even as she somehow turned this declaration into yet another murmured come-on. “That’s why I summoned you two.”
Julio nodded to himself, swallowed hard and watched her round ass one last time as it led them into her bedroom. The pottery collection—arranged in haphazard splendor to either side of a woven bark basket atop her massive bedroom fireplace’s equally outsized mantle—was small yet unbelievably choice. Julio’s eyes lit up, as did his assistant’s.
They staggered forward, breathlessly beholding then carefully examining what was easily a million Canadian dollars’ worth of genuine Ming Dynasty vases and urns. All were expertly fired and hand-painted, and—for Julio—all ominously familiar. Midway through, Julio eased himself into a gorgeous, and of course genuine, Louis the Fourteenth chair. From this luxurious perch, he turned his head repeatedly—alternating between halfhearted agreement with Hector’s cries of delight and sneaking worried yet compulsive looks at Melinda as she stretched out on a high-backed, semi-circular, Persian bed.
That particular piece of exotic antique furniture was big enough for three, he noted almost against his will. The rumpled purple satin sheets shimmered invitingly as Melinda methodically eased back the hem of her black dress, revealing red lace garters from a previous age and a semi-sheer thong of equally vivid red silk.
“Consider the delicacy, the sheer artistry of this piece!” Hector gasped.
“Hmm. What? Oh, yes—yes, indeed!” He cleared his throat and made a show of examining the exquisite fired-glass incense burner cupped lovingly in his assistant’s hands. There was no doubting its origin—or its previous owner.
“Julio?” Hector squinted with abject bafflement. “What’s with you today, boss?”
The older man’s eyes betrayed him by shifting past his assistant’s elbow. Hector’s head turned. He saw Melinda’s bare ass-cheeks and the fire-engine red strip of lingerie between them.
“Wha—?” he gasped again and nearly dropped the near-priceless artifact. “Oooh!”
Hector got the incense burner safely back on the mantle somehow as Julio sprang from the chair and lunged toward their leering—and possibly homicidal—fuck-slut of a client. She turned over, swung a leg across the disheveled sheets and clawed the thong out of Julio’s way. Her neatly trimmed pubic hair was the same incongruous shade of blood red, with dewy folds of labial flesh protruding from it.
Julio was facedown in milliseconds, his chin beard and mustache tickling the flesh of her thighs. Melinda moaned as her folds opened and he tongued her pussy in earnest. A small but strong hand folded across the back of his skull; her pelvis rotated, grinding against him. Her eyes rolled back in her head and a couple random obscenities bubbled from her gaping, red-rimmed mouth.
A rasping sound came from somewhere nearby—Hector, unzipping his pants. Julio smiled against her crotch, pleased that his protégé seemed about to prove a fast learner in more ways than one. He continued teasing Melinda’s grateful vagina even as he became aware of the first inklings of a strange, giddy lightheadedness. His determined tongue action continued as Hector crawled past him. He crammed a finger up her rectum and Melinda arched her back.
Her mouth twisted almost grotesquely open and she arched her back, turned her head. She accepted the younger man’s member almost to the root with a single wet gulp and clamped her lips tight around it. Her eyes burned up at him and she sucked furiously as Hector seized a fistful of crimson hair by the roots.
Julio jerked his finger from her bunghole and levered himself upright on his knees. His hard shaft sprang free as she pushed Hector back with both hands. The younger man’s throbbing dick popped free and wobbled against her cheek.
“Condoms!” Melinda commanded and then her head darted lower, effortlessly taking Hector’s entire scrotum into her mouth. Painful yet exhalant passion appeared on Hector’s face and he swung his head.
Julio hurried to sheath his member and drove his latex-bound erection deep into her. He groaned, took three or four frantic thrusts then paused to pass a second condom into Hector’s accepting fingers. Julio fucked her with desperate energy, sweat pouring out and his heart racing. He felt like he was giving away his very life force and recognized the danger involved—whether she was truly Alexander Sung’s murderer or not. Yet he couldn’t seem to make himself care, or even slow his out-of-control rutting. He climaxed powerfully and shuddered, collapsed—but not onto her, as Melinda’s strong left hand guided him down beside her.
Likewise, the uncut tip of Hector’s cock pulsed and exploded into the air before his clumsy fingers could fit the second pale blue sheath into place.
Melinda wrinkled her nose at what landed in gooey lines and round specks across her forehead, her hair and the sheets they all writhed upon. Yet she guided the unconscious younger man down to her other side without open complaint.
Two hours later, Julio awoke with a groan. He nudged Hector, who responded similarly to regaining a degree of confused awareness.
“You both survived!” Melinda Black said with delight. “I should’ve thought to try this—spreading the risk—decades ago!”
“Survived?” Julio sat up and nearly toppled back onto the sheets. He rubbed his forehead, muttered vaguely. “Decades ago?”
She looked only a few years older than Hector!
“How do you feel?”
He blinked. “Trashed, but in a good way—kind of. Like I just had the best, most intense and satisfying sex of my life and—” He stopped short, narrowed and focused his eyes on her accusingly.
“—and it nearly killed you?” she completed the thought for him and nodded.
She had showered and changed more than her clothes as the men slept off their inexplicable experience. Melinda seemed stronger, yet calmer—less animalistic than before. Like a predator who just filled-up with a good meal and now can relax?
“Who—what are you?”
She turned her head toward the fireplace mantle and specifically the one item there not of Chinese origin.
“That basket?” He rose, looked over his shoulder to assure himself that Hector was also recovering. Then he swept past her. He seized it with both hands, brought it down and peered inside. Bones—very old, charred by fire. “Human?”
“My husband,” she confirmed.
“That is only my most recent name, of course.”
“Yeah? You’re—a Carrier?”
“That’s the common White People word for my Nation. We prefer Dakelh.”
“Carrier?” Hector echoed vaguely. He stumbled to his feet. “Oh, yeah—you’re an inland People. Mine traded with yours frequently, back in the old days.”
“I remember,” she said. “Then the whites came with their diseases, among many other things and took away our way of life, nearly wiped us both out.”
“You remember. But that was so long ago. You look—how old are you?” Julio pressed her.
“I was almost 23 when my husband died—in one of epidemics. As per the ancient custom that gave my Nation its Anglo name, I was expected to carry his bones everywhere I went in this sacred basket for the next three years, once they came out of the funeral pyre. And in this time of mourning, I was not to be permitted sex. I honored this obligation for two years and seven months—until I encountered Angus.”
“Angus?” Julio murmured.
“He was a big, strong, bearded Scotsman who worked on the Canadian Pacific Railroad through our country. He had the most extraordinary red hair.”
“Oh, no.” Melinda shook her head. “I was full-blooded Dakelh—my name then meant She of the Darkest of Black Hair in our language, and I took pride in it. I still do, secretly—why I frequently use the name Black now, I suppose.”
“I was 25, full of youthful passion. I let Angus—hell, I was entirely willing! But my late husband’s father was the village Shaman. He found out; cast a vengeful and monstrous spell upon me. Unawares, I lay with my white man again—both of us wild with passion, even greater than before! It was the spell’s work. And even as he died, I felt the intoxicating surge of power and vitality I took from him. And my hair instantly turned an even more vivid shade of red than his—my father-by-marriage’s warning to others that I was unclean, I think.”
She blinked, fell silent.
Hector staggered up next to Julio and she eyed him thoughtfully. “In your people’s tradition, the soul is pictured as a tiny, invisible duplicate of the person that resides atop the forehead—correct?”
The younger man nodded. “More or less.”
“When the soul is healthy, it stands there erect. If unhealthy, it sits—slumps in exhaustion?”
“But what if when so weakened it was sucked away from its very perch?”
Hector drew back a step.
“Yes. That is who and what I am.”
“A sort of sexual vampire,” Hector said, wide-eyed.
“You killed Alexander Sung.”
“And many others, Julio. But it’s not what I wanted.”
The senior appraiser snorted.
“The spell—the curse! I cannot eat normal foods. And if I don’t—consume the Life Energy of men, I starve.”
“Then choose to starve,” Julio suggested grimly.
“I’ve tried—many times in the last 125 years! The compulsion, the drive to feed is too strong—it gains control. The longer I go, the more intense the need and the instinctive, seductive aura I generate draws almost all the adult men I encounter, even if I struggle against it. Most often, I have simply accepted reality and gone ahead.”
Hector pursed his lips “Almost all?”
“Another aspect of my father-by-marriage’s clever spell. I am not drawn to my fellow Dakelh and find they are unmoved by my otherwise irresistible allure—even if I go without feeding more than six months, which seems my upper limit.”
“Hmm.” Julio replaced the basket on the mantle. “Meaning Sung was your latest victim?”
“Yes. I’ve tried many experiments. I thought perhaps I could stop partway through, take only some energy—sustain myself for shorter periods, but without killing. But once it started—no turning back. I thought less than full intercourse—but again, no.”
“The condoms?” Julio ventured.
“Covering a bit of skin might slow the process I thought. It’s also why I didn’t give either of you the chance to fully undress.”
Julio turned aside. “Sung was nude.”
“The second time, yes. He surprised me.”
“Explain!” both men demanded.
“I’d heard his reputation for extraordinary erotic stamina upon coming here. Legendary, almost. You understand why I must change locations every few years—before unmarked bodies begin to pile up and I am seen to somehow never age? I’ve been all over the world and only eight months ago returned to the Pacific Northwest.” She paused. Brushed crimson hair from her temple.
“Go on,” Julio urged.
“I arranged to meet him. He was attracted to me, like all the rest. The first time, he was mostly dressed and—to my pleased astonishment, he lived. Oh, he couldn’t walk without assistance for a week! But he lived.”
“And now he knew what you were?” the appraiser guessed.
“That man lived for danger. His pampered environment, all that inherited wealth. I tried to talk to him—dissuade him, make him wait a safe time and regain his strength. He—the second time he lured me—as if he was the predator and not me! He undressed out of my sight, donned a rubber and sprang upon me, dragged me into his bedroom.”
“Sung raped you?”
“Yes—and no. Although my need is controllable after feeding, it never completely goes away. Neither, it seems does the pheromones or whatever it is I put out that draws men to me—and if Sung was a fair example, having experienced the level of satisfaction that comes of being with me. Well, I wonder if it changes a man’s soul—having even a part of it drained away like that? Caught up in his blind lust, I didn’t struggle. I was strong enough by then to beat him off—as I could probably batter you both bloody right now. But—I did not.”
“Did you steal these pieces?” Julio gestured at the pottery.
“No. They were gifts from him—not the first admirers have given me, as you can surely tell. Some from before our first time and some from after, as he sought to encourage me to lay with him again. They were among his earliest pieces—from a dead relative, I understand. Parting with them was his way of showing how strongly he felt toward me.”
She shook her head again.
“Well, I can’t honestly say why I didn’t think to be with more than one man at a time before. The prospect, the certainty I would kill one at a time seemed bad enough. My experience with the extraordinary Sung—I reasoned it might be possible, after all. I felt hope—for the first time in decades. And here you two stand—weakened and I’m sure disgusted. But alive!”
“What makes you think we won’t reveal your secret?” Julio said slowly.
“Who would believe such a tale? And even if you were to convince the world—what then? Would they write new laws or find a way to prosecute me under existing ones? I don’t age, but can starve and be injured—even killed by violence, I think. At least then I’d have the solution—the way to escape the compulsion and the terrible pleasure that comes over me each time I fuck and kill!”
Hector met her eyes, stepped closer. His hand came up. It cupped a full breast through the fabric of her blouse.
“Please don’t,” Melinda Black whispered. She cast a desperately appealing look at Julio Rodriguez and saw only what she dreaded there. “At least wait till you’re both stronger?”
For the moment physically stronger than the two men combined, she pushed them back—once, twice and three times. But they just kept coming, insistent and breathing heavily, already sweating and hard. And maybe the matter of radiated auras or pheromones or dark, vengeful magic went both ways.
They tore every stitch of the fresh, clean and not especially sexy clothes Melinda Black had donned from her flesh—and she let them.
She responded in kind and suddenly all three were naked. Hector stretched out on the floor. Melinda placed herself on top of him, gave his member to her vagina. Julio straddled both and both men filled her, not even bothering with whatever minimal protection latex could offer in these unique circumstances. The men used both her lower orifices briefly, furiously.
They climaxed with the runaway passions of wild beasts, and she orgasmed with them. But only one rose up afterward. Melinda Black wriggled free from her first experience with outright double penetration and sighed. She felt good—horribly, wondrously, undeniably good—and stronger, even more alive than ever before. And she knew, deep in her dark and conflicted soul, she would feel that way again and again—every five or six months, perhaps—possibly till the end of time.