Who could miss Rick as he stepped off the train onto the platform? His glow was dazzlingly bright, his slight tan made him stand out and his shiny black hair was in stark contrast to the dull colours around him. I resisted the urge to run up to him and hug him as he glanced around, noticed me and Charlie in the waiting room, and smiled before approaching us.
"Morning, Terri, Charlie." His voice was still as enchanting as before.
I realised with a jolt that I was staring at Rick. "Morning," I said brightly.
Charlie shot me a quick, bemused look before greeting Rick as well, though with considerably less enthusiasm.
I remembered that Charlie hadn't really gotten to know the new Rick.
Say something nice, I thought to Rick.
Rick looked momentarily bemused but smiled as he asked Charlie "How are your holidays going?"
Charlie looked alarmed. "Fine thanks," he replied cautiously.
In the car, Rick was very friendly. Even Harry was startled when Rick amiably asked how his holidays were going.
"Fine thanks," he replied, looking confused.
Rick asked me about Christopher with his thoughts. There was no jealousy in his tone as he asked "How are you guys going?"
Brilliant, thanks, I replied. Christopher took me out to a restaurant and last night, he discovered he could influence my dreams.
Oh really? What was the dream like?
Romantic, I thought dreamily.
Would you mind if I did that one night? He sounded curious, not teasing or anything.
Um, it's really a special thing Christopher does as part of our relationship, I replied apologetically.
That's fine. I was surprised by his reaction. He really didn't mind that I'd told him he couldn't do something.
You've changed so much, I told him.
You haven't. He smiled. I smiled back.
Where are we going tonight?
Into town. We're going to meet up at the bus stop.
Oh, who else is coming?
Two of my friends and Charlie's ex, Sandy.
Sandy? Christopher told me about her. To think I would have condoned his behaviour before the day you kissed me. Rick shook his head in wonder.
Heck, I'd have done the same things in his place.
I really had an impact on you, didn't I?
Yeah. His voice turned playful. If you hadn't, you'd be mine right now.
A scary thought, I teased.
Rick suddenly stared into my eyes. I would have fallen through the emerald depths had he not caught me with them. My thoughts scattered.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I replied helplessly.
He looked away and I recovered my thoughts. I had had no idea that I still loved him until just now, but while I had been held by his gaze, I'd realised my feelings for him hadn't gone away.
What will Christopher say? I wondered to myself.
Christopher was nonchalant. It was six o'clock and Rick, he and I were waiting for Anna, Clara and Sandy.
My dove, I really don't mind, he'd told me when I'd revealed that I loved Rick. As long as you still love me, I wouldn't care if you loved a dozen other guys,
"How are you so understanding?" I wondered aloud.
My dove, Charlie still has feelings for Sandy.
This surprised me. Really?
Yes. He never really stopped loving her. She dumped him, remember?
Whoa, you never told me Anna and Clara were avid gossipers.
I saw Anna and Clara running up to me.
Why? What are they thinking?
‘Wow, look at Terri's boyfriend. We have to tell everyone how hot he is.'
I fought back a smile as Anna and Clara stopped before us and openly stared at Christopher.
Anna was the first to speak. Turning to me, she said "You never told us your boyfriend was drop-dead gorgeous!"
I laughed. "He's wonderful, isn't he?"
Clara turned to me. "Is he glowing?"
"Promise you won't tell," I said to her.
Anna asked. "Is he even human?"
"Sort of. But if you ever think of telling anyone, I won't be responsible for his actions."
"No, don't worry," Clara said. She turned to Christopher. "What are you, then?"
"Quarter vampire," he replied in his loveliest voice.
"Oh my gosh, he has the voice of an angel," said Anna.
Clara, however, had actually listened to the answer. "Vampires don't exist," she said matter-of-factly.
Anna said "I would believe him if he told me he was the King of the Arctic..."
Christopher thought to me ‘Terri, your friend fancies me. She wants to put a reservation on me if we break up.' He sounded uncomfortable.
Don't listen to her thoughts then.
I can't help it - she's trying to send them to me.
Rick stepped forward. "You don't want Christopher, ladies," he said alluringly.
Anna fainted. Clara caught her, rolling her eyes. I helped Clara pull Anna over to sit on a bench. I sat down with Anna while Clara said "Prove you're a vampire."
Christopher smiled. "What kind of proof do you want? Fangs? Mind tricks/"
Clara considered for a moment. "Fangs," she replied.
I closed my eyes until Christopher's mental voice said Look at that. She fainted too. He chuckled.
I opened my eyes. Christopher was holding Clara's limp body.
"What's for dinner?" Rick asked as Clara was put next to Anna.
"Um, I think I'm Christopher's," I replied. "But Sandy would be the only other choice - you are not drinking my friends' blood - and she doesn't know you, I don't think."
"No, she doesn't," Christopher supplied. "I'll have Sandy. I hope she doesn't mind."
"No, that's fine," came a shy voice. Sandy stepped forwards. She looked very pretty, even though she was only wearing a shirt and jeans. Her coat was plain too.
"We can go to ‘The Black Dove'. I can get us discount," she continued.
I smiled appreciatively.
Just then, Clara woke up.
"He was telling the truth," she whispered.
"Don't tell anyone," Christopher said. I couldn't tell whether it was a suggestion or just a warning.
"You can't stop me," Clara said smugly.
"I can and I will," Christopher said.
"Make me not tell then." I winced. Clara was so sure of herself.
"Okay," Christopher said.
He went to sit beside her and stared deep into her eyes.
Her head slumped forwards and Christopher said "Sorry, Terri," before making the suggestion.
"You will not tell anyone that I'm a vampire." His voice had a strange authoritative tone I didn't recognise. It was slightly chilling, actually.
Christopher clicked his fingers. Clara woke up.
"You're a hypnotist," she whispered.
Christopher nodded. "Don't make me have to hypnotise you again."
I gave Clara a quick hug. "Sorry," I apologised. "He has to protect his secret and I don't really want my best friend locked up in a lunatic asylum."
She smiled cautiously. I smiled back.
Suddenly, Anna woke up. "Who's the other guy?" she wondered.
"My cousin," Christopher answered.
"Wow," Anna murmured. Everyone laughed.
All of us were allowed into ‘The Black Dove' without being hypnotised, though Anna and Clara received some dubious glances from the vampire outside. Christopher and the three other girls went through to the restaurant but Rick asked me to stay at the bar with him while he ordered drinks.
"You're 18?" I asked.
"Yeah. My birthday was the 12th."
The barman was getting the drinks when Rick suddenly asked "Do you mind if I do it here? I'm really thirsty."
I realised he was talking about drinking my blood. I suddenly felt irrationally nervous. I shoved the nerves away and replied "Go ahead" sitting down on a stool.
"So, does Christopher usually hypnotise you?"
"Yes." I nodded, frowning. "Don't you hypnotise your food."
"Oh, some volunteers would rather be awake than lose their free will."
"Oh I hadn't realised that."
So, I could either let Rick spare me pain or remain in control of my thoughts and feelings. I wasn't really brave enough to allow myself to endure pain to I told Rick "I'd rather not feel the pain."
"Okay," he said, accepting my answer. "Calm down," he suggested gently.
I hadn't realised I was worried. I let my tension fade as waves of calm swept over me.
Rick stared intently and almost lovingly into my eyes. My mind blanked as I fell through emerald depths into black.