When he drops by her house unexpectedly, a misanthropic teenager must play hostess to the one and only Florian Werther Bathory Byron, a vampire with a tragic life story, a luminous complexion, and a dangerous reluctance to actually kill anything he decides to eat.


1. Only an Invitation

I didn't start out in life aspiring to be a teenage hostess to a vampire. It just sort of happened, the way these things do. You'd know, if you'd ever been any kind of heroine.

Before anything supernatural ever happened to me, I was caretaker of my great aunt's personal wildlife preserve, which contained over a dozen varieties of Felis catus and was open only for private donor tours on Sundays. She had died just three days after my seventeenth birthday, while on a mission trip to the third world country of --- , exactly two months and one day after the car crash that had killed both my parents and left me in imminent danger of being put into foster care. In her will, she left me her house, so long as I continued to look out for the well-being of the cats.

I had my hands full feeding and cleaning up after all thirteen of them, let alone scraping through senior year and convincing delivery people to leave take-out on the front steps rather than at the base of the long driveway (apparently there was something forbidding about the approach to the house, a certain aspect at night which was off-putting even to passing Jehovah's Witnesses) but I managed. That is, until summer arrived and Momow began to waste away: and then I found myself in a bind which was only eventually resolved by letting out the west wing, and letting in the vampire.

Momow, third of the name, was the crowning glory of my aunt's collection, and my continued legal ownership of the house was contingent on his survival.

When the vampire showed up, I was in the front garden trying to catch him to take him to the vet for chemo: shadows lay long over the unkempt lawn, and the briar hedges which bordered the wrought iron fence and the road were so overgrown it was impossible to tell which thicket I ought to dive into first to flush him out. He was a very skinny, malevolent Siamese, and very good at being quiet when he didn't want to be found. Cancer hadn't improved his disposition.

I didn't notice the vampire until long after his taxi had pulled up before the front gate, and skidded away hastily back down the road. He didn't try to let himself in: just stood there, tracing the bars of the gate experimentally with one finger, holding a black leather man-bag in the crook of one elbow and a spangled umbrella fully open over his head with the other. Waiting.

I approached after the momentary shock of noticing him: it seemed all of a sudden the only natural thing to do.

The umbrella was made of translucent plastic, with each spangle sewn on individually, perfectly equidistant from all the rest. The whole thing kept going off like a flashbulb as he twirled it back and forth over his shoulder. It cast gleaming shadows across the skin of his face, and set off, to great and awkward effect, the corpse-white expanse of bony wrist between the sleeves of his dark coat and the too-small crocheted gloves that he was wearing.

"Hello, Cordelia," he said, peering down at me through his sunglasses. "You've aged remarkably well. Won't you let me in?"

"Cordelia's dead," I said, "I'm Bill."

"Ah. I see... I'm very sorry to hear that." The stranger paused for a moment. "You must be a descendent of hers, then. Pardon me for asking – but is "Bill" your – name of christening, or an elective appellation?" 

As he said this, he pulled a dull coin from his pocket and began to toss it up and down in one hand, with great dexterity.

"It's a nickname." I said slowly. "It's short for Sabilla. Why?"

"I once had a friend called Bill. I find it's a rather inauspicious name, when it comes to personal entanglements. I'd prefer to call you something else. Oh! May I?"

Somehow, the coin had slipped through his fingers and rolled under the gate, onto my side of the driveway.

"If you want," I said, taken by surprise. I didn't really feel like running after it for him. And I pulled up the latch and pulled open the gate, just wide enough for him to pass through...

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