The first and only time I ever met a vampire was back in the 17th century in Venice.
Masquerade balls were all the rage back then. They were a whirlwind of big dresses, big hair, and as much frippery as you could possibly imagine. I’d been desperate to go to one for years, but the fad hadn’t quite made it to Greece yet. And of course, how was I supposed to arrive unescorted? Hephaestus never would have taken me in a million years, especially not to another country.
But then one of my aliases received an invitation from one of the richest families in Italy to an All Hallow’s Eve masquerade ball at their home in Venice. And I couldn’t pass it up. I told Hephaestus I was going away for a while to do some travelling, though frankly I don’t know if he noticed I was gone. I spent three weeks shopping in Paris, Venice, and London to put together the most perfect ensemble you have ever seen. I needed to override the fact that I was walking in unaccompanied.
I strode into that ballroom with a deep red dress that just brushed the floor when I walked, with real silver trim around the neckline. I wore my best jewels, plus a few new ones woven into the curls in my hair. That took almost four hours for my attendants to create. Although being in heels, they felt as comfortable as my morning slippers. I glided across the marble. My mask was highly intricate, black fabric and red swirls protruding off to the side.
My only worry was being alone in a high society situation. How could I arrive at a ball unaccompanied?
Until I see him.
This tall, dark stranger, leaning against a column on the outskirts of the room, glides towards me with a grace that I could only recognize as some sort of power. He’s dressed like a noble from the old times, but sleeker and more mysterious. His mask is a deep purple and blocks out most of his facial features, minus his dark eyes and tight lips. He lands at my side and offers me his arm with ease.
“Goddess, I would be honored if you would allow me to escort you this evening.” The man’s voice washes over me with a shiver.
“Goddess?” I raised an eyebrow, trying to take stock of this man to see if he’s serious or not. That’s when I first notice the two small sharp points hiding under otherwise an ordinary set of teeth. Too sharp and seamless to be false teeth. I can feel my eyes widening the longer I look.
I had never seen a vampire before. The gods had heard legends and stories, of course, but these directly conflicted with our own understanding of what we had created. It had never been clear if one of us was responsible for magical beings or if something had developed along the way. I had always dismissed the rumors, but here was one standing beside me, offering me his hand.
“Yes, Goddess. Your glamour does not fool a creature of the night,” he answers my question almost immediately.
I don’t know how to respond to such a question. “You admit to being one then?”
His fangs sparkle in the chandelier light as he grins. “I have no reason to hide from another supernatural, darling. And you have no reason to hide from me. Unless you have a man accompanying you, allow me the honor of being your first dance.”
My nerves are chased by a secret thrill of something new and exciting and different. I take his arm boldly. “I suppose one dance wouldn’t hurt.” The vampire grins and sweeps me out onto the floor. His hands pull me into position for a sweeping dance. We move across the ballroom floor as one, feet twirling and taking over the whole room. It was so flawless; other guests would comment to me later if we had taken lessons together somewhere. They practically demanded to know the teacher and whether he was my husband or a secret lover.
People can’t resist a good scandal.
But I didn’t care. I spent the whole masquerade with this mystery man, dancing and drinking and making polite conversations with the others. As we left close to midnight, I finally asked him his name.
“You may call me Damion. And what’s your name?”
“I am Aphrodite, goddess of love.”
He leaned down and kissed my hand for the first time. “Such a beautiful name for a beautiful woman.”
Now, I’m not going to tell you what happened the rest of that evening. Perhaps I went home to Mount Olympus, drunk on the thrill of a wonderful night. Perhaps I went home with Damion and found myself in the throes of passion for the first time in decades. Perhaps he disappeared into the night, and I never saw him again.
Perhaps I saw him many more times over the next centuries that followed.
A woman never reveals her secrets.
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