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Scene: a coffeehouse

He glided through the door of the little coffeehouse. The interior made him think of a modern-day cave with its dark corners and close atmosphere - and yet, one could easily meld into the background without being noticed. He liked it.

He scanned the room with his intense, predatory eyes as his preternatural hearing caught snatches of conversation, touching minds as he read private thoughts. He was bored and not particularly hungry as he had fed earlier in the evening.

Suddenly he detected anomaly - a one-sided conversation when his senses told him there were two voices. He could easily pick up on the inner thoughts of one of the two, but the other mind was strangely closed to him. He stared at the couple in question. The man was talking animatedly to the woman sitting across the table from him. The man's thoughts were an open book to him, but the woman who sat so calmly drinking her coffee was blocking him somehow.

He tried again to touch her mind, this time with more force, but with no more success. The woman did, however, turn her head and look straight at him as though she felt the probe. He found himself staring into the greenest, most alive eyes that he had ever seen. He was startled by the power he felt emanating from her. Then with a casual look that dismissed him as a non-threat, she turned her attention back to her table partner.

He was utterly amazed! Who was this woman? WHAT was she? He caught her scent - exotic; human, yes, but more. Not vampire - he could detect his own kind quickly and easily. No, she was like nothing or no one that he had encountered in more than 700 years of life and afterlife. He was deeply intrigued - and a little disturbed.

Finally the man left and she was alone. He cautiously approached her, not sure what to expect. When he was standing right next to her, she said nonchalantly (without even lifting her eyes to him), "And what might I do for you, Prince Voytek?"

In his shock and surprise (How did she know his name?), he sat down across from her at the table without speaking, watching her warily. She turned those eyes on him again. They twinkled with amusement as she smiled, obviously studying his face.

"You have the look of your father about you," she remarked as she sipped her coffee.

Put off balance and a little frightened (an emotion he seldom experienced and thoroughly hated), he stared back at her, focusing all of his considerable power. "Pardon me. Have we met somewhere before? I'm certain I would remember you," he purred, his eyes darkening as he stared deeply into her eyes. "What is your name?"

For a moment, she was held in his gaze as he exerted his power over her. Then suddenly and inexplicably, she threw back her head and burst into delighted laughter.

At first he felt confusion, then frustration, then his white-hot anger flared. She was mocking him - him! - Prince Anton Voytek, vampire and Ruler of the Night. How dare she! He was seriously considering reaching out with his supernatural speed and strength and squeezing the life out of her with his bare hands when she turned her twinkling green eyes on him again as her laughter subsided.

"Don't take offense, my handsome prince. It's just that no one has tried to enthrall me in over 200 years." Then, giving him a coy look as she reached for her coffee, she added, "And it was rather nice."

He was again surprised by this unsettling and utterly mesmerizing woman. He was still angry with her for toying with him. Through clenched teeth and in measured tones he hissed, "Who are you!" It was a command - not a request.

Tossing her long, deep-auburn hair, she set her cup down and met his dark, angry eyes levelly. "I have been known by many names over the centuries. Once long, long ago, I was called Boudicca, the queen of the Iceni." She paused as her eyes fell upon the ever-present sword on the bench at her side. She raised her eyes to his again, and with a proud lift of her chin and a strength in her musical voice, she said, "I am Pegeenů and I am an immortal."

Now a vampire has a preternaturally good memory, although their recollection of their human existence begins to fade with the passing of time. Suddenly, however, he had a vivid memory from his boyhood, so real that he felt transported far back in time to the drafty old castle where he grew up. He was once again sitting on the stone floor in the great dining hall, listening in rapt attention as an old man sat telling him and his brothers and sisters a story. It was a story about the warrior queen of the Celts, who was said to have been touched by the magic of the Deep Forest Folk and could not die.

For as long as anyone could remember, she had been. She rode headlong into battle astride her great fiery black stallion, leading her people to many victories, always coming to help them when the need was the greatest. As Boudicca (meaning 'victorious') she was Queen of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia. She led a rebellion in 60 A.D. against the Romans, destroying the cities of Colchester, St. Albans and capturing London. Though eventually defeated by the Romans, she poisoned herself rather than be humiliated at their hands. She reappeared to her people a year later, and many times since then - Pegeen: a woman of legendary beauty and cunning; ruthless toward her enemies and a loyal protector to her people...for all time.

His older brother had snorted in derision, saying the old man lied: no one lived forever, and there was no such person as Pegeen. His father was standing alone before the huge fireplace, his after-dinner drink in his hand while staring into the flames as the old man told his tale. At the time, he had thought this strange as his father usually commanded all attention when he was in a room. Suddenly he spoke, startling them all, though he never raised his voice. Such was the power and authority of his father, the king.

"Pegeen is real," was all he said, but it was said with complete conviction. The young prince saw a secretive smile steal across his father's usually harsh features as his eyes seemed to look on another scene, another time.

Back in the present again, he found himself looking across the table at the woman herself, searching her face...and finding the truth. She smiled warmly at him then, and he returned the smile.

"I have heard of your kind, of course, through my travels over the years. I even saw a battle between two immortals in Scotland long ago. They were too busy trying to behead one another to notice me. But I never knew there were females, and I certainly never met one...", (he let his eyes travel languidly and appreciatively over her as he finished), " the flesh." She laughed again, but this time he joined her.

"Well, I've certainly known my share of vampires, I can tell you. The women make the mistake of challenging me, and the men want to drain me over and over again."

"Hmmmmmmm...," he thought, his eyes glinting, "What a delectable idea!"

"Of course, for that pleasure, they had to give me something in return."

"And what might that be, Lady Pegeen?"

"Oh, so you would be interested in knowing that now would you?" she teased. "Well, it's not your soul, Prince Anton, I can assure you of that!"

They continued their verbal sparring for some time, each enjoying it tremendously. Finally, the proprietor came to politely inform them that the shop was closing.

Out in the night, they turned to gaze at one another yet again. Out of habit, he felt the momentary temptation to try again to force his will on her, but dismissed it. He wanted this woman - oh, yes -more than he could remember ever wanting a woman before. And being this close to her was a pleasurable pain. He took her hand (her deceptively small, fragile-looking hand) and raised it to his lips. "I have greatly enjoyed your company, my lady - more than anything in a very long time." His eyes plumbed the depths of hers and he found his hunger mirrored there. The power of her desire engulfed him and he felt himself sinking under sea-green waves.

"Oh my sweet prince. You have no need to enthrall a real woman. You yourself are intoxicating enough. And I will be with you because I choose to be."

They reached for each other and came together in a passionate embrace, their mouths meeting with a hunger that took their breath away. He moaned deep in his throat as they tasted one another, probing and demanding more. His lips trailed over her neck, playfully nibbling at the delicious pulse he found there. She giggled -such a delightful sound, he thought - as she moved closer in his embrace.

"My lair is close by," he whispered in her ear.

"Well then, the night is wasting. Lead the way," she breathed.

With his arm tightly around her, compelling her to hurry, they disappeared into the night. And for the first time in his life, he couldn't help but wonder if she would still be there tomorrow night...waiting for him.

©1999 Susan Forrister
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