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Christmas With... Tracey Sinclair!


A Dark Dates Christmas
by Tracey Sinclair

This might never happen. But since it’s Christmas, let’s pretend that one day it actually might…

It was the morning of Christmas Eve when the call came that I had been dreading.
‘No. Please, no,’ I begged, desperately. ‘This can’t be happening. Please let it not be true…’
There was a weary sigh from the other end of the line.
‘Oh, for goddess’ sake, Cass. Stop being so dramatic. I told you Katie wasn’t feeling well and that we might have to cancel.’
‘Can’t you just dose her up on Lemsip and magic potions and come anyway? What’s the point of being a witch otherwise?’ I asked, plaintively.
‘Yeah,’ deadpanned Medea. ‘Because ditching my sick fiancée on Christmas Eve so I can come get drunk with you is a sure-fire way to set us up for harmonious holiday.’
OK, she had a point there, but I was panicking.
‘Look, Cass, you’re being ridiculous. How bad can it be?’ She paused, thinking about her question. ‘OK, yeah. Forget I asked that.’

So: backtrack. Normally, I spend at least part of my Christmas volunteering for the local homeless charity Crisis. I don’t have any family, and only recently acquired what you could call close friends, so it never seemed much of a sacrifice. But after what by anyone’s standards was a very rough year, I had decided in a spirit of defiance to try and shake off my habitual winter gloom and celebrate the festivities for once. I had salvaged my conscience with a hefty donation to the charity – my business, the vampire-human dating agency Dark Dates, had held a fundraising evening at the start of the month. I’d worried that my colleague Medea might point out that, given all the trouble we’d been through lately and the impact that had on our coffers, we were in no condition to be giving money to anyone else, but of course she didn’t. She’d been with me last year when we trawled the homeless community of London looking for a rogue vampire that was preying on rough sleepers, and having seen up close the horrors of winter on the streets she was more than happy to contribute to the cause. She was letting me down now though, damn her! Because I’d put aside my normal Grinch-like tendencies, closed the office a day early and decided to hold a dinner party – well, as close to a dinner party as I get, which involves buying a load of party food from Marks & Spencer and getting everyone so drunk they don’t notice I haven’t actually cooked anything.
In a daring mood and with more faith than I possibly should have in the peaceful spirit of the season, I had planned to capitalise on the uneasy détente between the two men in my life and invite them both to the celebration. Cain, the immortal hunter who claims he is an earthbound angel, my on-off lover and the closest thing I have ever really had to a boyfriend (current status: very ‘on’) and Laclos, one of London’s oldest and most powerful vampires, and a man with whom I have, in the ‘off’ stages of mine and Cain’s relationship, enjoyed the occasional dalliance. So that was already complicated, and made even more so by the fact that while Laclos was open about his interest in, and pursuit of, my affection, he had also made it very plain that he wasn’t immune to Cain’s charms, either. Unsurprisingly, their relationship could be antagonistic, but since they’d been forced by circumstance to be something akin to allies in recent months – and had managed to regularly be in the same room without resorting to physical violence – I had been hopeful we could get through one night of civilised discourse. But without the presence of Media and Katie as a buffer (not that that was the only reason I had invited them, of course – they the aforementioned newly acquired close friends), I was starting to realise that my idea of pushing two such disparate men into my Disney version of Christmas was the height of festive folly. I was about to host a party where the only attendees were me and a couple of blokes I’d had sex with. How could it possibly go wrong?


My flat is quite small and regularly trashed by supernatural entities – like I said, it’s been a rough year – but I’d made an effort to make it look as nice as possible. Albeit said effort had been slightly hampered by the presence of Dante, my cat, who in his own way was capable of causing as much damage as any demonic monster, and had seen the erection of a tree as a personal challenge to his feline fiefdom. He’d brought the damn thing down three times before Cain had finally snapped; seeing Dante head once more for the branches with a determined look in his feline eyes, Cain boomed out a ‘no!’ so loudly the walls shook. Dante froze in shock then slunk off, instantly obedient, though whether this was because of any angelic power or the fact that, when Cain was staying with me, he tended to be the one doling out the kitty treats, was debatable. Still, if it kept my decorations in one piece I was happy. Then my attempts at self-adornment were similarly derailed, though this time the cat was blameless. I’d pulled on a sparkly sheath dress that I normally saved for posh work dos and, unusually for me, underneath it I wore fishnet stockings. I used to be too self-conscious about my wobbly bits to feel sexy in a suspender belt, but I was trying to be more confident about my body – with so many things constantly trying to kill me, it was starting to feel ridiculous that I also worried whether they thought I looked fat. But Cain’s enthusiastic reaction to my attire proved that he had no problem at all with my thighs, which was all very nice and everything – and pretty much every part of me felt wobbly by the time he was done – but it also meant I had barely pulled myself together when the doorbell sounded, heralding Laclos’ arrival.
‘Well, something smells nice,’ he purred, leaning down to kiss me, his vampiric chill a shock after the heat of Cain’s touch. I felt my cheeks flame – I was sure with a vampire’s senses he was picking up on exactly how we’d been preparing for the evening, and I knew him well enough to know he would be aroused by the idea. But just as Cain’s expression hardened, Laclos waved an elegant, long-fingered hand towards the kitchen, from where emanated the aroma of M&S’s finest, warming in the oven.
‘I meant of course the feast,’ he smiled, knowingly, and handed Cain a bottle of expensive-looking wine as he shucked off his cashmere coat and allowed me to take it. The booze was a generous gesture, since in advance of this evening he’d already had his minions deliver a crate of drinks – a couple of bottles of champagne, some pricey looking reds and a bottle of 40-year-old single malt that, had Cain not snaffled the instant he saw it, I would have sneakily stuck on eBay, since when I googled it I discovered one bottle of the stuff was worth twice my monthly mortgage payment. I murmured my thanks, hanging his coat on the rack, where it instantly made everything I owned look cheap, and we headed into the living room.
Laclos, of course, looked as incredible as ever, even though by his own standards he was dressed fairly casually. A good few inches taller even than Cain’s 6-foot, he was leanly muscled without being too thin – broad of shoulder, narrow of waist, he was long-limbed, pale perfection. He wore a tight black, v-neck jumper made of some stroke-ably soft fabric and black jeans and steel-buckled boots, his clothes a contrast to the porcelain of his skin. Even Laclos’ worst enemy couldn’t deny his attractiveness – a generous mouth, large, long-lashed dark eyes – the fact that he was every vampire cliché rolled into one made him no less affecting. Tonight he had his long hair tied loosely back, but it still looked so inviting I fought the urge to touch it, to run my fingers through its softness. As Cain came back from putting away the wine, I once again marvelled at the contrast between the two men: Cain, olive skinned and green eyed, his rugged solidity so different from Laclos’ ethereal beauty. Seeing them together always gave rise to a conflicting sea of emotions, and never more so than tonight, with both of them in this unexpectedly cosy context. Not that such domestication made either of them looked less dangerous, though as Cain was also dressed head to foot in black, I felt like I’d arranged dinner with a couple of Milk Tray Men. I was instantly flustered, sure both men had picked up on my thoughts about losing myself in the dark waves of Laclos’ hair, and beneath that, quickly suppressed, an even more reckless fantasy, of what the three of us could manage in one evening with a decent amount of alcohol and no other guests to interrupt us. But I pushed that thought away hurriedly, despite the surge of heat that accompanied it. No way was I ready to open that can of worms.
‘So, um, Medea and Katie had to cancel…’ I explained, and Laclos quirked an eyebrow.
‘It is just us?’ he smiled. ‘What a cosy little… threesome.’ OK, well, that didn’t help. Ignoring Cain’s glower at that, I forged on.
‘So I thought we might… erm, I thought it might be a nice chance to watch some Christmas movies. Introduce Cain to the world of popular culture.’ It was a bit of a crazy plan, but I didn’t think my nerves could stand us all sitting around the table trying to make conversation. TV has long been the saviour of dysfunctional families on the holidays, so I was hoping it would work here. Laclos swept a glance around the room, openly appreciative of both me and Cain.
‘Are you sure there aren’t more productive pleasures we can introduce to your recalcitrant companion?’ he asked, smoothly, and I was now blushing so hard I thought I might actually catch fire.
‘Um… could you maybe sort the drinks?’ I squeaked at the unamused Cain, before scuttling off as fast as I could to fetch some food.

Cain had done the grocery shopping for the holidays. In part this was because, as far as he was concerned, I was overly fussed about calories and fat count (which was fine for him: he was immortal and had a metabolism like an industrial furnace). It was also, I suspected, because Laclos had been so generous with the drinks, Cain didn’t want to look Scrooge-like in comparison, and he’d certainly not scrimped. For a being who claims he doesn’t actually need to eat, Cain is very, very keen on food, so we had enough supplies to survive a siege, especially since Laclos didn’t consume anything but alcohol. So while I loaded up the coffee table with as many plates of snacks as I could manage, Cain poured the drinks – champagne for me, red for Laclos (Cain pointedly ignoring the request that he spike it with something ‘a little richer’) and the ridiculously expensive whisky for himself; a hefty measure that was probably worth the rest of the meal combined, if not the whole contents of my living room. We settled down somewhat awkwardly. Cain sat proprietorially close to me on the couch, Laclos – with an amused look at this arrangement – lounging on an armchair, his legs stretched out in front of him, so long they were easily able to ‘accidentally’ brush against my own, sending a frisson through my skin.
‘Are you quite comfortable there, angel?’ Laclos asked, as the cat emerged, lured by the smell of food, and I pretended not to notice Cain sneaking him a bit of sausage roll. ‘At this time of year shouldn’t you be perched up on top of a tree?’
Cain smiled back at him, all icy calm, and I thought how unwise the vampire had been to draw attention to the fact that the room currently contained plenty of pointy wooden branches.
‘You know the winter festival used to be a time for blood sacrifices, don’t you?’ Cain asked, his voice deceptively mild. ‘How about we revive that tradition?’
‘I’ll start the movie, shall I?’ I interjected, desperately. I’d loaded the DVD player from a pile of festive films, and I hastily pressed play. Surely no one could object to this one…

‘OK, well that is just a gross misrepresentation,’ Cain huffed, glaring at the television. Laclos was snickering into his wine, and I was trying to pretend I didn’t know what he was offended by.
‘It’s a Christmas classic!’ I protested, then Laclos made it worse by reaching across to the tree and lightly flicking one of the silver bell ornaments, which chimed as it swayed.
‘Do you feel anything, Clarence?’ he smirked, looking pointedly at Cain’s shoulders, as if awaiting wings emerging. I reached for the remote, removing the DVD as Cain, with a glare at Laclos, muttered on.
‘Portraying us as bumbling, well-meaning idiots, is it any wonder I don’t tell people what I am…’ he grumbled, as much to himself as to anyone else.
‘OK, OK. No It’s a Wonderful Life!’ I held up the DVD in surrender. ‘How about…’ I shuffled through the pile. ‘Scrooged? That’s one of my favourites.’
‘If that’s another tedious parable about the evils of hoarding wealth, then I really must demur,’ Laclos groaned. ‘I had enough of that from Charles, back in the day. I don’t wish to have it reiterated now.’
Oh-kay, then. Not boggling at that at all, I pulled out another.
‘How about some TV shows, then? A Very Supernatural Christmas? It’s about hunters,’ I offered, hopefully.
Cain pulled a face at the DVD cover.
They’re hunters? They’re way too good looking. They look like models!’ he argued, and this time both Laclos and I boggled at him, the man who clearly didn’t own a mirror.
X-Files Christmas episode? It’s about ghosts.’
The X-Files?’ Cain queried.
‘Yeah, you know, it’s that show about a department in the FBI that investigates supernatural activity.’
He looked genuinely shocked.
‘People know about that?’
‘Uh…’ I floundered, not sure how to reply to that. But before I could formulate an answer, Laclos had moved and was sprawled on the floor beside me, shuffling through the DVD boxes with inhuman speed.
‘How about this one?’ he held up a boxed set of Buffy. ‘Or we could watch the spin off. It’s about a vampire called Angel who hunts down other vampires. Features a brooding, moody, monosyllabic hunk of a man – why, it literally has your name on it,’ he smiled at Cain, all innocence. The hunter looked seconds away from punching something, so I leapt to my feet.
‘More drinks, anyone?’

When I returned, Laclos had his chin propped on his hands and was looking up at Cain through those long lashes, his expression playful, which was never a good sign.
‘Since it is Christmas, shouldn’t you be off performing some festive miracles?’ he asked Cain, who glared at him.
‘Well, I haven’t killed you yet, vampire, which is pretty damn miraculous,’ he retorted. Laclos laughed at that, but then he sat up to accept more wine, and his expression changed to one of genuine curiosity.
‘But truly, hunter. You have been around longer than either Cassandra or I can imagine. Does the festive season hold any significance for you? Can it, even?’
Surprised by being asked a proper question, Cain looked thoughtful, considering his answer.
‘Honestly, vampire, I’ve spent most of my existence in fairly desolate places. Not a lot of time for celebrations, festive or not.’ He paused. ‘Except back when I was married, of course. I mean, the Vikings pretty much invented yule – that’s actually a Norse word – and trust me, those people knew how to carouse.’ He looked wistful for a moment then caught my eye and frowned, guiltily. The fact that Cain had been married to a Norse goddess – and in fact still, technically was married, since immortals didn’t do divorce and for obvious reasons had problems with the concept of ‘till death do us part’ – was a bone of contention between us. This was less because of the marriage itself – it wasn’t like you could date someone who’d been around literally forever and expect them not to have a past – but because he’d only recently got round to telling me about it. Realising this wasn’t a good subject, he hastened on. ‘But, yeah, I’ve been around for a few Christmas celebrations over the years. These days it seems a lot more shopping, a lot less offal.’
‘For which we should all be grateful, I would have thought,’ Laclos murmured, vaguely appalled, which for a man who drinks blood is something. Cain looked put out.
‘Nothing wrong with a nice bit of offal,’ he frowned, aggrieved. I patted his hand, sympathetically, though I was now slightly worried to look in my fridge, lest I discovered he’d indulged in some nostalgic food purchases.
‘OK. Look, no more arguments,’ I said, firmly. ‘We are going to watch my favourite Christmas movie, and you are both going to sit through it and not complain. OK?’
‘My, Cassandra, I do enjoy it when you are assertive,’ Laclos grinned, but Cain looked doubtful.
‘Trust me. It has guns and explosions for you,’ I nodded to Cain, which mollified him slightly. ‘And well-spoken men in nicely cut suits for you,’ I said to Laclos, who acknowledged this with a tilt of the head and returned to his seat.
Then I put in the DVD and we all sat back with our drinks, ready to watch Bruce Willis, bare foot and in a bloodied vest, have a very bad Christmas indeed.




Tracey Sinclair is the author of the Dark Dates – Chronicles of Cassandra Bick series:
You can find out more about Crisis at Christmas here: http://www.crisis.org.uk
Find Tracey:

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