“Where are we going?”
“I thought we would take a drive to a friend’s house,” he replied, offering nothing more. I leaned back against the car’s leather seat and looked out the window. There was no use in forcing him to speak. He would say something when he was good and ready. I’m not sure if it was the intense silence, or the fact that I had been working long hours, but within minutes I managed to fall into a deep sleep. Sometime later I awoke, propelling myself forward towards the dashboard as I came out of my stupor.
“Oh my god,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “I am sorry.”
William smiled, his normal happy demeanor back in place.
“It’s okay,” he replied. “It gave me time to calm down.”
I looked out my window but didn’t recognize the landscape. “Where are we?” I asked, rubbing my eyes again.
“We’re just about to enter Hearst Castle,” he said calmly.
“This is an old friend’s house?” We were a hundred miles, maybe more, from Carmel in the opposite direction of home. “You’re going to tell me that you knew William Randolph Hearst?”
“We were acquainted,” he replied. “But it’s his grounds keeper that I know very well. Frank is a vampire and a former ambulance driver; he took this job after the war. Over the years, he’s taught me every inch of this place. I thought you might like to go for a swim.”
“You thought I might like to go for a swim? We haven’t spoken in two weeks, and the first idea out of the gate is to kidnap me and take me to another castle?”
“I told you…you belong in a castle,” William replied, as he pulled the car into a darkened spot along an entrance road and turned off the ignition. “Besides, you needed a nap and I needed a private place to speak with you. You’ve been avoiding me Olivia and that won’t do at all. There was only so long I was willing to wait before I came for you.”
I was about to give him my opinion of the situation when he quickly took my hand and admonished me to stay silent until we were inside the castle. Hearst Castle is of course not just any castle. Conceived and built during an almost 30-year period beginning in 1919, the sprawling complex was designed by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The Hearst family donated the property to the state and it’s been run as a historic park since the late 1950’s. Hearst had an appetite for big things and he spared no expense for his so-called country house, which by my calculations was about 250 miles from San Francisco, give or take a mile.
William led me along a darkened path to a non-descript cottage at the end of the service road we’d parked on. He fished in his pocket for a key and opened the door. It swung open into a non-descript hallway. The hallway became a long tunnel that led to the main complex of the castle. Once inside, we walked along the well-lit interior of a secret passages -- a hidden system of tunnels beneath the castle that Hearst had built so his guests could swap lovers discreetly -- making our way slowly to a subterranean pool build at the East end of the castle.
I stood in awe as we entered. William bowed at the waist and waved his arms in a sweeping gesture.
“Welcome to the Roman Pool,” he said.
I scanned the room watching the light bounce off of what seemed to be one million small, square blue glass tiles. The blue seemed deeper juxtaposed against similar gold tiles that formed a border along the walls. The tiles shimmered in the dim light of the lamps that illuminated the room. The blue also made the water in the pool look deep, endless.
It was magnificent, a reminder of another era when elegance was achieved for the sake of itself. The pool’s gold leaf paint gave the room an otherworldly feel, as if we’d returned to the Roman era, when all the world’s riches felt obtainable. Certainly for Hearst, the expense of creating such an opulent subterranean grotto had probably never been an issue.
As walked further into the room, I noticed a small tray sitting in one corner; it was filled with a small bowl of fruit, a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
“Would you like a drink,” he asked, moving in to whisper to me from behind my ear. I nodded and soon had a flute of champagne in my hands.
“What did you mean about waiting for me?” I asked. “The last time we spoke you made it clear you didn’t approve of what I was doing.”
William crossed the room, returning the champagne bottle to the tray.
“I may have mixed feeling about you chasing after gangsters and meddling in the affairs of humans, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. You were injured in the robbery… almost blinded. Did you really think I wouldn’t have an opinion?” he asked. “You seem to think I’m not entitled to have a view on things, and then as usual, before we could even really discuss it, you just gave up and threw me out.”
“I didn’t see the point,” I said, trying to hold my quivering chin up high. “How can I be with a man who won’t support my work?”
“Darlin, that is overly dramatic, even for you,” he replied, laughing. “And of course untrue. But I am curious, is that why you were planning to have dinner with that reporter?”
William, it seemed, knew more about my activities then I realized.
“Why not,” I replied, but with half the defiance I intended. “He’s human. He likes politics. Seems like a good start to me.”
If a rulebook existed for how to deal with vampires, the first piece of advice would probably be not to provoke one when they’re feeling possessive. William quickly came to stand in front of me and grabbed my chin in his hand.
“Yes, but does he know you and Gabriel like to fix the races?” he asked, his voice low and angry. “Were you going to tell him what you do for a living, or would you have him believe you are especially lucky in your career?”
He was right of course. I would not have shared my secrets with JP, at least not right away. The truth was I had no interest in having a relationship with him. I wanted to say as much, but found myself mute, unable to reply.
“We’re you planning on leaving with him tonight?”
“Did you plan on sleeping with him?”
Without thinking, my hand came around and slapped William square in the face.
“You bastard,” I said, “Why would you ask me something so insulting?”
William rubbed his cheek, a look of satisfaction on his face.
“I warned you about friendships with vampires. Did you really think that I would let you into my life, my inner circle and then let some human man come in and walk away with you?”
I didn’t reply. Instead I scanned the room for a ladder to get into the pool. I needed to cool down. Unfortunately Hearst’s pool was ten feet deep everywhere but at the far end, where a small wading area had been created. I started to walk towards the shallow end.
“Let’s swim,” I replied, walking towards the water.
William blocked my path. “Let me help you out of your dress,” he said quickly unzipping the back of my black sheath and letting it fall to the floor.
Very suddenly I was standing in the middle of the pool area in nothing but black lace boy shorts, a matching bra and heels. William, who had been watching me closely, came around and ran a finger under one bra strap pulling it down around my arm.
“There you go, walking away again, but I want to finish our discussion. I saw the way he was looking at you, Olivia,” he purred, and then he slipped his finger under the other strap and pulled it down as well, this time leaving my breast exposed to the night air. Slowly, he ran his thumb across my nipple and then leaned in closer to speak to me. “There is no man alive who wouldn’t want you the way you were dressed tonight.”
I grabbed his hand where it rested on my breast and brought his thumb to my lips.
“You fool,” I said as I slipped his finger into my mouth and gently bit it. “I’m not interested in any man alive. I’m in love with you. Only you. But if you want me to stay, you’re going to have to accept me for who I am… my work… my ideas, all of it…or this night is nothing but a waste of time.”
William brought me into his arms and held me. We stood there for sometime, until finally he lifted his head and began to speak.
“It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had a mate,” he said. “In fact, for almost all my nearly two hundred years I have lived my life alone. Then one day, you walked into that tunnel throwing all my plans to the wind.”
I smiled, squeezing his hand.
“What I mean is yes, I agree,” he said. “I will change. I will learn to be more…flexible.”
I kissed him then, thinking it was the most economical way to express my thoughts. It was hopelessly impractical to bind myself to a vampire, and of course at the moment also bad timing. But I was in love for the first time in my life and I had no appetite to sacrifice my happiness for practical purposes. I had been that person who jettisoned her emotions in exchange for a well-ordered life, and it had nearly killed me. I was ready for a change, damn the complications. I wanted a lover who understood me, maybe better than I understood myself. So I kissed him again, and threw my fate into the hands of the supernatural, like my ancestors before me.
We undressed and climbed into the pool, bringing our bodies together. I kissed his face, his eyelids. He pressed his lips into the small of my neck and nibbled on my earlobe. Each time I raised one of my limbs out the water, a wave of goose bumps covered my flesh. William was studying me intently, and in the process turning my nerve endings raw. Eventually he picked me up and sat me on the edge of the pool, parted my legs and asked me to lie back, leaving myself exposed to him. He wasted no time kissing me deep to my core, and then he moved his lips down along my leg to the tender skin on the inside of my thigh, where without warning, he bit me. At the same moment his teeth pieced my skin, he used his fingers to the same effect. This is what being hit with a Taser must feel like, I thought, as my body bucked and rocked against his mouth. I screamed at the shock of the pain and the pleasure. Hard to believe, but I had forgotten for a moment that I was making love with a vampire. Your imagination only goes so far when it comes to day dreams of moments like these. Imagining being bit is nothing like the real thing; the sensation cannot be imagined. It’s shocking, but perhaps not as scary as one might imagine. This wasn’t an attack, at least not the lethal kind. He was a gentle lover and only drank for a moment before he raised his head to gauge my reaction. I raised my body onto my elbows and smiled. I lifted my arms beckoning him to join me. William climbed out of the pool, standing above me, his long red hair matted against his shoulders, glistening from the water. He was beautiful and menacing to behold, pale and thin, his body marked with tattoos and ancient scars he must have received on the battlefield before he died. He came and sat down next to me.
“Darlin,” he said, his southern accent seeming more pronounced tonight. “Are you ready, ‘cause this is the point of no return.”
I giggled into his arm. “Which point,” I replied playfully. “The trespassing on state property, or the part where you make love to me.”
“Both,” he said, smiling as he slipped inside me, “Both.”
Our first time together was slow and languorous.
“This is why you belong in a castle,” he whispered as he made love to me. “Good things happen to you.”
The second time, after he had fed me strawberries and champagne, was different, rougher. William approached me from behind, and ran is hands down my back and bent me over at the waist as a ballet dancer would with his partner. I could feel his sharp nails, the ones he uses to play guitar, as he ran them along my spine to the top of my neck. Then he ran his sharpened teeth along the same path, reaching the top of my neck and puncturing my skin at my nape, a place that would be covered by my hair in the morning. The rest of his body followed as he penetrated me. My senses were overloaded, overcome by his sensual nature and my own lust and desire pouring through my body. Sex had never been this good, or intense before and I wondered for a moment if it was because I allowed myself to feel so greatly now, or because I was with someone who made me feel so much.
When we were finished, I slumped over onto the pool floor. “My god,” I said and decided to leave it at that. I looked over at William and knew he was thinking the same thing. We had well and truly given ourselves to each other tonight. Our emotions had been as exposed as our bodies, but neither of us had any regrets; I could feel it. We dressed and walked hand in hand back to the car. My body began to ache as soon as I slid into the seat. I was sore in places I knew many women would never be. I smiled; amazed at what I had done with William and how badly I wanted to do it again.
It was disorienting to wake up in bed and feel another body next to mine. It wasn’t something I’d done very often, and at first my mind could not reconcile the facts. A moment of panic set in as I tried to retrace my steps from the night before -- a horrible image of JP jumped into view for a moment. Then, slowly my body began to register the sensation of the cool mass beside me. A tumble of memories came flooding in, causing me to blush, and I realized that it was William next to me. What confused me at first too, was the bed, which had not existed in his house when I’d first visited. Made of a dark wood, the queen-sized frame sat in the middle of his bedroom against one of the walls. I knew instantly that he had made the bed for us. I was touched at his thoughtfulness, but also chagrined at his expectation of success.
Slowly I raised myself up to get a better sense of things. As I placed my hands down on the sheets to push up, I became aware of something else that was new and unexpected: the trio of copper bands with the sapphires I had admired at the jewelry gallery were sitting on my ring finger. I examined my hand not sure what to do next. An image from a vintage horror movie popped into my head, the one where the impoverished girl is lured from the village to a fate worse than death… an innocent, now the bride of a vampire. But I knew that wasn’t my story. I had wandered into the castle as a willing participant. I was also curious to know what significance the rings had for William. I looked over at the body next to mine. My suitor seemed to be asleep, or at least in a deep trance. Just as they do in fairy tales, I kissed my sleeping prince, gently biting his lower lip. Slowly I pulled the blanket away, running my tongue across his chest, savoring the cool, smooth skin. I found his nipple and bit it to see if I could wake the dead. Instantly, I felt his senses alight, and once again I experienced the merging of our desire. I was hungry and impatient, my teeth suddenly set in a clench. My awareness was instantaneous to his and quickly I was rolled underneath him as he slid into me. I would have howled at the sun had William not kissed me. I clawed at his back and fought an urge to stretch out like a panther in the warmth of the day. My body was inexplicably ravenous and I bit down on William’s lip in my impatience. This time through, despite my provocation, he did not drink from me.
After we’d finished making love, he wordlessly left our bed, put on a robe and walked out of the room. When he returned, he was carrying a tray with a glass of juice and some whole grain toast.
“Wow a bed and food,” I said. “You were certainly confident your campaign to kidnap me would be successful.”
My host looked mildly rebuked. “I was hoping,” he said. “I figured I could always throw the food away.”
“Yes but the bed, that took some work,” I said, sitting up to have my juice. “What would you have done if I'd refused?”
“Eventually I would have worn you down.”
Causes Evette Davis Supports
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Berkeley Library Foundation. SF Parks Trust. French American International School (SF).