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Blood and Mint Chocolates

by Adrianne Brennan


With thanks to Robin for his lovely work as a beta reader, to Emmy for being a wonderful editor as always, and last but not least to Anthea for all of your vegan desserts which will surely conquer the world someday.

Chapter One

An Unexpected Gift

A rather generous gift from one of her students sat on Merideth's desk in her office within the Sanctuary's library, begging to be enjoyed in many different and most sinful ways. She sampled it eagerly: rich, dark heaven with echoes of mint in just the right places.

Oh, how she loved chocolate mints. And these Godiva dark chocolate ones embodied the definition of "exquisite."

Closing her eyes in ecstasy, she sank back into her chair and savored the taste. How fresh the taste of mint, and how decadent the chocolate. For a moment, she let her mind wander back to the days of her mortal youth. Merideth never had the privilege to have such indulgences in those days, and she refused to allow herself to be any less deprived as a vampire.

Why should immortality restrict one from such delights?

A knock came at the door. "Amaltheia? Are you there?"

Oh, shit. Janius. With great haste, Merideth stashed the rest of the sweets in the desk drawer. She didn't want to let the magister know about her addiction to mint chocolates and be forced to submit to his stern lectures on "maintaining vampiric purity" and the necessity of alchemical transformation through transcending physical needs typically ascribed to humans.

Blah blah, no longer human, we're above that nonsense, blah blah blah.... "Sure--come in, Magister."

The door opened, and the magister briskly walked in and closed it behind him. Merideth gazed warily upon Clan Gladius's leader. Janius earned his magister title on numerous occasions with his stern, albeit gentle guidance. Being the founder and head of the Clan, a fairly prestigious reputation within the magickal order of Ordo Draconis et Rosae--also known as the Order of the Dragon of the Rose--preceded him. She respected Janius a great deal and thought well of him. However, in spite of the fact that the two of them shared a strong friendship and had worked together as fellow magicians for decades--Janius often called her "the Clan's favorite librarian"--Merideth thought little of his stuffy and pretentious demeanor, but she kept her opinion to herself. Sometimes she wished she belonged to another Clan within the Order. Perhaps Clan Corvus in New Orleans, or even Clan Diamhair Aingeal in Boston. Both lacked the taciturn nature which embodied the character of Clan Gladius.

And neither, as far as she knew, upheld the ideas of vampiric purity by the letter of the law as much as its spirit.

"Hello, Merideth," he greeted her, addressing her by her real name versus Amaltheia, the one given to her by Clan Gladius as her Order name. Dropping the formality relieved her of any notion that the magister sought her out for any negative reason, and she was thankful for it. Only those who knew her well called her Merideth, and her closest friends called her Meri for short. "I hope that I have not caught you at a bad moment?"

The elfish vampire was all sweetness with her smile, all the while praying that bits of chocolate didn't show on her teeth. "Of course not, James," she replied, dropping the customary Order tradition in return. They were behind closed doors, after all.

"Excellent. Merideth, you've been working hard keeping the Sanctuary's library the way it is, and I notice you haven't taken any time off recently."

She blinked at him. "Time off, James?"

"Well," he shuffled his feet, "I notice you go on occasion with Theodotos to play darts in the common room, but you could use some time away from the library. As much as we know you like it here."

Blood have mercy. "James, I love it here--you know that. Do you have the impression that I'm unhappy or something?"

The magister laughed. "Meri, don't be silly. You're a workaholic like the rest of us, and while some of us have our ways of managing time off, I thought that you alone could use a special ... respite."

She fought down a smirk. Workaholic, indeed--James was certainly one to talk! When did he ever take a vacation? Had he ever taken a vacation? But she bit her tongue in her customary fashion.

"Me, James?"

"Yes, you." He placed an envelope face down on the desk in front of her, and she stared at it curiously as if it might leap up and bite her. She hesitated and raised an eyebrow at him.

"Plane tickets to Hotel Paradisio on Crystal Island. The flight will arrive at the airport near the resort, and an escort will be there to take you to your hotel well before sunrise."

Merideth began to sputter. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine that the magister would ever present her with such a gift. She would've been grateful just for the license to take the night off and attend an event at a nearby blues club with Asharael and Lyrael. "James, this is so..." she fought for a word adequate enough to describe how she felt, "frivolous. I just can't--"

He raised an eyebrow at her in an echo of her previous gesture. "You're allowed to indulge yourself every now and again, Meri. Moderation and all that, you know. Oh, and by the way," he added, "remember not to overindulge too much. You're among humans but not of them. Enjoy some alcohol, but stay away from those silly confections."

Grateful blood-tears filled her eyes. "I ... I don't know what to say, James."

Her head swam. A hotel resort on a beautiful island. Granted, it'd take more than a few light spells to allow her even an hour's comfort in the sun, but surely the nightlife must be sultry, grand--exquisite like her dark chocolate mints.

"Say 'Thank you, James'. Then get on that flight and have a good time."

"Thank you, James," she mumbled, her voice not much

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