For them, the thrill of drinking blood was not the blood itself. These creatures lived for the bite. They believed nothing could replace the intense pleasure of sinking one's fangs into the warm, pliant skin of a mortal's neck.
In the past year, communication between the Malcontents and modern Vamps had degenerated until an undeclared state of war hovered over them. A war that could result in many deaths - both mortal and vampire.
"Have Laszlo come in."
Gregori zoomed to the door and opened it. "We're ready."
"About time." Laszlo sounded upset. "The guard out here was about to perform a cavity search on our guest of honor."
"Och, ye have a bonnie lass there," the guard murmured in his Scots accent.
"Leave her alone!" Laszlo marched into Roman's office with a female clutched in his arms as if the two of them were doing the tango. Not only was the female taller than the short vampire chemist, she was noticeably naked.
Roman jumped to his feet. "You brought a mortal here?" A naked mortal?
"Relax, Roman, she's not real." Gregori leaned toward Laszlo. "The boss is a little nervous about mortal females."
"I am not nervous, Gregori. Every nerve ending in me died over five hundred years ago." Roman could see only the back of the false female, but her long blond hair and rounded derriere certainly looked real.
Laszlo set the female in a wingback chair. Her legs stuck out straight, so he leaned over to bend them. With each adjustment, her knees made a small pop.
Gregori squatted beside her. "She's very lifelike, don't you think?"
"Very." Roman eyed the curly hair, trimmed in a narrow, stripper style, between the false female's legs. "Apparently she's a dyed blond."
"Look." With a grin, Gregori nudged her legs apart. "She comes fully equipped. Sweet, huh?"
Roman gulped. "Is this - " He cleared his throat and tried again. "Is this some sort of mortal sex toy?"
"Yes, sir, she is." Laszlo pried open her mouth. "Look. She even has a tongue. The texture is incredibly lifelike." He inserted a short, stubby finger. "And the vacuum causes a very realistic sucking sensation."
Roman glanced down at Gregori, who was kneeling between the female's legs, admiring the view, then at Laszlo, who was slipping his finger in and out of the doll's mouth. God's blood. If he were capable of getting a headache, he'd have a migraine by now. "Shall I leave you three alone?"
"No, sir." The short chemist struggled to free his finger from the doll's greedy mouth. "We just wanted to show you how real she is." His finger was released with a small pop, then the doll's mouth relaxed into a frozen smile that seemed to indicate she was enjoying herself.
"She's amazing." Gregori ran an approving hand down her leg. "Laszlo sent for her in the mail."
"It was your catalog." Laszlo looked embarrassed. "I don't usually have mortal sex. Too messy."
And too dangerous. Roman dragged his gaze away from the doll's beautifully shaped br**sts. Maybe Gregori was right and he should enjoy himself with one of the lady Vamps. If mortals could pretend this doll was alive, maybe he could do the same with a vampire. But how could a dead woman warm his soul?
Gregori lifted one of the doll's feet for a closer look. "This little babe is tempting, though."
Roman sighed. This mortal sex toy was supposed to solve the Malcontent problem? They were wasting his time, not to mention making him feel horny and damned lonely at the same time. "All the Vamps I know prefer brain sex. I assume it's the same with the Malcontents."
"Not possible with this one, I'm afraid." Laszlo tapped the doll's head, producing a ripe-melon echo.
Roman noted the doll was still smiling, though her blue glass eyes gazed straight ahead with a vacant look. "So she has the same IQ as Simone."
"Hey." Gregori scowled as he cradled the doll's foot to his chest. "That's not nice."
"Neither is wasting my time." Roman glared at him. "How can this toy possibly solve the problem with the Malcontents?"
"But she's much more than a toy, sir." Laszlo fiddled with the buttons on his white lab coat. "She's been transformed."
"Into VANNA." Gregori gave the doll's little toe a playful tug. "Sweet little VANNA. Come to Papa."
Roman gritted his teeth, remembering first to make sure his fangs were retracted. Otherwise a Vamp could accidentally pierce his bottom lip. "Enlighten me, please, before I resort to violence."
Gregori laughed, apparently unconcerned by his boss's anger. "VANNA is a Vampire Artificial Nutritional Needs Appliance."
Laszlo twirled a loose button on his lab coat, his brow furrowed with worry. Obviously, he took the boss's temper much more seriously. "She's the perfect solution for the vampire who is still compelled to bite. And she'll be available in whichever race or gender you prefer."
"You're going to make male toys, too?" Roman asked.
"Yes, eventually." The loose button tumbled onto the floor. Laszlo picked it up and stuffed it in a pocket. "Gregori thought we could advertise her on the Digital Vampire Network. You'd have your choice of VANNA Brown, VANNA Black - "
"And this would be VANNA White?" Roman grimaced. "The legal department will love this."
"We could take some promotional photos of her in a fancy evening gown." Gregori stroked the arch of her foot. "And some sexy, high-heeled, black sandals."
Roman gave his vice president of marketing a worried look, then turned to Laszlo. "Are you saying this doll can be used for the purpose of feeding?"
"Yes!" Laszlo nodded enthusiastically. "Just like a live female, she's capable of multitasking, satisfying both your sexual and feeding needs. Here. Let me show you." He leaned the doll forward and brushed her hair to the side. "I did the work back here where it wouldn't be so noticeable."
Roman studied the small switch and U-shaped cut. At the base of the U, a small tube protruded with a clamp on the end. "You put a tube in her?"
"Yes. It's specifically designed to simulate a real artery. We developed a circular pattern inside her." Laszlo ran his finger over her body to show the location of the false artery. "It travels through her chest cavity, then up one side of her neck and down the other, finally returning to the chest."
"And you fill it with blood?"
"Yes, sir. She'll come packaged with a free funnel. Blood and batteries not included."
"They never are," Roman noted dryly.
"She's easy to use." Laszlo pointed at the doll's neck. "You remove the clamp, insert the small funnel, select two quarts of your favorite blood from Romatech Industries, and fill her up."
"I see. Does she light up when she's running low?"
Laszlo frowned. "I suppose I could put in an indicator light-"
"I was kidding." Roman sighed. "Please continue."
"Yes, sir." Laszlo cleared his throat. "The switch here turns on a small pump inserted inside her chest cavity. A false heart, so to speak. It will cause the blood to flow through the artery and simulate a real pulse."
Roman nodded. "And that's where the batteries come in."
"Mmm," Gregori's voice sounded muffled. "She keeps going and going."
Roman glanced at his vice president and found him raking his teeth over VANNA's big toe. The red glow in Gregori's eyes served as a different sort of indicator light. "Gregori! Back off."
With a low growl, Gregori dropped the doll's foot. "You're no fun anymore."
Roman took a deep breath and wished he could pray for patience. But no self-respecting God would want to hear the supplications of a demon with a mortal sex toy. "Has she been tested yet?"
"No, sir." Laszlo flipped on VANNA's switch. "We thought you should have the honor of being first."
First. Roman's gaze swept over the doll's perfect body, a body that now pulsed inside with life-giving blood. "So at last, a vampire can have his cake and bite it, too."
Gregori smiled as he smoothed out his black dinner jacket. "The taste test challenge. Enjoy."
Roman arched an eyebrow at his vice president of marketing. No doubt, this testing was Gregori's idea. He probably thought his boss needed a little excitement to feel alive. Unfortunately, he was right.