"No." Roman dug through a drawer and removed two Band-Aids. "I didn't want to condemn his immortal soul."
Spoken like a true medieval monk. Shanna's heart ached for him. He obviously thought his own soul was damned.
He tore open the wrappers. "A vampire is always the hungriest when he first awakes in the evening. I was just about to eat when you came in. I should have had a bottle before making love." He attached the Band-Aids over her wounds. "From now on, we make sure I eat first."
There was no from now on. "I.. I can't."
He looked so worried. And so damned beautiful. Color had seeped back into his skin. His shoulders were broad.
His chest was bare with a mat of black hair that looked so soft and touchable. His golden-brown eyes watched her steadily.
Shanna blinked back the tears. "I can't.. believe you have a toilet." Chicken, she chided herself. But she hated to hurt him. She hated to hurt herself.
He looked surprised. "Oh, well, I use it."
"You use a toilet?"
"Yes. Our bodies only require red blood cells. Stuff like plasma and the added ingredients from Fusion Cuisine are all unnecessary and become waste."
"Oh." That was really more than she needed to know.
He tilted his head. "Are you all right?"
"Sure." She turned and left the bathroom, aware that he was watching her naked rump. So much for a graceful exit. She crossed his office to the pile of clothes on the floor.
She was dressed and sitting on the chaise, tying her shoes, when he came into the office. He removed another bottle from the mini-fridge and popped it into the microwave. He was fully dressed now - black jeans and a gray polo shirt. His face was washed, his hair brushed. He was absolutely beautiful and apparently still hungry.
The microwave dinged and he poured the warmed blood into a glass. "I owe you my thanks." Sipping from the glass, he strode toward the desk. "I shouldn't have allowed myself to get so hungry. You were very kind to help me after.. what I did."
"You mean after biting me?"
"Yes." He looked irritated as he sat behind his desk. "I prefer to look at the positive side of this."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No. A few nights ago, you fainted at the mere sight of blood. I had to help you through the dental procedure, or you would have fainted again. But tonight you fed me blood. You're conquering your fear, Shanna. That's something to be proud of."
Well, yes. She was making definite progress.
"And we have proof of what an excellent dentist you are."
"You implanted my fang, and it's working perfectly."
She snorted. "Right. I have the marks to prove it."
"That was an unfortunate mistake, but it's good to know the tooth is fixed. You did a great job."
"Oh yeah. It would be terrible for you to have only one working fang. Your friends might want to call you Lefty."
He raised his eyebrows. "I suppose you're angry." He took a deep breath. "I suppose I deserve it."
She wasn't angry. She was hurt, sad, and tired. Tired of trying to adjust to every shocking event that had occurred in the last few days. A part of her just wanted to crawl into bed and never come out. How could she even begin to explain how she felt? "I - " She was saved by a sudden rattling of the doorknob.
"Roman?" Gregori knocked on the door. "What's the deal with locking the door? We have an appointment."
"Damn, I forgot," Roman muttered. "Excuse me." He zipped to the door, turned the lock, then zipped back to the desk.
Shanna's mouth fell open. Vampire speed was so disconcerting to watch. Though it certainly came in handy during sex. She blushed. She couldn't afford to think about sex. Not when it was followed by sharp fangs and loss of blood.
"Hey, bro." Gregori strolled into the office with a portfolio under his arm. He was dressed in formal evening wear, complete with a dashing cape. "I have the presentation ready for our solution to the poor problem. Hey, sweetcakes." He nodded in Shanna's direction.
"Hi." She stood. "I should be going."
"I don't mind. In fact, I'd like your opinion." Gregori removed some large cards from his portfolio and propped the bottom edge of the stack on Roman's desk.
Shanna sat as she read the first one. How to encourage poor Vamps to drink synthetic blood.
Roman glanced at Shanna. "It's been difficult to persuade the poor to buy synthetic blood when they can get all they want fresh. And for free."
"You mean they can go straight to the food source - mortals." She frowned at him. "Like me."
He returned her gaze with a look that said, Get over it.
Gregori looked from one to the other. "Am I interrupting something?"
"No." Shanna motioned toward the posters. "Please continue."
With a smile, Gregori started his pitch. "The mission at Romatech Industries is to make the world safer for mortals and vampires alike. I know I speak for all of us at Romatech when I say I would never want to harm a mortal." He turned the first card facedown, so that the second card was revealed.
There were two words. Cheap. Convenient. Shanna could only hope they weren't referring to her.
"I believe these two factors are the solution to our poor problem," Gregori continued. "I've discussed the cheap factor with Laszlo, and he's had a brilliant idea. Since we only need red blood cells in order to survive, Laszlo plans to formulate a mixture of red blood cells and water. It would be much cheaper to produce than the normal synthetic blood or one of your Fusion Cuisine drinks."
Roman nodded. "It's also likely to taste like swill."
"We'll work on the taste. Now, for the convenience factor." Gregori revealed the next poster in his presentation. It showed a building with a drive-through window.
"This is a Vamp restaurant," he explained. "The menu will include Fusion Cuisine favorites like Chocolood and Blood Lite, but it will also have the new, cheaper mixture. The meals will be warmed up and served quickly."
Shanna blinked. "A fast-food restaurant?"
"Exactly!" Gregori nodded at her. "And with our new mixture of red blood cells and water, it'll be very cheap."
"A vampire value meal! What will you call the place? Bat in a Box? Vampire King?" To Shanna's surprise, a giggle escaped.
Gregori chuckled. "You're good at this."
Roman wasn't laughing. He was watching Shanna curiously.
She ignored him and pointed at the drive-through window. "Won't it be dangerous to have a drive-through? I mean, a normal human could get in line, thinking it's a real restaurant, and then see that the menu has nothing but blood. That would sorta blow your big secret, wouldn't it?"
"She has a valid point," Roman said.
"I know what to do." She raised her hands, imagining the restaurant. "You rent an upper floor, like ten floors up, and put the drive-through up there. That way, you couldn't have real people getting in line."
Gregori looked confused. "Ten floors up?"
"Yes! It would be a fly-through window." Shanna burst into laughter.
Gregori exchanged a look with Roman. "But we don't fly."
Roman stood. "I think you have some good ideas, Gregori. Have Laszlo start on the formula for the.. value meal."
Shanna covered her mouth, but more giggles escaped.
Roman gave her a worried look. "And begin research on a suitable rental property."
"You got it, boss." Gregori slid the posters back into his portfolio. "I'm going out clubbing with Simone tonight. For research purposes, of course. I'll be investigating the most popular vampire hangouts to see what works best."
"That's fine. Try to keep Simone out of trouble."
Gregori nodded. "Will do. You know, she's only going out with me because she's trying to make you jealous."
Suddenly Shanna didn't feel so giggly. She glared at Roman.
He had the grace to look embarrassed. "I made it clear to her that I'm not interested."
"Yeah, I know." Gregori started toward the door, then stopped. "Oh, I thought I'd arrange for a market survey tomorrow night at Romatech. Have a focus group of poor Vamps come in and fill out a questionnaire about the new restaurant. I'll spread the news tonight at the Vamp clubs."