The last man in the hotel bar is always looking for something, be it solace in the bottom of a glass, the ear of the waiter, or one last drink. More often than not, though, what he looks for is painfully predictable and etched all over a desperate face…to not get in that elevator alone. The drunks are already in their rooms, safely ensconced behind sealed doors with large nightcaps spilling over starched sheets, blinking in the meaningless glow of whatever porn or sport is available. The lonely man, however, is the one who sits there until all the stools are upturned and the taps are put to bed, glancing furtively at the door with something akin to hunger. It’s the hope that does it. The hope that another weary traveller or chancer might drop in. The meet-cute of the hotel circuit.
For one night only. No one has to know.
It’s lucky, then, that Martin Furlong is no longer the last man in the bar. A stranger has arrived, removing his long black coat in an elegant twirl before folding it over the back of a stool.
“May I join you?” he asks. His voice is sex, and his eyes have that look of permanent mischief. They are dirty eyes, there is no other word. You aren’t undressed by that gaze. You are already naked.
“By all means,” Martin says. He is annoyed, truth be told, it doesn’t really matter how fuckable the strange man is when you were hoping for a woman.
“Can I get you a drink?” the stranger asks.
“Why not?” Martin replies, then the memory of manners resurfaces over the disappointment and he adds, “Thank you. That would be nice.” He reaches out a hand. “I’m Martin.”
“Pleasure.” There is a strong shake, no name, and a nod to the waiter. “Two Blue Label. Triple. Ice.”
There is no dazzling cliche here, Martin is not about to turn, wide-eyed to the strange man and declare, “how did you know?” It is not his favourite drink. In fact, he fucking hates scotch. It tastes like fag ash and burning, but it’s an expensive drop paid for with a tap of a nameless matte black credit card. Manners maketh man and all that. The strangers clink glasses and they drink.
Two hours later and Martin has the lonely man’s wish. He is not riding the elevator alone. The smile is unnerving and it won’t stay still, but those eyes offer something he can’t resist. He has been washed along on a tide of magnetism and booze and now they are here; Room 217, and the door is open.
“Invite me in,” the stranger demands. The smile is sharp, lascivious, and Martin hesitates. This isn’t right. What the fuck is he doing?
“No. No, I don’t think so,” he says and stumbles. The man lunges just as he falls through the door but Martin is falling backwards and sees the snarl as the ground comes up to meet him. Sharp pointed teeth, crisping dead skin. The stranger reaches down but comes up short against the barrier of the threshold.
“Fucking vampires!” Martin curses, rolling to his knees and scuttling back. “Charming bastards, aren’t you!”
“I heard no complaints,” the stranger says. The beauty is back now and he leans in, the hem of his coat pushed flat as though pressing up against glass. Thank God for the rules, Martin thinks.
“How the fuck did you get in the hotel?”
The stranger shrugs. “I own it.”
Martin looks fearfully at his door but the Invitation Law holds the stranger back. He stands quickly and slams it shut in the vampire’s face. There is a laugh then that echoes down the hall and rattles around Martin’s mind for hours as he chases sleep.
When he wakes, it is to the feel of someone sitting on the mattress by his head.
“You should have paid for the late check-out,” the stranger says.