“Twilight, and the ocean breaks on the pylons of the dock like that,” Valencia told me, pointing out the rough chop of the water. “That's the best time. I'll show you the rest later, you need to eat now.”
I nodded weakly, and even that hurt my pounding, swimming head. It felt awful and I was starting to think that I'd made a huge mistake. Not that I could take it back… I shouldn't have trusted her, this tall dark-haired Amazon with her musical accent that I still couldn't place.
She helped me down to a sitting position on the dock and smoothed my damp hair back from my hot forehead and temples. Her touch was so soft, so concerned, that I closed my eyes automatically and leaned into her hands. Then she kissed me briefly on the mouth, stood up, and stepped off the end of the dock into the water with barely a splash.
From the first night I'd seen her she had fascinated me to the point of distraction. It was on a Lesbian Wine Tasting tour. When I asked around discretely to find who she was, no one knew. She wasn't part of the group. The next night at another special after-dark tasting there she was again, and from somewhere inside myself I plucked up enough nerve to take the spot next to her and strike up a conversation. She told me her name was Valencia and that she was originally from Europe, though she was coy about exactly where or when she’d moved to America. As we leaned closer into each other, locked in our own private bubble of conversation, she'd touched the small of my back with the hand not attending to her wine glass. The contact sent delectable shivers along my spine that pooled in my belly. The next night we blew off tasting and had dinner together instead, and by the dessert course her hand was up my skirt and teasing up the inside of my thighs. In my hotel room I spread my legs wide and let her taste me, because she'd been dropping little hints about that all night. It was so exquisite, her fingers and tongue playing me with expert precision until my knees were so wobbly I don't think they would've held me up if I'd tried to stand. But that hadn’t been the kind of tasting she’d meant.
One more time she'd asked if she could taste me. She asked if I trusted her, and I said yes.
It was too late to do anything about that now.
The dark closed in around me as twilight faded into true night. Without quite deciding to lay down I found myself stretched out on the dock, the rough wood pressed against my cheek, Valencia’s kiss still tingling against my lips like a promise. How long had she been gone? I felt too weak to get back up on my own and had no choice but to wait. I felt like I was dying all over again.
Even at the start it had hurt, a piercing pain that started where my neck and shoulder met and lanced straight down to my heart. I think… I think if I hadn't been so relaxed I would have tensed, it would have hurt more. Within seconds I couldn't move at all. The pain slowly faded, everything faded. Her body moved over mine and I couldn't see. Her lips slid over mine and she urged me to taste. It felt like I was falling and I was so scared, I did what she told me to because she was the only lifeline I had to grab onto. She told me to drink; I did. After that I didn't remember much.
It felt like hours before Valencia returned, hauling something nearly twice her size up the dockside ladder. She threw it down and I thought I saw it flinch weakly, but there was this smell. This intoxicating, rich, warm smell drifting from it on the cool salt breeze. Before I even knew what the thing was I began crawling towards it.
Valencia, dripping wet, helped me get to it. The thing was radiating heat and I felt so cold. She guided my hands to hold onto it and my mouth to a dark, dripping spot . The best thing I've ever tasted flowed over my tongue, down my throat. Then I could feel it trying to struggle. Useless little tremors that only made me grip harder, digging in with my teeth for better purchase. The more I drank, the more the pounding in my head subsided, and the stronger I began to feel. I began to feel… alive.
By the time I let go it had stopped moving and I knew what it was. I wiped my hand over my wet lips and it came away bloody in the moonlight. I licked my lips and it tasted divine.
“Did I just eat a seal?” I asked shakily. It hadn't occurred to me that I would like the taste so much, and the dead-fish smell might have made me feel sick to my stomach if the blood hadn't made me feel so sated and whole.
“Sea lion,” Valencia replied. She sat beside me, turned to let her legs hang off the side of the dock. “See the external ear flaps? Seals don't have those.”
I took a deep, slow breath and dropped my head into my hands. “Why?”
“Look.” She pointed out across the water and I looked up to see fin tips cutting through the choppy waves. It should have been too dark but even so, to my eyes it was as though the scene was bathed in daylight. “Blood is in the water. We take the blood but not the body.” She reached back and dragged it to the edge with one hand, effortlessly tipping it down into the water. “The sea will take it back. It's neater this way. Besides, starting you on other blood is better. It'll help you keep your head around humans, help keep you able to make your own choices.”
“No.” I shook my head, looking down at my blood soaked hands that I could see too well in the dark. They didn't even cast shadows sitting there on my lap. “Why did you this to— hic!”
My hand flew to my mouth before I had a chance to register the absurdity of manners at this point.
Valencia patted my shoulder. “It's okay, you just ate too fast. Everybody does the first few times.”
Another hiccup burst out and I couldn't help it; I giggled. My fingers were buzzing and the sudden lack of heavy pounding in my temples made my head feel as light as a balloon. Once the giggling nervous giggling started, though, I couldn’t stop. It just kept coming in between hiccups, and sounded more and more hysterical with each passing second. The taste in my mouth was blood. I had sucked the blood out of something until it died.
Then her arms were around me, rocking me back and forth.
“Why did you do this to me? I was a vegetarian for god's sake,” I gasped, and buried my face in her hair as I cried. Her hair smelled of salt, damp, and remaining hints of tea tree shampoo.
“You reminded me of someone.” Valencia held me tighter. “I won't say I'm sorry, because I’m not. I want you with me. But I'll take care of you, I promise. Just trust me.”
I didn't know if I could. But she was the only lifeline I had left to hold onto.