So, this is Fletcher Ross’s story. Of love, loss, and hatred. So, if you’re game, read up on our favorite team leader and learn why he hates the vampires, how he came to be FPD, and the secrets he keeps in his heart.
She looked gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. I’d asked her to dress nicely for our date tonight, but this exceeded any of my wildest fantasies. Her black dress was cut in a flattering formfitting style. The hem of the dress didn’t quite reach her knees, the jagged edges playing hide-and-reveal with her thighs. Spaghetti straps showed off her nicely tanned shoulders to perfection and the sweetheart neckline of the dress framed a beautiful ruby necklace.
I knew her father had given her the necklace on her twenty-first birthday. Just as I knew her younger sister had picked out the strappy black three-inch heels she wore with pride. Her ruby earrings matched her necklace and were a gift from her mother. Sofia’s family was important to her, and she was very close to all of them.
She’d grown up in a small town complete with Sunday BBQ dinners and Fridays in the local Wal*Mart parking lot, just because there wasn’t anywhere else to go. She’d attended the same high school as her parents before her, and her sister after her. The only reason she’d left was a college education.
My gaze roamed over her body, but finally came to rest on her face. Long auburn locks framed her lovely tan skin. Her hair wasn’t straight, but it wasn’t really curly either. Rather, the auburn mess was that almost perfectly in between stage. Tonight, she’d pulled it up in a carefully styled artwork of falling pieces just barely held in place with unseen pins. Hazel eyes framed by almost invisible auburn eyelashes showed her joy at seeing me. I knew, whole-heartedly and completely, that I could never live without her.
“Fletcher!” she called as she saw me at the bottom of the stairs in her apartment building. I was standing in the entry, waiting for her.
“Sophia,” I replied, moving to embrace her. She molded willingly into my tight embrace. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, will you tell me where we’re going now?” she asked with mock sternness. Sophia loved surprises, and she loved romantic gestures. She loved candlelight dinners and picnics in the park and flowers for Valentine’s Day. I would never have considered myself a romantic. I was logical, controlled, and reserved. But for Sophia, I’d found in myself many things I never realized were there.
“Of course not,” I answered, smiling at her. “It’s a surprise. Let’s go.” She gave me a pout, completely ruined by the happiness dancing in her hazel eyes. I took her hand in mine, interlacing our fingers, and led her towards the door.
I opened the passenger side door of my car and held it as she climbed inside. When she’d sat down and pulled the edge of her dress into my steel colored BMW, I closed her door and went around to my side of the car. I started the engine, and we were off.
On the way to my very special surprise, Sophia told me all her news. We’d talked only last night in person, and this afternoon on the phone, but Sophia could always find more to talk about. Sophia was the manager for a children’s clothing store in the mall. She loved her job and the children she interacted with on a daily basis. Someday, she’d make a great mom and she wanted at least four kids of her own.
I responded to her questions and stories, and even telling her about my own day. Mostly, I did deskwork at the CIA’s head office in Langley. I aspired to something more, but everyone must pay their dues at first. For now, my days were filled with paper shuffling and data analyzing.
The restaurant I’d chosen for this most special of nights was Italian, her favorite. Inside, the decor boasted everything stereotypical of this kind of date. Small, round tables with white table clothes and elegantly rolled up napkins, too much silverware, and crystal glasses. A white rose in a bud vase sat at the back edge of the table, out of the way but still beautiful.
A maître d’ in a black suit and white shirt took my name and found the reservation I’d made over a month earlier. This restaurant wasn’t the kind easily accessible to the average walk-in. When we went through the doors and into the main dining room, I saw that my own tailored suit was among the lower-end compared to some of the others in the room. I saw tuxes worth thousands of dollars as well as several of the typical expensive ‘little black dresses’ with more diamonds than I could count.
The maître d’ pulled out Sophia’s chair and seated her gracefully. She loved the attention, thanking him and beaming at me. Our waiter wasn’t far behind, filling the crystal water glasses and handing us menus, hers first of course. He asked if we wanted anything else to drink, but we both declined. Tonight wasn’t a wine night, because I needed to be completely clear headed to make this the most perfect night of her life.
Dinner went spectacularly and as we walked out of the restaurant hand-in-hand, Sophia leaned up and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek. She was still smiling happily.
“Oh, Fletcher, that was amazing,” she whispered. I took my hand from hers and wrapped my arm around her waist, pulling her close. She smelled like roses.
“It’s not over yet,” I whispered back as we walked down the front steps of the restaurant. Instead of leading her back to the car, I started down the street at a slow casual pace. I knew to shorten my stride due to her shorter frame and higher heels. After dating for almost eighteen months, the short stride was becoming almost as natural for me as my original longer one.
“Where are we going?” she asked. Looking down at her, I almost got lost in her beautiful eyes. I had to right myself before I lost my balance and completely embarrassed myself, ruining the perfection of the evening so far.
“You’ll see,” I answered. I know my smile must have been a little silly, but I couldn’t help it. She just affected me that way. We walked in silence for a few minutes, but it wasn’t uncomfortable silence. Both of us were happy just to be together, doing something.
I turned her into a small garden just a few blocks away from the restaurant. The garden was a little known attraction in the big city, but I’d done my research. When we first stepped inside, the many tiny white lights illuminated a scene out of a chick-flick. A large willow tree grew in the middle of the garden. Roses, lilies, and many other flowers I had no name for grew in patches around the tree. I can’t exactly say what the pattern was, but there was something to the arrangement that was just stunning.
Sophia’s soft gasp was all the confirmation I needed. This was the perfect place.
I followed Sophia around the garden, just admiring. She led me, flitting from patch to patch, oohing and ahhing over all the flowers. Sophia loved flowers. Her father was a florist in her home town and she’d wanted to follow him into the family business after she had some outside experience. Now, her delighted laughter was music to my ears, and I was lost in the moment.
When we’d made the circuit of the garden, I took her hand and led her gently to the base of the willow tree. The branches had been cut to form a sort of door that led under the tree’s draping leaves. Once underneath, the world outside seemed to disappear. Sophia walked to the trunk of the tree, touching its bark gently. I heard her soft sigh.
“Fletcher, it’s beautiful,” she whispered, turning to face me.
What she saw, stopped her mid thought. I was kneeling, framed by the soft light coming in the makeshift door. In my hands, I held a small black box. While she gaped at me in wonder, I reached out for her hand. She stepped forward as I tugged gently on her hand, bringing her closer to me.
“Sophia Hartman, will you marry me?” I asked, looking up into her shining hazel eyes.
The silence stretched, but I wasn’t worried. The shock showed in her face. But there was no tension in her, just the shocked amazement. Her beautiful eyes filled with tears.
“Yes,” she finally whispered hoarsely. Then, more strongly. “Yes, I will marry you, Fletcher Ross.”
I pulled the ring out of the black box, setting the box on the ground in front of me. The ring was gold and set with three diamonds. The largest was in the middle with the two smaller but no less stunning jewels on either side. I slid the ring onto her left ring finger, watching her face the entire time.
She was watching my hands slid the ring onto her finger. When it was in place, she pulled her hand up closer to her face, examining the ring. She wiggled her fingers in that way a woman will do when she’s showing off a sparkly ring. Her whole face lit up.
Something deep in my gut clenched at the sight of her lovely face and that ring on her finger. Some primitive part of my brain screamed Mine! Mine forever!
I stood up, pulling her into my arms, and kissed her.
She was late, which had ceased to surprise me a year and a half ago after about three dates. So I just stood in the lobby and waited, a single long stemmed rose in my hand. Sophia loved roses, especially with the thorns still on. She said women were like roses: beautiful but with a bite. And my Sophia was sure beautiful. It only took me closing my eyes and her face swam up through the darkness. Long auburn locks framed her lovely tan skin. Her hair wasn’t straight, but it wasn’t really curly either. Rather, the auburn mess was that almost perfectly in between stage. Hazel eyes framed by almost invisible auburn eyelashes above a petite nose and full, kissable lips.
But however much I was used to my fiancé’s lingering ways, this was a little much. She was half an hour late, and I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong. So I took the steps two at a time up to the second floor. Her apartment was the third one on the left, and I stopped in front of the closed door to knock.
A scream pierced the air.
Fumbling with the rose in my hand, I pulled out my keys and unlocked the door as fast as I could. Thank goodness I’d talked Sophia into giving me her extra key last week or else I’d be busting the door down right now. And I was CIA, I knew how.
Rushing into the apartment, I scanned the living room to find nothing amiss. Scuffling came from the bedroom, and I sprinted towards it. Her giant bed dominated her bedroom and clothes covered every surface, but that wasn’t really my focus. Sophia wasn’t in the room, so I went for the bathroom.
The man had his back to the door, crowding my beautiful fiancé into the space between the sink and the toilet. She was already dressed, and the sparkling blue number caught the lights even as the man launched towards her. Sophia screamed again, backing into the wall; but she couldn’t get far enough away from her attacker.
I jumped forward, dropping the rose from my fingers, and punching the man in the back. He didn’t stumble, or even acknowledge that I was there. Instead, he buried his face in her neck and I caught the flash of fang. Oh, great, a vampire. They’d been on the news, but I’ve never seen one in person. But I wrapped my arms around his neck and tried to pull him off of Sophia, even as she slumped into him.
My hands wrapped around the bloodsucker’s neck; but, in my haste, I’d forgotten that they don’t have to breathe. So choking him wasn’t stopping him from drinking her down. I could actually feel the gulping of his throat through my fingers and knew that I was feeling Sophia’s life drain away.
“Let go!” I snarled into his back, bracing my feet on the floor and pulling. He wouldn’t budge. I let out a yell as I pulled, hard, once more and put everything I had into getting the monster off of my fiancé.
The vampire whirled, throwing me back against the white tile wall on the other side of the room. I slumped down to the floor, smashing my head into the rim of the bathtub. The blood ran freely across my forehead and I was worried the vampire could smell it. But if he came after me, he’d leave Sophia alone. That was worth all the blood in my body.
I looked up to find the vampire had Sophia by the throat up against the wall, but he wasn’t drinking anymore. Bright red rivulets of blood flowed down her neck and into the neckline of her torn dress. Scrambling to my feet, I almost pitched straight onto my face but managed at the last second to brace against the wall. I stepped forward, trying to keep my eyes from blacking out.
“Leave her alone!” I shouted. The vampire’s chilling laugh echoed through the white tiled bathroom, bouncing off the walls. In the mirror over the sink, his form was fuzzy and almost transparent. Not completely gone, but not really there either. But Sophia’s pale face and closed eyes were enough horror for any one mirror to reflect.
“She’s already dead.” The voice of the monster was pleasant and warm, the kind of voice perfect for commercials and announcing dance competitions. Two more steps brought me within punching distance. I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I knew that there was no way I could bring him down, but I needed him away from Sophia’s increasingly blood covered neck.
The vampire threw her at me. Bracing, I only just managed to keep us both from crashing to the floor by sinking to my knees with her additional weight. Looking up, I saw the vampire leave the room. He didn’t even bother to use that incredible speed they are so well known for. Instead, he sauntered away like draining and strangling a young woman were no big deal.
I looked back down at the woman in my arms and realized that the vampire was right. She was already gone. With a desperate shout, I laid her out on the tile floor and started with chest compressions. When I put my lips to hers, trying to force oxygen into her starving lungs, I could taste her blood, tangy and metallic. Pumping on her chest once more, I felt one of her ribs give under my insistent fingers. I’d spend the next year apologizing everyday for that, if she’d just live.
“Sophia, come on, baby, breathe,” I coaxed, forcing air into her lungs once more.
“Please, baby, don’t leave me.”
But it wasn’t going to work, and I knew that. Still, I forced air into her lungs, forced her heart to circulate blood. Even as I did, more seeped from her neck across the white tiles of the bathroom floor. Her rose lay just beyond her head, the blood slowly seeping around its pedals. The flower was the same color as her blood against the stark white tiles. Several pedals lay scattered around the thorny stem like the drops of blood around my Sophia’s body.
She was gone, and she’d never admire the blood red rose again.