In the dead of night, love bites >>>>>[ Saturday Night/Sunday Morning; Callum and Lacey]<<<<<

I suggested using the taxi rank on Queen Street. It would avoid the awkward encounter when my mates finally piled out of Kebab Kid. We walked, arm in arm, along George Street, took a right onto Cornmarket and threaded our way through the night-time crowds. It wasn't yet midnight and most of the people on the streets were either going home early or would be spending at least an hour trying to get into clubs.

Cornmarket was like every high street in every big town in the country. All the familiar names were there, Virgin Megastore, HMV, Boots, WH Smith, Pret A Manger, Barclays. I'd swear that the only thing that changed from town to town was the order in which they appeared in the street. From George Street, going up Cornmarket, we passed St Michael's Street on the right, then Ship Street and Market Street on the left. My companion flicked nervous glances down these dimly lit streets, her fringe swaying as she turned her head.

"What's up?" I asked.

"You don't grow up in the East End without developing a little healthy paranoia," Lacey replied. She turned to face me and giggled. "But what do I have to worry about? Here I am with my big, strong knight-in-scuffed-black-leather to protect me." She laid a hand against my chest and pushed me back against the wall of Barclay's Bank. Her next kiss was simply breathtaking; I wimped it and had to disengage before I died of oxygen starvation.

We caught a cab to Cowley where Lacey had a small basement studio flat. Chez Lacey was a single, large-ish, square-ish room, the bulk of which was the living and sleeping area. I noticed a portable television and video; a CD/radio/tape player combo; a large sideboard cluttered with videos, cassettes, CD's, make-up and tattered paperbacks; a two-seater, somewhat worn, sofa; and, most interestingly, a queen-sized bed. Lacey didn't seem to be pathologically untidy, nor did she come across as a neurotic "neat-freak". I relaxed; she hadn't seen the bomb-site I called a living room. One corner had been walled off and converted into a small bathroom; not that there was a bath, just a shower and toilet. Arrayed against the wall opposite the bathroom was a kitchen, of sorts, comprising a small, round stainless steel sink, a work top and a two-ring electric cooker. This is what the letting agencies around Oxford would describe as a "self contained studio apartment, with excellent transport links" (i.e a Bus Stop outside) and charge a small fortune for. I wondered what she did for a living. It was a subject that hadn't come up earlier and I was intrigued as to the answer.

Cuddled up on the bed, the room dimly lit by the television in the corner, we chatted idly, getting to know each other outside of the high-pressure environment of a Saturday night in public. I told her about my job and what had happened with my ex-fiancee. It felt like I'd drowned the last six months of my life in alcohol. After that, there wasn't much to tell but Lacey reflexively tightened her embrace around me. She felt good snuggled up so close.

She was originally from London and had moved to Oxford only a month or so ago. I could tell there was a lot she was holding back but guessed that it wasn't my place to pry. We'd known each other less than six hours and, if there was going to be any mileage in our relationship (I flattered myself that we could actually have a long-term relationship), we would find out more about each other over the course of time.

Lacey played with my shirt buttons, popping a couple of them open and sliding her small, cool hand inside. Her sharp nails traced patterns across my chest, sending shivers down my spine.

"I'd get slapped if I tried a stunt like that with you," I said.

"That's something I really like about you, Cal. You've never once ogled down my cleavage or tried to touch me up. Unlike your creepy friend Mike. We talked for a couple of minutes while you were at the bar and his eyes never once left my chest. Ugh!" Lacey shuddered. "At least you looked me in the eyes. Anyway, who's to say I'd slap you if you tried touching me?"

I don't know much about the dynamics of male/female interactions but that was as blatant an invitation as I had ever heard. I moved my left hand from where it was resting comfortably on her bottom, tracing the curves of her figure until I cupped her right breast. Lacey breathed deeply and leaned close for a kiss. Her lips found mine, her tongue pushing deeply into my mouth, as her hand undid the last of my shirt buttons and tugged it free of my jeans. We undressed quickly and slipped under the thick duvet.

Lacey's skin was slightly cool to the touch but she seemed to warm up quickly, drawing her heat from my embrace. Her body arched towards mine and I took that as my signal, entering her smoothly. She clung tightly to me, her thighs locked against my hips as we moved together. She urged me on, encouraging me with little kisses and bites. Her nails dragged up and down my back and I knew she was close. So was I.

Lacey felt her orgasm building. Callum's thrusting deep inside her was so intense. She cried out and let herself go, the orgasm flooding through her slim body, leaving her shaking. Deep within her, she felt Callum come.

Lacey and I stayed locked together for a long while after that. Gasping for breath, I gazed down into deep, coffee-brown eyes. I brushed her unruly fringe away from her face and kissed her forehead, the tip of her nose, and her lips. As our mouths parted, she smiled contentedly. Oh, baby!

We moved apart. I took the damp spot on unspoken agreement.

"This is the part where you're supposed to roll over, break wind and fall asleep," Lacey said, resting her head on my shoulder.

"Not my style," I replied, remembering how my ex and I would always cuddle and chat in the afterglow.

"A real renaissance man," Lacey said. She seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. "Tell me, how did you feel when she left?"

"It felt like the world had ended. When I'm drunk, I can't feel it or remember it. I've been living in a beer glass ever since."

She propped herself up on one elbow and, with her free hand, started drawing patterns on my chest again. "That's not good for you but then you already know that. The only person you're hurting now is you." She looked deeply into my eyes. "Eventually, the pain you're feeling emotionally will become physical and you'll make yourself ill. I don't want you to do that. Put it behind you and move on, Callum."

Was she turning the knife deliberately? I wondered. I couldn't keep the bitterness out of my voice when I said: "What are you, some sort of pop psychologist?"

She noticed my tone and dug her nails into my stomach. "That's beneath you," she said heatedly. "But let's just say I have a firm grasp on human nature, and the nature of the particular human I have in front of me is not that of the wantonly self-destructive drunk I met in the Gloucester Arms. There are better ways of taking away the pain." Her hand drifted down over my stomach and her slim, skilful fingers began to work magic.

Lacey slipped on top of Callum, covering his face and chest with warm, wet kisses. His hands came up to caress her breasts, making her sigh. She moved slightly, impaling herself on him, leaning forward with her hands on his shoulders. Moving rhythmically, Lacey concentrated on bringing Callum pleasure. Soon she would be taking the ultimate pleasure from him. She felt him tense beneath her. Knowing he was close, she helped him sit up. Her movements slowed to a gentle grinding of her pelvis. He kissed her, his tongue brushing against her teeth.

Callum recoiled quickly, a look of shock in his eyes. Lacey looked down at him, smiling broadly, the dim light emphasising her extended canine teeth. "Shhhh. This won't hurt a bit," Lacey said. She locked him tightly in her arms and lowered her mouth to his neck. Her fangs penetrated the soft flesh and she drank deeply, Callum's hot blood - enriched with a mixture of alcohol and the endorphins released by their lovemaking - flooded into her.

She had lied, of course. Fire raced through my body as Lacey bit into my neck. There was a brief moment of intense pain, lighting every nerve ending. As the pain receded, the next effect was a deep, warm sensation, rather like a hot bath, flooding through my muscles and bones. Then I came, deep within her, the blue flash of my orgasm magnified ten times by the pleasure released by Lacey's bite. She shuddered with the force of her own climax.

Callum collapsed away from Lacey, his head hitting the pillows. Lacey licked the last traces of his blood from her lips and reached for a tissue on the bedside cabinet. With this she tended the bite mark she'd left on his throat. By morning there would be a purple bruise, looking like a large love bite. Which, in a way, it was. Callum was breathing deeply and steadily, already fast asleep. With a satisfied sigh, Lacey lay down next to him.