After Twilight - By Amanda Ashley

Part 1 Chapter One

Los Angeles, 1993

He was a very old vampire, weary of living, weary of coming alive only in the darkness of the night.

For three hundred years he had wandered the unending road of his life alone, his existence maintained at the expense of others, until the advent of blood banks made it possible to satisfy his hunger without preying on the innocent and unsuspecting.

And yet, there were times, as now, when the need to draw warm blood from a living, breathing soul was overpowering.

He stood in the shadows outside the Ahmanson, watching groups of happy, well-dressed people exit the theater. He listened to snatches of their conversation as they discussed the play. He'd seen the show numerous times; perhaps, he thought wryly, because he could so easily sympathize with the Phantom of the Opera. Like Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's tragic hero, he, too, was forced to live in the shadows, never to walk in the warmth of the summer sun, never able to disclose his true identity.

And so he stood on the outskirts of mortality, breathing in the fragrance of the warm-blooded creatures who passed him by. They hurried along, blissfully unaware that a monster was watching, drinking in the myriad smells of their humanity, sensing their happiness, their sorrows, their deepest fears.

He waited until the crowds had thinned, and then he began to follow one of the numerous street beggars who had been hustling the theater patrons. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless men roaming the streets of Los Angeles. On any given night you could find a dozen or so lingering outside the Ahmanson, hoping for a handout that would buy them a bottle and a few hours of forgetfulness.

A faint grimace played over his lips as he drew near his prey.

After tonight there would be one less beggar haunting Hope Street.
Part 1 Chapter Two
He was there again, standing on the corner, his long angular face bathed in the hazy glow of the streetlight.

Leanne felt his hooded gaze move over her as she left the side entrance and made her way toward the parking lot across the street. Behind her, she could hear the excitement build as Davis Gaines, who many considered to be L.A.'s best Phantom, appeared at the stage door to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

She was unlocking the car door when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Startled, she whirled around.

It was him. Up close, he was even more handsome than she had thought. His face was made up of sharp planes and angles, totally masculine, totally mesmerizing. His hair was black and straight and fell well past his shoulders. His eyes were an intense shade of blue, and as her gaze met his, she knew she had been waiting a lifetime for this moment, this man.

"I didn't mean to frighten you," he said in a deep, resonant voice. He held out a theater program. "I was hoping you'd sign this for me."

Leanne smiled. "Why would you want my autograph? I'm only in the chorus."

"But you have such a lovely voice."

She laughed softly. "You must have excellent hearing, to pick my voice out of dozens of others."

His smile was devastating. "My hearing is quite good for a man of my age."

Leanne's gaze moved over him curiously. She didn't know how old he was, of course, but he didn't look to be much more than thirty at most.

He offered her a pen, one brow raised in question.

"Who should I make it out to?" Leanne asked.

"Jason Blackthorne."

"Blackthorne." She gazed up at him intently. "Why does that name sound so familiar to me?"

"Does it?"

She nodded, then took the pen from his hand. He read the inscription over her shoulder:

"To Jason, May you always have someone to love, and someone to love you. Leanne"

He felt a catch at his heart. Someone to love? Jolene. Leanne's resemblance to his first and only love was uncanny.

He smiled his thanks as she handed him the program, his gaze moving over her face, lingering on her mouth before moving to the pulse that beat in her throat. She was small, petite, with skin that looked as though it rarely saw the sun, hair the color of sun-kissed earth, and luminous green eyes fringed with dark lashes. She wore a Phantom sweatshirt, a pair of black tights that clung to her shapely legs like a second skin, and sneakers.

Jason clenched his hands at his sides as he fought the urge to take her into his arms, to