February 21st: Strange romance
Full Moon Kiss
, by Wendell Mitchell

James Mitchell awoke wondering if the previous night had all been a dream. It had to have been.

Who gets beat up by a girl’s bodyguard only to wake up in her bed the next morning?

But as he looked around the room, he realized that even if that had been a dream, he was definitely not in his bed.

Yawning, he realized he had never felt this refreshed in his life; or this energetic. The urge to burn that energy carried him from bed to floor where he scooped up his clothes and dressed quickly.

Five minutes later, he was outside shadow boxing. Suddenly, he felt a familiar presence and could not help but smile.

“Nice night for a spar. I mean, we could look at the stars if you want, but I know you’d rather continue where we left off.”

“I see we can agree on something.” A man stepped out of the shadows and into the small circle of light cast by the lamppost.

Lawrence had the slim, unassuming physique of a high school guidance counselor. That was probably his greatest asset as Johari’s bodyguard.

James had learned the hard way just how capable the man was when a misunderstanding the previous night led to Lawrence knocking him unconscious.

“You smell different.”

“Give me a break, I haven’t had a shower yet.”

“She kissed you, didn’t she?”

“A gentleman never kisses and tell.”

They both assumed fighting stances. James rushed forward and if Lawrence had planned to treat him with the same regard as their first fight, he quickly changed the man’s mind. Most of his punches missed but each one got closer to the mark.

Lawrence landed the first blow—a short hook to the jaw—but James did not appear to be affected.

James then lunged at him and he had to block the ensuing punch. The force was enough to knock him off balance.

Keeping up the pressure, James swatted Lawrence’s foot downwards and aimed a punch at Lawrence’s ribs.

Twisting his torso and sliding his foot slightly, Lawrence simultaneously avoided the blow and put his next attack in range.

Unfortunately for him, James had somehow gotten faster and what may have been a knockout punch barely grazed his chin.

James dove at Lawrence’s legs and he backpedaled. He barely got his arms up when James suddenly leaped into the air and shot a foot at his chest.

Again, the sheer power behind the attack was enough to do damage. Lawrence stumbled back several steps before he could regain his balance.

James punches seemed twice or even three times faster than he had thrown in their previous encounter. If Lawrence was still holding back, James intended to make him pay and did so with a knee that found its mark on his stomach.
Lawrence responded with a teeth-rattling uppercut but James simply bear hugged him and slammed him to the ground.

James rose to one knee and watched his opponent struggle to get off the ground.

“What happened?”

Both men looked to see Johari standing on her patio.

“I wanted my rematch.”

“What am I going to do with you two?”

Another sunset greeted James and once again, he felt better than ever. Unlike his first fight with Lawrence, he felt ready to take on the world in a battle royale. It was as if every single cell of his body hummed with renewed energy.
He smiled as he realized once again he was not dreaming and was still in Johari’s bedroom.

To add to that feeling, he could practically taste the delicious smells tickling his nose.

“Something smells good.”

As he entered the kitchen, time seemed to slow then grind to a halt as his eyes swept pass the gorgeous woman sitting at the table and to the strangely uniformed man standing at the stove cooking his favorite breakfast.

“Uncle June?” The words did not feel like his and they hung in the air for a moment. It was then he noticed how annoyed Johari seemed by the situation. Even so, he could not help but notice how good the tank top and blue jeans looked on her.

“Sit down and eat.”

“Yes sir.” He took the seat nearest Johari. “I’m trying to think how I can ask this politely but what the heck is going on?”

“I’ll explain in a minute. How do you feel?”

“Other than embarrassed and confused, pretty good actually.” His uncle shook his head.

“Your lady friend here tells me you beat up her Servant.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I know you don’t like me having street fights. If it makes you feel any better, he challenged me and he’s a professional.”

“Do you realize How long you’ve been here?”

“Guy hangs out with his girl for a weekend and you go into over protective mode. Kinda sweet actually. What’s with the uniform?”

Uncle June eyeballed Johari and she folded her arms and rolled her eyes at him.

“Should I tell him or do you want to?” Johari shrugged her shoulders. “You, my knuckleheaded nephew have been here for twelve days.”

“Stop playing.” Uncle June slid him his cell phone for verification. “Seriously? How is that even possible? Was I in a coma?”

“Stop being a drama queen.”

“What about work? Did anyone ask why I took two weeks’ worth of personal time off without calling in?”

“Don’t worry about it. I called in for you. Told your boss you had a horrible rash.”

“Sometimes I hate you so very much.” He looked over at Johari. “Why are you so quiet?” She tilted her head towards his uncle.

“There’s something you need to know about her.”

“Oh God, I knew it! A guy like me does not get a girl like this without some sort of horrible, horrible Lifetime Movie twist.” He took a deep breath and steadied himself. “Okay, do your worst, unc. I can handle it.”

“Let me stop you there before you say something stupid and insult the young lady. Even though you’ll never guess what I’m going to tell you, I’ll give you a hint anyway. Feel your neck.”

He did as instructed and felt two small bumps where he distinctively recalled Johari biting him.

“What are you trying to tell me, Johari’s a vampire?” A moment later, James was looking up at Johari from the floor. As he touched his face he saw her apologetic face.

“Oh God! James, I’m so sorry. It’s just…” She hauled him to his feet effortlessly.

“Rukia,” Uncle June corrected with a shake of his head. “Told you you wouldn’t guess it right. You never listen to me.”

“Roo, what now?”

“Roo-key-ah. They hate being called vampires. Very insulting.”

“Yeah, tell me that after she breaks my jaw. I think she knocked one of my wisdom teeth loose.” He directed his attention to Johari. “You bit me!”

“I didn’t hear you complain.”

“That’s because I didn’t know you were putting holes in my neck with your teeth. What’s going to happen to me?”

“We’ll talk about it in a few. I left some clothes in her bathroom for you. Go get changed.”

“I rather go back to bed.”

Ten minutes later, James completed his shower and reached in the general direction of where his towel should have been. Feeling nothing, he reached out again and was met by the wall.

Thinking it must have fallen off the rack he wiped the excess water from his eyes and stepped out of the tub.

“Is my Servant all fresh and clean?” Her voice was sickeningly sweet and he nearly slipped on the water that had since formed a puddle on the slick tile.

“Hurry up and get dressed.”

James felt his stomach clenched and he took the towel from her. He noted the way she lifted her eyebrows slightly, considered addressing the gesture, but ignored that impulse in favor of a different remark.

“I know the world has gone crazy and I’m supposed to, I don’t know, belong to you now, but could we wait until I’m dry before you start ordering me around?”

“You don’t have to be so unreasonable about it.” She folded her arms over her chest and momentarily drew his eyes to it.

“Unreasonable? Says the woman standing in my bathroom calling me her Servant. You’re right, I’m the bad guy here and I deserve to be punished.”

“That you do.” She gave him a wicked grin that faded as quickly as it had appeared. “Your uncle is ready to start talking to us. He thinks you might be defective.”

“I don’t have words. Can I at least get dressed first?”

“I don’t mind.”

“I do.”

“Do I make you uncomfortable?”

“If I told you yes, would you leave?”

“No.”

“Yeah, I thought so.”

James sighed and reached for the clothes hanger holding his clothes on the back of the door.

Five minutes later, he and Johari were back at the breakfast table.

“Okay kids, story time.” Uncle June sat between the two younger people.

“Yay.”

“Johari, have you ever heard of Repudium?”

“Vaguely. Something about an immunity to being turned into a Servant. Pretty sure my dad told me all the carriers died out.”

“True, but in the last few decades, just before the last member of the family that naturally carried Repudium died, experiments were conducted to replicate that immunity. Most of them failed. A few had some degree of success.”

“James?”

“Not exactly. Apparently before James was born, his father was part of one of the final test groups. My little brother became a carrier of the trait but never developed any of the abilities. But it seems he passed it down to James.”

“It seems? What do you mean, it seems?”

“Every time you got a shot or had to give blood after you hit puberty, a certain organization ran additional tests for that trait. Every test returned negative until two years ago. From what I understand, the trait spontaneously manifested. That was remarkable enough. But then they ran tests and found out that their research subjects were severely weakened when given a sample of your blood. No one knew because the lab in charge thought it was best to leave everyone in the dark until they were sure your blood was the real deal.”

“So I’ve had an anti-Servant gene in me for the last two years?”

“Technically you’ve had it your whole life, but yes. Certain events were controlled to make sure the two of you met. That’s the only reason she was able to get close to you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“When the head of another organization found out that James had the trait, he decided he would conduct an experiment. I don’t have all the facts yet, but I think he wanted to get James close enough to you to see if and how the Repudium worked. If it worked on you, it definitely would work against Nyota.”

“What’s a Nyota?”

“For all intents and purposes, a vampire. Now stop interrupting.”

“Who’s been watching me? How do they know about me?”

“I’m not one hundred percent certain of all the details yet.”

“Sorry to interrupt again, but what about this Repudium thing?”

“I won’t bore you with the science behind it all, but basically Repudium keeps Rukia or Nyota from bonding with a human. The Repudium flowing through you is not working the way it should. You weren’t supposed to get stronger, she was supposed to get weaker. If you get stronger, you should be bound to her.”

“You’re losing me here Unc.”

“Johari, order him to do something.”

“I already tried in the bathroom.”

“And…”

“Obviously he’s broken.”

“I’m sitting right here.”

“The Repudium in your blood, it’s rejecting her influence as it was designed to do. But you weren’t supposed to get stronger. I have someone running test on you as we speak. You’re still technically a normal human so the strength and speed you’ve acquired will eventually become too much for your body to handle. You’re still high off her kiss, but since you haven’t become a Servant, it could take a year or even two, but you could die from this.”

“Hold up unc. We went from getting weaker to straight up dying?”

“That’s how these pacts work. Survival of the fittest transcends race. Unfortunately for us humans, more often than not, our genetics are inferior. Our genome treats an incompatible blood pact like a mutation and will mimic any number of genetic disorders. Even if it doesn’t kill you, you can still end up with all the symptoms of muscular dystrophy. The only way to stop things from progressing that far is to force your bond to take.”

“There’s a catch isn’t there?”

“You have to survive twelve of her kisses.”

“Kisses? You mean she has to bite me eleven more times?”

“You should be honored that I chose you as my first.”

“What an honor. That makes everything a ok.”

“It gets better. The recovery time after each kiss is longer and more painful than the last.”

“Good thing I get punched in the face for a living or this would suck even more.”

“He had a much better attitude when we first met.”

“You’re right. I’m overreacting. It’s not like I might die or anything. Oh wait, that’s exactly what could happen.”
James buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry. There’s no way you knew this would happen. We’ll get through this together.”

“See, that’s why I chose you in the first place.” She touched his hand and he could not help but feel a sense of comfort.

“Nice to see that you two can kiss and make up so quickly. There might be a lot of that over the next year.”

“Not that I want to get rid of Johari or anything, but why so long? Can’t she bite me like once a week and we be done before the end of summer and I can be normal again?”

“Like you were ever normal.”

“Says the woman with fangs and super strength.”

“Children. We could speed up the process, but that might kill you quicker.”

“Is it just me, or does every scenario end with me dead?”

“Pretty much.”

“Glad to see you so calm .”

“It helps me think better.” Uncle June looked back to Johari. “In any event, if it’s not too much of an inconvenience, I need you to be close by every full moon.”

“Okay, getting lost again.”

“Rukia only need to feed once a month. They usually time it for a full moon because their blood lust is at its peak. She is fully capable of feeding multiple times a month if she wants to, which is why I said we could speed it up. But it takes time for those nutrients to build back in your blood. You let her feed too often and you deplete the nutrients too fast. And that of course leads to you dying.”

“I’m okay with it if James is.”

“Safe to assume that I have no say in the matter.”

“I think I can get used to this arrangement.”

Johari gave his hand a squeeze. He looked at her wearily.

“I’m going back to bed.”

The full moon was three days away the morning he awoke to find Johari snuggled against him.

Over the course of the last few weeks, James and Johari had settled into a fairly normal and admittedly enjoyable routine. At the end of the day he was basically dating a princess.

Uncle June had monopolized most of his time with various medical tests and drills to test his new abilities, but for the better part of the past week, he and Johari had shared a bed. They had done little more than cuddle but he was content.

Unfortunately, that and her genuine if perhaps twisted affection for him did not erase the fact that she was a dangerous super-human capable of overpowering him and puncturing his neck with her teeth.

According to his uncle, she would do exactly that if he was not ready to let her feed from her in a few days.
But that seemed so foreign to the woman that shared his interest in the martial arts and mid ’90s R&B music. He could not remember a real life person making him smile as much as Johari did on a constant basis.

If his uncle had not practically spelled out her lineage to him, James would have sworn she was just an ordinary college student that probably worked at the college book store and spent way too much time on her cell phone.
As it stood, she could probably buy the top professional mixed martial arts company and name him Champion Emeritus, without batting a single beautiful eyelash.

As he pulled Johari closer to his body, he realized he only had two concerns about the new direction his life had taken.

The first, and most obvious, was that he had no idea how much Johari really liked him as a person. Was there something really there or was she just being nice to her all you can eat buffet?

Despite the sneaky way she had gone about trying to turn him into her Servant, he still was madly in love with him. That was something he was sure of since the tests had continued to prove he was still human.

His second concern was that his only real concern was the first concern. Worrying about whether the girl you liked liked you back was normal. Being thrust into a world where that same impossibly beautiful woman that bit you and gave you super powers was definitely not.

“It’s okay if you kiss me. I won’t get mad.” Her words shocked him out of his reverie.

“You’re awake?”

“I don’t do much sleeping at night. Your master said you could kiss her.”

“As you wish.” He leaned in and she pushed his head down to kiss him on the forehead. She kept her lips close to his head.

“I know things are weird right now. But I want us to make this work.”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

“Not now. I hear your uncle coming. We’ll talk when you’re done.”

“Okay.”

Try not to lose too much blood.”

“Yes mistress.”

It was nearly eleven pm when James had recovered from his latest “check-up” and now he nervously enjoyed Johari’s company on the front porch.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Us. This would be so easy if you weren’t defective.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s such a cliché. Princess and Servant. Forbidden romance.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you like me?”

“Of course I do you idiot. I wouldn’t have tried to make you my Servant if I didn’t. What I’m trying to tell you is I might, like you a lot.”

“Really? How much is a lot? I’m just trying to compare notes here.” He smiled at her and touched her face. “Because I like you a lot too if that was obvious from the first time I saw you.”

“Maybe just enough.” She leaned in to kiss him.

“Just enough for what?”

“Nyota.” The word came out as a hiss and caught James off guard. Johari’s usually serene face was twisted in a mask of fury.

He scanned the yard and suddenly four people were in front of them. As James stood up, he felt a sense of excitement rush over him when he looked at the lone male of the group.

James then noticed how Johari stared murderously at the shortest member of the quartet.

“Hey rich girl. Did you get a new servant? Bet he tastes delicious.”

“Touch him and die!”

“Just one little nibble.”

“Now, now Vanity,” chastised a second woman. James admired the woman’s olive complexion and the way her curls looked like corkscrews.

“We are here simply to talk. Miss Johari would you be willing to come with us?”

“I’m afraid that’s not an option Seniorita De La Luna.” All eyes fell on Uncle June as he appeared just as out of nowhere as the four strangers had.

“Have we met?””

“We haven’t had the pleasure.” Uncle June took one of De La Luna’s hands and kissed it. “Your father and I have history though.”

“Why are we still talking?” The male of the group approached Johari. “Let’s just take her.”

James immediately stepped in his path.

“I have a feeling that you and I are going to have to resort to violence. Ready whenever you are.”

The man backhanded James and nearly lifted him off his feet. Uncle June caught him.

“I see the brief window for diplomacy has been closed. Vanity, please grab her. Malcolm, make sure neither of the men interferes.”

“Finally.”

Vanity cracked her knuckles but Johari struck first and sent the smaller woman back peddling with a punch.

“Let me see your real face.”

Vanity obliged and her face became a monstrous mask of wrinkled skin and sharp teeth.

“Oh, so that’s what a Nyota looks like.” James and Uncle June looked away from the women to see Malcolm watching them.

Johari’s and Vanity’s missed punches splintered the wooden railing that surrounded the area where the porch swing set.

“Ladies, can we try not to break my house please?”

“Sure, Uncle June.” Johari grabbed Vanity and threw her into the front yard.

Malcolm approached Uncle June and James.

“Let’s try this again.”

Without actually seeing Malcolm’s attack, James avoided it and countered with a hard hooking punch to the ribs.
The taller man was stunned but recovered quickly enough to intercept James’ next punch then knee him in the stomach.

James looked up to see his uncle block a punch with his wrist. A cloud of blue powder plumed from the impact and Malcolm suddenly fell to his knees temporarily subdued by violent coughing.

“Interesting. Chastity, please help them.”

The tallest woman nodded and was at Johari’s back a second later.

Chastity grabbed Johari from behind and Vanity hit Johari in the face and stomach with two punches.

“Go to sleep little rich girl.”

Uncle June shoulder tackled Vanity a moment before James grabbed Chastity in a full nelson. Johari stumbled a few steps away from the quartet to regain her composure.

“Hey kiddo, looked like you could use some help.” Uncle June flicked Chastity on the forehead and released a second blue cloud. James relinquished his hold on the woman as she began coughing just as violently as Malcolm had. “That was my last one. I know he ain’t much to look at, but I need you to come over here and give James a kiss. I promise I won’t look.”

“What did you do old man?”

“But Uncle June…”

“The only butt you should be worried about is yours getting over here and kissing my goofy nephew. I might need him.”

“Don’t ignore me old dude! You like kissing so much, come over her so I can give you one.” She rushed forward and Uncle June took a defensive posture.

Suddenly, James felt a presence behind him and he turned to find a very angry Malcolm heading his way.

As he watched the taller man approach at a methodical pace, James suddenly felt a sharp pain in his neck. His eyes shut for a moment as the pain was replaced by euphoria. His relinquished his hold on Chastity as the sensation spread through him.

Malcolm slugged James in the jaw and James collapsed to the ground in a similar manner to a punch drunk fighter.
Despite the force of his impact, James did not feel the fall. It barely registered in his mind; Johari’s kiss was front and center.

He sat up and let out the sort of uncontrolled laugh that momentarily left a person breathless.

Malcolm kicked at him and James punched his foot. James rose back to his feet as the other man took a step back and eased into a fighting stance.

“A minute ago, I wouldn’t have been able to see that kick. Or that punch you knocked me down with. By the way, no fair hitting before the bell rings. It’s bad enough I’m a slow starter. But I’m ready for round two if you are. Ding, ding.”

Malcolm barely parried the next punch James threw at him. Both men were off balance and James barely missed landing a kick.

After closing the distance, Malcolm landed another hard blow that would have dimmed the lights of a normal man but James kept pushing through.

Lips bloodied and left eye nearly swollen shut, James knew the smile on his face was completely incongruent to the situation.

James slipped past a punch and hammered a left hook into Malcolm’s ribs. Malcolm stumbled backwards as James rushed forward. The taller man caught his balance and blocked the kick James aimed at his head. Even as Malcolm tried to push him away, James clinched the back of Malcolm’s head with both hands and yanked the head forward as Malcolm pushed.

Malcolm lashed out blindly after James smashed his knee into Malcolm’s jaw.

James easily avoided the haymaker by going low and wrapping his arms around Malcolm’s knees. James then lifted, twisted then drove Malcolm into the ground as hard as he could. He mounted Malcolm and punched him in the face.
Malcolm involuntarily turned his head to the side and two elbows to the temple removed him from the conscious world.

Chastity ran towards the men as James stood, looked up, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.

When he opened his eyes again, he saw Johari and Elisa standing next to Uncle June. Vanity was slung across his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

“Put me down!” Uncle June complied and set her down feet first. The woman retreated to Elisa’s side and eyed him hatefully.

“That was pretty impressive,” Johari complimented as James walked to her.

“Thanks,” he replied then lost his balance. Johari caught him and lowered him to the ground slowly.

“You’re still bleeding. Are you okay?” He simply pulled her into a tight hug and rested his chin against her shoulder.

“Couldn’t be better. Can we do this every full moon?”

“So you still want to be my Servant?”

“You couldn’t pay me not to. One question though.”

“Yes?”

“You bit me again, didn’t you?”

She lifted his chin and kissed him on the lips.

“I can get used to that.”

*

Wendell Mitchell is probably the strongest writer in the world according to his two beautiful little girls. In addition to writing short stories, you can find him working on screenplays, novels (1 complete, 2 almost there), giving love advice, and scouring Craigslist for inspiration. If he can sell just one novel this year, it may help lower the unemployment rate.


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