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A Customary Incident in the Life of a Solicitor's Clerk

The ceilings of the sprawling rooms were twelve feet high, with ornate, cherub-sprouting crown mouldings in every room. In the living room, the moulding had been painted gold.

"This was the front parlor, and the bedroom is the old dining room," Zoltan Farkas said in his rolling eastern European accent. He draped himself familiarly over one of the upholstered thrones that populated the former parlor. "The kitchen is the original kitchen, huge, good enough for a gourmet. Or a hired chef."

"I doubt I'll be hiring a chef," Megan said. "And I'm not much of a cook."

"You will learn," he said, waving a pale, languid hand. "Poverty teaches cooking skills."

She raised her eyebrows. "You know this from experience?"

"Oh, no," he said, watching her from under his dark lashes. "Observation only."

She turned, staring around her. "I was told to expect ruinous rents, particularly for furnished apartments."

"I do not care for ruining my tenants," he said. "It is counterproductive."

She fixed a disbelieving stare upon him.

He shrugged in response. "What can I say? Simon is a charming fellow." He paused, apparently lost for a moment in contemplation of Simon. "He put in a good word for you. No one would rent the place for what I was asking. I would rather get something than nothing."

Megan nodded. "All right, then. When do you plan to raise the rent on me?"

Zoltan got to his feet with astonishing grace. "Perhaps there will be no need."

Megan pursed her lips and looked around again. "You live in the basement?"

"I do."

"Why didn't you move up here when you couldn't rent it?"

He leaned back toward her like a reed in the wind, flashing a beautiful smile over his shoulder. "I like the basement, Madame Noseyparker. You want this place. Why borrow trouble?"

"My mother does security work," Megan said. "She borrows trouble for a living. And would kill me if I did something stupid, like rent an apartment from a mad scientist."

The long waves of Zoltan's black hair trembled over his back as he laughed silently. Finally, he turned to face her. "I am most certainly not a mad scientist. I am, however, someone of whom most mothers do not approve."

"My mother doesn't mind the gay thing," Megan said.

"You are clearly possessed of admirable perception in some things," he said with a bow. "But I will tell you, so you do not need to speculate wildly: I am a vampire."

Megan glanced at the golden afternoon sunshine pouring in the window.

His eyelids drooped in a bored expression. "Does no one read Dracula these days?" His eyes narrowed. "Must I fetch the tube of craft glitter I save for convincing women who are mostly younger than you?"

Megan looked baffled.

"Ah, I see you are not one of them," he said. "Good. I would show you my fangs and whatnot, but it is not near enough the full moon."

"Isn't that, um, werewolves?" she asked.

He shrugged again. "All I know is how I live. Do you want the apartment or not?"

"Yes, as long as there aren't any secret passages up from the basement for use on the nights of the full moon," Megan said.

"My dear woman," Zoltan said, drawing himself up, "I never prey upon my tenants when there are so many alternatives in this lovely city. Besides," he added, "you are hardly part of my favored demographic."

Megan laughed. "All right, how shall I make out the check?"

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