A close encounter with an extra-garlicky pizza, a splinter, and a senior partner who thought it was hysterically funny to bless the water in the office cooler—that was Seth’s day in a nutshell.

Life, for lack of a better word, just kept getting better and better. It seemed that every day he found one more reason to hate being a vampire.

He’d been coming out of the copy room, his arms piled high with depositions and briefs, when he’d run smack into the Pizza Hut delivery boy. The kid’s insulated, red delivery bag opened and a large pie with extra garlic slid out, still steaming from the oven. The reek was nearly enough to make Seth upchuck all over his brand new Ferragamo loafers.

Red tomato sauce, stringy with cheese and heavy with clumps of garlic, splattered all over Seth’s shirt and pants. He spent fifteen minutes gagging in the men’s washroom while trying to wash off the offensive gunk. In the end, he used his lunch hour to run home and change his clothes, throwing the ruined shirt and pants into the building’s incinerator. When he returned to work, he ordered a sandwich from Weiss Deli, intending to eat it at his desk while he went over the Johnson contentions.

He never did get to eat his damn sandwich.

Seth squinted as he maneuvered the tweezers and plucked the splinter from his finger. He held it up to the light, turning it, looking at it from all angles. It was a tiny thing, innocuous-looking, just a sliver of wood barely larger than an exclamation point and hardly enough to be called a stake, but it hurt like a motherfucker anyway. He tossed it in the trash and reached for the brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide, dosing the red dot on his finger liberally. The liquid bubbled up in a pinkish-white froth, and stung like the fires of Hell.

They’ll be lucky if I don’t file suit. Delicatessens should not be allowed to stick wooden toothpicks in their sandwiches without putting warning labels on the brown paper bags, he thought, blowing on his finger to cool the burn. It’s a health hazard.

Well, it was to him, anyway.

Later that afternoon, hungry and irritable, unable to concentrate, he left his desk to take a quick break. He wasn’t really thirsty, but he figured a change of scenery might do him some good. He strolled down to the office water cooler and filled a paper cone with cool, clear liquid.

It was like trying to drink Drano.

Laughter coming from the nearby door to his boss’ office overrode the choking noises he made as he stuck his tongue out and fanned it with his hand, trying to ease the burn. Seth’s boss, Jonathan Harker, one of the senior partners of the law firm of Helsing, Harker, and Murray, was hanging onto the door frame, laughing his considerably wide ass off.

Harker had blessed the frigging water cooler again.

“Christ, that never gets old!” Harker wheezed in between hearty guffaws that turned his doughy, florid face crimson.

“Good one, sir,” one of the junior partners said. He giggled a high-pitched twitter.

It was all Seth could do not to tear the simpering junior partner’s head off and use it as a paperweight. Harker, Seth needed. After all, Harker was one of the men who signed his paycheck, but the junior partner was definitely expendable. I’d be doing the world a service, really, he thought. He’s just too annoying to live.

Unfortunately, while it would definitely make Seth’s day, killing the junior partner would only put a serious crimp in the rest of his life by buying him a one-way ticket to Riker’s Island and a date with the sunrise, so he summoned up a sheepish smile, ignored his blistering tongue, and slunk back to his office.

The rest of his day went downhill from there. Quitting time hadn’t come fast enough, and by the time the digital numbers on the office clock blinked over to five, he was already suited up and on his way out of the building. He wanted nothing more than to get home before his luck went from dismal to dangerous and someone accidentally staked him with a coat hanger.

Seth let himself into his apartment and then struggled out of his asbestos containment suit. It was a full body suit, including headgear and gloves, and a royal pain in the ass to put on and take off, but it was mandatory. Since most law offices refused to keep vampire hours, Seth was forced to work during the day, and without the suit he would be nothing but a twitching pile of ash on the late afternoon sidewalk. He counted himself lucky enough that Helsing, Harker, and Murray’s suite of offices had extra-dark tinting on the windows. As it was he had to apply and reapply SPF 70 continuously throughout the day or risk major sunburn of the blistering kind.

Thank God his roommate, Mark, didn’t mind the blackout shades and heavy drapes on all the apartment windows. At least at home, Seth could be comfortable.

He shrugged out of his jacket, wrestled with his necktie until it loosened, then slumped back against the cushions of the sofa. Legs akimbo, he let his head fall back, staring at the ceiling.

Mark was in the kitchen, chugging a Coke. Gold and red highlights glinted in his brown, slightly shaggy hair under the florescent kitchen lights. He was bare-chested, and his bleached jeans rode low on his narrow hips. He was sexy in a feral sort of way, like a wolf. No matter how domesticated he seemed, you really couldn’t be sure if he was going to lick your hand or bite it off. In either case, he was definitely off-limits to Seth.

Mark was hot, and gay, but nothing had ever transpired between them, although not for lack of trying on Mark’s part. Then again, Mark would fuck a knothole if the knothole was agreeable. Seth preferred to keep their relationship strictly platonic. To get involved sexually, even on a “friends with benefits” level, would only complicate his life, and if there was one thing Seth didn’t need more of, it was complications.

“Tough day?” Mark asked.

“No more than usual,” Seth replied after expelling a long-suffering sigh. “I swear I should go rogue. It would be worth the risk of getting staked for the opportunity to suck that asshole dry.”

“Which asshole would that be? No, wait... let me guess. Harker again? What did he do this time?”

“Blessed the water cooler.”

Mark winced. “Ouch.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. You know, all I want is to be able to go to work, do my job, get my monthly rations from VLAD, and maybe get laid every so often. Is that too much to ask? I’m a hard worker. I’m never late. I work overtime without complaint. I handle my workload, plus some. So why is it that I get the impression I’m only kept at the firm to provide cheap entertainment for a man who has a trophy wife, a house in the Hamptons, a brand-new Jag, and a third grader’s sense of humor?”

“Harker is a human dung heap. You shouldn’t let him get to you. Oh, and speaking of VLAD, you got a letter in from them today,” Mark said. He plucked an official-looking white envelope from the breakfast bar, and tossed it to Seth.