Author's Note: This is my sequel to "Darkness in California" – dedicated to Chrysanthemum because she originally gave me the idea when she asked "Who's Sean?" Now, I know more than 85 people looked at EACH of my last three vampire stories, yet I received only 0-3 reviews. People, I'm not going to finish this story if I don't get some reviews! WAAAAAAAAH! Besides, the plot doesn't actually surface until Part 2, and I'm sure you'll want to see that. *Smiles at her egotisticalness. Well, ENJOY EVERYONE!

Eternally, Tsuki-Moon

The Art of Devotion

By Tsuki-Moon

Part 1:

I don't know when my parents died. My aunt and uncle never did tell me anything excpet how stupid I was or how I was hopeless trash, just like my mom. I think my mom was a hooker before she died; I picked that much up from my uncle's drunken snide remarks. There's a kind of poetic-irony there, I guess. Either that or just a fucked up piece of history on a replay track. All my life I put up with my aunt's cussing and loaded tantrums and my uncle's thrashings and abuse. I learned quickly when was a good time to be a smart-ass and when to keep my mouth shut. Yeah, but that was easy- just keep your mouth shut whenever your aunt and uncle are around and be a smart-ass the rest of the time. Still, no matter how hard I tried to be on good behavior, I always ended up with a fist colliding with my face or a cigarette threatening to burn my eye out. When I was fourteen, I just couldn't take it any more. Who could, damn it? I packed up as much stuff as I could in one duffle bag and left a note, simply stating, "Fuck you." I signed my name and addressed it to my aunt and uncle with a little smile face at the top of the page.

Now, I'm not an idiot. I know that if I had waited a few more years I could have supported myself by working three shifts at McDonald's or something and no one would have cared one way or another about whether or not I went to school. But fourteen? I couldn't even attempt to get a job at that age. At least, not a normal job. But then, when was I ever normal? My second night away from home I started walking the streets and got picked up almost immediately. The man seemed a bit hesitant at first, asking my price even before he said anything else. "Well," I pretended to tease, "what do you think I'm worth?" I flashed him a suductive smile. He shook his head and we went back to his apartment.

The whole transaction only took about twenty minutes. Afterwards, I was paid a price that I didn't know at the time was dirt cheap, and sent on my way. On the way out the man voiced with a trace of approval, "You give a mean blow-job, kid." I shrugged and that was that.

I think I met Janie on a street corner about half a year later. She was two years older than me and had been "walking" ever since she was thirteen. She had these gorgeous Oriental eyes that she rimmed with blue eyeshadow and black eyeliner and to work she almost always wore a blue sequin top that looked like the top half of a bikini and a tight, red, plastic skirt. Her jet-black hair was always braided and entwinded with different beads and wraps, creating an exotic look through out her mane. The third night I saw her she asked if I might want to split rent. Her roommate was moving out. I agreed because rent in any part of New York is just about murder. Janie had a pretty cool place and, as it turns out, was a pretty cool roommate too. We had a lot in common. We liked old movies, didn't do any drugs except occasional pot, and thought that almost any type of reading took too much goddamned effort. We both liked Nine Inch Nails and Stabbing Westward, and we both hated pretty much anything pink. Great, huh? Janie and I got along just perfectly. In fact, now that I think about it, the only thing we ever argued about was pledging. See, Janie had certain "clients" that she saw regularly. She would have a schedual months in advance, each person having his (or her) own evening. Besides whatever "job" she ended up doing, Janie also learned a lot about each person. Don't ask me how. One guy was divorced and wanted someone to be there with him since he was down. Another just got a rush off of cheating on his wife once or twice a month. One was a lonely chick who didn't mind paying to kiss and cuddle with another woman who wouldn't judge her. Another was a single guy who helped raise his brothers and sisters and just needed a good fuck to keep his head in order. Janie thought that this was a great form of business, especially since she didn't have to look as hard. She already had more than half her income scheduled in and had several regular customers. After awhile, she hardly ever worked the streets at all.

I hated the idea of pledging. I hated everything about it. It seemed too damn personal; it stopped being the kind of business I liked. I mean, the whole reason I had kept working was because of that allure of skin and sweat and not having to worry about romantic shit. I didn't have to worry about getting hurt or ending up in some fucked up relationship like my aunt and uncle's. I just screwed or blew whoever picked me up and left awhile later with a simple "Ciao" and a pocket full of cash. Personally, I think that could be described as the perfect relationship right there.

Everything changed near the end of my seventeenth year, though.

I woke up one morning at my usual time- around two thirty in the afternoon. The air was hot and sticky, like all New York summers, and I was drenched in a sea of sheets. I pushed myself out of bed grogilly and took a short, cold shower, using some of Janie's flowery-scented shampoo. When I finally made it out into the kitchen, Janie was waiting with brunch. "Hey, Sleepy." She smiled at me, her dark eyes twinkling almost innocently. I smiled back a small, muddled smile.

"Hey yourself." I sat down at our sad excuse for a table and picked up one of the burgers there. There were several. I looked up at Jaine with a questioning frown. She shrugged.

"It was thirty-seven cents day at the burger joint. I figured that I could buy a bunch and we'd be set for awhile."

"Oh… good idea." I practically inhaled the sandwhich and swigged down a small dixie-cup of soda. We had bigger cups, but I didn't like soda too much and it was either that or brown tap water. Some how soda sounded just dandy in comparison. The chemical taste of both the greasy burger and the cheap soda left my mouth tingling for a moment. I sighed. "So, what's your plan for tonight?"

"Um, this is the third Wednesday, right? I have a date with Samantha. It's been awhile… I wonder if she ever ended up getting that job that she was so worried about. I sure hope…" I rolled my eyes and snorted. See what I was talking about? Too much emotional attachment! I guess I expressed my disgust a little too loudly because Janie glared at me harshly. "Hey, it's a hell of a lot better than walking the goddamned streets! At least now I don't have to worry about some fucking stranger noticing me. It all works out just fine. I'm surprised you still don't want to start pledging."

"Not happening." I reminded her. "I like the whole complete stranger thing, thank you." Janie shrugged.

"Yeah, well, I'm fucking tired of it- all of it. I was thinking of pulling out next year."

I started at the comment. "R-really?"

"Yeah. This is just getting dull. I'm old enough that I could get a job at some assembly plant or, if nothing else, fastfood is always an option. I don't know. I think I'm going to tell all my clients that I'm thinking of stopping and see their reaction." Her cute little eyes flashed impishly. "Hell, if I'm lucky they'll offer me some money to get started on." I shook my head. Truth was, they probably would. I never understood what would bring someone to become friends with their prostitute. At least, I didn't at the time.

"Hmph." I muttered, chewing on the side of my mouth. "I should probably start looking for another place, then."

"Oh!" Janie flushed, "You don't have to, Sean. Besides, I'm just thinking aloud right now. I'm not going to make any moves until I'm sure I can support myself."

I nodded in response and looked at the clock. "I'm going to go get ready." Janie smiled at me and nodded. Another day on 32nd street- another night on a corner. But, deep down, I was as sick of this life as she was. The only difference was that I didn't realize it until later.

Nothing is worse than the thought "I'm not pretty". I know that sounds fucked up, but in streetwalking you have to be pretty and attractive or you starve. That night, I saw several girls getting picked up and even a new boy who was only around thirteen. But I stayed right by my lampost, leaning against the cool metal anxiously. My mind wandered to my inspection of myself earlier. I didn't have any blemishes or zits anywhere on me and I had rubbed some cheap, but effective, oils all over myself as well. What was wrong, then? I thought I was beautiful. Didn't anyone else?

A man in his fifties or so walked by. I knew that I had him immediately. He paused about a yard and a half down the way and pretended like he wasn't gaping at me. He wasn't a very good pretender. He stood staring at a random point in the street, thinking silently. He finally looked like he was going to approach me when a squeel of "Victor! Is that you? Oh, God, it's been ages! What are you doing in this part of town?" interrpted. The man whirled around and walked across the street, away from me.

"A-Abby? Hello. How are you?" The woman was middle-aged as well and practically dragged him down the street with her, jabbering about what all was going on in her life. I cursed under my breath and stuck my hands in my pockets. I found a joint there and started. I had forgetten that I had it. A few nights before, a young, twenty-something, bleach-blond had given it to me with my payment after I blew him in the back of his car. I silently thanked him as I lit up, not caring who was around. Cops cared more about prostitution than pot. As long as you were discrete on both accounts, you were fine. So far I hadn't been picked up for anything. I figured myself pretty lucky in that sense.

I took a long drag of the weed and blew it out softly, watching as the smoke swirled in the sky. That was about the time that I felt the eyes. It wasn't the usual feeling I got when someone started at me. It was a panging in my gut, a silent siren going off in my head. I shuttered slightly, for no apparent reason, and looked up. Across the street from me was a man. He was partially hidden in the shadows and his left hand was half covering his mouth, as if he were studying me. I scowled and stared back at the man. There was an eeiry elegance to him that I could see just by him standing there. I shuttered again. A minute later or so he walked across the busy street and up to me.

"Hello…" he whispered. His voice was rich and had a strong accent to it. I looked at him and bit my tongue in partcial shock. He was gorgeous! His skin was a rich, creamy brown, like coffee with a soft touch of milk, and his eyes were as dark and sharp.

"Hey." I smirked back.

"Are you busy?"

"Do I look it?" The man's lips twitched into a slight smirk. Yeah, even now, I act like a smart-ass.

"I have a proposition for you."

"Um… okay, shoot." I said, biting back about three sarcastic remarks. It's never a good idea to piss a customer off, no matter how abrupt they are.

"It's not a normal job, really…"

"That's what half my customers say." I declared. And they did, too. But then, half my customers were full of shit and thought that fucking me through the backdoor was unique. I just let them think that. I got paid more, at least. The gorgeous man shook his head in the dark.

"This wouldn't require any of your… um, talents." I laughed softly. I liked this guy! He was trying so hard to be tactful about saying, 'I don't want you to screw me'. I told him so as I took another drag. He laughed as well. "Well, you can not blame me for trying, anyway. But, yes… you see, I am an artist. All I was wondering is if I could hire you by the hour to model. You know I'd pay whatever would compinsate for any other jobs you would be missing." The sharpness of his eyes drew me in a bit. So did the offer.

"You're right. That's not an offer I get every day." I sighed, "But I like it." I slung my jacket over my shoulder and made a little 'lead on' gesture. The man smiled once more and we slipped off into the night.

S S S S S

His house was small, but richly decorated. This guy had an eye for everything it seemed. Not a single wall was white- every room was a work of art in itself. One room looked Spanish with its adobe colored walls and its decorations, while another was decorated in burgandy with velvet couches. I tried desperately not to gape with my mouth hanging wide open, but trying did no good. It was impossible not to gawk at the gorgeous home. I set my jacket down on one of the chairs as the man looked around his rooms. "Mmmm… yes, Roman would work nicely." I followed him and, sure enough, was met with a Roman style kitchen and dining room. He set up two lamps and looked at me silently. "You have gold eyes." He stated with a soft smile.

"Yeah." I sighed. "They're kinda' weird, but I like them." Actually, my eyes are more of a yellowish-brown, but they look like gold a lot. Like I said, I like them.

The artist walked around me in a quick circle. "Apollo." He decided quickly, "You'll be Apollo. The golden tints are perfect!" He glided over to a linen closet and pulled out a golden sheet. "Okay, technically, this is a thin tablecloth, but right now it's a toga." I laughed as he handed it to me. "Um, do you wear boxers or briefs?" The question caught me slightly off guard. I shrugged.

"Neither. They don't come in handy in my line of work."

"Oh…" a bit of color tinted his cheeks before he sighed, "Well, then, I'll assume that you're also not very modest. Undress and wrap the 'toga' around you while I go get something to drink. Do you want something?"

"Uh, sure. What do you have?"

"White wine, soda, coffee, and brandy."

"Um, white wine would be nice." I decided, slipping off my shirt. The man smiled.

"A man after my own heart." He laughed and walked away so that I was out of his vision. I sighed and slipped out of my clothes and into the tablecloth-toga. The fabric was a softer than it looked and was easy to move around in as I tied it over my left shoulder.

"Is this okay?" I asked. He looked up as he rummaged through his refirdgerator.

"Yes, perfect." He walked over and handed me a wineglass. "Oh, please excuse my manners, by the way. I do not believe I asked for your name."

"Hmm? Oh, I'm Sean."

"Steven Corona." He smiled in his charming way as he rolled up his sleeves, "Thoroughly charmed."

"Likewise." I smirked. I liked this guy's vocabulary too. Not too shabby. He fixed up a row of pillows and asked me to sit. I slid down and let him postion my arms in a relaxing looking position.

"Tilt your head up." He said, "You are supposed to be a god. You are haughty and egotistical."

"I think I might be able to manage that." I teased. He chuckled a bit and picked up a pencil.

"I'm going to start on your outline, now. If you want to talk, you'll have to get it out of the way in the first fifteen minutes or so. And no moving."

"Got it." I said. I didn't say anything for awhile as his pencil flew across the canvas that he had set up. "Um, so, what happened to the idea of a starving artist? You don't look starved to me."

Steven laughed. "I am the head of a real estate company. This is my passion; that's my income."

"Ah."

"No moving, please."

"Oh, sorry." I didn't talk much after that. Before too long, Steven picked up his oil paints and began to work. His strokes were quick and rapid, yet they looked small from where I was sitting. I took my time while I was sitting there to study this unusual man. He was attractive, as I've already mentioned, with short, spiky, black hair that reminded me of a preppy college student. He had been wearing a suit when I first saw him, but he had taken off his coat and tie for painting. His blue, button-up shirt was rolled up to his elbows and the front was partially open, exposing a smooth, hairless chest. No, I was wrong- attractive was the most incredable understatement.

I don't know how long I was sitting there, staring, but finally he set down his brush with a triumphant smile. "Done."

"Really?" I tilted my head and grinned wildly. "Can I see?"

"Sure. I still have to work on the background but I will do that more tomorrow." I stood up, clutching the wrap to make sure that it didn't fall, and walked over to stand behind Steven.

"Wow…" The picture was a glorious mixture of golden tints, with my strawberry-blond hair fading at the edges into a gold aura. My eyes shown brightly, set off by the toga, with a shaky sketch of a pilliar in the background. "Wow," I said again, "I'm rather pretty."

Steven laughed a deep, throughty laugh. "You make a very good god." He teased lightly.

"Thanks." He poured me another glass of wine and smiled.

"I'll go get a payment for you while you get dressed. If you have some time Friday evening, you can stop by and I'll give you a finished print as well."

"Oh, that'd be cool." The words came out of my mouth before I had finished thinking. So much for leaving and never seeing him again. But I didn't screw this guy, I thought, so I guess the rules don't apply.

"If you come over at around seven o'clock we can catch some dinner as well. As only a quick thank-you, of course."

"Um… yeah, sure. That'd be cool. Hell, fastfood gets old after awhile." I slipped on my jeans while he put away his supplies. I put my shirt back on and slid on my jacket as he came over to me again. He handed me a some crisply folded twenties and leaned in and kissed me on the cheek.

"See you on Friday then." I nodded and left. It wasn't until I was walking back home that I realized that I had a rather hard boner.

S S S S S

"You here?" I asked as I walked in the door. It sounded a lot better then "I'm home" I had always thought.

"Yeah." Jaine called. She stepped out of her room, topless and whistling. Modesty wasn't a big think between Janie and me. It helped that she knew that I wasn't attracted to her. Hell, I wasn't attracted to anyone… or so I had thought. "How was the night?"

"Okay. I got only one job, though."

"Hmm"

"It was different, though."

"Oh?" Janie looked up, intersted now. "What was it?"

"A guy asked me to pose for a painting. That's it."

"Oh, rock on!" Janie laughed. "That beats my night. I had to hear Samantha's relationship problems and Eric was a bit off in his performance today." Janie looked around, found her favorite yellow teeshirt, and slipped it on. "So, what was he like?"

"Gorgeous." I stated quickly.

"Oooh, I like him already."

"And pretty rich. He looked young, but he already runs a company."

Janie smiled. "Wow, for one night you seemed to find out a lot about this guy. Favorite color?"

"Shut up." I sneered. "Hey, I'm going to go take a shower, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. See you later." I nodded and started peeling off my clothes on the way to that bathroom. I halted and stopped at the opening to our bedroom.

"Janie! What is that smell?"

"Huh? Oh, we're out of bugspray so I used some cheap perfume to get rid of an ant swarm."

"Ugh! It smells horrible!"

"Yeah, well, I'm sure it'll go away." Actually, three weeks later, the smell was just as bad. I hate ants, but I hated the smell of the perfume even more. I finished tossing off my clothes and slipped into the cold shower water that I had turned on.

I washed my hair with a far too thick, flowery-scented shampoo that Janie had bought and rubbed a thin, liquid soap all over my body. The soap smelled like a mix of bubble-gum and blueberry and it made me sick, but it was cheap and it got me clean. Besides, that night I wasn't thinking about the soap. I was too busy wondering what it would have been like if Steven Corona had wanted more than what he had asked for. What if he wanted it all? I smiled to myself and let the cold water run over my body, the goosebumps on my flesh smoothing down slightly. I was sure that it would have been wonderful.