Gay Speculative Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Death by chocolate?” Dimitri asked.

I sighed at the phone pressed against my cheek. “I’m afraid so. Activate ‘Quinn-is-a-jerk’ protocol.”

“Text me the address.”


“Nice place, love,” Dimitri said. 

His head swiveled around the restaurant with sparkling eyes. Best friends for years, Dimitri was made for the cover of GQ. About six foot two, handsome in a winsome way, muscular, and tan. Born into money, Dimitri had blond hair that was meticulously cut and carefully combed. He was a striking figure, charismatic but mysterious. He had always been out of my league, but I hid behind the shield of a long-term relationship to protect my self-esteem.

He rested his hand on my shoulder. “Having a good time, I see.”

“If Quinn had shown up, it would have been.”

“Let me guess. He was too busy with another engineering project?”

I shrugged and propped my head on my palm with an elbow on the table.

“Football practice?”

I shook my head.

“Okay. His cat had a heart attack,” he said, smirking.

“That’s terrible.”

Dimitri chuckled, then sat across from me. “Here.” He held out a gift bag with confetti tissue paper clawing to escape. “This will make you feel better.”

“What’s this?” I asked, my tone a bit too sharp. “You got Quinn a birthday present?”

Dimitri scoffed. “Not for your boyfriend, Lorenzo. It’s our friendship anniversary.”

“Wait. That isn’t for another couple of months.”

“I know. But I figured you could use a little ‘happy’ now.”

I shuffled through the maze of tissue paper and pulled out a picture frame. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I’d never been good at hiding my emotions, especially around Dimitri.

“Don’t get too excited. It’s not much.”

Framed in darkened wood, a photo of the first time we had met greeted me. My memories traveled back to the day we sat beside each other during freshman orientation. We snapped a quick selfie together and have been best friends ever since. Somehow, we survived college together, and for as far back as I could remember, Dimitri was there for every moment that mattered. He’d bring me red velvet cupcakes for my birthday when I was studying in the library for midterms. On holidays when I couldn’t return home, he’d stay with me at the apartment. And when my parents died unexpectedly, he even held my hand and stood by my side at their funeral.

Of course, he negated the good by getting into bar fights, calling me from jail to bail him out with his own money, and escaping away on exotic trips by jetplane for days at a time. It was any wonder he passed all of his classes every semester. Don’t worry, he would say whenever I teased him for being a stereotypical bad boy. Parents love me. 

I set the frame on the table between us with the same care a proud mother would handle her child’s baseball trophy. “You do have a soft side.”

His brows furrowed into a playful glare. “That’s the day we met. I made two of them. One for you, and one for me,” he said with a hand gesture to point at himself.

“It’s lovely.” Warmth radiated throughout my chest as I regarded him. “Thank you.”

“I just wanted to do something nice for you. Speaking of…”

His eyes flickered to the waiter, who set down a slice of red velvet cake in the space between us.

“Our favorite,” I said. “You shouldn’t have.”

One glance at Dimitri’s smoldering green eyes told me everything I needed to know: I would not get up from this table until I’d eaten dessert. Not that I minded. Like every other sweet confection in my life, Dimitri flirted with the line between indulgent and destructive to my health. The only thing worse than dying is living a boring life, he would say whenever I refused to give in to something terrible for me.

“One slice for every patron dining at this fine establishment tonight. My compliments,” he said with a nod to the waiter.

His gaze met mine from across the table, and my stomach fluttered as I broke the connection. Dimitri was an old soul. Aside from his British accent, he spoke with an eloquence that had been lost to civilizations centuries ago. When I had questioned him about it before, he blamed his love of history, though I had not completely believed him.

I forked a piece of cake and slid it into my mouth. We were frequent connoisseurs of red velvet desserts. Yet… there was something off about it. Gooier than expected, the icing tickled my throat, as if it were bleeding. I gulped down bubbly champagne to suppress the uneasiness swirling in my stomach. 

“So. What’re you going to do after graduation? Have you heard about your med school applications?”

“Not yet,” I said. “But I might do something else.” I reached for the box inside my coat jacket and handed it to him.

Dimitri raised an eyebrow. He opened the box, and his lips pressed into a thin line when he saw the wedding ring. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am.”

Glaring eyes as sharp as daggers bore into me. “Why? Quinn is a jerk.”


“No.” He slammed his fist onto the table. 

The couple sitting beside us glanced in our direction, keeping their faces forward as if not paying attention to our conversation. My cheeks flushed as their eyes wandered.

“Quinn stood you up on his birthday dinner. Give me one good reason you shouldn’t dump him after tonight.”

“We’ve been together for, like, eight years.”

“And? I’ve only been around for half of those, but the years I saw were shoddy.”

“Dimitri. Be reasonable.”

“I am being reasonable. How many times have you phoned me? Missed birthdays? Studying late at the library. Canceling vacation plans. It’s not like engineering is rocket science.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“Am I? Who do you always call whenever Quinn fails you? Time after time, I’ve been by your side. Can you honestly say the same about him?”

“Dimitri,” I said, resting my hand over his. My breath caught as I touched his calloused fingers. His cool skin bit into mine, as if warning me to tread carefully with my words.

Strange. He hadn’t touched the red velvet cake, even though he loved it as much as I did. One Valentine’s Day, when Quinn had a family emergency, Dimitri came to the apartment and baked the best red velvet bars I had ever tasted. It’s like a thick cookie mixed with a brownie, he had said. What’s not to love?

“I love Quinn. What would you have me do?”

He stared at me for a breathless moment. His dark eyes flared with sympathy. “Die.”

A lump formed in my throat, and my stomach churned. “What?”

A discordant chorus of coughs surrounded us. I clutched my neck, gasping for air. “Dimitri…” I choked out. “What’s happening?”

He did not answer me but vanished with a whoosh. My heart jumped in my chest. The air grew heavier, too, and my breaths came in quick gasps, as if something were pressing down on my chest, preventing me from breathing.

Was I dying?

Coughing sounds from the other diners morphed into shrill screams of pain. Chairs whipped across the room and slammed into the couple sitting beside us. Something warm and wet slapped my face. I traced my finger along my soaked chin, and bile burned in the back of my throat as blood trickled down my hand. Nearby, a fork had pierced a woman’s chest. Beside her, someone had shoved a knife into a man’s abdomen.

As the woman stumbled toward me, Dimitri appeared behind her in a flash. I met his feral and glowing stare as he caressed her neck with the back of his hand. He licked his lips, straddling the line between hunger and desire. He bit into her neck, severing one or both of her carotid arteries. Her eyes rolled upward, and she dropped as gracefully as a toppling scarecrow, her gagging and death throes finished in seconds.

In a matter of moments, silence replaced the blood-curdling cries of the dying. Dimitri whooshed back to my side. The sclera of his eyes had transformed to a color darker than the dessert we had shared. Shadowy veins tunneled under his eyes as blood pumped through them, and razor-sharp fangs had erupted where his canine teeth once existed.

Dimitri grabbed the rest of the red velvet cake and shoved it into my mouth. His hands covered the nostrils of my nose, and my only choice was to chew, swallow, and steal gulps of air. The gooey confection crawled down my throat, and blackness pulled on the edges of my vision. As I faded out of consciousness, the last thing I heard was the sound of Dimitri’s husky voice.

“Hello… yes. Send an ambulance immediately. There’s been a massacre.”


I woke in a hospital bed. Somehow, the world around me transformed into an intense deluge of sensual stimulation. The room was washed in blinding white. A nurse tapped her pen on a paper chart thirty feet away, and it pulsed like a metronome inside my ear. 

But the worst of it all was the…


A horrible, ravenous sensation enthralled me, tearing my body apart. Every fiber in my being yearned for something to eat…

Sickeningly dry;

Metallic, yet sweet; and

Darker than red velvet.

“Hello, love,” Dimitri said. He leaned against the frame of the doorway. 

Images of the restaurant assaulted my mind. My fingers clawed at the bedsheet in a flimsy attempt to protect myself. 

“Are you going to kill me?” The scratch of my voice revealed my dehydration and dripped fear.

A softness replaced the face of the feral beast I had seen. Such an ancient heaviness in his eyes, in the set of his jaw. Was this the same man who had just murdered an entire restaurant of people? The one I sat beside at freshman orientation? 

My stomach turned, and I pushed a hand against my chest as my mind fought to reconcile the oxymoron of a handsome beast that stood before me. 

Dimitri paused, and I could almost feel the sorrow in his voice. “Do you think that low of me?”

“I don’t know what to think.”

Dimitri set the picture frame of us on the bedside table. His eyes twinkled with the moonlight. “You’re already dead, Lorenzo. Well, almost, anyway.”

“I don’t understand.”

Dimitri pulled a bag of blood from his jacket—the kind that hung on IV poles in the hospital. My body reacted to the sight of it. Every second was a symphony of pain. A stabbing sensation radiated outward from my teeth, and my head throbbed to the erratic beating of my heart. 

I choked on the tears caught in my throat. “Make it stop. Please.”

Dimitri sat in the space beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. He held the bag of blood in front of me. “You need to eat.” The air around him was perfumed with sandalwood and moss, earthly and intoxicating.

“What will happen?”

“You’ll be… like me.”

I took the bag from him and held it with both hands. My mind swirled with new questions, too many to ask without risking sounding like a madman. Was it like in the movies? Would I need to be invited into houses and fear garlic? Would I burn or sparkle in the sunlight? My chest tightened when I settled on the one mystery that nagged me the most.

“Why, Dimitri?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I fancy you, Lorenzo.”

My arms flexed with a newfound strength I’d never experienced before. To my surprise, he flew several feet away, crashing into a full-length mirror on the wall. It was so easy. 

And it felt good.

“You’re incapable of love, Dimitri.”


“Yes, really. You just flit from one person to the next, never really sticking around long enough to matter. And just when someone is about to get close enough to care, you push them away and move on to the next conquest. Another notch on the bedpost.”

“And what about us?”

A flutter in my stomach morphed into a raging tempest. “We’re just friends.”

“So, we’re doing our thing again.”

“What thing?”

“The whole bit where we masquerade as chaps when, in fact, there is more. Masking our connection with silly jokes. Deny it as much as you want, Lorenzo. But I’ve seen it hidden in your eyes, even when your words betray you.”

Moonlight found its way through partially drawn curtains, shedding a silver glow in the space between us. I crossed my arms. Whether it was to keep myself warm from the chill of the room or to guard my heart against a man I thought I knew, I could not say.

The bag of blood rested on my lap, taunting me. “What happens if I don’t drink this?”

The slightest wince crossed his face before he smoothed it back out. “You die.”

Tears pricked my eyes. I hadn’t wanted to die. We were about to graduate from college. I planned to build a life for myself. A future filled with things that I wanted, like a house in the suburbs, a white picket fence, marriage, and maybe even adopting kids of my own. In my mind, none of those things involved Dimitri. At least, I hadn’t thought so.

Until now.

I inhaled a cleansing breath. “I want you to leave.”

“Are you angry with me?”

“You killed me.”

“No, I’ve given you life, Lorenzo. Celebrate the fact that you are no longer bound by trivial human conventions. You’re free now. There’s a universe out there waiting for you. Majestic cities. Art. Music. Genuine beauty. And if you let me, I want to show it to you.”

I threw the bag of blood onto the floor.

Dimitri dusted shards of glass off his coat, then walked toward me. He stopped beside the bed, and our eyes met one last time. “Quinn is a small-town boy. Eventually, you will admit to yourself that you’ve grown tired of him.” 

He brushed my messy hair to one side. “Though he is your first love… I intend to be your last.” 

He rested his hand on my head and pressed a gentle kiss on my forehead, ending with a whisper. “However long it takes.”

His words echoed in the hollows of my mind after he left. I stared at the bag of blood: my salvation. If I refused, I would die. An inevitable choice. 

I wanted to fight it. After all, the comfort of the familiar was like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. Quinn represented everything I had ever wanted growing up: stability, safety, and predictability. And though I loved Quinn with all my heart, I could not deny how much I loathed the darkest parts of me that desired Dimitri. And like everything else in the world, darkness could either be indulgent or destructive.

A nurse walked into the room. She frowned at fragments of shattered mirror on the ground beside the bag of red liquid. “What happened, hun?”

As I regarded her, icy fingers trailed across my body like claws that dug deep into my skin. A foreign sensation suffused me as blood pooled around my eyes. My vision shifted into shades of red as fangs sliced into my lower lip. 

I could no longer fight it. Nor did I want to.

It was darkness—sinister and conniving—that promised to unlock a whole new world of secrets untold. 

And with my next meal, all of it could be mine.

September 09, 2022 02:37

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Zack Powell
16:47 Sep 10, 2022

Do my eyes deceive me? Could it be? J.C. Lovero is back!? It's been so long. 😭 Side note: You are killing the title game. If I saw a short story collection named "Darker than Red Velvet" in the bookstore, I would insta-buy it. I can just imagine the cover now - deep red with black hearts and gold lettering. Get into it. Just went to the comments to double check, and it looks like I was not alone: That was a wild plot twist, and I didn't see it coming at all. I guess "Suspense" should've probably tipped me off, but when I read one of your s...


J.C. Lovero
17:59 Sep 10, 2022

Hello, my pen pal! How are things? Hope you are well. Yes, it has been a while. Between other projects and preparing for a move across the country, things have been busy, so I had to press pause on my short story game. But, when the prompts speak to me... I must write lol. First, appreciate the line edit. Glad you knew what I was going for lol. Thanks! There's this line I ran across that inspired me: "a hero would sacrifice you to save the world, but a villain would sacrifice the world to save you." So, mixed with my love of all things fan...


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Riel Rosehill
07:34 Sep 09, 2022

Oh my gosh it's been so long since my last hermit hut visit, and even longer since I've seen a story from you posted that I haven't read beforehand! Sooo let me get into the review! Firstly, the title. I have a soft spot for the mix of sweet and dark, especially when it's desserts and murders. The first line as well, was the perfect hook for me. Death by chocolate. Yes please! I loved the foreshadowing, and the little bits and pieces in the otherwise lovely friendly catch up that set up the tone and suspense for what's to come. My favouri...


J.C. Lovero
14:11 Sep 10, 2022

Ri Ri~ Hello! Yes, I am trying to give you space to work on that bestselling novel of yours. Can't wait! I've always heard the phrase "death by chocolate," so why not take it literally for once 😆 😅 😂 I do remember you saying you liked vampire stories! I shamefully admit that I enjoyed Twilight lol. It was fun to channel some of that into this story. I am sure Lorenzo and Quinn had a cute, high-school sweetheart love story back in the day. But, people change in college, and in a longer form, I probably would have spent some time developin...


Riel Rosehill
14:58 Sep 10, 2022

You know me well, I procastinate with whatever I can get my hands on! 😂 Aaand now I want two sequels, please: what comes after this, Lorenzo the vampire; and the Quinn love story beginning to end. (Big request? 😂) That'd be heartbreaking. Btw. What Aeris commented, second that, I felt the same reading this, I'm just not as good at reviews yet 😅


J.C. Lovero
16:14 Sep 10, 2022

You know I love giving readers what they want 😅 😂 🤣 Consider the saga of Quinn, Lorenzo, and Dimitri added to the project list!


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Marty B
05:07 Sep 16, 2022

Death by chocolate- How true! Dimitri is a legendary villain! This line really set up the plot twist-'The only thing worse than dying is living a boring life' Those red velvet cupcakes made me hungry!


J.C. Lovero
12:33 Sep 20, 2022

Thanks for the comments Marty. Glad you enjoyed the villain vampire!


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Pene Worth
00:07 Sep 15, 2022

This held me, and loved the twists. One sentence I will critique "His head swiveled around the restaurant with sparkling eyes." Maybe better if 'his eyes sparkled'. I love the title and how the title and of course the dessert works with the story


J.C. Lovero
12:34 Sep 20, 2022

Thanks for the read and critique Pene! Appreciate it. Glad the title worked.


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Mustang Patty
00:38 Sep 12, 2022

Hi there, This is the first work of yours I've read - and OH MY - such deliciousness! Great job - I felt every emotion and was engaged for the entire read. It looks like you have a huge fan following - and they've all missed you! Truly enjoyable, ~MP~


J.C. Lovero
12:35 Sep 20, 2022

Hello there Mustang! Thank you for the read and the comment. I'm glad the story grabbed you and kept you reading. It's one of the best compliments we can receive as writers!


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Alex Sultan
04:16 Sep 11, 2022

Hey friend. I thought this story was great - I liked everything about it. From the start, I liked your writing style for Dimitri(A very fitting vampire name) and how you built up his character. I also thought the 'Die.' line was great - It had good impact. Violent, fast paced action scenes are always my favourite and Id say you delivered on it! The fork in a woman's chest was a vivid detail. I liked all the vampire details as well, with eyes darker than the dessert they shared. The title of the story caught me eye, too. I enjoyed reading t...


J.C. Lovero
12:36 Sep 20, 2022

Alex, my friend! So glad you could stop by to give my vampire story a read. I've been trying to improve on my action scenes and pacing after some of your feedback. Hope they made daddy Sultan proud. 😁 😆 😅


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Michał Przywara
21:44 Sep 10, 2022

Heh, great twist! I didn't see it coming at all. It sounded like a setup for a fairy mundane love triangle thing, but then we got to the cake, and noticing that Dimitri wasn't eating. Maybe it's just paranoia, but to me that's usually a massive red flag that someone is getting poisoned. Although maybe it's not paranoia, since that actually did happen here. So that's already an interesting, unexpected even, but then you crank it up even further by adding vampires. I like that the ending is up in the air. The narrator will presumably feed -...


J.C. Lovero
12:39 Sep 20, 2022

Hello Michał, Thanks so much for the read and the comment! The cake thing is not just you - if someone in a story is not drinking or eating... something is seriously WRONG. Plus, who doesn't love a little vampire fic? 😇 Ending is presumed (at least for me it is), and they have centuries ahead of bickering now. A twisted love story. 😆 😅 😂


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Aeris Walker
19:54 Sep 09, 2022

Oh wow. I was not expecting any of this from merely reading the tags “speculative” or “suspense,” but that made the unveiling of the story all the better. It was exciting and eventful, while maintaining all the emotion behind the characters’ relationships. These were some of my favorites lines: “I set the frame on the table between us with the same care a proud mother would handle her child’s baseball trophy.”—perfect comparison. “The room was washed in blinding white. A nurse tapped her pen on a paper chart thirty feet away, and it puls...


J.C. Lovero
14:04 Sep 10, 2022

Hello Aeris! Thanks for giving the story and read and leaving some thoughts. Twilight was a guilty pleasure of mine back in the day, so it was fun to pull some of that out for this piece. Glad you enjoyed it!


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L.M. Lydon
17:59 Sep 09, 2022

Fun! I love an original vampire story. I like that you left the ending suspenseful. You did a wonderful job developing the character of Demetri; the reader can totally feel that unpredictable bad boy charisma flowing off the screen. In particular, on second read, this excerpt really stood out to me: "Dimitri was an old soul. Aside from his British accent, he spoke with an eloquence that had been lost to civilizations centuries ago." Nice foreshadow.


J.C. Lovero
14:06 Sep 10, 2022

Thanks for the read (and second read!) and for the feedback. I'm glad Dimitri's character came through the page. I was going for an unpredictable bad boy with a soft spot!


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Zelda C. Thorne
16:19 Sep 09, 2022

Oooooo brilliant. Loved it! 😍


J.C. Lovero
14:06 Sep 10, 2022

Thanks for giving me feedback on the early draft!


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Amanda Lieser
04:17 Sep 09, 2022

Hello! Oh my goodness am I glad to be the first to comment! Holy cow this one is a goody! That gorgeous scene in the restaurant melting into your second half was like chocolate flowing for a lava cake! The twist was BEAUTIFULLY executed and my heart was left aching for a sequel. This was so wonderfully crafted. Nice job!


J.C. Lovero
14:12 Sep 10, 2022

Hi Amanda! So nice to catch up with you in the comments! I have been a bit MIA from Reedsy over the past month while working on other projects, but this story came to me when I read last week's prompts. Appreciate your feedback on the story! Glad it worked!


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Daniel Rains
16:11 Sep 13, 2022

Good story and twist. I enjoyed reading it.


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Secilia Small
00:01 Sep 13, 2022



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