As bold as I think I am, I was far too skittish to visit Maddox at his workplace, the Vampire High Court. In fact, Maddox himself advised against it via text, claiming that "We wouldn't want a curious, sweet thing like you caught in the crosshairs of a hungry vampire." Instead of reading it as a patronizing warning to an otherwise brave woman, like me, I took it as a fair warning from a vampire who knew his kind a lot better (and a lot longer) than I did. Maddox agreed to the interview granted I would fulfill two requests: Visit him at his private home and purchase a box of Honeybee Scouts cookies from him. Of course, I had a ton of questions around that second request, but he promised he would explain when I came to visit.
When he sent me the directions to his private residence, I grew even more intrigued. Being a Wraith Knight for the Vampire High Court (or VHC for short), I expected him to live a lot closer to the action. However, as I drove away from New Orleans and closer to Houma, a town out in the boonies of Terrebonne Parish, it seemed that Maddox preferred a life away from the urban churn.
Pulling up to the driveway, I admire the tall Cypress trees to each side of the property and Spanish moss clinging to them like mesh scarves in the breeze. The cool night air was filled with the symphony of crickets and cicadas as the full moon's light washed over the one-story bayou side home. I stepped out of the car and could immediately smell the water off the bayou nearby. I was a bit taken aback at the idea of a vampire living in a home like this. It was well-kept from the outside, but it wasn't a mansion or a plantation home. It was a house like anyone would have. Beautiful, yet unassuming. Nerves racking up inside me, I pressed the doorbell twice as he instructed and waited. A light turned on in front of the door and I straightened as it opened revealing a tall, muscular vampire with chestnut hair and bright gray eyes that took my breath away. I'd been warned about Maddox's commanding presence, but nothing quite prepared me for this. It didn't help that his New Orleans Saints T-shirt clung to every slope and ripple of his magnificent torso, his short sleeves exposing the flaming eye tattoo--a symbol of the VHC and the Wraith Knight's mark of loyalty. He cleared his throat, forcing me to finally stop raking my eyes over his body and focus on those stark eyes of his. When his met mine, I knew he caught me totally swooning and I felt my face warm a couple degrees.
"You must be Kharma," he said with a raised eyebrow. His Russian accent was apparent when saying my name and man did he make it sound amazing.
Nerves got the better of me and I gave a sheepish grin, extending my hand to shake his. "Yep! it's me in the flesh! Thanks so much for inviting me." His hand gently grasped mine and shook it as he looked me over. Never had I'd been more grateful to wear a push-up bra to the interview. Underwires don't fail me now!
Maddox softly smiled and stepped back, removing himself as a wall to the entrance of his home. "Pleasure's mine. Please come in."
I nodded and walked past him, stopping at the foyer to survey the house. The archways were majestic and modestly painted. Not much on the walls, but softly lit.
"I'm glad you found the house okay. I've not given this location to many people and usually, they find themselves lost in the swamp somewhere." He extended his hand out toward the living room. "Would you like a tour or you wanna get down to business?"
Too bad our definitions of "business" were very different from each other. I did know that Maddox was a pretty private man and to invite someone here was a big to-do as it didn't happen often. I looked up at him, smiling. "I would love a tour, if you don't mind."
"Of course," he replied. Maddox walked ahead of me as I followed him from room to room. Frankincense oil burned throughout the house and there was a warmth to the place that I didn't expect from a supposedly cold hearted Wraith Knight of the VHC. I found myself just enjoying Maddox walk around until we found ourselves outside in the back where I finally discovered where the smell of the bayou was coming from. He had a goregous deck overlooking the waters. The moon's reflection danced across the rippling water and I couldn't resist slinking down into the chair next to me. I sighed at the calmness of the night. "I think I know why you live out here. It's beautiful." Maddox walked up beside me, looked at me and then to the water. "Thank you. I like the peace out here too." He folded his arms, his expression inquisitive. "Would you like do the interview out here?"
Realizing I just kinda seated myself, I jumped up. "I'm so sorry!"
Maddox pulled his chair closer to mine. "Don't be. It's a nice night out and I don't mind." He stepped back to pull the mosquito net around us both. "But, if we're gonna be out here, you're gonna need this. They don't bite me, but they sure as hell will try to drink you dry."
I laughed. "And wouldn't that be a pity."
Maddox sat back down in his chair, his gaze locked on me with pure flirt in his eyes. "Indeed."
The air around us held a charge of intensity that was only lightened by my awkward clearing of my throat. "Sooo, um. Thanks for inviting me to do your interview. There's a lot of fans and readers curious about you so why don't you say we get started?"
He sat back as a not-so-gentle smile exposed his fangs. "Certainly, Miss Kharma." I found myself caught up in those silver toned peepers and I shook my head.
"Hey, you watch that now," I playfully warned.
Maddox's eyes widened as feigned innocence swept over his mannerisms. "What do you mean?"
I pointed my pen at him as I continued to accuse him. "You know exactly what I mean, mister bright eyes. No glamour!"
He scoffed with a devious smile. "Glamour? Me? Just merely flirting, that's all."
"Mmmhmm," I grunted suspiciously. "I'm a married woman, Maddox."
"That's too bad." He crossed his arms. "Truly."
"You are a trip," I replied. "Truly." His amused expression prompted me to get started. "So, tell me a bit about your history before you turned. Where were you born?
I was born near the Ural Mountains in what's commonly known as Russia roughly 500 years ago.
"Wow, do you remember growing up there? How life was like?"
He nodded. "Cold. Violent. In those days it was so easy for someone to come and take what you had. You had to learn to fight to protect those you loved, or you would for certain lose everything."
I frowned. "Were you a soldier?"
"And did you lose someone?"
Maddox didn't answer, but the look in his eyes told me what he wanted to say. Something heart-breaking rested on those lips and the threat of it haunted me. "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that." I gently touched his hand and changed the subject. "Russia is a long way from the States. How did you find yourself here so many years later and sworn to the Vampire High Court?"
Maddox shrugged. "You think a vampire would learn. Many years ago, I found myself sort of floundering. I hunted. I fed. I killed. But I was bored. For you humans, it's different. Your years are so short, it's almost comical to hear of any of you getting bored with your life. The problem is that you don't fit enough into it."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm vampire. I'm immortal. I have all the time in the world, granted someone doesn't take my head off or stake me. Do you think I worry with purchasing a new car or paying all of my debts on time and saving up for that big trip to the bahamas?"
I shook my head. “Probably not.”
“Exactly, I have tons of time to worry, yet I spend zero of my time fretting over bullshit like that."
Well, what do you find yourself fretting over?"
"These days?, " he asked with an amused smile. "The Saints not making it to the playoffs."
I snorted out a laugh. "Well, you've definitely been here long enough to call yourself a Saint's fan."
"It's alright, I won't hold that against you." I winked as he feigned shock.
"Careful, now, I made you a welcomed guest. Don't make me feed you to the gators."
"You wouldn’t dare.”
He sighed. “True. I wouldn’t waste such sweetness to those creatures when I could stand to imbibe on a nibble.” His eyes flashed mischief and I shifted in my seat. “Do I make you nervous?”
“Well, yeah. You’re a centuries-old vampire with a killer instinct and a jawline for days. And I can’t tell when you’re serious.”
He sat back, grinning and the night got brighter when he did. “You’re funny. Funny, and also right. I’m not all that great with people, but I make an effort these days. Forgive me if I spooked you.”
I shrugged. “You didn’t spook me. I know my way around a vampire.”
Maddox raised an eyebrow.
“Wait, that came out wrong.”
“I don’t think it did.”
We both shared a laugh, before I finally sobered enough to continue my questions.
“So, tell me about your job. What goes into being a Wraith Knight of the Vampire High Court?" I leaned on my book and watched him intently.
Maddox raked his fingers through his thick chestnut hair and blew out a sigh. "Being a Wraith is about the hunt. The first of us were older vampires who had no desire to seek power or politics. We just craved purpose. Those of us that were bored started making decisions. Either you can run around causing trouble or you can try to make things better. I felt that at least as a Wraith, I could do what I love and keep some terrors from mucking it up for the rest of us.”
“How do you feel about the Bureau? Rumor has it that there’s a bit of tension between the agents and the Wraiths.
He shrugged. “Eh, they serve their purpose. I think that in the end both factions are trying to do the same thing, it’s just I’ve never been a fan of their weird catch and release programs and rehabilitation mumbo jumbo.”
I nodded. “Oh, you mean the work-release program?”
He rolled his eyes at the mention. “Yeah.”
“Ethan Raines rehabilitated Chloe Hunter through that program.”
He laughed. “Yeah, so I’ve heard. If that’s what you call it.”
I chuckled. “Still doesn’t change your mind?”
He scoffed. “Are you kidding? If anything, it keeps me up during daylight. Let’s just change the subject.”
“Okay, so as a Wraith Knight, are you allowed to have a companion?”
Maddox smiled. “We can have a companion, as long as it doesn't interfere with our work. The VHC understands that companionship is a way of life for some of us.”
“And what about you,” I asked “Any companions for you now or in the past?”
“Not at the moment, no. I’ve been too preoccupied with hunting down bad guys. My nights are all tied up with recon and capture, by the time I’m home, I’m ready to go to ground to do the shit all over again the next night. I’m a creature of habit.”
I chewed my bottom lip, pensive.“That sucks. So, how do you fight loneliness?”
A confident smirk grew on his lips “I have my ways. New Orleans is filled with beautiful folks. In any event, being alone is not anything new for our kind. A lot of us are set in our ways that adding a companion would be like changing the Mona Lisa. I don’t want to make it seem like a bunch of us are wayward, stubborn assholes, but we pretty much are. Like I said, some of us just want purpose and others want to cause trouble. You can’t be either if you like change.”
I smiled. “That’s not true.”
“It’s mostly true.”
“So, what are the cookies for?”
"It's for a friend. I'm helping her with a competition. Your purchase helps her get that much closer to winning. It also teaches the Honeybee Scouts about business skills, fundraising and leadership, so I'm in support."
I grinned. "Me too." I pulled some bills out from my cleavage and Maddox stared at me. "Sorry, I keep the big bills in the vault."
He chuckled. "Don't you dare be sorry. It's such a sacred place. I appreciate being witness to the withdrawal." Maddox stood up and walked over to me, accepting the two twenty-dollar bills with ceremony. "Thank you for your support. What flavors you'd like?"
"Just an assortment. Dealer's choice."
"Alright. I'll be sure to help select and put them in your car." He turned and sat back down. "Now, where were we?"
"I have one more question for you."
"Go for it."
"Do you believe that solidarity can yield positive change in the shadow world?"
Maddox shifted in his seat and tilted his head, thinking. "Wow, you certainly saved the biggest one for last, didn't you?"
I smiled. "I warned you on the phone. I pull no punches in my interviews."
"No shit, you don't."
Maddox's nervous chuckle had me extremely interested in his opinion. "Well?"
He leaned forward. "Okay, I have a thought, and before the judgment comes on I need to put a little disclaimer so you won't stake me."
"Hmm. Now I'm really intrigued." I sat back. "Go for it. No judgment here."
"I'm an old longtooth vampire. I've been around for hundreds of years so I opinion on the human condition and supernaturals will differ since my perspective has been longer than human lifetimes. That being said, I'm still surprised from time to time by the grace of both humans and supes alike. That was weird to admit, but it's the truth--I'm still capable of being surprised."
"That's interesting coming from you. I have you on record saying it, by the way."
He nodded. "Go take it. It's the most vulnerability you'll get from me tonight."
I chuckled. "Duly noted. Please continue."
Maddox leaned back, attempting to relax again. "Well, putting aside the dumpster fire that is humanity, supernaturals have made some strides to coexist better than our human counterparts. I think it's naive to expect complete soldarity among supes because some atrocities are too longstanding and healing is too far from reality. What we have learned is that when we stop bickering enough to shut the hell up and listen to each other, we often find there's more in common with us than what divides us. But the listening is the hard part. The decentering yourself in the reparations is challenging too. I'll be the first to admit I held a lot of prejudices around many of the shadow world. So many were unfounded--just bullshit I heard from others or stereotypes that were pedantic."
"We humans do the same as well. We are fed so much simplistic labelling of others so much. There's no secret that you for the longest time were not a fan of the Fae, correct?"
"I really couldn't stand the Fae folks. I had no patience for them and felt they were too influential in the shadow world, and loved playing the victim. I was skeptical of anything they were involved with just because I viewed them as a threat. It was when I took my head out of my ass and actually met some did I realize I was being part of the problem. Leto wasn't like any of the Fae I heard about and it was refreshing and eye-opening."
I grinned at his mention of Agent Leto. Especially at noticing the little glimmer in his eye when he said her name. "The Fae is not a monolith, so I imagine this varied take has been enlightening for you."
"It's not easy. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm trying. I think there's more than me out there who's ready to do that. So...maybe we could change for the better."
I nodded. "Thanks for sharing this take, Maddox. I really appreciate your honesty and I truly hope there's more like you out there."
"You don't want more me's out there, but I get what you're saying."
"Okay, so here's the fun part."
Maddox raised an eyebrow. His part curious, part lascivious expression stopping me in my tracks. "Not that kinda fun, calm down."
He shrugged. "You're a dasher of hopes, Ms. Kelley."
"This final part of the interview is Rapid Fire. I'm gonna ask some questions and you answer with the first thought in your head."
"That's very dangerous," He said with another chuckle. This one was more mischievous than nervous.
"Indeed, but you're gonna love it. My readers do." I readjust in my seat and grin. "Okay. Rapid Fire. Dracula: fact or fiction?"
"Massive fiction. I've met some vampires who claim they were the inspiration to Bram's book, but nope. And that guy would never make the cut with the VHC. Too dramatic, less warrior."
"Some would say Dracula was more of a lover and not a fighter."
"Gross. Next question."
"Alright. Person Next-Door or Seducer?"
"What? Nah. You have to choose one."
"If I must choose it's person next-door. I like someone who will keep me guessing and doe-eyed hotties get me going."
"Tatiana - my kindjal. She's never let me down."
"Sexist part of a person?"
I grimaced. "Really?"
"You expected me to say something like ass, huh?"
I shrugged. "Well..."
"I mean those are sexy too. I'm an ass man. But eyes are universal and usually the first thing I fall for. Besides it's what I look at to gauge if someone's turned on." He leaned forward. "It's enjoyable to see a lover's pupils dilate after you've given them an orgasm. Truly a window to the soul, Ms. Kelley."
"Whoa." I had to hand it to him. He had a way of words. When I caught him staring at me, my eyes narrowed. "Hey, are you reading my eyes right now?"
He smiled and sat back. "Of course not. I wouldn't dream of--"
"Oh, you're incorrigible. Let's wrap this up so you can get back to hunting other prey."
"But this has been rather fun. Thank you for coming by."
I shut my recording app off. "The pleasure's all mine, Maddox. Thanks for inviting me to your home."
He walked over and extended his hand to help me out of the seat. "Anytime." He kissed my hand and the luke-warm soft lips raised goosebumps. "I'll grab your cookies and load them in your ride for you."
After a few minutes, Maddox sent me off with a trunk full of cookies and an amazing interview at his gorgeous home. I wished the Saints luck this year which made the big guy smile. He was a trip! So that's it, folks. I hope you enjoyed Maddox's interview as much as I enjoyed it too! You can learn more about his adventures and his love story in the upcoming Agents of the Bureau novel, "Nocturnally Yours."