Meet the sexiest ghoul on television: Stephen Moyer, 39, back this month for a second season of HBO's True Blood. He plays Bill Compton, a ruggedly handsome 173-year-old Southern vampire who's fallen for Anna Paquin's telepathic waitress, Sookie. Sounds kooky, right? It is, but also surprisingly old school. "Bill's very gentlemanly, asking, 'May I visit with you at your home?' It's a sentimental, old-world kind of courting," explains Moyer. But this being an Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) production, all that gallant wooing is underscored by a twisted sexuality. "It's about being courted by somebody who could rip your arteries out," he says.

Moyer may now be a goth magnet, but he wasn't always. The unmarried father of two had just come off playing a "tan, buff, blond beach bum" on The Starter Wife and had to get an eerie pale glow, quick, for the role. "I live by the beach, so I had to wear long sleeves and a floppy hat or I'd look like a Red Lobster ad," he says.

Equally under wraps was his budding relationship with costar Paquin. It was a secret for the first 10 months, but Moyer admits there were times when the director would call cut, and "25 seconds later we're still snogging." And, while on-set your-trailer-or-mine romances are nothing new, theirs posed a particularly pointed problem: fangs and those carnal love scenes. "I keep my mouth open and let her probe around the sharpness of the teeth," he says of kissing with his creepy dental hardware. "Which is kind of erotic."

As for the competition, Twilight's toothsome Robert Pattinson, Moyer simply says: "He's a pussy! He's the Slim-Fast, Diet Coke of vampires." Agreed. And while we're at it, bite us.

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