Bronte awoke to strange noises in her apartment. She had not slept well and it took her a moment to realize where she was. She stared up at the white ceiling wondering about what had woken her when she heard movement in the living room. She looked toward her bedroom door that she had shut and locked against the man out there. She wondered about him. It was daylight, early dawn, and her thoughts of finding him a vampire began to dissipate in the light of day.
She propped herself up and it brought her attention to the bandage on her arm. She pulled it off and her skin was unmarred. She threw back the covers and picked up her robe. It had long sleeves and would hide the wound that was no longer there making it unnecessary to explain its sudden disappearance.
She went in to the bathroom and brushed her teeth and hair. She heard more movement in the living room and couldn’t quite place what the noises were. She thought to peek in at him to see what he was doing and she moved very quietly to her bedroom door and turned the handle so as not to make any noise herself.
She barely opened the door and looked through the small opening toward the couch where she knew he had slept. He was standing there folding blankets and putting them on the chair. He had one in his hands and when he moved to set it down she realized he was nude. His hair was tousled from his sleep and he was moving slowly as he put things in their right place.
She could not stop looking at him. She had never seen a man nude before. She knew from movies and pictures she had seen what a man looked like, but she had never seen a live man nude, and especially not one in her apartment. She stood there long enough to realize it was too warm in the house. He must have turned up the thermostat last night. She watched as he moved with ease in and out of the rays of sunshine that were filtering through the partially open blinds. She was relieved to see that he was normal. Looking at him nude she corrected herself; he was more than normal, he was incredible! She felt herself grow warm as she watched him gather his clothing.
He picked up his shirt first and threw it on. Before he started to button it he grew very still. He knew she was watching him. He could feel it. He could smell her skin, her blood, her perfume.
“You smell like vanilla and flowers,” he said and then moved his eyes to capture hers.
She blushed and cast her eyes down, but did not move.
“Come here,” he told her. She knew she had been caught and there would be no hiding now. She felt compelled to go to him and that thought made her think again of vampires, but he was standing there in the soft sunlight so she thought that perhaps it was her own wanton feelings that made her open the door and step out into the living room. She had thought of him so much she wondered if he would be so interested in having her near if he knew how obsessed she had been with the memory of him.
She stopped a few feet away and held her eyes to his because to look anywhere else would cause her great embarrassment.
“Come closer,” he commanded, and she closed the distance between them.
He looked down into her face and placed his hand on her cheek. He leaned forward and planted a gentle kiss on her lips and wrapped his arms around her to pull her closer. She was wearing a thin white night gown with a matching robe. It was old fashioned and it charmed him. It was exactly what he imagined she would be wearing all alone in her virgin’s bed.
She could feel every contour of his body through the thin material. As his lips coaxed her to open to him and she felt the velvet softness of his tongue her mind sought to imagine his skin against her own. It was only a fantasy, but one she was growing accustomed to. One she would some day find a reality.
That last thought came to her and she had lost herself. She slowly realized that he was cold. Although the apartment seemed to be sweltering in the heat he was still cold. She wondered if it was because he was naked all night, or perhaps it was because she was so hot in contrast. She wasn’t sure, but she was sure that he was stealing away her will and that frightened her. He was taking it away with his nearness and his sexuality. But, then suddenly he released her and she felt bereft of his nearness.
“I must go,” he said calmly, as though their encounter had not touched him at all. He stepped back and finished dressing as she watched. Bronte was held in place by her inability to think of what to do or say next. She watched him, and he allowed it.
“If you like,” he said, “I can return this evening and we can have more…” he let the silence bring her attention to him, “coffee.” He was mocking her, teasing her, letting her know that should he return it would have nothing at all to do with coffee. He smiled and it had a devastating effect on her. She didn’t think it would be wise to do this again until she could learn to better master her own thoughts and actions.
“I don’t know,” she whispered. She watched him sit on the chair.
“Yes, you do Bronte,” He said quietly, yet sternly. He was putting on his socks and shoes when he said it, and she watched him as she thought about his tone. She wasn’t sure if she liked the way he spoke to her. She might be inexperienced, but she was no child.
“You’re right, I do,” she admitted. “I don’t think it would be wise for you to return.” She surprised herself with her own bravado.
He had been concentrating on his task and not looking at her until she spoke. His head snapped up to look into her eyes, as though he had been surprised by her answer, yet his expression did not give him away, she had no idea what he was thinking.
He considered her for a moment. She had fire in her, spirit, she was inexperienced, but she was no fool. He didn’t like her to deny him, but he found he desired her more for her boldness in refusing him.
“Perhaps I should apologize for my forwardness and ask again?” he offered. She said nothing, because she wasn’t sure how to answer him. “Would you please accompany me to a play tomorrow night?” he asked with more interest and concern for her answer.
She felt herself soften toward him. They didn’t know each other and they needed to go slowly, and learn what the rules would be. She wanted to go. She wanted to be with him again. It was that simple.
“I would like that,” she said and watched his lips turn into a sincere smile. He was pleased and the thought of that pleased her as well.
He rose then and she stepped away toward the door to see him out. She stood to the side so he could open the door. Before he did he leaned down and she thought he would kiss her. Instead he whispered to her.
“It is inevitable, this.” He indicated his meaning then with the kiss she was waiting for. He tasted her deeply and she felt her knees weakening and her skin grow hot. He broke the kiss then and looked into her eyes as he placed his hand on the doorknob. “Fortunately, I am a patient man.” He used his free hand to run through her dark hair and he pulled some of it gently into his face and breathed in her scent. He let it go and walked out.
* * *
Bronte felt strangely alive and invigorated despite her lack of a good night’s rest. She felt so many things it was difficult to say what emotion was causing her good mood. She was somewhat frightened of the new feelings Quinn invoked in her, but she was excited too. Those feelings made her feel aware of herself as a woman, they made her feel desirable. She wished desperately she had someone to share her feelings with. She thought of calling Carol, but she didn’t feel close enough to Carol to tell her some of the more intimate details, although it might be nice to get advice from someone as experienced as Carol. She couldn’t call her mother, because she was afraid her father might not take the idea of her having a boyfriend too well. She considered it though. She did not know where her best friend Jordan was. Jordan was traveling the world and checked in only one or twice a month.
“Stop it Bronte,” she said out loud to herself as she made some lunch and sat alone in her little kitchen. “You don’t have a boyfriend, you have a date, and you haven’t even had that yet.”
She had no plans for the day and it went be very slowly. She went out and got something to make for dinner and she rented a movie. The small apartment seemed rather large and lonely as she settled in her favorite chair and turned on the movie. As she watched the love story unfold on her TV screen she felt the loneliness creep over her. Carol hadn’t called today. Bronte thought that she might be mad at her for leaving the club. She would see Carol in the morning at the museum and explain that she was just uncomfortable. Carol would understand.
The movie was over and Bronte yawned quietly. Her eyes wandered to the couch where he had slept last night. She got up and walked toward the couch. She lay down on it and was surprised to find that she could smell his cologne lingering there. It smelled wonderful and she lay down and rested her cheek against the cushions. She relaxed there surrounded by his memory and fell to sleep without another thought.
The phone had a harsh tone to it and the volume was set too loud. It worked like an alarm clock and Bronte sat straight up blinking hard and trying to recall where she was and what she was doing. On the third ring Bronte realized it wasn’t an alarm clock and that she wasn’t in bed. She was still on the couch and she looked at the clock on the wall as she picked up the phone. It was midnight.
She could here the sounds of people and laughter in the background before anyone spoke. When she recognized Carol’s voice she was immediately worried for her.
“Bronte?” she asked, knowing it was, but always asking just the same. “It’s Carol.”
“Carol, are you okay?” she asked. She rubbed at her eyes as though that would help her to concentrate more. She ran her fingers through her hair and felt the tangled mess there and frowned.
“I’m great,” Carol said with enthusiasm. “I want you to come to the club. There’s someone here who wants to meet you.”
Bronte was silent for a moment. She couldn’t believe Carol called this late wanting her to go to a club the day before their first day of work. She felt agitated.
“Carol, we have work tomorrow. It’s midnight. I’m going to bed,” Bronte said very matter of fact. She was a little angry with Carol for calling so late. She had never told Carol what too late was, but midnight was generally accepted as “too late”. She started to tell Carol she was hanging up when she heard another voice come on the line.
“Bronte,” it was Seth and he was speaking to her with that tone that was so soothing. She wasn’t going to buy into it tonight though, she was tired and it was late.
“I’m sorry Seth,” she said before he could say another word, “It’s late and I’m going to bed.” She might have thought twice about hanging up on Carol, but she did not care about hanging up on Seth. She put the phone back in its cradle and stood up.
It was cold and she rubbed her arms to warmth. She walked to the window to see if she had left it open. It was closed. She glanced out at the partially lit street and saw a figure across from her, looking up into her window. He was dressed in dark clothing, but he was too far away for her to see him. It could have been anyone. It could have been someone waiting for a taxi, or a homeless person. It could have been, but she thought she knew who it was. It was him. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Was he stalking her or protecting her? She stared at the figure, but it never moved. She closed the curtains as she considered that she was over-reacting. The attack from outside the club had really shaken her up and that was why she felt so paranoid. She tried to convince herself of that and it sounded plausible. She glanced out the window once more and there was no one there.
“I need to sleep,” she said to herself and began to turn off all the lights and go to bed.
He did not invade her dreams that night. She was very tired and she slept without incident.
She looked peaceful in her slumber he thought as he watched her from his perch on top of the footboard of her bed. He had not fed yet this night and he could hear the flow of her blood and the beating of her heart. It was not time to take her. He would have to be very careful of her, not to frighten her, not to scare her away. She had to want him for him to take her. She could not be forced, compelled, or tricked in any way if he were to claim the ultimate prize.
She was not what he had expected. He thought she would be spoiled and haughty. She was the daughter of a king. She was nothing like that at all. She was innocent and kind. She was naïve and tender. He thought he would be able to seduce her quickly and take what would be his to claim. He wasn’t unhappy about how things had turned out. It was just unexpected.
He thought about the attack outside the club. He knew who owned the club, and he knew that Seth would be interested in the girl. He did not make himself known to Seth; it would be wise to wait. Seth had become strong without letting anyone know of his growing power. Seth was up to something, he could feel it. It would be best to keep a close watch on Bronte. The attack had been random, but it had been careless of Seth to let her come to any harm. Seth was always careless, and that was why he would never be anymore than what he was.
He watched Bronte as she sighed and turned in the bed. The light from the open window shown down upon her sleeping figure and he knew he would have to leave soon. She was too much of a temptation for him.
He left then to feed, but his mind was full of the scent of vanilla and flowers, and his vision full of dark hair and satin skin.
* * *
Bronte felt wonderful when she woke. She was exited to start the new job and she dressed and arrived there ten minutes early. Mr. Braun was the owner of the small museum and he met her over a cup of freshly ground coffee.
“Miss Springfield will not be joining us today I’m afraid,” he said as he poured some of the delicious coffee in a large mug and handed it to Bronte.
Bronte was afraid that would happen. Carol had been out all night and probably went home with Seth. She had called in sick her first day of work. Bronte was afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep the job if this was how she was going to treat it.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Bronte said and then thanked him for the coffee. “I’m sure whatever the problem is that Carol will work it out. I know she is very excited about this opportunity.” Bronte found herself sticking up for Carol even though she wasn’t sure Carol deserved it.
It was obvious that Mr. Braun would go lightly on Carol. He seemed like a kind man and spoke of Carol as though she were just a child. He was old enough she could have been his great grandchild, so Bronte thought he would be very forgiving of Carol.
After a tour of the museum and a description of duties Bronte found herself a nicely paced routine for work. The day went by quickly and she was almost sorry to have it end. Almost. Her date with Quinn was tonight and as the excitement of her new job came to a close with the end of the work day, her excitement for her private life came alive and she felt giddy.
Thoughts of Carol and Mr. Braun faded with the setting sun and Bronte felt the tangible anticipation of the oncoming night and all its possibilities.
* * *
Bronte took great care with her appearance. She wanted to look pretty without looking like she spent hours to get that way. She had stopped by the mall before going home and purchased a simple, but elegant dark blue dress. The color matched her eyes and was not so grand that she felt uncomfortable in it. It was a light rayon material that felt nice on her skin when she moved in it. The neckline was modest and the back was low. When she chose it she recalled the time she and Quinn had danced and he had caressed her back. It had helped her to make her mind up about the dress.
Her hair wasn’t long enough to pin up, but too long to do nothing with for such a special occasion. She finally decided to find her curling iron and do something with her errant hair. She was happy with the outcome, but she knew it wouldn’t last. She wanted to make his first impression of the night good and she thought she might accomplish that as she did one final check on her reflection.
She paced the room waiting for him. He had not said when he would be there, but she looked in the local paper to see what times most of the plays started and she knew he could be there soon. She hoped it would be soon because the waiting was unbearable.
She had not dated in high school or in college. She went out for coffee with a few male acquaintances from class, but it was for studying, not dating. She always hid herself away behind a book and oversized clothes. She wasn’t shy really, just not socially experienced. She spent her holidays and weekends with her family. She spent almost every free moment with Jordan until she went away. Jordan was the shy one. Thinking of Jordan made Bronte smile. She was like a sister to her and she wished she knew how to get in touch with Jordan now. Jordan would be very happy for her.
Bronte thought about Quinn and wondered if he thought of her. She realized that she still didn’t know his first name. She knew the softness of his lips and the warmth of his kisses, but she did not know his first name. She was somewhat embarrassed at that fact. She made up her mind to be very lady-like this evening and keep her hands, and her lips to herself. She smiled secretly to herself wondering if she would be able to keep that promise.