It was late, but Quinn had Felix fix dinner for them. Bronte was still reeling from her brief tour of the house. They had only seen a quarter of the old place and she was impressed. The house was very well taken care of and held antiques from the time period of the house. She loved antiques and hoped she would be allowed to see the rest of the house before the weekend was over.
Most of the furniture was done in reds and dark mahogany. There were other deep colors throughout the house, but dark reds were a favorite of the owner it would seem. She had seen the foyer, the drawing room, the library, and most of the second story chambers. The tour ended in the dining room where Felix had soup and a large lush salad waiting.
There were several tapestries hanging in the dining room, as well as in the library. Pictures of castles and forests and creatures that were charming and some that were disturbing. Her eyes were drawn to the large tapestry in the dining room that hung behind Quinn on the other end of the long dining table. It was a room filled with dark colors and shadows. It showed a fire in a hearth, two chairs set so that you could only imagine someone in them from behind, and a glass of red wine sitting on a small table between the chairs. The details were stunning and she wondered where the room from the picture came from.
There was fire going in the fireplace in the dining room and the room became uncomfortably hot. She wondered how Quinn could stand the heat with his long sleeved jacket on. She had taken off her sweater almost immediately. The fireplace was located between them and was a massive black and white marble. Over it hung a disturbing picture of a 17th century war scene and she thought it an odd painting to have in the dining room. There were candles everywhere. One very large candle sat on the mantle of the fireplace and was lit. She thought she could smell vanilla coming from it. The room was done in a solid burgundy around the base of the walls and a lovely pattern of dark red roses that ran halfway up the wall at the top. She was trying to take it all in, but there was too much and she was too tired.
“How is your supper?” he asked and he stood to walk to the fireplace. He stood there staring into the fire waiting for her to answer him.
“It’s wonderful, thank you,” she said. She had no idea how he could stand so close to al that heat when she was beginning to sweat from it. He must have had other things on his mind. “I brought a book and some movies if you’re interested,” she offered as she finished eating and stood to walk toward him despite the uncomfortable climate.
“A book?” he turned and looked at her with interest.
“I thought I might read to you if you like,” she said and found she could not come any closer to the fire so she stopped a few feet away from him.
He saw her discomfort and walked away from the fire. He stood in front of her as he considered the night ahead of them. He had much to do, but the idea of listening to her read aloud appealed to him. Her voice was soft and soothing, and no one had read aloud to him in more years than he could recall.
“I would like to have you read to me,” he told her, “That would please me a great deal. Let me call for Felix and we can retire to the library.” He walked to the door and she watched him disappear. There was something in the way he spoke that made him sound old world she thought. Her father spoke that way, and so did her uncle. She wondered if it was him, or she was projecting her beloved father into his personality. Perhaps it was this house, the surroundings making the time period come to life. Her musings were interrupted when Quinn came back a short time later and brought her to the library. Felix had lit a fire there and there was coffee sitting out for her.
She excused herself long enough to run upstairs and retrieve her book. There were many books in the library, but Quinn insisted she read one she had brought with her.
When she walked back in to the library she found Quinn sitting in a red velvet wing-backed chair close to the fireplace. He had a cup of coffee sitting on a small table beside him and she could see the steam rising up off of the dark drink. He looked up at her and watched her as she sat in the matching chair that had been left further from the fire.
“Are you not feeling well?” she asked as she noticed his pale complexion and thought about how cold he seemed to be.
He looked at her thoughtfully before he answered. “I am not myself tonight. I hope to be better company tomorrow.”
“Would you rather go to bed?” she asked concerned about him now. He smiled at her and she shook her head. “Don’t say anything,” she warned before he could answer her question with what could only be something wicked. She realized she was getting to know him. She knew he would always try to shock her, or seduce her, or charm her. That was his way.
“Quinn?” she asked timidly. His eyes moved from the firelight to her face in an instant, “Will you tell me where you were born?” This was what the trip was about for her. She held her book to her breast, but waited to see if he would talk instead.
“I was born in London, England,” he told her. When he said it she heard his faint accent and recalled hearing it before.
“What brought you here?” she asked and she leaned back in the soft chair to make herself more comfortable.
“Necessity,” he said and did not elaborate. She thought that the question might hold a story he was not ready to share so she let it go and went on to her next question.
“What do you do when you aren’t with me?” she asked.
“I do many things,” he said and he stood then and walked the short distance to her. He kneeled in front of her then and placed his hands on top of her thighs for support. “None of which is more important than this,” he said as he leaned forward and kissed her lips softly. He pulled back with no more than that gentle promise. “Now, read,” he instructed her in a tender command. He lifted the book from her and looked at the title. His smile told her that he knew the book and she wondered if she should choose another.
“You know it?” she asked as she looked at the title and the name of the author on the cover. It was her favorite book, Jane Eyre, written by the woman she was named for. It was romantic and full of mystery. It was a classic, not one of those seedy romance novels. She brought one, but she wasn’t about to read it aloud to Quinn.
“I do,” he answered, “It fits my mood perfectly.” Her eyes watched him as he returned to his chair near the hearth. He could see her by turning his head just a bit in her direction and he watched her as she opened the book and began to read.
She adored the book and an hour went by before she thought to check the time. She looked at her watch and then to Quinn thinking he must be bored by now. He was still watching her just as attentively as he had when she began. When she stopped reading he smiled at her.
“Tired?” he asked.
She was very tired. She hated to have the evening end though. There was a feeling of simple camaraderie and peace between them as she read. She didn’t want that to end. There was no pressure for sex, or sexual tension, there was just peace and contentment and she hoped there would be an opportunity to read to him again later.
“Yes,” she answered. He stood and walked toward her. He extended his hand and she tucked the book beneath her arm and took it. When she stood he did not move and she was so close to him she could feel the heat of the fire still on his clothing.
He looked at her and wondered if this was wise. He should take her and have it done with. He did not know what to do with the feelings he had at that moment. It wasn’t about sex or power or fear, it had nothing to do with any of that, and that was what he was most familiar with. He recognized sadness though and he knew it was not for himself, but for her. He wanted her to continue to look at him the way she was right now. He wanted her to continue to trust him and to want him. He did not want to end her misconception too soon; he knew he must, but not tonight.
His eyes held something new and she could see it although she could not sense what it was. It was gentle and had nothing to do with sex.
“We will have more time tomorrow to talk,” he said as he took her in his arms. “Let’s put you to bed for now.”
He was holding her, but made no move to do much else. He kissed the tip of her nose lightly and she wrinkled it at him.
He was reluctant to let her go and she worried about where he would be sleeping. She hadn’t seen his luggage in her room, but that didn’t mean his intensions did not end there. She didn’t want to come out and ask him. If he had not thought about it she would not bring it up.
He held her hand as he led her up the stairs and to her room. As they approached the door her heart began to skip frantically. Would he expect to sleep with her now that he had done so at her apartment? He opened the door and switched on the light to the right as they walked into the room. The soft light shown down over the bed, which was made of mahogany and covered with a dark blue coverlet. Her eyes cast over the bed and back to the man who still held her hand.
“Do you want me to stay?” he asked her. He still held her hand, but he had not tried to seduce her further. He would welcome the opportunity to sleep beside her, but he sensed that she was hesitant.
Her eyes held his as she considered it. She wanted him to stay. She wanted him to sleep next to her, and to wake next to him in the morning. But, she had the feeling that to ask him to stay this night would mean something more. Something had transpired between them in the library; something more than just a passing seduction. She didn’t want to let that go and she was afraid that having sex right now would cover those feelings and she might not ever get them back.
“Can we wait?” she asked. She wondered what she would say if he told her he didn’t want to wait. Looking at him standing there with those new feelings between them she knew that if he asked she would not say no.
He pulled her close then and she wondered if she would surrender to him. One arm went about her to keep her close to his body. The other pushed back an errant strand of hair and his eyes caressed her face.
“I would wait for you,” he whispered. He leaned down and gently kissed her mouth, then her jaw and finally her forehead. “You are worth waiting for,” he promised. He let her go then and walked out of her room leaving her with her own counsel, confusion and to her surprise; regret.
* * *
She had dressed for bed and walked about the room as she looked for sleep. She had felt so tired, but now as she looked about the unfamiliar surroundings and considered her decision to send Quinn away she found her mind too restless for sleep. It was as though it were working so fast that her thoughts could not be controlled. She walked to the window and looked out. It was so dark outside that she couldn’t see clearly. The house was surrounded by tall trees. She looked thoughtfully out the window looking at only the darkness.
Her room was large and extravagant. She had learned that most of the more important rooms had a fireplace and hers was no exception. The fire had been lit and was now the only light in the room. She had turned off the light over the bed hoping that it would help calm her mind. There was a chair and a settee in front of the fireplace, and a short table in front of the two pieces of furniture. The carpet was plush and she enjoyed the feel of it on her bare feet as she walked around the room. There was a vanity table and a bench. She walked to it and looked at her reflection as though it would console her in the loneliness that began to creep in. Sitting on the vanity table was a card and Bronte picked it up for the sixth time although she could not read the writing in the poor light so far away from the fire. She didn’t need the light, she knew exactly what it said. She wondered when he had found time to leave a note for her. It simply read, “Know that I am thinking of you.” She wondered if he truly was at this very moment thinking of her.
She set the card down where she had found it. She turned and made her way to the large and empty bed. It was cold, but it was comfortable. She stared at the ceiling, but didn’t see it. She thought of him then, and even the thought of him gave her peace. Soon she fell to sleep.
A scream echoed in her mind until it brought her from her rest. She was breathing hard and could still feel the fear. She did not recall the dream, but the sound of the scream still haunted her. Then, she heard another, but it was cut short and the house filled again with silence. Bronte threw the covers back and jumped out of bed. She ran to her bedroom door and locked it securely. She backed away slowly and her eyes were riveted on the door knob. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but when nothing happened she turned and sought her luggage. She found the case and opened it. The cold steel of the 9mm offered a small measure of security. She turned and walked with the gun in her hand to the bedroom door and unlocked it.
She listened for footfalls thinking that Quinn would have certainly heard the scream and come to investigate, but there was only silence. She opened the door and looked out into the hall. There was only darkness and she shut the door again and sought a flashlight. She looked in her suitcase and realized that she had not thought to bring a flashlight. “Damn!” she whispered under her breath as she turned and began to search the room for a light.
On the vanity sat a candle in a crystal holder. She picked it up and saw the matches close by. She lit the candle and put the matches back. With one hand holding the lit candle and the other holding her 9 mm, she ventured out into the hall and headed in the direction of the scream.
It should be only a matter of time before Quinn showed up she was sure of it. Although she strained her ears listening for any indication of movement she heard nothing. The house was so dark the candle did not illuminate a wide area so she walked slowly down the hallway.
She found another set of stairs and wondered if she should take them. That was when she heard a scuffle above and took the stairs at a faster pace as she moved toward the sound. Something fell as she reached the top of the stairs and it caused her to turn right and continue on that path. She had no doubt when she reached the door at the far end of the hall that someone was behind it.
She hoped that the light switches were all in the same place as she quietly opened the door without knocking and felt to the right for a switch. It was there and as she pushed the door fully open she flipped the switch on.
Her mind did not allow her to grasp what she saw before her immediately. As her breathing became shallow and fast she felt the room spinning as she stared at Felix. His eyes were blood red and he held a dark haired woman in his arms. Her blood was on his face and his fangs were bared as he looked up at Bronte in surprise. Felix was sitting on his bed with the woman before him, now draped across his arm. He moved the woman and put her on the bed, and then turned toward Bronte.
She thought to bring the gun up, but everything was moving in slow motion now. She heard Felix hiss as he identified the weapon. He moved so fast she didn’t see it happen, but somehow Felix jerked the gun away from her and threw it into the darkness beyond his bed. Bronte screamed and turned to run. As she gained the hallway she heard the definite slamming of Felix’s door. She had no idea if he was shutting himself in, or locking away his victim to pursue her so she ran.
In her initial panic she only thought of escaping the vampire she knows Felix to be. She thought of the silver stake back in her room and turned to get back there. She still had the candle and as she stood still the light rose and offered more brightness. She had no idea where she was. She vaguely recalled making some right hand turns, but she was unclear as to where to start now. She saw some stairs leading down and thought it could only bring her closer to her own room. She ran to them and took them two at a time until she realized that the stairs went further down than what her room would be. They began to wind and she felt cold until she reached the last step. There was a door in front of her. She could see the thin stream of light at the bottom of the door that attested to someone’s being within the room. As she neared the door she could feel heat coming from the gap at the bottom of the door and she wondered what she would find when she opened it. She had no choice. This was the only direction the stair led and she was too afraid to go back up them and take a chance of meeting up with Felix.
She heard a noise from beyond the door and she stood perfectly still. It was not a scream nor did it sound as though someone was being harmed. It was a moan; a woman’s moan of pleasure. Bronte knew that vampires could use compulsion like hypnosis to lure their prey. She also knew that they could make their victims desire their deadly kiss. She wished she had her gun. She wished she had the silver stake.
She continued toward the room and the sounds it contained. She knew a vampire was up the stairs, she was not certain of what lay behind the door in front of her. She placed her trembling hand upon the cold door knob and turned it quietly. The first thing she saw was the fire in the hearth. It was much larger than her own and it lit the room for some feet around it. She could see the tapestries on the wall, and as she opened the door wider she caught site of a large bed that was too far from the fire to be clearly seen. Bronte could see two figures on the bed, but a thin veil was hanging from the posts like a wall around the bed so she had to walk in closer to see who was there.
They did not notice her she realized as they were locked in a lover’s embrace that seemed almost violent to her. They were both sitting up on their knees and as the larger figure lay the smaller one down upon the bed the woman’s hair spilled over the side and Bronte could clearly see from the light of the fire and that of her candle that it was the color of honey. The larger figure descended upon the woman and Bronte saw the black hair, and then she smelled the familiar cologne.
“No,” she whispered aloud in her shock and the single word brought his full attention upon her. His eyes were no longer green, but blood red as they looked up at her from where he lay. She watched him move with inhuman grace as he rose slowly above the woman without leaving sight of Bronte. She saw the veil pull back and could see that the woman was partially nude, and that Quinn was still clothed. “No,” she said as though it were a plea, as though her denial could wake her from a grand nightmare.
The candle in her hand fell to the floor as the room seemed to expand and shrink around her with her dizziness. She backed away and saw flames leap up to the thin red veil of the bed.
Quinn was no longer on the woman and the woman turned to see who had intruded. The woman was beautiful and she was angry. Bronte saw her react in fear to the growing flames and when she moved red silk sheets fell to the side of the bed. Bronte turned and ran as fast as her legs would carry her out the door and up the stairs.
He leapt from the bed to stop her, but the light of the flames on his bed and the scream from the woman still sitting there stopped him. He first pulled the veils down and threw them in the large fireplace. The woman was sitting in the center of the bed and now that the fire was gone she could only stare at him in longing. He had been careless. He had not fed and when he finally sought nourishment he became careless. He had not thought she would seek him out. He stood there in front of the fireplace staring at the open door. He buttoned his shirt and walked calmly to the door and upstairs to find her.
“Felix!” Bronte heard him yell for the other vampire and her heart sank. She was running blindly through the unfamiliar house. She ran in the opposite direction of the sound of his voice. She fell when she tripped over the leg of a table and brought everything sitting on the table down on her. Something heavy hit her above her eyebrow and she felt it when her head began to bleed. She threw the things off of her and scrambled to her feet.
Her mind attempted to reason for her, but it wasn’t working. She kept finding random thoughts amongst the fear. She wanted the stake. She wanted to find her way out of this fortress. She wanted to wake up and find that she was dreaming. It had to be dawn soon. Her mind grasped that thought and she sought a hiding place. She stopped when she found a hallway with long tall windows on one side. On the other side there were portraits of people she could not see in the shadows. She ran to one of the windows and peered through the heavy curtains. The hint of dawn was approaching and she moved to hide herself against the window and behind the curtain.
She listened for him. She could hear nothing. The minutes felt like eternity as she continued to look out at the horizon as though she could will the sun to rise. She was shaking uncontrollably and was unsure if it was from shock or the unbearable cold she felt there at the window. She felt something running down the side of her face and her hand reached up to touch it. It came away with the bright crimson red of her blood from the head wound she got when she fell. The blood was coming fast and soon she saw the red spreading on her white night gown. Her eyes filled with the tears of her horror as she wondered if the vampire would find her from the scent of her blood.
“You are wounded,” his voice was calm, but it instilled such fear that her tears began to spill over and join the stream of blood to her gown.
He was at the far end of the hallway and the sun was rising behind her. She turned only her head and felt the dizziness overwhelm her. The sun had broken through the remnants of the night and Bronte faced forward now awaiting her next move.
“I will not harm you Bronte,” he said and she knew he was coming closer. “You must know that.”
She gathered her courage, not wanting to faint and leave herself open to him. She stepped out from the curtains and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. He was standing more than ten feet away from her and when she made herself known he stood perfectly still.
She knew she looked wild and frightened, but she didn’t care now. She looked at him with the knowledge of what he was and her hands grabbed the heavy curtains tightly and she pulled down on them with all of her might. The curtain rod came apart on one side and the curtains pooled in the floor at her feet. Sunlight immediately lit the opposite wall and Bronte stepped back to the next curtain. Again she pulled one of the curtains free and allowed the stream of sunlight to create a barrier between her and the vampire. As she tore down the final curtain she looked across the rays of light to the dark haired man staring out at her.
Looking at him, something other than fear pierced her heart. She tried to think back on why she hadn’t known about this. She recalled thinking about the possibility, but what had caused her to dismiss it? She knew vampires could compel you and invade your thoughts, and she thought of all the fantasies that had been so vivid. She thought of the strong emotions she had felt when he was with her. She did not want it to be a lie, but there he stood; his eyes still red from his feeding. As she looked at those eyes they faded into a soft pale green and she looked away. She would not allow him to use his vampire’s tricks on her now that she knew what he was.
She saw him move from out of her peripheral vision. Her head turned back toward him and she watched him walk to the first ray of light. He looked at it and then to her before he stepped into the sunshine. Her heart beat frantically as she waited to see signs of pain. He continued to walk slowly through each ray of light until she realized he did not feel the pain of the sun. He couldn’t be a vampire. She didn’t know what he was. She only knew that he was coming for her and she had to run. She turned and tried the only door available to her. It was locked. She was trapped and as she saw him close the distance between them she thought that she was dead.
* * *
She recalled what had made her think he was not a vampire. He had been standing in the sunlight in her apartment that first night. He now stood before her silently and her mind did not want to accept that he was not human, but there was little doubt.
“You can’t be a vampire,” she whispered up at him. “You can’t be. Vampires can’t be in the sunlight,” she reasoned more with herself than with him. She brought her hand to her aching head and he reached out to take it.
“That is true of most vampires,” he told her as he kissed her bloody hand and she watched his eyes close in ecstasy at the smell of her blood. “But, I am not most vampires Bronte,” he moved to let his lips hover just above her ear as though to impart a secret, “I am the Vampire King.”
He leaned back to take in her reaction and was not prepared for what he found there. He thought to find fear, denial or rage, but what he saw was the deepest sadness he had ever known and he found no triumph in his sharing of the truth with her.
“Not you,” her voice was just above a whisper and it was a plea. She was begging for him to take it back somehow, and he could not. He watched her eyes move up toward the ceiling as though she was in silent prayer, and then they closed and he caught her falling body before it could reach the floor.