Two days had passed since her lesson and she had locked herself in her room refusing to eat or speak.
It was evening once again and as the two previous days had been the same Bronte knew that at any moment Felix would knock on her door and ask her to come to dinner. Her thoughts were dark and gloomy like her room. She refused to open her door so there was no fire, no warmth. She spent most of her time walking about her room with the dark coverlet around her, wearing jeans and a long white shirt.
She kept her bedroom light on and the light in the small adjacent bathroom, but it was not bright and with the window fully covered by the metal sheet there was no hope of any other light penetrating her dark existence. She knew by the clock on the mantel above the fireplace what time it was. She slept a lot while she waited for someone to notice she was missing and come looking for her. She reasoned that if she were missing for too long her parents would certainly suspect Cyrus. If they did not, Aden certainly would. For now she would just bide her time and stay as far from Cyrus as she could.
Right on schedule there was a knock on the door. Bronte sighed as though it was a great bother and she hoped Felix could hear her.
“Leave me alone,” she said without raising her voice. He was a vampire, he could hear her if she whispered it.
“You need to eat,” the voice was not that of Felix, but of the master himself. She stared at the door as though she could see him through it. “Come out or I will have the door removed,” he finished.
“What then?” she asked as she approached the door. “Will you force feed me? Or perhaps use your power to compel me to eat?” She didn’t even want to hear the sound of his voice, but she found herself standing just on the other side of the door where she knew she was only inches away from him.
“If I must,” he said as though she were a child.
She leaned against the door then and laid her cheek to the cold wood surface. “It won’t be so easy now you know,” she said and her voice grew softer. “Now that I know your trick I can use my own will to counter yours.” A vampire’s power to compel was dependant on many things. The vampire had to be powerful and had to have a strong will of his own. Most any vampire could compel to some degree, but once someone fought it, only the very powerful could still have their will obeyed. It had been easy to will her thoughts when she trusted him and wanted to believe him, but not any more. As simple and naïve as she might be, she was strong willed and it would no longer be easy to force his will on her.
“I do not wish to force you against your will Bronte,” he said and she felt his presence so close to her that she backed away quickly from the door. “There are reasons why I am a king. Don’t make me show them to you.”
He thought to instill fear in her and it worked. Regardless of his gentleness before, when she did not know who he was, he was not gentle now. She didn’t know what he might do to get his way.
“Open the door for me,” he said and his voice was soft and enthralling. She dropped the coverlet to the floor and walked backwards from the door until the back of her legs hit the edge of her bed. She crawled upon the bed and held on to one of the bedposts for support. Her heart began to beat frantically as she readied herself for a battle of wills.
“Never,” she whispered it into the room and then listened for his reply. There was silence for a moment and then she screamed as the door crashed inward.
He stood there at the foot of the fallen door. He looked dark and menacing; he looked pissed. He had not only knocked the heavy oak door down, but it split down the center from his angry show of strength. Bronte still held on to the bed post, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. She would not look into his eyes. She saw the angry posture and she looked away from him.
She heard his footfalls coming toward her and knew that he wanted to scare her. He wanted her to hear him coming. Her grip was so tight on the post her knuckles had turned white. She felt herself shivering and it occurred to her that she did indeed fear him. Screaming would not help, nor would crying. She continued to look at the carpet in front of her as she spoke.
“I don’t want this Cyrus,” she said and her eyes rose to meet his own. He stood directly in front of her and from where she sat upon her knees holding the post her eyes were level with his neck and she had to look up slightly to see his face. “Unfortunately, it does not concern me whether you want this or not,” he said, “I would prefer it that we live peacefully together in some form of companionship, but it isn’t necessary.” He knew it was harsh, but it had been two days that she kept herself away from him and he would not stand for this to continue. It would be so much easier if she would accept this, but she wanted to be obstinate. She desired him and he knew it. Would it be so terrible to give herself to him and let them both have what they sought? He needed her power and she wanted her freedom. There had to be a way to get her to give herself to him without that fact seeming like coercion.
“I will never give myself to you Cyrus,” she said softly, her eyes full of anger and fear.
“That is yet to be seen little one,” he said. He hated that he had traded in the soft look of passion and caring for one of fear and trepidation. There was no help for it, or for her, it had to be this way. If he knew of another way he would try it. For the time being she needed to take better care of herself. He did not want her to be weak. “I will compel you to eat if you do not do so on your own. Is that what you want?,” he asked her and watched the effects his words had on her.
She did not want any mind control from Cyrus. She was strong willed, but he was right; there was a reason he was king.
“I will make you a deal,” he said softly and she found that she was leery of any deal he might offer and she said nothing in reply. “Come down and eat and I will have Felix take the barrier from your window.”
Her head turned and she looked at the metal sheet that covered the window. She wanted to look outside. Alone in her room she had become quite depressed and despondent. It would be wonderful to look outside. She turned back to him and wondered if she dare trust him.
“Do you give your word?” she asked. If he lied she could throw it in his face that he was not a man of his word; more proof that he was not honorable. If he kept his word she would say nothing of it and she would be able to look outside. She felt she had little to lose.
“Will you take it?” he asked and seemed genuinely surprised.
“You’re a bastard and a liar,” she said, “but what choice do I have?”
“You have none,” he said and she only stared at him with that same look of anger and fear that he despised.
He stepped away from her and she came down off the bed. She wore no shoes, but she walked over to them without taking her eyes from him and she put them on.
“I am pleased you will be with me tonight,” he said then.
She stopped as she finished dressing and looked at him. She walked over to the vanity and sat down. She began to brush her hair and she found it unnerving to have him watch her so closely.
It was not her intent to please him. She told herself that it was just a byproduct of her being forced to go with him. She really had no choice. She continued to watch him in the mirror. It was said that vampires did not cast a reflection, but it wasn’t so. Mirrors were not religious objects. She wasn’t sure where that belief had come from.
She did not want him to think that she felt any differently about him because she had consented to go downstairs. She was not going to allow him to touch her. She did not want to be in his presence, but he left her little choice. She thought of how he had tried to seduce her before. She had enjoyed his kisses and his embrace. He had made her feel alive and protected. It would never feel like that now and the thought of it caused her to cast her eyes away from him.
He had seduced someone but, it hadn’t been her. Bronte had been haunted by the memory of honey colored hair and could not force it from her mind. He had spoke of having someone in his bed and while she spent the time alone in her room over the last couple of days she could not stop thinking of it. She knew she shouldn’t care and she thought that it upset her only because it had been yet another betrayal. How could he even think of trying to seduce her when she knew about the other woman?
“If you think I’m going to let you seduce me while you have another woman in your bed you are insane,” she said to him and her eyes snapped back up to his. She had not mentioned the other woman in his bed and she found that the thought of it made her blood run hot with anger.
She watched his expression change and he smiled at her. “Jealous already?” he taunted her. “Perhaps this will not take so long after all.”
She cringed inwardly. She had not meant for it to come out that way.
“I just meant to warn you that I am not some kind of freak that’s going to fall into your bed and let you have my blood,” she said with vehemence.
“Ah, and you think that the fair Mimi is a freak because she enjoys my bed?” he asked with great interest and amusement.
“Was she giving herself willingly?” Bronte asked.
“Yes, very much so,” he answered as though it were strange to even question such a thing.
“Yep!” Bronte said with vigor, “She’s a freak.”
The sound of his unexpected laughter surprised them both. He was charmed that she was so naïve and could not wait for the opportunity to show her her error. As she stood he walked to her. She did not look happy about being laughed at and he thought to appease her.
“It may offer you some relief to know that I did nothing but feed from Mimi,” he told her as he stopped only a few inches away.
Surprisingly, and although she would never admit it, it did make her feel better. She knew she should not believe him, but she wanted to. It took some of the hurt away somehow so she accepted it as the truth.
“If it wins your favor,” he said and took another step toward her putting him so close that if they were to breathe at the same time they would touch, “I will promise not to take another woman. It is of little consequence to me.”
She cast her eyes to the floor afraid he would see the truth there. She didn’t want to tell him not to take other women because it might oblige her to replace them, but she would not tell him she didn’t care. She couldn’t say that and look in his eyes, so she said nothing. He nodded at her silence as though he accepted her terms; terms she would not voice.
He led her out of her room and down to the dining room. Felix had prepared a lovely table and she wondered if he did so every night in hope that she would come down to enjoy it. Cyrus sat her at his right this time instead of at the opposite end of the table. There was nothing in front of him because he did not have to pretend to eat now. It made her nervous to have him watch her eat and she was very hungry. As soon as Felix put the soup in front of her she knew she would have to watch that she not show her hunger by neglecting her manners. She thought to give Cyrus something else to think about other than her. Vampires loved to talk about themselves, so she gave him a topic she thought he would appreciate.
“How is it that you can walk in the sun?” she asked him as she began to eat her soup.
He watched her eating as he replied, “As all kings are granted additional power when they sit at the Circle of Seven I was granted the power to walk in the sunlight,” he explained. “It spends my power and I cannot be in it directly without covering my body and my eyes, but I can walk in the daylight. It is why many vampires fear me. I can seek them out in the daylight and attack them at their lair.” He spoke as though he were at ease with discussing such things so she continued.
“How long have you been the king?” she asked.
“I am one of the oldest kings at the Circle. I have held my reign for hundreds of years. Only the immortal, Rylan has been at the Circle longer than I.” He could tell that she was nervous and that her line of questioning was meant to be a distraction. He did not mind that. At least, he thought, he was being given the opportunity to talk to her about such things. It was far more desirable than speaking through her bedroom door.
“Aden says the vampires are well organized and have realized a social structure that allows them to evolve,” she said and immediately regretted saying Aden’s name. It was not wise to bring Aden to the attention of the vampire king. She had no idea how he would react, or what he might do to Aden if he felt Aden was a threat.
“Yes, Aden Tascher,” Cyrus repeated the name thoughtfully. “A vampire you can trust no doubt. A friend,” his tone did not say what he was thinking of the other vampire. Bronte put down her spoon and looked at him in obvious concern.
“Aden means everything to me,” she said and she realized her mistake as she watched his eyes narrow at her. She wasn’t worried that he would see Aden as a romantic threat, she was more worried that he would think to use Aden to get her to do as he commanded. “Cyrus, Aden is family to me,” she clarified to ensure he understood her relationship with the other man.
“It would appear he is very important to you,” he said, but she couldn’t tell where this was going. “Do you think of him often?”
He hadn’t been listening to her. Her heart began to pick up speed as she worried that she could not get through to him on this.
“Cyrus, I just told you that Aden is like family to me,” she repeated carefully. “We have never been more than close friends.”
“Do you love him?” he asked with true curiosity as though he was not listening to her tell him that Aden was not a romantic interest.
She pushed her bowl of soup away and Felix came up from behind her to take it as though he thought it was a signal. He came back and replaced the dish with a lovely steak. Looking at it now made her feel nauseous and she pushed the plate away.
This was not going well. She felt the frustration growing and she pushed back in her seat and stood up. Cyrus stood as she did, but only out of some old world politeness. She didn’t look at him, but walked over to a window to look out. When Cyrus was walking about the house the doors and windows were left unbarred. It wasn’t often that she got to look outside and she found herself looking out at the night as though she were drawn to it. She leaned one shoulder against the glass and ignored the cold there.
She did think of Aden often, just as she thought of her parents and her best friend Jordan often. The problem was that she also thought of Cyrus. He slipped into her thoughts as though he belonged there and she hated him for that.
Looking out into the yard she could see the long driveway that had been the path to her incarceration. The car was out there and she wished she knew how to escape Cyrus and make her way to the car. It was just a dream and she knew it, but it gave her something else to think about.
She was so intent at looking outside she did not see his reflection as he moved toward her silently. She felt his heat before she realized he had come up behind her. Her eyes snapped up to meet his in the reflection of the glass. His nearness was difficult for her to deal with. She didn’t want to say anything because she was hoping he would leave Aden alone if she said no more about it and allowed it all to pass from his thoughts.
The look on his face made her think of seduction and she stood erect and on her guard. It was obvious to her that she was still affected by him, by the way he looked at her. She thought that if she allowed him to come near her that he would feel Aden was nothing to her and that he could make her forget about the other man. He would never have to know what part was real and what was said or done to protect another. It was a dangerous game.
"Do you think of me?" Cyrus asked as he stood behind her, standing so close she could feel his breath brush against her hair. It was always like this with Cyrus; everything had more meaning than just the surface of the question. And it was always like him to try and cloud her mind with his nearness, his virility, his sexuality.
She felt him move his face in a slow caress along her own. He leaned into her and his body touched hers so lightly that she had to close her eyes to feel it. As his lips moved across the tender flesh of her neck she tensed. It didn't matter how sensuous Cyrus was, Bronte could never forget that he was a vampire. She heard his loud sigh at her reluctance to trust him. He moved and she relaxed.
"Do you?" He asked again, this time bringing his lips to her ear and whispering his question until it brought chills that ran up her spine.
She wondered if she should tell him the truth, or if it wouldn't be best just to lie and tell him that she did not think of him, and deny that he had infiltrated her dreams, her fantasies, her every thought to the point of madness. It would have been best to lie and send him away. But he was so close and smelled so intoxicating. He slipped his hands down her arms in a long, soft caress as he awaited her answer.
"I think of you..." She struggled against what she knew she should not say, and her need to appease him, "sometimes." She thought it was a compromise. She did not lie to him, but she did not tell all.
He leaned his cheek against the top of her head as though he had been holding himself steady, waiting for her reply, and with it he was now able to relax and luxuriate in her answer.
She allowed him to remain close to her. His head and hands both caressing her, and his body leaned into hers from behind. It was too much, too intoxicating.
"And what, Bronte, do you see when you think of me?" He asked. The nearness began to warm her then. Her mind immediately flew to the passionate embraces of her fantasies, the kisses, the touching, so much more than she could ever really know, but she felt it all the same. In her mind she saw flashes of him naked, his skin on hers, his warmth stolen from the blood of another and she didn't care.
Bronte was not going to share those images with him. It was too dangerous. Being here with him was dangerous. Allowing him to be so close was certainly dangerous. His ability to cloud her mind with such thoughts went beyond her experience and she did not know how to respond to him. She felt herself losing control, as though she ever had any.
"What do you see Bronte," he asked as his lips moved again to whisper into her ear, "late at night when you close your eyes, and I come to you in your dreams?"
It was too much and she jerked her arms from his caressing hands and stepped away from him.
"Stop it Cyrus!" she said as she turned to face him. "Just stop it!"
She was frightened now, and ashamed, and embarrassed. She felt so many things she wasn't sure which were overriding her ability to cope. He made her think things she wasn't ready to know and made her feel things she couldn't control. Her right hand began to rub across her forehead as though she could wipe away the thought that had sprung to life there.
"You frighten me Cyrus," she finally admitted to him. She had nothing to lose by her admission. She thought he already knew that she was frightened of him. She looked up at him imploringly, wanting him to let her go, to release her from this place, from these feelings, from him. It would not be that easy though.
"Is it I who frighten you? Or are you frightened by what you feel when I am near? Or what you see when you think of me in that lonely bed, in that lonely room?" He was not going to let her go so easily.
“How can I ever know what I feel Cyrus,” she said to him as she looked up into his face, “when my mind is always clouded by what you want me to feel?”
He considered her words and found them worthy, but he wasn’t going to give up his only true power over her so easily.
“Kiss me and I will give you my word that no harm will come to the vampire Aden,” he said unexpectedly.
Another of Cyrus’ bargains was not what she wanted. He appeared serious and she wondered if he had spoke of Aden to make her frightened and was now using that to obtain what he wanted from her. Still, it was only a kiss that he was asking for. Of course if he tried to use Aden against her to obtain her power he would forfeit it because it would be through coercion. Cyrus believed in the legend enough to not want to break the rules. Perhaps this was the most he could ask for in exchange for Aden’s safety. She did not doubt that there was some underlying trick to it, there had to be, but she nodded her consent and hoped Cyrus would honor his word.
He approached her, but she put her hand out to stop him. He was patient. He looked down into her eyes and waited.
“You must give your word that you will never harm Aden,” she told him. “If you break your word to me there will be no forgiveness for you Cyrus.”
“Are you saying that there may be forgiveness for me now?” he asked as his sensuous lips curved into a satisfied smile and he leaned down to claim his kiss.
His arms came around her and pulled her against his body. His lips were gentle and tentative at first, waiting for her to calm down enough for him to continue. He had never agreed in advance to spare anyone’s life, so he planned on getting his due for his promise to do no harm to the fledgling Aden.
She felt alarm at first. His touch did something to her body and she could not control it. She thought it was compulsion, but she found that even alone at night with her private thoughts her body would grow warm when she thought of him kissing her like this. It was him. He was masterful and could make her want him without the art of compulsion. She willed her arms to remain at her sides as he deepened the kiss. It was as though he knew her body better than she knew it herself. He knew how it would react to him and he felt no guilt at using his knowledge against her. His hand moved up and his fingers slid into her hair. The feeling was wonderful and she lost herself for a moment. It was long enough for her arms to betray her and move of their own accord about his neck as her treacherous body molded itself to his.
The smell of vanilla and flowers filled his senses. She was the softest creature he had ever known and his body tightened as he thought of her in his bed. He wanted to touch more of her skin, but the clothes she wore did not give him access to her flesh. He would have to correct that mistake.
He was the one to break the kiss and he looked down at her to measure the affects it had had on her. He was pleased. Aden’s life was not worth as much as the kiss to him and he felt the satisfaction of a king to know he had bargained so well.
She blushed as she removed her arms and stepped back from him. She remained silent for a moment as she gathered her composure. She had to accept that he made her want him. He was handsome, powerful and masterful and she decided that there should be no shame in her reacting to him the way she did. It would be natural to do so. Still, the shame did burn her and she wished she could find a way to make his touch less devastating. She looked at him finally and could not tell what he was thinking. She wondered if he were laughing at her, or if he were gloating over his prowess. She just couldn’t tell what was going on in his mind.
“I think I should go to bed,” she said, wanting to remove herself from his presence.
“Will you go alone?” he asked seriously.
“Yes,” she whispered and cast her eyes from him.
* * *
He had kept his word about the window and the sun shown across her bed in glorious wonder. When it woke her she sprang from her bed and went to look outside. She already knew it was bolted shut. She had tried to open it in the night to let in some fresh air, and to consider it as a means of escape. She knew if she were to shatter the glass she would not get far because Felix or Cyrus would hear it and come after her. Even now in the light of day she knew that Cyrus could come after her. If she were going to escape she would have to be very cunning and very quiet.
She dressed and found her bedroom door unlocked. It had been repaired by Felix and was as sound as it had been the night before. The door was not locked the previous two nights, at least not from the outside. It did not give her much hope of escaping if Cyrus thought to leave her bedroom door unsecured. She had to try. She took only essential tools and her gun as she spent the better part of the day looking for a way out.
Everything was barred and well secured. She was frustrated, but not surprised when she finally gave up looking for a way out and started looking for a phone. She didn’t even find a phone and she went back to her room in defeat.
Her door was standing open and she clearly recalled shutting it. She took the gun from her waistband and had it out in front of her as she put her hand on the door and opened it further so she could see the entire room before her.
There was a sound to her right and she moved immediately to trail the gun in that direction. She saw a figure turning the corner, and she saw honey colored hair before it disappeared. She had no doubt that she had just had a visit from Cyrus’ mistress, Mimi. She turned back to her room to see if she could find what had interested the woman. Mimi wasn’t a vampire. If she were she would not have come into the well lighted room with the curtains pulled back to give access to the sunshine.
Bronte went in and closed the door behind her. She locked it in case Mimi was to come back and not be particularly friendly. Bronte didn’t feel particularly friendly toward Mimi either. The first thing Bronte noticed was that a long dark blue gown had been set out on her bed. It was beautiful and Bronte walked over to look at it. That was when she noticed that it had been torn to shreds about the bodice. She sat the gun on the bed beside the dress and picked up the tattered gown. It was a shame really. Bronte loved the color and the soft velvet. She also loved the low back line and the modest front. She wondered where it came from. She doubted that Mimi had given it to her, but there was no question as to who tore the beautiful gown to shreds. Bronte tossed the gown to the foot of the bed. Its only significance to her was that it showed her Mimi had a jealous temper. She would now have to be on her guard both night and day.
The light began to grow soft as the sun was setting. Bronte walked to the window and watched it set. She had spent the majority of the day looking for a way out, and then looking for a phone and all she had found was another enemy. Did everyone have more enemies than friends, or was it just her destiny? She looked at the dress in the floor and thought that Cyrus must be planning something special. It was hard to be excited about a special evening with him, but she thought it might be best to dress up tonight. Perhaps she would find a way to plead her case. It was doubtful, but what else could she do? She went to the large suitcase and pulled out her black dress. It was more modern than the blue one on the floor, but it had the low cut back that he seemed to like. She dressed and waited for Felix.
The man was right on time as usual. It had not escaped her that Cyrus was very well organized in all he did. Felix was a reflection of that. Cyrus’ home was well kept and lovely, his attire was perfect. He was an exacting man and she wondered if that came from being a king or if it were a trait he was born with. She opened the door and followed Felix to the dining room where Cyrus awaited her.
When she walked in she saw a slight frown cross his face, but then it was gone. He took her arm and seated her to his right as before. He took his seat and Felix brought in a large salad for her and a glass of red wine.
“Did you not like the gown I left for you?” Cyrus asked.
“It was quite lovely actually,” she said as she began to cut the salad into smaller bites. “But your mistress seemed to have other plans for it since she turned it into rags before I could wear it.” She continued to eat, but she was watching his reaction.
“What makes you think it was Mimi?” he asked. She put down her fork. She thought he would deny that the woman was his mistress, but he had not. She wondered if he were keeping his word to not be with any other woman. Since she had not come out and told him not to she could not call him on it. She felt frustrated that she had said nothing, but even more frustrated that it bothered her at all.
“I saw her as she left my room,” she told him. She didn’t care if he knew she had been out of her room. She continued to eat to show her indifference to him, but she thought to add, “I don’t like being somewhere that I have to fear for my life Cyrus.”
“How do you expect me to rest when I know that at any given moment I may be cut to pieces? You must know by now that I am not immortal,” she said it as though she were disappointed in his hospitality.
When he said nothing, she looked up at him. He looked unhappy, but she wasn’t sure if he were unhappy with her, or with Mimi. His eyes met hers and he continued to look thoughtful.
“Shall I kill her?” Cyrus asked and waited for a reply.
Bronte looked at him to see if he were testing her, or taunting her. She just couldn’t tell. He looked deadly serious and that made her reflect on her tactic.
“Don’t be ridiculous Cyrus,” she said, trying to remain calm and in control. She didn’t want to believe he would murder the woman he shared his bed with. Someday that woman could be her. As soon as that thought passed through her mind she dropped her fork and it fell beside her salad dish. What was she thinking? Was she really entertaining sharing Cyrus’ bed? That was madness. Even so, she could not deny her attraction to him. At one point she had even thought she could love him. That was of course, before she learned what a liar he was.
That made her think of the nights when the thought of him warmed her blood and chased away the demons of loneliness. She thought of his kisses, his embrace, and how she thought he had wanted her. He did want her, but not for herself, for what she could give him. She thought of the night she had read to him. It seemed so comfortable, so right. He had used her and lied to her and had no care whatsoever what it did to her. She thought she found something special, someone special, and the hope that had lived there quietly within her woman’s heart was taken and replaced by the harsh reality she now lived. Cyrus would never love her. The thought was incredible.
Looking at him she wished it could have been different somehow. She wished he was just Quinn again. Looking at him she wished for those other days, when she had hope. The melancholy slipped in like a well known friend, or devious fiend. Her mind was lost, she was lost.
“I wish I didn’t know,” she said sadly. She didn’t know if she meant to say it out loud or not, but he heard it and it brought his entire attention to her.
“Know what?” He asked with true curiosity.
“Who you are.” The sadness was living there in those words and she wondered if he would laugh at her for being so gullible and naïve.
He looked at her for the longest moment. He considered her words, their meaning and the obvious sadness in them. He had never considered anyone else’s loneliness before. Looking at her he wondered what her life had been like, and why such a beautiful woman would allow herself no companionship.
“I wish the same,” he said and found he meant it. She was just a girl. A young woman with hopes to have a normal life, a happy life, and that would never be. She had a beautiful heart, so innocent and kind. She would have a hard time in his world if she did not allow him to claim her. There were others out there who believed in the legend as well.
They looked at each other then, but nothing could be said to change what was done.
“Don’t harm her,” Bronte said to break the silence.
Cyrus was so lost in thought and reminiscing that he was momentarily confused by her remark.
“Harm her?” He asked.
“Mimi,” She answered. “Don’t harm her. I’m sure she cares for you a great deal, and this must be very difficult for her.”
“Compassion for those who would kill you is not a healthy way to live your life,” Cyrus told her as he came out of his own momentary melancholy.
“Perhaps. But if I must live my life without compassion I would hope my life would be short.” She said as she picked up the fallen fork and began to eat her salad again.
“What an interesting thing to say.” Cyrus said as he continued to look at her as though she was the most interesting specimen he had seen in a long time.
Bronte stopped with the fork halfway to her mouth and looked at him. This was not something she thought overmuch about, but she knew it was true.
“If I lose those traits that make he glad of who I am, what life would I have?” She asked in seriousness.
He never answered. So she continued to eat in silence.
By the end of the meal Cyrus appeared pensive.
“Why is it you have not taken a lover?” Cyrus asked her.
Bronte was surprised and caught off guard by such a question. She wondered at the appropriateness of him asking, and then considered who he was. He was a king. He did not have to consider the appropriateness of a thing. She thought of not answering, but then considered that she hoped to win his favor and find a way out of all of this.
“It isn’t like I haven’t been attracted to men in my life,” she began. She watched him lean back in his chair as though he were waiting for a wonderful story to be told to him. He was about to be disappointed she thought.
“But, it’s hard to say, hey these are my parents, don’t they look good for their age? Oh yeah, they’re immortal. I’m not, but they are.” She started to have a conversation with herself as though it were a well rehearsed play. “My godfather is a werewolf, and I have an uncle who is an immortal and another who is a vampire.” She looked at Cyrus as though he had asked a stupid question, but he only stared at her with that same look of interest.
“I see,” he said finally. It would certainly be difficult to explain her life to someone who was not a part of the preternatural world. “But you could have had lovers,” he pointed out.
“I’m just not wired that way,” she told him. “No love, no sex,” she said very matter of fact. Then she thought for a moment. “That’s why this will never work Cyrus,” she added, indicating their current situation and the impossibility of a relationship between them.
“Do you think I am incapable of love?” He asked. He seemed a little less sure of himself, but she couldn’t tell how she knew that. Perhaps it was in the way he moved uncomfortably in his chair, or the way he lowered his voice as though he did not want anyone else to hear him ask.
She thought about it. He was a king, powerful and hauntingly attractive. He was seductive and charming and could kiss like no one she ever knew. Before she knew who he was she would have said “yes” to that question, not because she saw something more in him then, but because she had hoped to find it in him then.
“I thought so at one time, but now I would say no Cyrus. I do not think you are capable of love. At least not the kind we would need to make this work,” she said, and again some of her earlier melancholy came out in her tone.
“Because you know now that I am a vampire?” He asked and she could hear the first stirrings of anger in him. It did not affect her in the least.
“No Cyrus, not because you are a vampire, because you are a liar.”
He flinched. He grew increasingly angry then and said no more. He rose so quickly that his chair went crashing to the floor. It startled her, but she did not flinch. She had won. She knew it when he left the room, slamming the door behind him.
* * *
Bronte sat at the table silent and alone. Her appetite had disappeared and so had Felix. She stood and walked to the fire that had been burning in the hearth when she arrived. There was always a fire going when Cyrus was in the room. She stared at it for some minutes until a noise called her attention away.
Cyrus stood in the doorway of the dining room looking composed. The anger was gone now and she wondered what he would do next. He walked to the table and picked up her glass of wine, untouched. He picked up her knife and a cloth napkin then and walked to her holding both.
He sat them down on the small table and walked to her.
“It is true that I allowed you to think I was something I was not,” he said and it brought her full attention to every word he spoke. “It was not my intent to deceive you, but it was convenient so I allowed it to continue. But, I do have honor. Perhaps it is only a vampire’s honor, but it is also a king’s honor, and I do not like it questioned.” He did not sound angry and she did not challenge him. She could only hope that he was speaking the truth, because if this too was a lie she had little hope of appealing to his sense of justice or mercy. There could be no justice or mercy without honor.
“I will release you from the effects of all vampire compulsion,” he told her and walked back to the items on the small table. She wasn’t sure what he was saying. Did he mean that he would promise not to use compulsion on her? She didn’t know and could only watch him with keen interest as he returned and handed her the glass of wine.
She held it out as though she wasn’t sure what she should do with it. Cyrus held the knife up then and she stood still and quiet in her shock as the vampire king put the knife to his wrist and cut a short line across his tender skin. Blood welled up and began to spill over and down his arm. Before the blood could travel far he dropped the knife and they heard it hit the marble of the fireplace and he turned his wrist over the glass of wine so that the blood dripped in dark burgundy droplets into the liquid. Only a few drops fell in the glass before he pulled away and placed the linen napkin to his bleeding wrist.
“Drink,” he said to her. She looked from the red liquid to his bleeding wrist and began to shake her head. She did not want to drink the blood of the vampire king. She wasn’t sure what it would do to her. He saw her reluctance and some of his earlier anger found its way into the tone of his voice.
“Drink it if you wish to be free on my will,” he said to her. “My blood will release you of vampire compulsion. Do you not want that?” he asked.
She did want that. She needed that. She thought her will was strong, but she had no doubt that Cyrus could control her, and did on occasion. She could be released from that is she chose to believe him and drank the wine and his blood. She stared at the wine and tried to tell herself that it was only wine. She felt herself breathing harder in preparation for what she would need to do. She held her breath and put the glass to her lips. She tried not to taste it as she drank it down quickly and completely. As the glass was drained she looked at him, and something miraculous began to happen to her. She began to change.