April 2, 2010

Models: Jenny Evans & Denver Robbins
Photography & Lighting: James Fonnesbeck & Denver Robbins
Photo Manipulation, Compositing & Coloring: Lauren T. Hart

He was truly fascinated by her, he could admit to that, but he would not consider the notion that his attraction was anything more than a fleeting interest in an uncommon soul. He'd grown well accustomed to loss in his near seven hundred years and while there was something about her, a kind of magic almost, that he knew he would always remember, he also knew that to foster more than an appreciation for her, to long for her, to miss her, would only make the pain of inevitably losing her unbearable.

From the moment their eyes met through the barred window of that dingy hellhole of a prison cell he had been intrigued. She had risked her life for him, for Iona. Despite the dangers or the distance, despite her feminine frailties, the pounding of her heart and the blisters on her feet she never faltered, never asked for a moment to rest and never complained.

She was average among the beautiful, and clever enough. She was young and amiable and yet she had tremendous strength of will. And while none of these things made her especially unique, there was still something about her that made her... uncommon. She would make an excellent familiar, he told himself. Perhaps after all was said and done he would have Marris approach her about it. Or perhaps not. There was something liberating in letting her have both freedom as well as knowledge.

Not that she would be the first of his lines chosen mates to have the knowledge of his existence, but she would be the first to know of him first hand. That she was female and that she was such an uncommon soul had a kind of ironic justice to it, and gave him sense of solace knowing that Iona would be the last in his line. He hoped they would be able to find a measure of happiness in a world so disproving of their love for each other.

He had thought of Elizabeth many times since the night they met. Her boldness, her determination, the salty smell of her perspiration imbued with the scent of lilac and hyacinth. Her soft features, delicate curves and the unexpected rush of emotion through his core as she had innocently slipped her hand into his.

He had thought he might see her again, while she slept peacefully unaware; and while he set things back to their proper order - where men who hunted creatures of myth found uneventful and empty nights or early graves.

But he had not expected to see her so soon, nor standing in his foyer, looking more beautiful and radiant than he had remembered her. She could have given them both away with a careless word, but her manners and charm kept their secrets, even through their lingering looks. Looks that betrayed his feelings for her, and hid hers for Iona.

He didn't question that he could trust her, but he wondered if she would believe the lies he would tell to others and how much she had learned about him from Iona, much of which was just as much a fabrication as it was the truth, but truth mingled with fiction is perhaps better than a full fledged lie.

It seemed almost silly to him, his infatuation for her, this uncommon girl who had risked her life for one of his own. And as he plotted and lied while she listened only a few rooms away, while the houses familiars waited on them, he realized that his indebtedness to her could only be repaid by ensuring that she and Iona were allowed a long and happy life together.

He scrawled a quick note for Gabby to give to Marris and waited for Marris to devise a suitable interruption.

Elizabeth looked surprised to see him as he swung the study door open.

"The telephone call was a ruse," he explained. " I came to see you."

"And to listen?" Elizabeth suggested. "The moment you left they began discussing whether or not you could be trusted."

"I suspected as much." Dain crossed to the desk and switched the dictograph off.

Elizabeth stood, looking suddenly unsure, and crossed to the long windows.

"I'm sorry I left in such haste the other night. I didn't get a chance to thank you. Or to let you know how truly indebted I am to you," he said.

"I saved you so that you could save Iona," she said absently, turning to stare out the window. "You owe me nothing."

"Your love for each other is enviable," he sighed.

"Enviable?" Elizabeth scoffed. "I break her heart by being her friend. There is little to be envied in that."

Her admission caused him to pause a moment and reconsider his previous ideas and conclusions. Her words and her demeanor took on a different meaning now, and gave him the same rush of emotion he had felt as she had slipped her hand into his in that dingy hellhole of a basement. She had been the salvation of his life and his line, but that one simple act had felt like salvation for his soul. But he was just being silly again. "You're upset with me," he said.

"You're playing games."

"Not with you."

"Then why have me listen in?"

"Because I believe you're someone I can trust. I wanted you to know the truth about what was going on."

"The truth? And how am I to know the difference between what is true and what is a lie?"

"I will tell you."

"And I'm just supposed to trust you, blindly?" she cocked her head toward him.

He smiled broadly as he crossed the room to her, taking in the sweet smell of her - lilac and hyacinth. He met her eyes, soft and brown and sweet. "You already trust me. More than you should, perhaps. Why else would you dare to turn your back to me? You know what I've done."

She looked for a moment as if she might argue his point, then said, "Dr. Stanley is lying. He knows who you are."

"I know." He opted not to tell her of the Doctor's surrender to him, or his willingness to betray dozens for the opportunity to be ruled by the bigger more powerful tyrant. "We have an arrangement," he said.

She searched his features as he searched hers. "Will you kill all of them?" she asked.

"I didn't start this war, but I will finish it."

"And me?" she said without even the slightest hint of fear in her voice.

"You are not my enemy, Elizabeth."

She looked away from him again, her eyes on her hands. "If I asked you to spare my father, would you do it?"

She couldn't know her father's part in all of it. "He is just as dangerous as the others, but if that is your wish."

"And-" she started.

"No one else." He added quickly. He wouldn't have her thinking that she could save them all.

"Why?" she asked.

Despite some of the atrocities he had discovered about these men, he suspected that she would do whatever she could to save their lives simply because she valued life. It was a pity that those she would fight for didn't feel the same. "What do you see when you look at me?" he asked.

"I-" she turned to meet his face. "I see a man," she said sounding almost upset that she didn't have another answer for him.

He closed his eyes as he loosed his senses, inhaling her deeply as sharp fangs descended in his mouth. He opened his eyes to her, taking her in with his expanded sense of vision that saw her softly aglow in a wash of colors that his human eyes could never see. "And now?"

Her breath caught, and she stared up at him in what looked to be a mix of fear and wonderment. "Beautiful," she whispered softly as she reached her hand out to touch his face. "Forgive me," she said, stopping suddenly, as if surprised by her own actions. She gasped as he caught hold of her wrist, her pulse quickened, but she showed no sign of fear.

"How do you not see a monster standing before you?" he asked. "Why are you not afraid of me?"

"There are plenty of monsters disguised as men to be afraid of in this world," she said. "It's their actions that define them. I see no monster here," she said, shaking her head slightly.

"Even as I take the lives of those around you?" he pressed.

"Does it bring you pleasure to kill them?"

He could not deny the thrill of the hunt, but he was not by nature a killer. He sighed. "I do not kill for pleasure. It is what must be done to ensure the safety of my kind and of my lineage."

Her eyes glanced momentarily toward the dictograph. "Monsters think only of themselves. They don't come to the defense of or try to protect others."

He eyed her for a long, quiet moment then he closed the gap between them and kissed her. He had not expected her to return his kiss with such fervor. And it was merely an instinctual reaction that he allowed it to continue. At least that's what he told himself.

She moaned softly as his sharp incisors caught the edge of her lower lip. He knew he was making a mistake the moment it happened. The sweetness of her blood - attraction, suppression, daring, loyalty, fear and passion mingled with the taste of overly sweetened tea and blueberry scone on her tongue. She moaned again as he ran his tongue over the wound to heal it.

He knew he must suppress his desires to have her, to ravish her. He pulled away from her. "Forgive me," he said, reverting his features to their more common form. "I did not mean to--"

She shook her head, biting her lip and took a step back, eyeing him with uncertainty. "Did not mean to what?"

His brow tensed. Seven hundred years and women were still a mystery to him.

"Didn't mean to kiss me, or didn't mean to... bite," she offered.

Damn it. He'd overstepped. "Both," he replied, apologetically.

She turned and paced away from him, taking a seat on the edge of a simple chair against the wall, she covered her eyes with her hands. "Oh, what you must think of me," she breathed. "Please forgive me. My foolishness."

"No. Not at all," he breathed, confused and still calming his senses.

"You won't... tell anyone will you?" she pleaded.

Her response was almost baffling at first. It was the first time that she had showed real fear. It struck a familiar chord with him and he was reminded of the years he'd spent with Jonas Dimon. He understood Jonas, though their reasons for pursuing justice for those who could not help themselves came from different sources. The fury Dain felt at losing his youngest daughter, Danay, at the hands of her husband still pained him to this day. Had the despicable waste of life not walked off a bridge and killed himself in a drunken stupor, Dain would have done the job.

But Jonas had lived with abuse. His mother died when he was only four, and even at such a young age Jonas suspected it was by his father's hand. After her death, his sister Lilly who was ten years his senior took his mother's place. First in raising him, but also as a target for their father's aggression and then in his bed. Unable to bear it, or to fight against it Jonas ran away when he was twelve. He begged Lilly to come with him, but she would not leave. Jonas returned for her when he was older and strong enough to fight, but it was too late. Lilly and her daughter, born of their father's seed, had been sent away. Sold to a merchant from England. Jonas searched for them for many years, eventually learning that Lilly had died and that her offspring, Nespa had been sold into prostitution. He stole Nespa away and in an insatiable rage began about exacting his revenge. A revenge that, in the end could never be sated as long as there were those who mistreated those in their charge.

It was Jonas's one-man crusade that caught the attention of the immortal who turned him, and later the attention of Argus who enlisted Jonas as one of his Elite.

They almost never saw each other anymore, were never within the same jurisdiction as each other, at least not for very long, but he always remembered their time together. Always remembered Jonas's compassion for the casualties of an unjust world.

And so he vowed that he would show this same compassion for Elizabeth who was far too innocent, too sweet, too determined, too uncommon to become another casualty of cruelty. He crossed to her, and offered her his hand. As their eyes met he pulled her slowly to her feet. "It is not you who has forgotten to behave with decorum." He pulled her slowly into his arms. "But you do not resist my advances in the slightest. Why is that?"

She turned her head to the floor.

He lifted her chin and turned her face toward him. He held his lips close to hers and waited for her eyes to meet his. "Why?" he repeated.

"I don't want to," she breathed, her lips practically begging for him.

He smiled. "I must see you again," he said. "Tonight. I will come to you."

"I will invite you in," she said.

"I don't need permission." He smiled then turned and took his leave.


Chapter 14 - Familiar Feelings

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart