Immure

 

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Act One

In the black, I felt free
In the dark, shadows played with me.
The smile on my face shone bright,
Even on the harshest of night.
Pleasance of the red delight,
Took me to a new height.
No tears, no crying,
Only fears, for you were dying.
But hush now my love,
The angels wait for you above.
As for me, the fun ends.
Those figures in the dark, my only friends.

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Prologue

    Crimson nectar shimmered in the dull light of the moon, muffled screams hummed against my clamped hand and the taste, oh the taste, so sweet, heavy, pure and addictive. I was hungry. Too hungry. I took in the red delight quickly, messily.
    "I don't know why you go so long without feeding, Berith. You'll starve to death." My friend's soft voice spoke sternly, reflecting a nagging parent.
    I unlatched from the man on the ground, still very much alive, and placed my fingers over the open wound on his neck. "Because you stopped feeding me, Lafayette. You know how I hate murdering these poor souls." I resumed, sinking my teeth into the struggling man's flesh once again.
    "My blood doesn't help you at all! And besides mon cherie, I was tired of you constantly complaining about the taste and grittiness." I slowed my pace and looked up at him, not at all amused, glowing light pink eyes narrowed with that bit of attitude I knew all too well. "I have explained to you,  many times, that there is only so much I can do. I am made of stone, my blood is practically mud." I broke from the exhausted civilian yet again, covering his wound.
    "Listen to me, mon cherie," I mocked. ", if you will; I don't know these mortals, I know absolutely nothing of their lives. Like this poor bastard here." I looked the tired man in his terrified eyes. "Answer me bastard."
    "Berith--"
    "Shh!" I held a bloodied finger up to my rather frustrated friend and took my hand from the stranger's mouth, quickly covering his neck again. "Have you a wife?"
    "Oui." he answered shakily.
    I nodded and looked back at Lafayette, his pretty-almost girlish face still unfazed. "He has a wife." My friend let out a long sigh and rolled his eyes, I turned back to the puzzled stranger. "And any children?"
    "Oui Miseur, four."
    "Four children." I nodded. "They're beautiful, aren't they?" He returned my nod with a sad smile. "Well it just so happens that I am full." I bit my thumb and spread little droplets of my own blood along the seeping holes in his neck, atrocious puncture marks faded in a matter of seconds. "If I let you go Miseur, will you promise me you'll hug and kiss your wife and your lovely children, and never speak a word of this night?"
    "Oui!" Tears of thanks and happiness welled in his dull grey eyes. I stood and took my weight off the human.
    "Run along now." I waved my hand, motioning for him to go ahead. He quickly stood and ran out of the dank alleyway, stopping and looking back at me one more time before finally disappearing.
    "You're far from full." Lafayette said firmly.
    "I could've eaten him, two, maybe three more." I turned to him. "But alas, I don't have the heart for it."
    Cutely smiling and sniggering a little, he said "You have too much heart, Berith." I shrugged in reply. Lafayette sighed and held his pale wrist out to me, I could only smile back knowing I got my way as always. "Wipe that grin off your face before I change my mind." So I chose to bite down into him instead of egging him on. His blood was gritty and overbearingly heavy like a mixture of tree sap and sand, unpleasant and dirty but filling all the same. "I'm not even a friend to you, just a sack of food that goes places with you and talks to you in the night hours. And I don't expire either."
    "Nonsense." I let up and tapped his cheek. "You're my dearest companion. And I am in eternal gratitude to you for helping me so much."
    "Sure." He laughed. "It will be morning in an hour, and I need to get back to the cathedral before I become very out of place here."
    "And I must return before I'm nothing but a pile of ashes." Both of us gazed at the full moon above, blood-sucker and winged beast-man, we would never see sunlight again. But even if our existences in the world were less than great, in the scheme of things, we had each other. And had it not been for Lafayette Bellerose, I would be long dead.

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Crasse et Fétichisme

    In the year 1734, I lay a convulsing mess in the middle of an alley covered in piss, shit and God only knew what else the thugs and whores left behind there, and how long it had to sit and fester. I could remember nothing. My memories only went so far back that I caught a tiny foggy glimpse of who I believed to be my mother and father. I was thirty-three years old, unmarried...I couldn't even remember if I owned a home, or in some moment where I was at all. Was I in Paris? Versailles? I had not a clue. My bones cracked and my spine bent at ungodly angles on dirty pavement. My mouth was bleeding and i could hear the maddening screech of grinding teeth pounding in my eardrums. What had I been doing? Who was I with? Surely not a seedy French brothel...? I never liked whores or the typical male attendees...
    I grew used to my own violent thrashing and screams, lost in thought about what put me in that degrading position. Where was I going? The harder I thought, the more my head throbbed. I rolled onto my stomach and weakly began crawling to the nearest wall so i could at least stand. I was heading somewhere with someone, and they left me there...was I poisoned? I must have been.  My legs were numb and I dragged my limp lower half through puddles of merky water, inching near the wall. I was going to another person's residence before that. I had several drinks with them...no--him. It was a man that I had somehow befriended on a night out.
    I regained the feeling in my legs slowly as my head processed further. I was on my way to this man's residence and he told me we would take a shortcut through the alleys. I was quite drunk, otherwise I would have never done such a thing. I struggled to grip the wall and turn over so I could sit against it. My chest burned but I could start making out a face in my memory, around my age, light skin, dark, loose auburn curls, eyes so piercingly bright they were almost white...yes that was the man. What was his name...? Was I going to spend the night with him..?
    Very rarely, I enjoyed male company, but it wasn't too foreign of a concept. I met this obviously handsome and intimidating man, then chose to further engage because I loved a challenge. Slumping further down against the wall, head pounding in my filthy hands, I remembered few sentences at a time, then soon an entire scene.
    "Berith," came a taunting purr. ", do you surrender?" In my drunken state, I was too excited, left a panting quivering mess at this new person's disposal. We never made it to his place, because I remembered him pushing me against the wall, hands touching and teasing  anywhere they could.
    I clawed at his back and snatched a fistfull of his hair, forcing our eyes to meet, then hissed, "Maybe if you push me further." Shortly after, he shoved his knee between my legs and ground against me and my cries made him giggle.
    "You're hard already? How lewd." His hands firmly took hold of my hips and he moved his knee, only to turn me around and shove my chest against the wall. "Should I just fuck you here?" I moaned when his tongue slid along my neck and his hand made it's way into my pants, stroking me too slowly. Continuing to play with me, he let go of my hip and pushed his fingers into my mouth. I eagerly sucked and rocked back against him, whining when he let go of my shaft for a moment to slip my pants over my ass. He gripped me again firmly at the base and rubbed his newly wet fingers against my entrance. "Right here, Berith?" He breathed hotly against my skin. I struggled to find the words to respond and he pushed his fingers in only a little before taking them out to rub against me once more.
    "What was that?" Painfully slow, his fingers inched back into me, the tips jamming against something inside that made my entire body shudder with desire. Just as slowly, he stroked the same spot over and over, the hand on my cock unmoving and preventing me from release.
    "Merde! Please..." I shouted, trying and failing to rock back into his touch.
    "Please, what?" He pressed in harder and his teeth ever so gently scraped against my neck.
    "Please, Jordain...now..."
    "As you wish."
    Everything that came after that was pain. I felt no bliss, only agony, and I awoke in a crippled state. When I regained the feeling in my lower half, I hobbled up bracing the wall for dear life. He bit me. He drained me dry. And I was left completely alone in the world, most likely unable to return to the place I made home. And I didn't even remember where that was to begin with.

       . . .

     It felt as if my being floated outside my physical body. My consciousness was fading. Was this the kiss of death? It wasn't so bad once the pain subsided, peaceful even. I could barely make out the silhouette of a winged man before me. Was he an angel?
    "You'll die within the hour if you don't eat." The figure crouched in front of me and forced his bloody wrist up to my lips. I weakly licked at this fluid that felt reminiscent of the mud covering my clothes, tasting bitter and gritty, but the cramping in my stomach made my cares go away. Regaining ounces of strength at a time, I devoured this odd and frankly disgusting life source. Though death was pleasant and serene, I didn't wish to leave yet. I had something to accomplish.
    "The man who bit you is a killer named Jordain Laurent. He's been committing countless murders around France for the last half century. Though he's mainly killed sex workers." I opened my eyes as I continued to drink. There in front of me, calm as can be, sat a man whose face could easily pass as that of a woman. His skin was grainy looking, light beige with small darker flecks all over. His eyes were a pale pink and his hair was long, straight and black. "Rumor has it that he's attempting to start a coven and move into the underground of central Paris with the others."
    I exhaled deeply and sat back against the wall, satisfied and curious as to why someone like this was helping me. Or maybe I had already died and this is what I was hallucinating before my judgement.
    "Am I dead?"
    "Yes and no. You're not human anymore. You have the ability to live forever but you can still be killed." Living forever? Murder? Drinking blood? I was turned into something that I only heard civilians whisper about, a deadly child of Lucifer himself. "I had no idea Jordain was one of them. You're the first to be turned."
    "You watched him?" I choked.
    "It's my job to watch." He replied stoically.
    "And you didn't help me out beforehand?" I shouted, pushing away from the wall and attempting to walk out of the alley. "What kind of person are you? 'oh it's my job to watch', you helped out too late!" Huffing, I turned back around to look at him, still kneeling on the ground and not at all fazed by my words. "I didn't even fuck him, I just got an attempted murder!"
    "Actually, he fucked you as he was attempting to murder you."
    "Are you mocking me?!"
    "You almost died and that's what your concern is? Yes, for that I'll mock you." He gathered himself and stood up, brushing dust and dirt off himself. There was a loud rapping sound in the dark path and I could more clearly make out the sight of this stone-like man stretching his wings.
    "What are you?"
    "Something like you. Someone who can't ever see the sun again."
    "Clarify."
    "My name is Lafayette Bellerose and I'm a guard for the Notre Dame Cathedral. I have no choice but to take you to your maker, wherever he may be. But you need to find shelter from the day very soon. As well as find a human to eat." He walked past without even looking me in the eyes.
    "You're not even going to help me find shelter?" I yelled.
    "I'm not your mother, Berith." And with that, he sprung off the ground and flew away. Yelling at nothing, I ran out of the alley, looking for the nearest abandoned structure or at least some place with a cellar...and a bath if at all possible.

    As I hurried through the nighttime streets, I could hear every person speaking even if they were locked in their homes, every flap of birds' wings, every footstep, the sounds all meshed together inside like headache inducing white noise. I stumbled a lot since I still didn't quite have my footing right and worst of all, I was getting hungry again. While in my sprint for daytime shelter, I failed to look in front of me and rammed right into another passerby.
    "Watch where you're going!" He shouted and pushed me away.
    "Sorry." I mumbled and started moving once more, but something sweet caught hold of my senses, making me completely stop in my tracks and watch the man walk away. Nothing else was heard but his steps and even breathing. He never looked back at me and in slow motion, I heard this man's biggest mistake exit his lips.
    "Stupid fuck." Oh say no more sir. He had no idea what my night consisted of. Not even the slightest concept of what kind of rage I was actually feeling, and he chose to say something to that volume. I was left without a home, a life that would last eternity, and covered in dirt and most likely human waste, what more had I to lose? Attacking someone in the open was probably not my best idea but I got my first taste of human blood that night. Commoners screamed, fleeing, and people watched from their windows in fear as I drained this man until the last drop in the middle of the street with absolutely no remorse. They wouldn't see me in the morning anyway.

 

    It had maybe been an hour since I fled the scene of my rather gluttonous crime. The azure sky above was lightening a little more every minute and I still had not found shelter. I still had no idea of my location and I tried my best not to panic. If I caught even the slightest glimpse of the sun's light, my eyes would have most likely burned out of my head and the rest of my body would soon follow. I debated barging into a commoner's home, killing them and burying myself somewhere under a bed if I grew so desperate. Luckily, I didn't have to do that.
    A little ways away, I came across some kind of abandoned shop. It reeked worse than I did and when I walked inside the doorless structure, decaying bodies littered the main floor. I gave a quick glance out the front window at brightening sky, gauging the amount of time I had before a mandatory evacuation to the cellar. Each body on the ground was that of a woman, most were naked and maybe two others had some amount of loose fabric on but not much. There were distinct patterns carved into each woman's skin from their shoulders to their feet and what stood out to me most was that every body had puncture marks on their necks. Few showed evidence of their throats being ripped out. Remembering Lafayette's words, this seemed to be the location where Jordain Laurent dumped his dead. The sight was remarkable and upon turning some of these women over, the ones whose throats were still relatively intact had holes in their chests, like their hearts were pulled out instead.
    "How could someone do this?" I whispered into nothing, feeling genuinely sorry for these poor girls. Yet at the same time, were their lives as prostitutes really so worthwhile and fulfilling? Disease ridden? Murder cases like this? Whores were probably dropping like flies weekly. Though this method of death was everything but short and sweet, a sex worker's fate was inevitable. Turning back to the window behind me, my eyes burned when I caught a glimpse of the sun starting to peek over the horizon. Startled, I stumbled back and fell on top of the dead below. "Good God!" I yelled, teary-eyed and standing quickly so I could hop into the cellar.
    Light slowly poured through the cracks in the wooden door above my head and I backed away when it hit my hand, sizzling bare flesh. Finding the darkest corner of the empty space, I sat down and tried to rest. The stench of death was prominent enough to sink under the structure and I felt sick, retching a little but I was not able to throw up. For the day's time, I had to deal with it. And on top of all that was happening, that useless Cathedral guard was supposed to take me to the man who killed all the whores above my head! Jordain was my maker and I had to actually tag along by his side for God only knew how long. I wondered how many killings I'd witness, who my mates would be if he really did decide to start a coven and what would become of me during my time attached to his hip. I shuddered thinking about it and I wondered if I'd have the same attraction to him that I did while intoxicated. It worried me that I had such strong lust for a whore killer and any of those girls above could have been me.
    I guessed I would find out when the next night fell...

                        . . .

    "Berith." The voice calling me was unclear as the cellar door creaked open. Snapping out of my groggy haze, I saw familiar pink eyes glowing in the dark surrounding me. My ass was numb from sitting on the hard ground for hours and my joints cracked with each movement. Standing up, I noticed my ass had also begun to hurt in a different way and I couldn't help chuckling. Of course that particular pain hit once the adrenaline from the previous night dissipated. "What's funny?"
    "My ass hurts."
    "Cute." He replied with the utmost displeasure.
    "Are you at least going to find me somewhere to bathe and change clothes before you force me to spend an eternity in Hell?"
    "Have you eaten?" I took that as a "no". My answer was a simple nod. I wouldn't tell him that I obnoxiously devoured some poor unfortunate soul in public. "Good. And to answer your question, Jordain is quite wealthy, I'm positive he has a bath and clothing for you." Great, after everything that happened I would even receive the pleasure of being bathed and dressed by my murderous maker. I was sure he'd enjoy the humiliation it brought me to show up at his door looking like a sewer rat and begging for guidance.
    "You're awfully lazy for a cathedral guard." I called, climbing out of the cellar to follow him out. "You're with the religious system, are you not? Don't you believe in bathing to cleanse people of their sins or something?"
    He turned too slowly, looking at me over his shoulder. "You're joking, right?"
    "Do I look like I'm joking, Lafayette? I'm covered in a layer of shit." I stopped in my tracks. "Not to mention, given last night's rather devious acts, I am quite the naughty boy."
    The stone guard's laugh made me sink but my comments were enough to make him walk toward me. "You know what Berith, sure I'll take you to the cathedral and drop you in holy water just to watch you simmer."
    "There is no need for such cruelty." He huffed in response and trudged out of the shop, crinkling his nose at the initial stench and abundance of dead, maimed prostitutes. I began thinking about that place once I got outside. I found it odd that I automatically went somewhere that my maker dumped the remnants of his crimes. Everything I was doing had something to do with my maker and I hadn't spoken to him at all since the moments before he turned me, like my connection to him resided deeper than the conscious being. That thought alone made my skin crawl.

    The walk to Jordain Laurent's estate was silent and awkward. Whenever I tried to speak to Lafayette, he cut me off and I got the hint he didn't like me very much. He felt like he was obligated to help me and the idea didn't sit well with him so his assistance was half-assed. Or perhaps it wasn't me he had the issue with rather, my fiend of a grand messiah, in which I could not blame him since I had an issue with the man myself. I didn't mind though, in fact I liked his smart mouth and this attitude he had made him enjoyable company. I grew weary when we reached the gates and nearly fell on top of the guard.
    "Are you sure you ate?"
    "Yes, mother." I groaned.
    "This is where we part. Hopefully you can make it up to the door."
    "I'll be fine." I paused to look to my companion. "Lafayette."
    "Yes?"
    "Would you continue to help me?" My question threw the man off guard and I could tell he was searching for a response. "Can you be back here in thirty days?"
    "Why?"
    "Don't answer a question with another question. Yes or no, can you be back here at this location outside of these gates in thirty days?"
    He let out a tiny grunt and rolled his eyes, looking up and then back to the ground. After a few seconds, he was able to meet contact with me. "Make it sixty. No negotiations." Sixty days it was then. That was more than enough time to do what I desired and then some. "And you're not going by days anymore." Waving off an unfortunate goodbye, I opened the gate and started tiredly pacing to the front door. My body felt unnaturally weak and my stomach rumbled. I had already ingested an entire human being's blood supply, how could I be hungry again so soon? It didn't really matter anymore since from that night on, I would be at my maker's mercy. Who was to say Jordain wouldn't have me walking into the light once day began to break in an amount of hours?
    It took more strength than necessary to pound on the door and I felt so exhausted that I practically hung off the metal ring at the top. Not even a footstep came into recognition. Few moments passed and I knocked again, falling onto my knees when the door opened and meeting contact with black boots. Slowly I lifted my head and was greeted by mocking white-blue eyes and a sly grin. I said nothing as he reached down under my chin, tracing his fingers along my jaw and stopping to cup my cheek. I felt pleasance in his touch, familiarity, a genuine connection that even though I was completely disgusted still had the potency to make me melt in his hand.
    "Vous regardez terribles mon amour." His syrupy voice sent shivers down my spine and I seemed to snap out of my daze when he lifted his hand from my face.
    "I wonder why." I responded dryly.
    His smile only grew wider and his quiet chuckle cut off with a blissful sigh. "Do you love me, Berith?"
    Silence.
    "Tell me." He gently raked his fingers through my dirty hair and stroked my jaw again. "Tell me you love me. Worship me as your master and as your god," My eyes remained shut and I let out a shaky breath when his thumb slid across my lips. ", or I make you walk."
    My assumptions were correct. If I didn't hand myself over to him wholeheartedly, he would give me the loveliest of death sentences. Everything inside me protested against it and I thought that I'd at least burn to death with my pride but what more could that bring? Not much. And although I desired a fight, I was physically incapable of doing so as long as he touched me and spoke to me with that alluring coo of his.
    "I will." I mumbled inaudibly.
    "What, Berith?"
    "I surrender, Jordain." I paused, at long last opening my eyes to give him my final word. "I love you."

    Jordain had politely asked me to hand my clothes off to him for disposal, since there was no way that much grime could be washed out and as he left with that nasty wad he told me where the bath was and to wait for him there. He said he must have had something I could wear even though I wasn't as thin framed as him. He told me his servants were all asleep in the guest house out back but walking through such a large, hollow place naked still made me quite uncomfortable. I knew he enjoyed it, which is why it was happening in the first place. I put up no fight and did as instructed, even thinking of patting myself on the back for every single assumption I had about him being correct. I had guessed if I didn't comply to his every desire, I'd die. I had guessed he really got off on vulnerability and utter helplessness. And most relevant to my cause at the moment, I had guessed he was going to bathe me himself.
    I stood awkwardly in the room eyeing the halfway full copper tub. I questioned what this experience would be like, seeing as though I had never been bathed by another person in my life, at least from what I could remember of it. The thought of Jordain's hands all over my skin with that fucking grossly pleasing touch of his...he would without a doubt try something odd. So I had to ready myself to remain compliant no matter the cost. My goal for the moment was to live at least one night under this man's roof.
    Just as I had partially gathered myself, Jordain walked into the room huffing and dusting off his hands. I looked to the tub and then back to him; his simple shooing wave was queue enough for me to step inside. I hissed feeling my feet sink into unpleasantly cool water and slowly sat down into it.
    "Is it cold?" He asked, laughing.
    "A bit." I replied in a near whisper.
    "Better than the barrels." I had no retort for that, he was right. Plus, my body got used to the water temperature rather quickly so it wasn't too much of an issue. He removed his coat, draped it over the free corner of the table, and rolled up his sleeves. His face was calm and content as he got everything situated, tucking long red hair behind his ear and moving it out of the way over one shoulder. I couldn't deny that my opinion of his looks never changed, but I would not let innate attraction blind me from the fact that he was still a murderous letcher. In fact, I believed that half the reason why I was so attracted to him was because of the eerily strange intimate connection we shared as creator and creation.
    He grabbed a bar of soap and a cloth and leisurely walked toward me, sitting on the edge of the tub and giving me a quick once-over. He started to speak softly as he soaked the cloth and rubbed the soap over it a few times, moving to slide it across my shoulders. "Your stomach is caved in."
    I quickly looked down and he was right. It didn't look like that the last night, and the sight was quite alarming. No wonder I was hurting so much. "Look at that." was all I could really say back.
    "How much have you eaten?"
    "I drank everything from one person."
    "That's it?" He lightly pushed between my shoulders and ran the cloth down my back when I hunched forward. "When you're first turned, you have to eat at least three."
    "I didn't have very much time until morning when I woke up. I did what I could and found a place to rest before I burned to a crisp." Jordain was silent after that and his hand moved up again, nails gently dragging along my skin all the way up the back of my neck and into my hair, playfully pulling so I could look up at him. He smiled devilishly and slid the cloth around my neck, across my collarbones and down my chest painfully slow, pushing into flesh harder when he rolled over one of my nipples.
    "I just might have something for you." He inched closer to me and murmured, nipping at my lips and moving his hand to roll over my other nipple. "I'll always keep you fed, mon amour." My spine tingled and I quietly groaned against his soft bites and kisses. "Wait for me?" He purred. My answer was some sort of frustrated mewl when he let go of my hair and began walking away. Snapping out of my trance, I watched him turn the corner out of the room and noticed he left the cloth and soap next to me. Aggravated that he put me in such a state yet again, I snatched them up and finished cleaning myself.
    I stood and scanned the area for a robe of some sort, but found nothing. After a moment my stomach clenched in a cramp that left me coughing and sitting back down into the water. I hoped he would actually return with food and I hoped it would be within minutes because I was starting to grow weak to the point of passing out again. Seconds felt like hours and I had trouble seeing Jordain enter the room carrying a limp woman. He sat her on the floor and leaned her over to me while perching back on the rim of the tub.
    "Is she dead?" I asked, staring at unnaturally pale flesh in front of me.
    "Of course not, she passed out drunk. I was going to have a meal myself, but then starving company arrived at my doorstep." Even in dizziness, I had enough energy to glare at him.
    "Getting people drunk seems to be a common factor of yours." I weakly pushed under her chin, feeling around for a pulse because I refused to just trust his word and regret it later. Luckily he wasn't lying to me and there were no marks on her skin at all, so that told me he hadn't even touched her yet.
    "Oh you're alive aren't you? Stop whining." I slowly sank my teeth into the woman's neck and when scalding hot and disgustingly bitter liquid spilled into my mouth I immediately broke away choking.
    "Fuck, Jordain what is this!?"
    In a hurry, he pushed his fingers to her wound. "Don't waste it! Drunk blood is hotter and not as grossly sweet as regular blood. That's the taste I prefer."
    "It tastes like shit." That blood was worse than Lafayette's.
    "Eat it." He took his fingers off her wound and pushed my head down, forcing me to latch back onto her. My mouth numbed after a while and my stomach certainly felt better so I stopped minding such a gross life source. I was so hungry that I tore into her, feeling her crying against the hand I clamped over her mouth, tears dropping into the water surrounding me. "Very good." Jordain crooned, petting my hair as I drained this poor woman dry. I pulled away from her and tilted back, breathing deeply. That feeding was a little less messy than the last but I still felt wetness dripping down my chin and onto my chest.
    "There's hope for you yet." Jordain smiled and kissed my bloodied lips, dragging his fingers up my chest to collect stray drops. He broke away for a moment to devour what blood was there and he looked directly at me while suggestively licking and sucking his fingers. Without a single thought I pushed the newly deceased woman off the edge of the tub and rolled onto my knees, pulling him back to me by his shirtfront and hungrily kissing him again. Chuckling, he bit my lip between kisses and pinched my nipples, driving me even more into madness like he always seemed to do. Leaving me gasping and yearning for more, he bent down and licked my jaw and the hand playing with my chest wrapped around my throat. I moaned and rolled my hips into nothing, looking into wild white-blue eyes. Somehow the lower ache disappeared and I craved the feeling of him inside me again, knowing I'd be conscious for it this time around.
    "Get on the floor."

    We must have gone at it to the point of instant sleep because I was first to wake up the next night on that same floor. My shoulder and back hurt and when I looked, I noticed I had a rectangular shaped burn. Jordain had the same thing across his chest and a little red patch on his cheek. The doors leading to the balcony a little ways away had curtains thick enough to block most of the sunlight but that wouldn't stop some light from coming in through the sides. I imagined the look on his house servants' faces hearing the ruckus or coming in to clean and seeing two gross naked men laid out on the ground.
    Stranger feelings crept over me looking at my still sound asleep maker next to me. I lost sight of who this man was once more. My situation with Jordain Laurent was complicated from the moment I met him. I gently kissed his forehead and stood, noticing my legs were a little wobbly. The walk to the balcony was a short one and the nighttime breeze felt nice against my skin. Hunching over the railing, I stared at the full moon in it's black surroundings. In a flash, a human-like winged figure twirled gracefully in dim golden light, almost as if it was dancing. I couldn't help smiling watching him come and go.
    "You can't come back soon enough, my friend." I mumbled, looking behind at Jordain. "I may end up loving this atrocity soon."

                        . . .

    For about a week, I spent the nights confined in Jordain's home and he said he left me there to relax and he wanted to pamper me to the best of his ability before we went out hunting together. He regularly went out, brought a fresh and usually female victim for the two of us to share, then didn't even bother to rid the room of the body before he began to ravage mine. Though I admit I never insisted for him to dispose of the mess and at times I even kicked a body aside to make room because I was always so eager to let him fuck me. Regret always hit me when I woke but my desire for Jordain wasn't something that could be easily fought off.

    It seemed the pleasure never ended...

    One night I awoke to the feeling of a hand gently petting my hair and with blurry vision I could make out the sight of my creator's smiling face with not any trace of evil in his eyes or smugness in form of a smirk. He looked sweet and kind and completely entranced by me laying next to him. I leaned into his hand when he cupped my cheek and kissed the thumb that grazed my lips.
    "What?" I mumbled, noticing a tinge of pink covering his cheeks.
    "You're cute when you sleep."
    "You watch me?" My face began to reflect his.
    "Only in the moments before you wake up. You're cute all the time, but the most when you're sleeping peacefully." Before I could respond, he quickly stole a kiss and I felt my stomach flutter and my body sink into the bed. "You're so good to me, Berith." He hummed between kisses, pressing his weight onto me. "I don't know where I'd be without you."
    "Jordain," came a weak whisper that made him stop kissing me and gently rub his nose against mine. "When will you take me hunting with you?"
    "How about tonight, mon amour."
    "Do you really mean that?!" Even I was shocked at how happy I sounded. I was actually excited to go make another kill by myself and it worried me to no end. Jordain's soft laughter, slow approving nod, and even softer lips seemed to send me to bliss once again.
    "I mean every word."

    He had told me there was a large gathering a few houses down in which everyone in the immediate area would be attending. He also said in large crowds, it was much easier to find food since everyone was too busy socializing to pay attention. His words were: "It's not like anyone would take an attendance sheet and make sure all guests were accounted for. Uninvited persons come to these places all the time and perfectly impersonate someone of high status. And  no one knows the wiser, nor do they really care since they forget who you are the next day." Overall, it sounded like a flawless idea and it genuinely upset me that I probably would not have thought of that myself. I had too much decency to play pretend with others.
    As we approached the front door, we were stopped by a man taller than both of us in a cloak and mask. I flinched and backed away but Jordain simply sniggered and held onto my hand. I wasn't comfortable with his manner and I knew people were talking about us already from behind. We had to maintain the look of a close friendship and nothing more or things would get horrendous rather quickly.
    "Jordain Laurent, I live a few homes up from here, and this is my friend Berith. Please excuse his timid behavior, this is his first party in quite some time."
    "Entrer." The man muttered and stepped away from us and onto the next pair of guests.
    "See? That wasn't so difficult. Stop being so paranoid." I barely heard Jordain since the other myriad of yelling, talking, and whispering voices around me almost made me collapse. He knew I wasn't used to my abilities and I tried as hard as I could not to wince or fall. The hand holding mine tightened a little as a way to comfort me. "You'll be fine, cherie, just listen to me."
    "You have to let go of my hand." I said in a near whisper. "I can hear their comments."
    He complied to my request but started into another speech about the exact people that seemed to flood every space in the house and even outside. "I have seen half these men in brothels and half of that half in the primal, filthy clutches of other men. Yet tonight they're here with their lovely wives passing judgement on me and my lover, trying to give the illusion of morals. It's laughable really." He stopped walking and faced me. "You and I are here to hunt. Once you move past the shit quality and hypocrisy of the humans beneath, expression becomes less of a care. The main concern is which one of these delectable low-lives you'll savor next, think of it as eliminating the weak and stupid."
    He stepped closer to me and placed a hand on my chest, standing on his toes and scanning the space around us quickly. Once he made a discovery, he smiled cutely and brought his attention back to me. "That rather lonely looking young lady behind you has been staring your way for a few minutes now." I looked behind for only a moment just to catch a glimpse of a young woman with long dark hair and a powder blue and white dress sitting by herself and bored at a table.
    "She doesn't look weak or stupid." I said back to Jordain.
    "Those are called indulgences, mon amour." I hadn't realized he had gotten close enough to whisper in my ear. "Though try not to have too much fun with her. I don't like others playing with my things." His last sentence came as a growl and I gasped when he suddenly squeezed my ass. In seconds, the intense atmosphere dulled and he smiled, pulling away from me. "I'll check on you in a little while." And with that, Jordain Laurent sauntered away to do one of the things he did best.

    Catching my breath and hoping no one saw what had happened, I started toward the lonely woman at the table. She met eyes with me and smiled, turning away as if she didn't really think I was going to say hello to start with.
    "Bonne soirèe, mademoiselle."
    "Bonsoir." She replied, watching me sit in the chair next to her. "I apologize if I acted strange. You just look very familiar."
    "There's no need for apology." Not moments ago I was groped in a crowd of uptight people, nothing really came off as strange to me anymore. "What is your name?"
    "Jasmine Fay. Et vous, Monsieur beau?"
    "Berith Devereaux."
    "Devereaux?" She paused. "I do know you! Your father and mother were named Draegan and Louise. I knew it was you, Berith!" She immediately stood and threw her arms around me even though I remained seated and confused. "Do you not remember me?"
    "I'm afraid I recently took a nasty fall and hit my head pretty hard. I can't remember much aside from the basics." I lied. "Draegan and Louise sound familiar though."
    "Oh you poor baby!" She sat back down and scooted her chair closer to me. "We're childhood friends, you and I. There was another, Emille Harriot, though he's been gone for about five years now." I slowly began to remember names, but faces seemed foggy, all except for my parents. Jasmine Fay...yes I remembered her more and more by the minute. She was my exact age, our birthdays only a week apart. Emille was maybe two or three years younger than us. I grew up with them. Why did I leave? It must have been years since I had spoken to them, long before I changed.
    "I remember you, Jasmine." I smiled at her and words could not explain the comfort I felt around her, around my dear friend.
    "Really?" She asked, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. My answer was a slow nod. 
    "Where the fuck did you go?!"
    "I'm still trying to piece that one together."
    
    During the time I spent with Jasmine, I was refreshed hearing about all of our childhood antics and how the debauchery never really stopped when we were teenagers. In fact, it apparently worsened greatly. She was unmarried, like me, her family died and left her brother the estate and before their deaths tried to excommunicate her because she chose not to wed. Her brother kindly settled everything and allowed her back home after their parents passed. Emille Harriot died of illness, and I still barely remembered his face. He was fifteen when we were seventeen, sweet and not too bright, that's how I thought of him. It saddened me that I was never able to see him one last time.
    "So who's your friend, the one you came in with, the pretty man with the red hair?" She asked excitedly, nudging me with her elbow.
    "His name is Jordain." I really hoped I wasn't blushing. "We're not really friends per se..."
    "Oh, I know. Pretty redhead is Berith's lover."
    "It's not like that!"
    "Yes it is!" She sat back in her chair looking right through me as she used to when we were young. "You think I never knew you played both sides? You were always so popular with the girls when we got older. But boys? Ooh boys were like a rare treat for you, the forbidden fruit. Emille and I caught onto you very quickly."
    "There's no proof of that."
    "Still denying, huh?" She paused and leaned in, a wicked smile on her face. "I wish Emille was here so he could apologize with me. But I digress." She purred.
    "What are you getting at?"
    "Well, you and I were nineteen, Emille was seventeen at the time. You had left us when you met a new friend in this shop, very cute blond of about the same age and oh so pretty. Ringing a bell yet?" I shook my head. "Emille and I waited for you to get a good distance away before we started to follow you. We thought we'd lost you when suddenly in dead silence, tiny little whimpering sounds could be heard. We had turned a couple corners and hid very well but there you were with this pretty blond's cock in your mouth, desperately playing with yourself as well." I remembered the incident, and I was rendered unable to say a single word. "I apologize for watching you until it was over. Emille wanted you in the worst way from that day on. Unfortunately for him, you more enjoyed being the toy."
    "He does indeed." My stomach dropped and my mouth quivered upon hearing Jordain's voice behind me. Slim, pale hands started massaging my shoulders and the most unpleasant tingle rushed through my body. His voice held suggestivity, but almost seemed angry, and that's what frightened me most.
    "Bonne soirèe, Monsieur Jordain. I was just poking fun at Berith. He and I used to be friends when we were children. My name is Jasmine."
    "Jasmine. What a beautiful name." He let his hands slide across my shoulders when he approached her, taking her hand into his and giving it a gentle kiss. "How would you like to further catch up with Berith and come home with us?"
    "She probably has to go. Her brother could be here with her." I insisted.
    "He said he didn't want to go, so I came by myself."
    "Well, then this is no place for such a beautiful lady like yourself to be travelling back home alone. I insist you come stay with us for the night." In those few moments of the two speaking, I remained silent and unmoving. Jordain's eyes constantly shifted to glance at me and Jasmine had no idea of what was really happening. And that night, in a feast of sweet red, my lover and I indulged on the precious life of my last remaining friend. And after the feast which left me an empty shell, staring into dead green eyes and two sets of puncture marks on freezing white skin, Jordain hauled me up, viciously kissed my shaking lips and never wiped away my stream of tears. I was pushed back down onto my knees and with a voice I had never heard, laced with bitter hatred and venomous jealousy he said to me:
    "Now show me what you did in her story."    

    The next night I woke up alone. What was done had already been done and as much as I wished, there wasn't any going back. Jasmine Fay was dead. And I struck a serious nerve with Jordain for reasons still not entirely known. Her body was cleared out of the house and all traces of blood washed away. As I crept into the parlour, I spotted him sitting on the sofa and appearing to be reading.
    "Oh good, you're awake." Jordain slammed his book shut and looked over his shoulder at me.
    "No hunting tonight?" I asked dryly.
    He shook his head and waved for me to sit on the floor in front of him. I hoped he wouldn't torture me anymore. Half of me wished he would just send me into the daylight to burn and get it over with. The other half wished for compassion that I knew I'd never receive from him. Fuck, I was lucky if he would ever smile at me again like he did the previous night when we got up.
    "I ordered for Jasmine to be buried alongside Emille Harriot. So you can bring them flowers if you wish."
    I choked on tears. "Do you think this justifies last night's episode? What was that? You could have chosen anyone else. But you chose my friend, who you knew I was going to let go. Why?"
    "You answered your own question. It's because you were going to let her go after she already knew too much about you and me. Did you plan on turning her? Because I still would have killed her in a much more painful way." This was the jealousy Jordain spoke of. Had I turned Jasmine, even though the thought never crossed my mind, I would be a maker just like Jordain. Therefore, I would share the same intimacy with another, and I had the ability to leave without question. Jordain wanted me forever next to him. He chose me as his lover for the rest of eternity, so I only belonged to him, and anyone that threatened his position would be cut down. Even if it was me.
    "I understand." I muttered into the quiet.
    "Do you?" He spat. "What do you remember from before I turned you?"
    "Nothing. I remembered my friends when Jasmine and I got to talking, but after that is a blur." His stare was fixed on the wall for several moments before he actually said something else.
    "Do you want to know how we met?" My silence was clue enough for him to begin. "I found you sitting in the street, not too drunk but you would've been face down if you had maybe two more. You told me things hadn't been the same since your parents died nine years ago. You told me you failed them and you had so many regrets you couldn't count them on your fingers and toes combined. You had just sold your family's estate to someone you didn't even know and you were off to Notre Dame to confess one last time before you would kill yourself." My chest hurt and I tried biting back my tears as I started to remember that night.
    "You told me I was the most perfect man you had ever seen. You said you rarely enjoyed male company because of it being so taboo, but that was what made it a better thrill for you. At first I declined, but you smiled so cutely, yet so broken up, and said 'well, I tried'. You stood up to bid me adieu and when you walked away, I pulled you back and I kissed you. In that second, I wondered whether I should kill you so you didn't have to do it yourself, because I couldn't bear that thought, or to give you a higher purpose and tear you away from destruction.
    "You said to me, 'Does this mean you changed your mind?' and I told you we should come back to my place. You grew so impatient on the way there that I said we would take a shortcut. I was thinking of fucking you and then killing you at the time, in my home. But you wanted it right there in the alley, you begged, and you drove me insane. So I gave you what you wanted. There was something about you that made me feel. And on the fly, as I rammed you into that wall, Berith, I decided to turn you."
    "And then you left me there!"
    "I'm sorry!" An apology? The first sincere, first only apology I had ever heard from Jordain Laurent... "I started to regret changing you because I went back on some old ideas. But when you showed up on my doorstep, I had never been more thankful. I love you, Berith. And I won't permit anyone else to share this feeling with you. For killing your friend, I am not sorry."
    I stood, looking down at white-blue eyes that held some sort of childlike innocence I had not seen from him. It was the moments like that I treasured. I knew he was a horrible being, I knew what his art was and I had yet to experience any of that but I'd give it time. In the moments where he'd smile or just feel anything or be anything but the standard of "murderer", I wondered if he could be changed.
    "It's already over, mon amour. I can't be upset about it anymore. We both killed her anyway." And just like that I had climbed into Jordain's lap and kissed and held him for what seemed like forever. We had stayed home that night, and I thought it was partly because of the previous night's events, as if he was still trying to be considerate. It worked. And as my shit luck would have it, for one reason or another, I loved Jordain too.

                        . . . 

    The stone wall that was Jasmine Fay's grave felt eerily cool against my back. I had done what Jordain had suggested and brought flowers to her and Emille Harriot, but I sat there with their covered corpses to attempt to reminisce about the past. I laughed at how nervous I got thinking of them watching my encounters with random strangers throughout the city. I know I had many. Maybe that's why they always appeared to be hiding something from me in the old days, whispering to each other and giggling as I stared at them in complete confusion, only to be embraced by them both like a couple of dogs. We were close, and after my parents passed away, I guess I left my friends behind as well.
    "Cherie, are you going to sit there dreaming all night or are you going hunting with me?" Jordain's voice made my eyes pop open. Apparently I had dozed off.
    Yawning, I began to say "I'm not up for socializing tonight. You can hunt." 
    "Do you expect me to bring you back something? I'm particularly famished tonight." and with the crooked smile I knew all too well, he said "I would probably drain our prey before I made it back to you."
    "It's your fault I'm so tired, you know." 
    "Oh?"
    "It's also your fault that I'm a little sore this evening." I shifted a bit on the ground and loosened a few buttons on my shirt to show him the numerous bruises and teeth marks he had left on my chest. "You insist on fucking me even through daylight hours. What would you do without your precious curtains?"
    "What would I do?" He asked softly, kneeling over me and letting his lips graze my own. "I'd pound you into the bed until we burned."
    "How romantic." I sniggered, running a hand through dark red waves and pulling him practically on top of me. He took his sweet time nibbling my lips between long kisses and teasing whatever places on me he knew took heavy damage. My legs parted a little and his hand moved up my thigh and grabbed hold of my already stiff crotch.
    "To hell with blood, I think you'd die if I didn't have sex with you." He laughed as he rubbed me hard over my pants. I buried my face into the crook of his neck whimpering while hungrily bucking into his touch. "Look, you're giving your friends such a slutty display even now." They were probably watching me from their places in the afterlife and feeling nothing shy of offended by my life choices. But what could I say? I was a creature of the night, a cruel and carefree version of the Berith Devereaux I used to be.
    "I'm sure it's what they would have wanted." I panted in reply.
    "But of course. More importantly, they know you're mine." He let go of me and scooted down a bit, pushing my legs open wider and letting his hands trail ever so slowly up my inner thighs and stopping just before he reached my crotch again. 
    "God damnit Jordain." I tilted my head back against the headstone and let slip one particularly shaking breath. His hands continued to run up my hips and to the bottom of my shirt, pushing it over my chest and brushing his nails over bruised skin. My moaning sounded like tight-lipped sobs and he ignored every little movement of my hips urging him to fucking touch me already. No, he still took his time meeting every bruise with a soft kiss while rubbing his thumbs just underneath the waist of my pants. 
    I was startled by a sudden rapping noise not too far from our location accompanied by a sigh. "Did you hear that?" I finally looked down at Jordain, who stopped kissing me momentarily. 
    "Yes. Maybe we don't have to go out for food after all." His eyes dropped to stare at the inflictions on my skin with a smirk. "But I'm a little busy at the moment." Carelessly, he flicked his tongue against one of my nipples and went right back into groping my covered erection. I sank against the hard stone, groaning a little too loudly and rolling my hips with his movements. "Have I sucked you off yet, mon amour?" Just the thought of this rendered me unable to even say a word, I just whined and rocked into his hand quicker.
    "Do you want me to use my mouth, Berith?" He breathed the question against my chest and before I could even nod, sank his teeth into my nipple. I was about ready to pass out from the foggy heat building up between my legs. "Tell me." He teased, pulling my pants down just a little and moving to nibble the bruises on my collarbone. Faint clopping steps could be heard behind and I knew exactly who those belonged to. The cathedral wasn't a great distance away and I quickly glanced at the top of the structure to see one center gargoyle statue missing.   
    "Jordain..." I tried to get him to stop but his name only came out a weak whimper, backfiring on me and making him slip his hand into my pants to slowly stroke my embarrassingly wet cock. "Fuck...Jordain, we have to..."
    "We have to what?" He murmured, kissing down my stomach and pulling my dick from its confines. I watched in simultaneous arousal and horror as he ran his tongue up the underside of my shaft, sending shivers throughout and making my toes curl in my boots.  
    "Jordain, we have to..."
    "Hmm?" He chuckled, stroking me again and flicking his tongue against the tip.
    "We have to go!" I choked.
    "Are you stopping me?" He asked in that nerve wracking tone I remembered from the previous night. I grew even more terrified knowing my cock was still in his hand.
    "Amour, there's someone here. Please check." He narrowed his eyes and stared at me for a second. "S'il te plaît bébé." He huffed, obviously agitated and quickly kissed me to let me know he wasn't going to rip my penis off, which was the most comforting thing imaginable in that moment. Not even bothering to put it away, he climbed back on top of me, hovering above my hips and peering over the headstone I rested against.
    "Someone is here." There was a long pause and before I could ask anything, Jordain muttered, "The fucking guard is here."
    "What guard?" I played dumb. I knew Lafayette was there just by the sound of his eternally-displeased-with-everything sigh, but God forbid I knew anyone else in my new life so I had to act oblivious.
    "I'll tell you while we hunt, but we need to leave quickly." It mattered not since I was ever so grateful that Jordain got the message. Hunting was more important anyway and we could always continue what we were doing afterward, which wasn't uncommon in the slightest.            

    "La Danseuse dans la Lune." He began, gently closing the younger man's eyes. His head comfortably rested against Jordain's chest and I could tell his entire body hummed with anticipation as his hair was pet ever so gently. "Le Protecteur." His voice trailed off in a near whisper and he focused on slowly loosening the man's cravat. "La Main de Dieu." The man tensed and blushed as Jordain's hand moved lightly across covered flesh, playing with the hem of his shirt, revealing only a small patch of tanned skin. "He has many names among citydwellers."
    "You've seen the gargoyle too?" Hazel eyes popped open and Jordain stopped his actions to glare at the one propped against him. 
    "Did I say you could ask me a question?" Lips pursed and that youthful, doe-eyed look turned into something more sorrowful. "You speak when spoken to."
    "Oui, Monseur Laurent." He closed his eyes again and sighed, the tiny upward turn of his mouth coming back. He was quite cute. Jordain asked me to choose prey that night and I had spent a decent amount of time picking out a woman I thought he'd like: a twenty-something blonde with dark eyes, full lips, large breasts, tiny waist and the fashion sense of the common tart...but he said he wanted a man this time. So I chose the prettiest in the room, no older than nineteen or twenty, short with hazel eyes, the slightest hint of freckles across his cheeks, and straight black hair. He was shockingly submissive and eager to try something different, which unfortunately was his downfall. I stirred looking at him and the sound of his quickening heart was all I seemed to focus on. Jordain didn't have him drink himself into a coma, so imagining how sweet he would taste was enough to drive me insane.
    "You look as anxious as he does." Jordain's mocking comment caused me little irritation. "Go first, Cherie. Just listen to me." I nodded and inched closer to the younger man, crawling on top of him. The sweet scent of precious life filled my senses and his shivering beneath made my hair stand on end. This was a position I was not used to, as if I was peering down at myself in certain situations. That's why he had me choose a male victim. "He likes you." I bore my teeth upon looking back up at my maker, who just chuckled. "Play with him." I never knew with that man. There was always something up with him and I worried I'd die along with our prey every time we hunted. I worried it was all a test of loyalty since Jordain was so possessive, yet he enjoyed watching for a bit? 
    "Berith..." The younger man whispered weakly and I gave his cheek a soft kiss. 
    "I met Lafayette Bellerose many many years ago, before everything happened." The story began and I let my hands wander along the lithe body under me, oddly taking pleasure in how he shivered when I grazed bare skin. "I had asked him what he thought about art, and he proceeded to say that what I wanted to do was not that. He said it was not a healthy way of channeling whatever took rest inside me." Jordain's voice sounded faint meshed with everything I felt in that time. I listened to the best of my ability but my attention was wavering with growing hunger and meticulous touches. The younger man quietly whined behind bitten lips and ground himself against my leg with every nibble on his warm skin, every lazy drag of my nails, and every flick of my thumbs or tongue against his peaked nipples. Taking in reflective wholehearted submission was quite a sight to behold and the smell of his blood became more overbearing by the minute.
    "He said he would not accept me and that he would not help me no matter how much God would have wanted. He did not understand me. He despised my kind, and at the time, I was still in the gruelling clutch of mortality." The energetic pace of his heart reverberated through my entire body and I couldn't fight much longer, lightly kissing his neck, feeling his pulse against my lips..."Berith." 
    "What?" I breathed.
    "Were you not going to let me join in?" I pulled away from the younger man and sat back on my heels, only to meet Jordain's unimpressed gaze. The man beneath grunted and stirred impatiently and with this, Jordain looked even more displeased. "I didn't tell you to stop." Maybe it was the scent of untainted blood that made me so irritable but all my maker did when I growled at him was smirk. "Yes, cherie, make a fuss. See how that goes for you." 
    "Monseur...please..."
    Jordain playfully gasped, looking down at the young man with a smile and tilting his head up to gently kiss along his jaw. "What do you need?" He whispered hotly against soft skin. The response was a guttural groan and a short roll of the hips against my knee. "Ooh, amour, doesn't this look familiar?" Jordain pushed back a bit so he could plant more kisses on the younger man's neck. His hands wandered along bare skin and drove the other crazy, making him rut more against my knee. "His body just begs for it..like yours does." Jordain aimed to upset me. He wanted to humiliate me. He wanted to see me defy him. It would only make him want me more. He already knew my unyielding loyalty and I understood completely, so I gave that poor boy just what he wanted, never breaking contact with soft blue.
    Out of the corner of his eye, Jordain watched me sink below, slowly pulling the man's pants down and dragging my lips along his abdomen. His mouth curled seeing me pull our poor plaything's cock out and lick a bead of precum from the tip. With a smirk of my own, I tore off his pants and slipped my mouth over his swollen length as far as it would go. Hands worked their way into my hair and hips thrust forward in small movements, helping me take him in deeper. The pounding of his heart still deafened me and I felt his cock twitch as more sticky drops leaked out. His cries grew louder and his back arched when Jordain's nails raked up his sides. I looked up to see my maker sinking his teeth into the man's neck for a moment, only to lick the small drops of blood sparingly, whispering words against his skin that I couldn't hear over the pulse. Our toy's face was flushed, head tilted and jaw slack, exhausted by the onslaught of pleasure taking him. Already, he was close to finishing and we both knew this.
    Teasingly, I wound my tongue around the head of his cock and gripped it tight in my hand. He wept until there was no voice left and all that could be heard was a series of hard panting. Jordain's gaze never left mine and he covered the young man's mouth. I licked one last trail down his cock and pumped him roughly and quickly in my hand, letting my lips run along his inner hip, stopping at the thigh. Jordain's teeth sank into the poor man's neck much harder and the hand over his mouth muffled an oddly pleasured scream. At the same time, I bit into the meat of his thigh, letting sweet red nectar flow into my mouth. He bucked erratically in my hand and covered my fingers in hot sticky white. I dared not look at him in his state of suffering, for that pleasured gasping and screaming soon turned to the sound of pain and tears. 
    It had been so long since I tasted clean blood and I devoured him mercilessly, digging into his flesh and drinking until the very last drop. Jordain and I gasped simultaneously, violently yanking away from our poor plaything who slumped over on the ground, tear-stained, his torso bloodied with scratch marks and teeth and his lower half splotched with semen. But I cared not. Breathing ragged, I turned to my lover and saw a fire in his eyes that came as a rarity. Baring his teeth, he growled and snatched me by the front of my shirt, nearly tearing the fabric, mashed his bloodied lips against mine and tightly wrapped a hand around my throat.
    "Je t'aime." I breathed in between kisses that almost caused pain. I hated telling him I loved him, and I was particularly worked up after this hunt for a reason. He gave me everything I liked with the catch of an intention to humiliate me, which only served to arouse me even more.  
    "Je t'aime aussi." He hissed with cruelty and passion that showed me that this was an artistic experience, conquering the entire situation. This was what he was like once downtime was over, cold-blooded yet his being burned with a lust I'd never seen before. It both frightened and enticed me. It was sick of me to want more of this side of him, I wanted the degradation, I wanted the violent kills that brought sexual gratification as well as ending hunger. I needed my curiosity fed as well as my body.  And the way he fucked me that night, pressing my face to the floor, holding my hands behind my back and driving inside fast and deep, there's nothing else I would've rather done.

    I awoke with a sore back once again, probably holding a few burn marks from little beams of sunlight that came in throughout the day. We needed to stop passing out in other rooms but our bedroom because walking around with burns wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world. I noticed someone had kindly draped a blanket over me at some point while I slept, probably because I was sizzling like a cooked bird. I rolled over, careful not to touch my back too hard to the floor and sat up. A young maid stood in front of me wide-eyed and hands crossed in front of her, fingers twitching nervously. I had not met a single house servant since entry and I knew this one was terrified. But Jordain was nowhere to be found, so she must have been the one to give me a blanket. 
    "Bonsoir." She said nothing. "Thank you for the blanket. You are very kind." Still nothing. "It's alright to speak to me, you know." I insisted with a smile.
    "You need to go home, Monseur." She answered in a grave whisper. 
    "I would've by now if I had one to go to, Mademoiselle." Since I was not aware of Jordain's location, I too lowered my voice. But if his hearing was anything like mine, it wouldn't have made a difference anyway. 
    "You came here with Le Protecteur. I saw you. You must find him. You must make a new home." Her whispers turned to worried hisses and her mouth quivered more by the sentence.
    "That's easier said than done."
    "You're making excuses for him." To this I could not reply. "Do you do it out of fear for your life? Or do you do it out of love?"
    Shaking that off with short snickers, I looked away and then back to her. "It's a little of both." I grew more uncomfortable speaking to this young lady and worried Jordain would come out from nowhere and cut her down like everyone else. I wanted her to leave. I wouldn't see a frightened little mouse get crushed.
    "He is in the attic." I didn't know the house had one, he showed me every place in it but that room. "He'll sit there for days. He will not hunt. He will not sleep." she began to stutter and tears formed at the corners of her eyes. "He hardly speaks. When he is ready, he goes out, and brings back the girls." She sniffled and swallowed the lump in her throat. Her hands shook violently. "And he'll make you watch. Just like he did to us." Tears streaked down her cheeks and she choked on her cries. Quickly standing and wrapping the blanket around myself, I embraced her.
    She tried her best to muffle her voice and sobbed against my chest. "Get rest, little one. I don't want him to hurt you." She looked up at me and I wiped her puffy eyes. "I promise you I will be alright." She sighed, shook her head and backed away from me, without a word, she crept out of the main house and into the yard. 
    Keeping the blanket around me, since I couldn't find my clothes, I quietly walked up to the second floor towards the bedroom. The door was left wide open and no one was inside. The room wasn't even organized and the bed wasn't made. Looking to the end of the hall, I saw it. There was a decent sized rectangular hole in the ceiling with a folding wooden staircase hanging from the dark above. Slowly, I walked to it and heard the first creak when I reached the steps. Before I even reached the entrance, Jordain stood looking down on me, blank of real expression.
    "Are you well, mon amour?" I asked.
    "Yes. I'm trying to get inspired for my next piece. So I'll need some privacy for a little while." Separation was taking a strange toll on me from that moment. "Oh don't look too sad, amour. You can hunt on your own as long as you come home. You don't need me for that. And when I'm finished, I'll wake you in the evening with a kiss." He smiled warmly, but his eyes held the same eerie, primal flame I witnessed the last night. I replied to him with a simple nod, and he walked away from the entrance, shutting the door over my head and his footsteps disappeared after seconds.

 

    If I went back home too long before bedtime, I'd be left alone to my thoughts and unease involving the entire situation. Before I left, I had called up to Jordain to say goodnight and got no response whatsoever. I felt like a woman whose husband of fifty years just died and that I was insanely speaking to nothing as if I just couldn't bear the thought of letting go.
    Walking the night alone was a chore without Jordain guiding the way. Where would I find food? How would I go about seducing someone without him there to rile me up beforehand? Not to mention I still didn't quite have a handle on my hearing and sight capacity, so I stumbled around at times due to a throbbing head. I had difficulty focusing on one single sound or object in front of me or even at a distance simply because the sound and object were not Jordain. I went into large crowds of people and could not even hear my own thoughts, so I ended up just leaving and being upset with myself moments later. I knew that going into swarms of people was the easiest way to land a meal, but even before my turning, I wasn't a fan of clustered bodies. I had always been a more intimate person, which is why I only had two memorable friends my entire mortal life. Going out alone for an unknown period of time was just something else I needed to grow accustomed to. 
    When all the commotion became too overbearing, I found a secluded place to sit down and gather myself. I was frustrated and my stomach started to growl, which was annoying but not too severe. I closed my eyes and tried to think about something  that would cancel out the myriad of voices in my head. Two smiling faces came to mind, laughing, playing as children do. I lost myself once again remembering times gone by. Maybe what I needed was to pay Jasmine and Emille a visit without company. I'd find as many beautiful flowers as possible and shower their resting places with the adoration they always gave me. Gradually, every intruding voice faded away into nothing and I could focus on getting back up. 
    "Are you dead?" I thought I cancelled voices out, but this one sounded like it was inches away from me. Confused, I opened my eyes and came face to face with a small child, barely older than five. "Nevermind." She said, disappointed. 
    "Elise!" A woman called in a rather quiet voice. "Leave him alone!" Shimmering brown eyes were locked on me and I could tell this little girl was being blatantly defiant. "Elise!" I avoided saying anything as not to scare them away, but it just ended up being terribly awkward. 
    "You're pretty." She whispered, swaying timidly with the most adorable smile on her face. 
    "Thank you, Elise." I replied, reflecting her smile. "But you're by far the prettiest young lady I've ever seen." The child blushed cherry red and held her hands over her face for a moment. 
    "What's your name?"
    "Berith."
    "That name is weird!" She retorted, laughing and scrunching her nose.
    "Your mother is calling you." After my dry rebuttal, the woman briskly walked toward me to take her bothersome child. She turned away from me to quietly scold her daughter about badgering strangers. 
     "I thought I found you someone to draw, Mommy." She whined.
    "Do you frequently draw dead people, Madamme?" I asked, making her turn back around. She looked flustered that I even spoke and apologized profusely for her child's behaviour. 
    "No, my daughter is just being silly. I'm sorry she bothered you. You look like you've had a rough night." 
    "I have a splitting headache and my husband threw me out. So here I sit." 
    She laughed and replied, "Well that's not very nice." while shyly brushing stray light brown hair behind her ear. "I, um, I kicked my husband out. And I feel awful. I couldn't leave Elise home by herself, so we went looking for him. I'll probably find him in a brothel somewhere."
    I stood and dusted off my clothes. "Now that's not very nice at all."
    "I know. I'm a terrible wife." She mumbled and averted her eyes from me. 
    "I was referring to your husband, if that is in fact what he's doing. I've just met you and you are already proving to be a wonderful woman, completely undeserving of such disrespect."
    She tried to hide the blush dusting her cheeks to no avail. "Are you some sort of Prince that's going to take us away from mediocrity?"
    "Perhaps. Or I'm a man with great concern for a mother and daughter's safety and wish to escort them home. You can find some very unpleasant things lurking in the night." She raised a brow and smirked, but I wasn't exactly rejected.
    "If you're trying to scare me by talking about the blood-suckers, it's not going to work. I don't believe in them." It took some serious will not to start laughing right in front of them. It was comforting thinking there was really no difference at all between my kind and the average human but I had forgotten that many thought we were just a myth meant to keep people from going out late. We were symbolic of murderers and perverts that stalk women who walk alone...come to think of it, that type also sounded familiar. 
    "Well, you don't have to believe me. But the offer is still up Madame--"
    "Nicole."
    "Madame Nicole." I knelt down to meet eyes with little Elise, who was hiding behind her mother's dress. "Would you like me to help you, dear?" It took a moment, but the child nodded and looked back up at her mother. Nicole smiled softly and locked her arm with mine.
    "I guess you win, Monsieur Berith."
    
    Few words were spoken between myself and the lady on my arm. Her daughter did most of the talking, excitedly pointing out things she liked in shop windows and occasionally pressing her face to the surface. Nicole scolded her seemingly every few moments and proceeded to insist that she never acted like that. I figured the child was just excited to see a new face. Her mother, on the other hand, was quiet and carried herself nervously with sunken shoulders. I knew she was afraid she'd happen upon her husband while in the presence of some bold stranger and that would not make for the most pleasant of nights.
    "I'm not a fan of silence, Madame Nicole. Do you mind if I ask you why you don't believe in Vampires?"
    "The idea seems ridiculous. People will come up with anything to cover up how disgusting humanity really is. A creature of the night who mainly preys on young, beautiful women, seducing them into their deaths? That's just a regular man who knows how to talk fancily and make fragile hearts flutter with false promises and a hidden motive." She never looked at me and spoke like she had related to this first hand.
    "Your husband seems like a horrible person." 
    "A part of me died when I married him, but I had no choice. He's consistently unfaithful, and he once stabbed a man because he gave me a bouquet of white roses to cheer me up in a time that I was sad and lonely. That's why I worry about you walking me home, Monseur Berith."
    "There is no need."
    "Why do you believe in the blood-suckers? Does it not seem ludicrous to you?"
    "Maybe Monsieur Berith is a Vampire." Elise pitched in with a giggle and ran up to me. "Can I see your teeth? Say 'aaaahhh'." She pressed on, stopping me from moving any further by repeatedly poking my stomach.
    "Elise, stop bothering him!" Nicole shouted and picked up her child, but before she could apologize, I smiled and did just as Elise asked. The child's eyes widened with wonder and her mother nervously fidgeted in disbelief. Keeping hold of her daughter, she backed away from me slowly and shook her head. "It's not possible."
    "Madame Nicole, many things are possible. You should really keep a more open mind." 
    "Stay away from us!" She yelled, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
    "I would not dream of hurting you or little Elise. I have no false promises or ulterior motives." She stopped walking and sucked in her lip. Elise remained fearless, but clutched onto her mother to bring her some comfort. One more step back smacked Nicole against the wooden door to a three-level house in the centre of town. "Is this your home?" She shut her eyes and silently wept, nodding slowly. "Madame Nicole, I will not hurt you."
    "How do I know that?" She cried.
    "Because my interests lie elsewhere. May I ask you another question?" She remained silent, but never broke eye contact with me. "Do you love your husband?"
    "No." came as a whisper.
    "Elise, is your father good to you?" The child shook her head.
    "Papa's mean." She answered quietly, leaning her head against her mother's.
    "Madame Nicole, would you like to have a little fun with me tonight?" Her face showed uncertainty, but she reached for the doorknob behind her. She whispered into her daughter's ear and set her down. The child looked back at me for a moment with the faintest smile, and ran inside the house. 
     "Do you need to be invited, Monsieur Berith?" Nicole asked softly, walking inside. My reply was a mere nod. Once in the house, she hesitated, then pushed her door open the rest of the way and turned her back to me. "Entrer."

 

    I watched Nicole patiently sitting in her foyer, waiting for her husband to come through the door. She closed her eyes, sighed and rested her head against a balled fist, propped up on the arm of the sofa. It was already late and I feared he wouldn't return until the following morning, just as day began to break. If I wanted to kill him that badly, I could have stayed at her house and hidden somewhere throughout the day. But I was reminded of the fact that I was not completely left to my own devices. Jordain still had a hold over me even when I went out alone and the thought of what he'd do to me if I disobeyed his order to come back home every night I went hunting started to put me at unease. The things I was about to do without my maker's presence would also land me a swift punishment.
    "When does he usually come in?" I asked, taking off my coat and draping it over the back of another chair next to Nicole. 
    "It shouldn't be long. Few minutes, maybe. He'll be drunk and loud, and he'll most likely throw himself onto me even though he's fucked every whore in whatever brothel he's been in."
    I knelt in front of her, crossing my arms in her lap and looking up into dark deep eyes. "You don't have to worry anymore. Your life starts over after tonight." The hand on my cheek felt warm and familiar and when she kissed me there was a gentleness I had not felt in what seemed to be forever.  "Are you sure you will be alright doing this?" With closed eyes and a dreamy expression, she nodded. Her hand slid into my hair and she pressed her lips to mine again fiercely, trusting and sure.
    "Do they taste different when drunk?" She mumbled between kisses. 
    "Absolutely foul."
    "You can drink a little from me first. But only if you want to." Her smile was soft as was the sparkle in her eyes, her touch comforting and minute movements urging me to go on too appealing. She had curiosities to satisfy and she asked me only as a polite gesture.
    "You're much too trusting." I pulled away from her and slowly dragged my hands over her thighs, to the knee, then back up pressing my thumbs into her legs through loose burgundy fabric. She sucked in a breath and the beating of her heart quickened when I did it again, lifting her skirt and my thumbs ghosted over warm wetness between, but only for a moment. She nervously trembled, arching her back slightly and I continued moving hands up her corset-cinched waist and over her breasts. The blood pumping inside her was the sweetest I'd ever smelled and it was a challenge not to devour her just as violently as I did with that poor teenager. I roughly grabbed her jaw and forced her head up, sliding my tongue up her neck and playfully opening my mouth, letting my teeth scrape against her thumping pulse. "I'll taste you afterward, Nicole."
    My name came as a timid whisper on her lips before I kissed her again. Hands that gripped the arm and cushion of the sofa were soon clawing my back and initial fear melted away into raw desire. The unlatching of a lock could be heard behind me and I smiled devilishly against Nicole's lips. On a whim I reached for that beckoning slit again, pushing my fingers into her, making her say my name once more in a lustful moan. The man behind me staggered inside and cursed so I did as any civilized man would do and turned to look straight into half-lidded, drunken, rage-filled green eyes as I slowly slid the fingers I just had in his wife into my mouth.
    "Nice of you to join us." 
    "You fucker!" He roared, slamming the door and running toward me. Nicole watched in anticipation and I moved away quickly, stepping behind him and yanking him back by his hair making him fall to the floor. Nicole shifted to the opposite side if the sofa and then stood to get out of the way. I bent over this stunned drunk and lifted him off the ground by his throat, taking pleasure in his pitiful struggles. "Nicole." He breathed.
    "Put him down." She ordered, a hint of shakiness in her voice.
    "Nicole, amour, merci--"
    "But don't let go." She cut off his pleas and I smiled, dropping him onto his knees, quickly bending his arms back until I could feel them cracking and hear his delightful scream. From the coffee table, Nicole grabbed a small gilded gold object and pulled it apart to reveal a brilliantly shining blade. I watched how she looked down upon him, her face softly cold and vengeful. His arms were useless so I took hold of his hair again, lifting his chin and exposing his throat to her. Without hesitation, she did my work for me and sliced his neck in one short, thin line right at his pulse point and I hungrily tore into his open wound, sucking out every last bit of bitter burning hot blood until he stopped convulsing against me and fell limply to the floor. 
    I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and looked back to Nicole, who carelessly discarded the knife and stared at her dead husband. "How do you feel?" I panted. She took a while to respond, heart pounding deafeningly loud in my ears and finally met eyes with me after several moments.
    "Alive."
    "Are you still curious?" I warned, stepping over the corpse to take her in my arms.
    "Are you still hungry?" She answered, flashing me a devious grin of her own. 
    "Humanity is a cruel thing, Madame." I mumbled against her lips and pushed her back onto the couch, climbing on top of her and hiking her dress back up. I kissed her violently and she dug her fingers into my shoulders and wrapped her legs around my waist. I teased her with my fingers again, feeling her writhe against me, still moist and wanting. With no holds barred, I took them out, clenched my hand around her throat and pushed my cock into her. Her gasps and moans were enough to drive me insane and the pounding in her chest taunted me. I roughly thrust into her quivering sex and sunk my teeth into her neck, making her tighten around me so sweetly. Her blood amazed me as much as her body and that voice crying out my name only made me buck harder and faster until the sound of rustling fabric and flesh hitting flesh drowned out anything else.

    I had carried Nicole into her room and left her there spent and satisfied, wishing only the best for her and her daughter. As for her husband, I threw him over my shoulder and quietly slipped out of the house to dispose of him. Morning was maybe a couple hours away but time did escape me and I needed to move fast. 
    "What a wonderful show you've given. Sent chills up my spine." I had not gotten three steps out the door before I heard a young male's voice next to me. There he was leaned against the wall with his arms crossed and a content expression on his face. He was the same height as me but slimmer and he had short, wavy red-orange hair. "Though," He opened his worn, slightly puffy eyes to show me shimmering gold. "I wish you could have removed some clothing. You appear to have such a nice physique." When he smiled, he showed two sets of short pointed teeth. I felt awkward to say the least. In my head I fished for something to say but I couldn't find the right phrasing. 
    "Come to think of it," He childishly looked up and tapped his finger to his lips. "The last time I watched you, nothing came off. Plus your maker was blocking the view. Such a shame." This was, such an odd position to be in, I could not for the life of me find a response. "Oh don't look at me like that, I'm paying you multiple compliments Monsieur Devereaux."
    "What?" I managed to get out a portion of my many questions. He chuckled and walked in front of me, holding out his hand.
    "My residence is not far from this location. You, however, you got kind of a walk cherie. I'll take that body off your hands and you can make your way back to your precious messiah before daybreak."
    Any more steps backward and I would have smacked the dead man's head against the door. This little vulture both confused and aggravated me and left me stuck in a position where I couldn't do much of anything. I stuttered but managed to get out a question along the lines of "who are you?". He laughed again and motioned for me to hand the dead man over to him, so I did and hoped that would get me an answer.
    "It's not important who I am, but if you must know, I live in a place called the Underground City and you may call me Nix." From where he was standing previously, he picked up a long, heavy black blanket similar to the curtains in Jordain's house and shoved it into my hands. "You've got little less than an hour. I'd take that and run, loverboy." To my dismay, I noticed the night barely starting to fade and I took a chance, pulled that blanket over me, and took off as fast as possible.
    "Merde!" I muttered, running like an idiot trying to escape from minutes leading to my imminent death. I had a great first hunt despite being sloppy and unplanned and of course I had to get carried away and risk my life to daylight. What if Nix was working for Jordain, watching me to make sure I wasn't betraying his trust? If that was the case, I would be in for a world of hurt once I got back because I was sure Jordain would not want me having sex with anyone unless he was there to do it too. I cursed myself for being so stupid and letting myself fall into a trap like that. The temperature under the blanket started to rise and I soon saw my shadow starting to form in front of me but luckily I was close.
    I turned back and lost sight in my right eye, feeling my skin burn around it. I'd have it back in a matter of hours but that was not important. Throwing the gates open, I bolted to the door and rammed it open with my shoulder, kicked it shut, dropped the blanket and hurried upstairs to our blacked out room. I sat inside up against the bed, catching my breath and when I felt good enough to move around, still temporarily blind in one eye, I left to check on the attic. It was still open and he was in there, I could hear gentle footsteps and a couple incoherent grumbles. I wanted to call up to him, but I know he knew I got home and he would not answer me anyway so I saw no point. I didn't look forward to sleeping alone, so I said my "I love you" into the nothingness above to give myself some sort of comfort. 
    I was happy to hear a response mirroring what I said.

 

    Gentle lips grazed my cheek, my lips, and my right eye which I could barely feel. I opened my eyes and still could only see from one of them. Jordain's face looked sorrowful and sympathetic as he lightly stroked the warped flesh of my cheek and eye with his thumb. 
    "First hunts are always such a mess," the corner of his mouth raised a little and he bent down to kiss my cheek again. I turned my head and met his lips with mine, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him so far down that I felt his hands slip on either side of me. "It's threatening, I like it." He chuckled once he balanced himself.
    "It won't scar will it?" I asked.
    "No, it doesn't look like you got burned deep enough. One more day and you'll be pretty again." he mocked. I asked him if he would be joining me in going to the cemetery that night but he shook his head and said there was more planning to do. I didn't quite feel up to hunting since my previous endeavour and I was not really hungry anyway. I hoped once I got out of the house I would have a nice visit with my friends from Heaven above and I also hoped to spot a certain young vulture in my travels and find out if he was really helping Jordain or what was going on in the Underground City he spoke of. "You look like there's a lot on your mind, Cherie."
    "Oh I do?" I asked, yawning and sitting up in bed.
    "You were successful, right?" 
    "Yes!"
    "It was merely a question. Oftentimes, first hunts alone conclude with the food still living. Why are you so quick tonight, is there something you need to tell me?" I remained quiet and shook my head. "You got carried away with it, didn't you?"
    "Perhaps a little, yes."
    "Pity I was not there to watch you. It must have been spectacular." 
    "You're not angry?" I asked.
    "God no, there is far too much on my mind and too much to prepare for to waste time on anger toward my dearest." He sat up to give me room to move, smiled deviously and pushed my side so I turned over to lie on my stomach. "However," He purred. ", if you desire some form of punishment," I felt his weight pressing down on my backside and sheets slid off my skin. His nails dug into my back and dragged down slowly, the scent of iron filling my senses accompanied by the most pleasurable sting. Only to heal in seconds. ", you just have to say the words."
    "Is it really considered punishment if I enjoy it?" Playfully, I pushed my ass up against him and felt the slightest twitch. 
    "I suppose not." He bent over, running his nails up my sides and whispering in my ear. Gentle kisses trailed along my neck and his hands worked up to tease my chest and I moaned into the pillow when I felt his cock grinding against me. "I come down just to see your sleeping face and now look what you've done to me." He stroked me slowly and I gasped when he spread me open, feeling the tip of his dick rubbing my hole.
    “Veux-tu ma bite?"
    "Oui." I whined when he pushed his tip in ever so slightly.
    "Then next time you decide to fuck your prey, keep me in mind." He wasn't the type to lie, so when he said all I had to do for punishment was say the words, he held his own and left me there hard, trembling and otherwise empty-handed. In moments, he was but a ghost, alone in his attic pondering his project like the thought of visiting me had never crossed his mind. I was lucky that was all he did to me, but it was something I did not particularly enjoy.

    

    It was early enough in the evening that vendors were just starting to pack up and I had managed to convince a very kind young man to sell me two beautiful bouquets of flowers; I even offered to help him clean up. If I could have seen myself, I most likely would have been horrified but it was nice that he seemed not to mind. I caught myself touching my face every now and then on the way to the cemetery with the slightest glint of hope that maybe it had healed only to be disappointed upon feeling tough flesh on my fingertips. I tried to avoid contact with people and occasionally caught wind of whispers about me or frightened stares. I had better control of my abilities, just focusing on getting where I was supposed to be and doing my best to let everything else pass. 
    Open gates welcomed me into the home of freed souls. There was true peace in this place and I adored it so much. Jordain not being present was actually refreshing since I felt as if a place of refuge was soiled by our last adventure in love-making. It was very impolite of me and I partly wished I could apologize to everyone I made snoop on my affairs. Though something told me they didn't mind, too busy being happy to care about something so silly as two carnivorous fiends enjoying each other's private parts. 
    Jasmine and Emile rested peacefully in their submerged cradles. I knelt before them, kissing each of their headstones and placing their flowers by each. I quietly told them to know that every day I walked this earth, for eternity, I would never lose their memory. I sent my prayers to them, hoping they were having the most amazing time together with the angels I would never see. I told Emile that I wished I could have seen him once more before he fell to his ailment, just to let him know I loved him and that I was so grateful to have known him. Unfortunately, I was so depressed and selfish, I never even knew. A great regret I had was abandoning him. And to Jasmine, I held the biggest burden, I drank her in order to save her from a death much worse by the hand of my lover. I told her that I wished I had never seen her after my evolution, that I had never remembered her sweet smiling face and constant joking. Had I never met her again, she would have lived happily with her brother and his wife and all would have been right. She never would have met Jordain, and never would have suffered.
    The rapping noise from before could be heard again not too far from where I was. I only knew that sound as the flap of wings, so I said a meaningful goodnight to my friends and headed in that direction. Past drooping trees and a sea of ornate headstones sat a mausoleum where the gargoyle was perched in a state of serenity, basking in white moonlight. 
    "Do you frequent this place?"
    "I don't know, are you and your boyfriend here to desecrate it again?" He asked, never turning to look down at me. 
    "You're always so cheerful, it's amazing. Actually, I'm here by myself." 
    "He's letting you go out now? How lucky you are to have such a wonderful man.” He finally looked at me, showing a sarcastic smile, only to wince upon my sight. "Oh," his voice dropped to a near whisper. ", if only you had stayed out just a bit longer."
    "That hurts." I touched  my right cheek again and noticed my burnt patch had gotten smaller. My vision in that eye was very blurry but that also meant I was slowly regaining my sight. "It's actually starting to heal now, thank God."
    "Yes, where would you be without your perfect face? Eternal life would be such a horrible thing if you could never fornicate again."
    "You just don't know when to stop, do you?" Lafayette fell silent after that, grinning to himself and gazing back up at the white light above. Blush pink eyes closed and he calmly exhaled; his feminine face looked especially striking in this setting, an ethereal stone creature of man, woman and beast. I let him have his moment of collection and was quite pleased when he looked back down at me.
    "Are you following me, or are you here alone for other reasons?"
    "My childhood friends passed away not too long ago. I came to pay them a proper visit and apologize for earlier actions, which I should also apologize to you for. It was very rude of me."
    "Wow, such heart. And here I thought the only thing about Berith Devereaux that functioned fully was his cock." He paused, grinning, just to see my expression drop to one of irritation. "Consider yourself forgiven."
    "Walk with me?" I asked with genuine content. 
    "I like it up here. But I have nothing better to do." He hopped off the roof with ease and his hooves sank just a bit into the soft soil in front of me. He was much taller than I remembered; I found myself having to look up at him and it was actually quite intimidating.

    There was somewhat of a walking path made by footprints and there was plenty of space to gather thoughts and admire the ominous scenery of the vast array of graves. Few moments were spent in pleasant silence as I walked leisurely with Le Protecteur. We shared a common loving of the serenity all the empty vessels surrounding us brought. How wonderful it must have been for them to pass on to much greater things, there had to be some happiness and respect to give on our parts. I should have laid my family to rest in that place instead of on the property I pissed away so selfishly.
    "Lafayette," 
    "What is it?"
    "Jordain mentioned something about how you two spoke once before he was turned around fifty years ago. Do you remember any of it?"
    "The one time I spoke to him, I thought him rather, insignificant. He was a scrawny, starving street painter of nearly forty years old, addicted to prostitutes and dying of Syphilis. His only hope for money and survival was his friend, a wealthy doctor who had him do paintings for colleagues and also attempted to medicate him and cure him of his disease."
    "What did he tell you?"
    "He said he loved watching his friend work and took enjoyment in painting some scenes he recalled from more gruesome operations. He said that a couple times, the doctor would let him assist and he took a side hobby of making art from severed limbs and discarded organs from patients. He told me he was so inspired that before he passed on, he wanted to make a piece of artwork out of a full human cadaver, but the soul wouldn't be in the work unless he was the one to take their life. He couldn't use just any old piece of discarded material."
    "And that didn't raise any questions for you?"
    "Once again, I thought Jordain Laurent very insignificant. What kind of damage was that disease ridden artist really going to do? I was wrong and I did not piece everything together until I met you the night that perverse redhead, spry as ever fifty years later, cursed himself and ran away from his newfound responsibility."
    So the house we lived in must have belonged to the doctor. I wondered if the house servants also belonged to him, or were at least related to the old ones. Maybe that frightened girl I met the night Jordain assumed his position in the attic would know something useful. If Jordain was a struggling artist and spent everything he earned on whores, there was no way he could have been able to afford such a place nor could he have earned such status among upper class society.
    "I have a lot to think about." I said quietly.
    "Don't hurt yourself." I turned slowly to glare at the beast man but it probably looked ridiculous since he was so much taller than me. "Your ugly side is healing more." I touched my face to find the patch of burnt skin shrunk to end just at the top of my cheek and that my eyebrow had grown back. Though my head was hurting since I still saw in a heavily distorted blur on one side. 
    "I know you don't hate me as much as you let on."
    "I don't hate anyone. I strongly dislike leech kind and I prefer to distance myself from their affairs." He stopped walking and faced me. "But if it helps you sleep in the morning, I dislike you the least." He gave a crooked smile and took a couple steps back, then spread his wings and took off in an instant. I knew from the night I met Lafayette that he would be the most interesting creature I would ever encounter. He would not have liked the term "friend" very much, but he was the closest thing I had to one.

    "You could accomplish greatness with an ally like that." Just the man I wanted to see. 
    "Following me around again, are you?" I turned around to find a relaxed figure leaned against an angel statue. The moonlight illuminated his yellowed complexion and golden eyes glowed in the black surrounding him. "Will you be off to tell Jordain that I'm making friends with an enemy, hm?"
    "If I did that, what would you do to me?" He playfully licked his lips and smiled wide. I remained quiet. "Oh come now, do I look like a dishonest man?"
    "Your stare is unsettling." 
    He laughed in reply. "You know there was a point in time where your maker wanted to come stay with us underground. Didn't take long for him to change his mind, really. He was not the biggest fan of rules and under there, he would have to abide. So he politely declined when the head at the time came to him." Nix yawned and began walking my way. "He and I didn't get along very well. There is no way I would be working for him." He paused and reached out to touch my face, gently rubbing my cheek with his thumb. His smile was faint at that time, his hand soft and warm. "You're almost there. I'm glad to see you didn't get burned too badly." 
    I muttered thanks and turned away from his hand, awkwardly looking down at the ground. Nix was the man of mixed auras. He would make perverted comments and follow me like a desperate voyeur. His toothy smile and intense, sunken eyes brought on an unnerving feeling in the pit of my stomach. But his nurturing touch brought feelings of comfort and peace. This combination of eeriness and caring was among the most complex I had ever experienced. 
    "Don't worry, I did not follow you here to see through another's eyes. I came to ask you if you were hungry. Because I don't like feeding alone." 
    "There has to be some honesty to you if you admit to stalking me." I chuckled.
    "See? There you have it." He lightly pushed me. "Completely trustworthy."

    Hunting with Nix was complicated. Those scary qualities about him were not just things I picked up on. Really every civilian kept their distance from him. Though he was a nice enough person, his demeanor was reasonably more intense than Jordain's. He had the kind of face people would quickly turn away from out of sheer fear that something nasty would be said or the hand of judgement would come down upon them in that moment. It was a definite contrast to Jordain's smooth, alluring and sociable countenance. I felt I was there to be the friendly one even though my communication skills were not too fantastic and my face was still burnt to some small degree. We were quite a pair. 
    After some convincing, we managed to get a young lady of maybe seventeen to accompany us. After a couple hours in our company, she admitted she was a prostitute and hoped to get something amazing in the way of pay from us. Nix laughed it off and teased her a bit, but I could tell she was uncomfortable. I assured her everything would be fine, kissed her gently, whispered pleasant things to her, and touched softly. 
    "Your face," she paused, eyes holding confusion and wonder. "Didn't you have a scar?" My sight was still blurry, but the evidence must have disappeared at some point. I shook my head and watched Nix turn her around to face him. She grew more comfortable in his arms and let go. He hesitated at first, then bit down onto her neck. Her breath hitched and she whimpered only a little, almost as if she knew it was going to happen already. The silence was the most frightening moment of it all. His entire feeding was quiet as the cemetery we walked through before we ended up in that place. 
    The moment she fell limp, he broke from her with tears streaming down his cheeks. I could say nothing watching him with such awe. He closed his eyes, motioned the holy cross and spoke somberly. "Thank you my dear. May you be safe in Heaven's arms."
    "Nix,"
    He wiped his eyes and looked at me over his shoulder. "We each have a gift, Berith. Something that makes us unique from others. And I don't see mine as a gift at all."

                                                                                    . . .

    At home, I found myself in a state of unrest. Jordain was nearly nonexistent, and the scene I witnessed played over and over in my mind. The heavy amount of emotion in the room weighed me down just as it did the night I fed from Jasmine. I could not even begin to understand what Nix had gone through and I wanted to know more about the gift he spoke of. Surely he didn't know that girl personally, despite the youthful appearance he had to have been Jordain's age or possibly older. The hunts I was so used to oozed with eroticism and enough pleasure to drown out the pain. But with this, there was none of that. Only sorrow. Only a stinging remorse. 
    I heard a loud thump coming from downstairs followed by a slamming door. I quickly jumped out of bed, dressed myself, and to avoid sunlight coming through cracked curtains down there I put on the cloak Nix gave me. Over the balcony, I saw a familiar mousy human girl dragging the much heavier body of an unconscious woman across the floor. 
    "What are you doing?" I called to her. 
    "You should be asleep Monsieur." She looked up at me for a moment with concern and hurriedly went back to attempting to move the woman towards the stairs.
    "I'm not. Answer my question. What are you doing?"
    "Come down and I will tell you. We can't yell, he'll hear us." She said back in a near whisper. She rested the woman against the bottom of the staircase and I came down to meet her. When I reached the bottom, I caught a whiff of the sour, metallic stench of rotten blood and I realized this lady was dead. 
    "He told me he was hungry and he wanted me to go bring him something small."
    "When did he come out?!" I heard not even a single creak from above me and I had been awake the entire morning, how could he have snuck out of the attic undetected? 
    "I heard him in my head." She whispered, tapping her temple. 
    "So you're bringing him death?" I asked, nudging the body with my foot. "As if it isn't completely obvious she's deceased? We can smell these things!"
    "Quiet! Please!" She begged. "He's not sensitive like you, he wouldn't know." 
    "You're trying to kill him. I will not permit this. You need to get rid of her." I inched close to her face and noticed her back off a little out of fright. "Or I'll take this into my own hands." 
    She shook her head and began to cry. "Do you not see I am trying to help you?"
    "I am a grown man, petit, I can help myself." In order to keep her from getting in trouble, I picked up the woman's body and carried it upstairs to the attic entrance. I called up to Jordain, "Unfortunately your food has passed on, amour. I am afraid she will have to go find something else for you." It took a moment but I heard a heavy, agitated sigh from above. 
    "Of course Madeline can't do anything properly. I'll tell Paolo to do it. Merci beaucoup, cherie."
    I left on that note and turned to see Madeline drying her eyes, clasping her hands together, and mouthing many thanks to me as I carefully walked back down. It would be hours before I could dispose of the woman's body and I had no idea where to leave her that would keep the stench from floating into the next neighborhood. She was already beginning to turn cold as I thought about it and the smell of her blood alone was enough to make me retch. 
    "Paolo will handle it, just leave her here." Madeline said lowly. "Get rest, monsieur." Scowling at her, I laid the woman on the floor back against the stairs. "He is a bad man. He would make someone whip me if I was caught. Or worse." 
    "Don't even think of doing that again." I warned, pacing back up. "Next time I won't bother to stop him."

    I roamed the night tired and irritable. Though I was hungry, I wished I could have slept through to the next night. Having a servant bring me food during the day sounded like a smart idea, but seeing that they would willingly poison someone like Jordain was unsettling to say the least. People avoided me that night like they would have avoided Nix simply because I walked around angrily. And I guessed that was terrifying. After no luck and the arrival in an alleyway, I just snatched a rat off the ground and took what it had to offer. It's blood stayed warm for seconds and it was watery and tasted like dirt. 
    After dropping the dead animal, I looked around at the scummy mess around me. I remembered in full clarity what happened the night I was turned. The moon was full, desire was high and my mind was feeble as ever. I wondered if this life was my destiny after all, that I was supposed to live forever and watch everyone I knew and loved parish around me. Was I supposed to live with an unending regret or was I supposed to rise above the miserable man I used to be? The more I thought about it, the more lost I began to feel without Jordain. Days felt like years and there were so many questions I needed answered, so many lessons I needed to learn, and I was just left there to get by on my own. Almost like I did when I was mortal.
    I left the alley and made my way back toward the cemetery, hoping to meet Lafayette or catch a little bit of rest before snagging a human to feed from on the way home. Not far from me, I could make out a familiar voice speaking excitedly about something irrelevant. I think he said something about helping out somewhere. Had I been more awake, I could have been able to focus more on his sound and hear it to full capacity, but it just was not the night for that. I entered the cemetery and the voice grew louder and clearer, accompanied by another.
    "I meant what I said about staying away from you and your hooligans underground. The lot of you are nothing but trouble and I will not subject myself to that." There, at the same mausoleum as the night before, were Nix and Lafayette. "For once I'm glad you're here so you can get this little pecker away from me." Lafayette said with irritation matching my own. 
    "You could have flown away at any time but you chose to sit here and insult me repeatedly." He must not have known that was just what Lafayette did. I was on far better terms with the gargoyle than Nix was and that still happened every time we spoke. If one had pointed teeth and slept during the day, he automatically had a problem with them.   
    "The one thing I admire about your boyfriend is that he knows to leave when I'm around. The rest of them just want to stand by and flap their gums as if I am moved what they have to say to me." Lafayette was not the type to move locations simply because a blood-sucker was present. We were the ones that had to vacate and he moved on his own terms.
    "You listen to Ber--" I clamped my hand over Nix's mouth and the remaining portion of his statement came a muffled grumble. He shouted against my hand. 
    "We will give you some peace. I need to speak with him anyway." Once Nix went quiet, I took my hand off his face and started pushing him along in front of me. I looked back and flashed Lafayette a smile, seeing him close his eyes and smile faintly with a thankful nod.
    Staying in the cemetery, we moved far enough from Lafayette to not be a bother to him. I stopped us at a metal bench under a tree and sat down. Nix pursed his brows and stared at me like he actually thought he was getting somewhere with the gargoyle and I ripped him away from his golden opportunity. I patted the space next to me and he reluctantly sat down. 
    "I have so much to ask you." I started. "What was all of that last night? What do you mean by each of us have gifts?"
    "Each vampire has a special ability that separates us from others." His voice fell quiet and his shoulders sank a little. "Mine is empathy. When I feed, I can see my victim's entire life from the day they were born until the moment I killed them, just by drinking their blood. I feel every emotion they do. I feel happy when I come across a pleasant memory, I feel sad when I see the heartbreaking memories, and when they die, they speak to me, they beg me to stop and have mercy. When they cry, so do I.
    "I pray for them every time I feed. I bless them and thank them eternally for what they have shared with me against their will. My ability takes a lot out of me, but because I have this, I can also go extended periods of time before my next hunt. I'm a hundred and sixty-five years old and I can remember everyone I've killed. So forgive me if in recent days I have sought visual pleasure at your expense. I long to hunt the way you do, your victims always get carried to bliss before their demise, but for me it will always be painful.
    "Being an empath, I am also given the ability of mimicry. When in close contact to another vampire, I can copy and use their gift for a short time. The reason I took you to my feeding was to see if you were a seducer, so maybe it wouldn't bring any hurt. But you're young, you haven't developed your gift yet. Sometimes it takes a while. I'm not mad at you though. In fact I'm glad I could open up to you in that way."
    "I wish I could have been able to help you, Nix." was all I could really say back. 
    "It's fine, after over a century I should be used to it. It's my fault for never accomplishing that." He paused and looked at me with sudden seriousness and urgency. "I think coming underground will greatly benefit you, Berith. We are all knowledgeable and can give you answers to anything as well as helping you hone your abilities and fully develop your gift. And I can get you there easily." I asked how. "My name is Phoenix Belgard, and I'm the current head of the Underground City." What fool's luck this was. I was amazed but the more I thought about it, I saw the unlikeliness of it actually happening.
    "Jordain would never allow that. He never wanted to come down there in the first place. Not to mention, he would know I was talking to you…he would think I was plotting against him and he'll probably kill me."
    "He has to always be in control doesn't he?" I said nothing. "Jordain is a complete seducer from how he smiles and bats his eyes, to the way he walks. He is as cold-blooded as they come, Berith. He kills prostitutes for fun and calls it art! He is extremely violent and can make anyone do anything he wants without even lifting a finger. When a seducer creates a prodigy, they're like a slave to their maker's desires. Suddenly, they can't get by without their maker; nothing they do or anyone else does is as satisfying as what their maker can do for them. They don't feel loved by anyone around them, no one sexes them as good as their maker, they themselves don't actually love their maker, but they think they do. Currently, Jordain could so much as whisper your name and you would be on your knees, ready to suck his cock and love every moment of it."
    "I liked that before I was turned, Phoenix. You've known me for a very short period of time and you're acting like you have spent years with me."
    "Being so quick to defend him shows what kind of hold he has over you." Phoenix responded. "I am not trying to tell you who you are, and I'm not trying to tell you how to live. I am merely making a suggestion and I want to help you. My maker was a seducer, so I may know a thing or two about it. You're scared to leave Jordain, but I see intrigue in your eyes. I am giving you another option, a blessing."
    "Then how do you suppose I should go about coming down with you and the others?"
    "Get Jordain to release you." It sounded like a crock of shit. Jordain would kill me before he willingly let me go. He would kill me if he even thought about letting me go!
    "Phoenix, you're my friend, and I care about you. But I will have to decline your offer." I stood, straightened out my clothes and left him there, listening to him call me back. The sound of his worried voice vanished into nothing.

    

    I was tired and fed up, but I had hoped he didn't take my actions to heart. Maybe I didn't want to accept the truth. Maybe what Phoenix said to me was correct. But nothing could change the fact that Jordain Laurent was indeed my maker and I had a bond with him that I could have with no other. I had my own questions for him and my own wants for us. Perhaps I could convince him to come to the Underground City with me. But that would have to come with time. 
    Instead, the growling in my stomach became unbearable and I met a cute younger man of his mid twenties on the way back home. I took him with me, promising him something wonderful awaited behind closed doors. Inside, he sat down on the stairs and I climbed into his lap, grinding myself against him and nipping at his lips, earlobes and neck. Frantically, he began tearing my clothes off and I the same. 
    "Come to my room." I whispered against his skin, sat back and chuckled seeing his dark eyes filled with desire and blush on his cheeks. I got off of him and lead him up to my and Jordain's bedroom, pushing him onto the bed and mounting him once again. My hands explored every inch of naked flesh and the thumping of his heart only heightened my desire. I bit his chest, just above the nipple and just hard enough to draw a tiny taste of his sweet, untainted blood. I circled his nipple with my tongue and lapped at his wound and playfully stroked his erect cock, hearing his groans and feeling him drip in my hand. I nibbled and kissed down his hard stomach, inching down to his cock, and taking the length of it into my mouth. His hips rose and fell with my movements and on occasion I would swallow around him and delight in hearing him curse and grab a fistfull of my hair. I slowed down, teasingly licking the underside of his shaft and giving the tip gentle kisses. My name came as a sweet sigh on his lips when I sucked just the head. I broke from his cock and kissed his quivering lips once more. 
    "Baise-moi." And that was all it took for him to force me underneath, onto my back. He spread my legs wide and pushed my knees up to my chest, biting his lip seeing me this way. He hurriedly scoped out the room and found the little bottle of oil I kept on my bedside table, coating his fingers in it and slipping them inside me. I sucked in my breath feeling his fingers thrust inside, curling only a little and opening me up nicely. "Don't waste time." I made sure he saw me look down at his hard cock and lick my lips. The man purred and covered his cock in oil, stroking himself and bending down to tease my tip with his tongue and in seconds, take me into his mouth. I gasped from the unexpected rush of sensation from his fingers and mouth, dug my hands into dark golden hair and rocked with him, unable to control my voice. 
    When my sounds satisfied him, he slipped off me with one more tight suck, pulled his fingers out, and nudged his cock against my entrance. He held my legs so I couldn't guide him in faster and pushed inside me slowly, all the way down to the hilt, giving me what I was denied a night ago. I let him take control, whining when he slid out equally slowly and then rammed into me again. His pace grew quicker and his body moved so seductively; I revelled in watching him roll his hips and flex lean muscle. I knew Jordain heard me getting fucked senseless, the house servants outside probably heard too, and it was all a little game of mine. Afterall, I was told to be inclusive.
    The man's rapid heartbeat echoed throughout my entire body and he bucked inside just right, just enough to hit that one spot which made my mouth quiver and my hole tighten around his cock. I never once touched myself and instead dug my fingers into the sheets, letting it wash over me in tingling, rhythmic waves, keeping a tight grip on my lover for the night. He gasped and sighed, speeding up and bending down to kiss me through his climax. 
    "Don't come inside me." I breathed, flashing a devilish smile he could not see and wrapping my hand around his throat. I rocked with him through the last few hard thrusts, tightened my grip on his throat and sank my teeth into him just underneath my hand as he pulled out of me and came on the bed. Having my hand around his throat cut off any unpleasant sound he would make, but it wasn't strong enough to kill him. I let go suddenly and tore into him viciously, purposely, letting blood dribble down my chin and cover my neck and chest. When my poor handsome friend bled out, I effortlessly tossed him aside and got up, still hard as ever. I felt this rush of appeal and confidence watching his blood drip down my body. I snatched my sheer green robe from the dresser opposite the bed, threw it on and made my way out of the room and into the attic. 
    There sat my red lion of a lover, his back to me. I could tell he was seething. And I loved every second of it...
    "Was that inclusive enough for you, mon amour?" I asked.
    "You have some nerve, cherie." He turned around and I kept walking toward him languidly, my smile ever present. "Oh.." He smiled back and bit his lip, taking in the sight of me naked, bloody and hard. "Pour moi?" He rolled onto his knees, kissed my cock and licked a trail of blood off my stomach. His hands rubbed my thighs, firmly grabbed my ass, and he went back to licking my cock almost desperately. 
    "He couldn't make me come."
    "What a shame." He said between movements. "I'll just have to fix that." 
    "Are you ready to come out, bébé? I miss you."
    He paused and let go of my ass only to close a hand around my stiff dick. "Only if we can make beautiful things together, cherie."

                                                                             . . . . . . . . .  

 

    We spent the night how we usually did. Even though my acts of deliberate naughtiness earned me some minuscule form of punishment, Jordain didn't really seem to care too much. Maybe he felt he needed to escape the hot, dusty room above civilization as well. He lay against me, pleasant and sound, and I woke to the warmth and comfort I always felt with him. Everything seemed to fall back into place, but I was partly afraid of what was to come soon after, and partly intrigued.
    Turning over, I looked at the uncovered paintings scattered around the attic. They all had a similar style: a deep gradient backdrop, and the focus of the piece being placed on a single body part. The canvas directly in front of me displayed a severed arm, cut jaggedly at the elbow. The pale hand was relaxed, nails long and seemingly healthy, bone peeked out only a little from the bottom and tiny bits of muscle and tissue hung out in ribbons around it. The image was placed in the shadow of a dimly lit, dark blue background that made dead flesh glow eerily. Another that sat next to it was of a perfectly clean rib cage. This one was smaller than the one of the arm, but the more I looked at it, the more subtle detail I could find. Thin metal rods were stuck all around the inside of the rib cage and even further in, I could see a little bird with outstretched wings.
    The third painting in my immediate line of vision was as large as the one of the arm, but it was of a woman. She had long, dark hair which was pulled up and messily styled. She wore heavy makeup on her shut eyes and her greyed, dead skin was further paled by copious amounts of powder. The top half of her face appeared soft and somber but she was missing her jaw, only what hung out of her skull in a concentrated spill of red, along with an open cavity at her throat. The picture ended just past her shoulders and below her collar bones and the flesh there was as clean and powdered as the top half of her face. Her head was turned slightly, elegantly posed. The open gash at her throat didn't even drip and I couldn't help but feel nauseating unease seeing how real these were. The more I stared at this woman, the more recent she appeared. She had to have been someone I saw the night I stumbled into his disposal dump.
    The body behind me shifted and an arm draped around my waist. He awoke gently, propped himself up, and kissed my cheek. My eyes could not leave the image of the woman.
    "What do you think?" He asked softly, kissing me once more.
    "I don't know." All I could look at was the expression of pain and loneliness.
    "Most of these are my personal studies." Even more of a frightening thing to think about, he carefully did this to people. The arm could have been an old piece of discarded material from his days with the doctor, but the ribcage was something he put time and effort into modifying, and the woman...the woman was so carefully torn apart. I wondered if she lived through her jaw being slowly cut and ripped off by hand, or if what killed her was the strategic opening of her throat. Her lashes were slick and shut eyes reddened a bit around the bottoms, to indicate she cried and struggled despite being posed so perfectly.
    "Did you know her?"
    He took a moment to answer me. "I don't remember."
    "Are you lying to me?"
    "Berith, I've created many pieces. And I've taken many lives."
    "There's such intimacy here."
    Jordain chuckled and petted my side. "That just means I'm a good artist. I can say a lot with imagery alone."
    "She did not go peacefully."
    "They never do." He spoke almost as if their struggles were a nuisance to him. "I have to clean up in here, Cherie, would you go downstairs and make sure someone picked up your mess? I won't be sleeping in our bed if it's still dirtied even a little by what filth you performed in there."
    "Fine." I got up and dressed myself in what little I brought with me. My chest was still covered in dried blood and I made note to clean myself up while I was checking on everything.

 

    It was early evening. The sun had just set and fading light peeking out from heavy curtains gave the inside of our home the faintest pink-purple glow. I noticed some candles were still lit in our room and when I crept inside, Madeline was scrambling to get everything in order. She looked up at me and slowed down some, sighing with relief.
    "Decency is not in your repertoire, is it Monsieur Devereaux?"
    "Mmm, I think that trait passed me." I looked over the sheets quickly, finding they had been restored to perfection. "Though Jordain doesn't help at all. On nights we stay home, he'll have me walking around without even a flimsy robe on." She grumbled in disgust and hurriedly straightened out the bed. I placed my hand on hers to cease. "I'll finish here." She nodded and began briskly walking past me, staring at the floor to hide the flush on her cheeks. "Hey," I reached for her arm and she stopped, but refused to look at me.
    "He does not want us speaking so informally." She said worriedly.
    "Well Madeline, I live here too, so I have some say in matters. Firstly, you may look at me because you'll be meeting with me quite a bit from this moment on. Granted, probably not in this fashion, but you understand what I mean." The corner of her mouth raised and she finally looked back up. "Secondly, I apologize for how I acted before. My last few nights have been strange and I was irritated when I encountered you. I want to build a friendship with you, and I would not let Jordain hurt you."
    "What I tried to do to him, I would never do to you."
    "Then I'd say we are in good standing already." I let go of her arm. "Bonne nuit, Madeline."
    "Bonne nuit, Berith." She smiled sweetly and carried on about her way.
    The attic stairs creaked with Jordain's footsteps and before Madeline could completely vanish, he snapped his fingers and called her name. I stood in the doorway watching her stop abruptly and show a pained expression before slowly turning around. He gave her a quick glance and told her to wait a moment, then folded the wooden staircase up partially, gently letting go of it and motioning her to come over. He knelt down, she stepped into his open hands and he raised her to push the door up the rest of the way and lock it.
    "It worked out, you being so late in your duties. Before you leave, could you ready a bath for me and Berith?" She nodded and resumed her work.
    "Just like the night I came here." He smiled cutely and approached me in the doorway.
    "I'll actually be joining you this time. It will be cramped, but it will do."

 

    Jordain dismissed Madeline and she avoided any eye contact with me on her hurried walk out of the room. Despite Jordain's pleasant behaviour, and her willingness to comply, her fear of him was still obvious. No matter whether I assured her that speaking with me was alright or not, she acted as if I was never there when he stood beside me. Maybe that was just the way it had to stay. I would speak with her again if I ever got another moment to myself.
    I threw my robe on the floor and winced, preparing to step into the cold, but I was relieved to be welcomed inside by heat. I sighed and said the bath was lovely, watching Jordain undress. I had only seen him naked once since I got there and at that time I only really paid attention to what was being given to me instead of the man doing it.
    "This is my first time actually seeing you this way, isn't it?"
    "Don't expect much." He chuckled, looking over his shoulder at me. "Most men are not blessed as you are."
    "Last night's meal wasn't too bad." I sank into the tub almost as if to hide while I gave him a wide smile.
    "That's cute, Berith." He would not turn to me, and he had gotten his shirt undone, but hesitated to remove it. With a sigh he let it fall, and showed me light and slightly gold tinted flesh warped by horrendous burns. He shed the rest of his clothing slowly and unsurely. From the middle of his back, down his bottom, and to his feet he was covered in scarred skin. He turned to me and shrugged. "Well, here it is." His front was burned only a little at his hips, but grew worse down his thighs and past his knees. Aside from these things, he appeared thin and dainty with little muscle tone, which I assumed was there merely because of how slim he was. His collarbones were quite pronounced and his hips protruded a little bit, but I found him wonderful all the same.
    "Come in, it's much warmer this time."
    It was a little cramped in there but the two of us fit relatively well sitting with our legs overlapping. The whole thing was romantic in a way. We quietly washed one another, only speaking to give general requests for soap and whatnot, giggling like children at miniscule actions like the way Jordain raised a brow and suggestively put his leg up on the edge of the tub so I could clean it. At one moment I caught him off guard and splashed water in his face and the laughter emitting from him was genuine and kind. We took breaks to kiss and after we had finished, we decided to just stay put for a little while.
    "Would I offend if I asked about your scars?"
    "Not at all." He paused and lowered his voice, taking on a gentle and almost mourningful tone. "I was made at sunrise. And the woman who changed me walked out to her death the moment she saw me start to evolve. As you know, the process is quite painful, so I was incapable of movement. As light came into the room, it set me ablaze. Pain came over me to the point that my body went completely numb and I could only recognize what was happening to me from the stench of burning flesh. I should have died." He stopped again and sighed. "But, I managed to crawl out of the room and find a darkened corner that I would hide in for over a week. My legs were burned so badly in certain spots that I could see bone, and when my body bent even in the slightest, my back stung and I reached behind to feel my spine under my fingertips."
    "I lie in a ball for ten days and nine nights, feeling more pain as I healed than I did when I was cooking by the open door. I lost a lot of blood and I was accustomed to going days without food because I was poor, but my hunger drove me equally as insane as my outer agony. And because I could not eat, it took longer for me to heal. Over that period of time, I wasted away to practically nothing and what of my skin healed came back as an atrocity. I would claim my first kill on the tenth night, in one of the most degrading ways, and I continued to do so until I considered myself well again."
    "And how did you do that?" I asked.
    "I put on a dress and posed as a whore. That was the only form of clothing present in my setting, so I did that for quite some time. I would find a moderately well off man, seduce him mostly without words, feed from him, and then rob him," He stumbled on his words a bit with the last phrase. ", until I made it here." He glanced away for a second. "A friend of mine lived here at the time, and he kindly donated this estate to me upon his passing." This had to have been the doctor's house, Jordain was clearly being a little less than honest. "But anyway, the past is no longer relevant, given it was about fifty years ago." He chuckled. 
    "If it's any consolation, I still enjoy what I see." Under the water, I rubbed his thighs, feeling wrinkled skin.
    "Even my ass?" He asked, thoroughly amused.
    "Even that!" I couldn't help but laugh at his wording and I inched closer to him only to get bathwater splashed back in my face.
    "You lying shit." I wiped my eyes and when I opened them, Jordain had cupped my face in his hands and kissed me long and tenderly. I fell more in love with him with each one. In the back of my mind, I heard Phoenix's voice screaming for me to come to my senses, but God would I never listen. I would need it beat into me to even remotely grasp the concept. "Now it's my turn. I'm more telling you than asking you, but it still applies."
    "Let me have it."
    "While I was gathering my thoughts, I had somehow gotten the ability to read you. So I know all of what happened while you went out on your own." My stomach dropped and I pushed myself away from him, afraid and ready to explain myself and write out a formal apology. "Even though things ensued that I may not have agreed with, I noticed that all you did was consider me. Even when tempted by some cute, curly haired, freckle-faced Coven Head, you only thought of me and my feelings. And even when you brought that man here last night and obnoxiously had your way with him, it was done to provoke me. That speaks volumes to me...Do you want to know a secret?" I nodded.
    "Berith, since the second you showed up here, all I did was fear losing you. I feared it so much that it made me angry. It made me resent you, regret making you. I thought if you ever left me, I would not only kill you but I would immortalize you in a way you could never imagine, making you forever a part of me through one of my paintings." My chest began to ache and I pictured myself in the same state as the woman I laid eyes on entrapped in canvas. The hours of being burned to death by sunlight would have been a heavenly request.
    "But I don't fear those things anymore. All I wanted from you was for you to accept me for the things that I do and love me anyway. And you do! And it feels like so much has been lifted off my shoulders." He paused and sighed happily. "Yes we'll create together and make some outstanding things, but I won't rush you into anything. You can just watch the master at work and move at your own pace. And if I don't feel like going out, but you do, you're free to do so on your own. How does that sound, mon amour?"
    "It sounds lovely." I tried not to let worry escape in my tone.
    "I trust you, Berith." He smiled sweetly and stood, stepping out of the tub and holding out his hand to me. "Let's see what the night holds for us."

    

    I had not yet wished to know how Jordain performed and thinking of it brought queasiness that made me stare at gas flame instead of into his eyes. While in the midst of trying to convince a particular young lady to join us, he teased about us being lovers and she giggled in disbelief. He told her to watch as he pulled me into the crowd of couples dancing, taking me into his arms. As per usual, everyone stared, some laughed because it must have been a joke, but I sort of lost myself in the music and gentle movements. This honed focus got a smile out of me after what seemed like hours trying to tune out everyone's voices in my head.
    "Can you still hear them?" Jordain whispered.
    "Non."
    "Perfect." He pulled back and stopped us in the group, gently tracing my jaw before he kissed me for everyone to see. The rabble of people in the room rose immensely but all I cared about was the moment. The commotion only made me kiss Jordain harder and I bit his lip before letting up. He wiped the tiny wound with his thumb and smiled devilishly before turning back to the young maiden and joking about the entire thing.
    "The fucker bit me!"
    "Oh he likes to play rough, huh?" The woman asked, raising her brow at me. I simply shrugged in response. "You two are something else." She snickered. I turned to make sure those around us had resumed merriment, and sure enough, they had. Friends shared stories and wine at tables and lovers danced in the center of the floor. Husbands made flirtatious glances at other women, some to other husbands, some women to other wives. I watched people leave in fours and couples exchange spouses. Women that came alone draped themselves in the laps of single, young and impressionable men. Amidst the rush of bodies, a head of curly orange hair caught my eye. He moved only slightly, showing the profile of his face, upturned nose and sunken gold eyes. He was in the company of a tall, lanky, deathly pale woman with silver hair and black eyes. She never once opened her mouth and gave answers to any of his questions or comments with exaggerated facial expressions.
    "He's not paying attention." I could hear our new friend faintly speaking. I continued to stare and the two locked eyes with me, the hand on my shoulder tightened and I quickly whipped back around to face the woman in our company.
    "What's so fascinating over there?" Jordain asked with a chuckle. As he tried to look behind, I placed a hand on his cheek and told him it was nothing.
    "I'm simply admiring the ambiance." I paused, leaned in and whispered. "There's also a really interesting spousal swap going on across the room. But they already left. The feel of this place reeks of dastardly deeds and sinful secretiveness that I happen to enjoy very much." When the lighthearted mood returned, I quickly darted my gaze toward Phoenix and his companion, only to find they had vanished, accompanied by a sigh of relief. Though I didn't get a decent look at her, she seemed intimidating, so she must have been one of us.
    "So how do you feel about coming back home with me and Berith for a more, private, discussion?" Jordain asked, kissing the woman's hand.
    "Well, I hate to tell you this since you've entertained me and put a smile on my face, but you didn't receive an invitation Monsieur Laurent." Several pairs of eyes from around the room shot our way as if responding to some sort of queue. The rest of the partygoers stayed calm, but a chill began to come over me. Jordain took a step back and shook his head, smiling.
    "Of course I did."
    "No, you really didn't. Look around you. Do you see any familiar faces?" Eyes never left us and a couple men stood in wait for a response. Jordian scanned the room and stated that he didn't recognize anyone. "Well your lover did." Jordain's lip twitched a bit and one hand balled into a fist. "Do you remember that it's The Night of the Feast? You would have loved to participate."
    "Where is he?"
    "That doesn't matter. We're above ground tonight, so you and your tramp should start on your way home before we dispose of you like humans." Her teeth elongated when she smiled. "Or maybe we should go ahead and start now." I grabbed Jordain's arm and started pulling him, insisting we leave and he just stood staring at the Vampire before us.
    "Jordain, please." He said nothing and slowly walked away from the party with me.
    He remained silent the entire way home and when I asked if maybe he wanted to find someone before the others went out, he declined. Phoenix could not have possibly held such animosity towards me after my discussion with him that he would allow any one of the vampires in his coven to kill me. It was merely coincidence that we stumbled into an exclusive function. And the way he looked at me when I saw him at the party held no form of bitterness. At least I didn't think so anyway.
    "What do you want to do then, because you just came out of hiding in that fucking attic and I know you feel the need to do something." He looked at me and inhaled straightening his back and trying to intimidate or shame me. "I'm serious. You shouldn't have to go hungry because a group of our kind has dislike for you. It's very unlike you to bend to another's wish." I took his hand in mine. "You came out of there yearning to create, did you not?"
    "This is their night. The entire city will be crawling with Underground scum. What do you suggest?"
    "How about I go alone?"
    "No."
    "Why not, Jordain?" I slammed my fist against the side of the carriage.
    "This is their agreement with those of us who don't take their offer of recruitment. We hide on their holidays or we're as good as dead." Phoenix did not seem like someone to set rules of that kind. "They will not come onto our properties and bother us, but if we're seen out, we get mobbed. Those aren't necessarily Phoenix's rules, but his coven is quite large, and there is no rule against killing another unaffiliated with The Underground. Even if he were to catch word of one outside the coven being killed, he wouldn't bat an eye."
    "When I spoke with Phoenix, he seemed a gentle soul."
    "He seemed gentle because he wanted a piece of your ass. Otherwise, he doesn't care unless you're one of his minions."
    "I'll rephrase this: I'm going. You refused to join them because you didn't want to abide by their rules. Why in this one instance would you follow their words now? I'm stopping this carriage and going out hunting and you are going with me."
    "You're right, I'm being cowardly." He sank back into the seat and relaxed his shoulders. "This would be the first holiday I disobeyed the agreement." He tapped on the roof of the carriage and whistled for halt. He gave me an apologetic smile and opened the door, asking me to exit first. The night was easy, we would sneak around and feed on the first human to make an appearance, and then we would go home.
    The silence surrounding us in the bitterly cold night mimicked that of the dead. No thought could be heard, no voice, no faces were seen in the blackness. Lamp glow was visible in only a couple homes but even so, no one made a single sound or looked out of a window. It seemed even the typically stupid mortal Parisians were aware of this holiday and tried to lay as low as the two of us did. Jordain stopped walking and placed a hand on my chest. He put a finger to his lips. 
    One skidding footstep and sharp inhalation caught my attention and at the door of one of the homes before us stood a man, frozen and horrified. 
    "Monsieur, I'm afraid our carriage has taken off and we've lost our way. Have you a warm seat for us to stay for a moment and regather a sense of direction?" Jordain asked smoothly. 
    "Non." He responded.
    "But Monsieur, it is very cold tonight. All we want is to find our way home before we freeze to death. Or worse."
    "Murderers lie in the shadows here, and the more we stand about and talk, the more will eventually hear and close in." I added.
    "Well that's very unfortunate for you. And may God--"
    "God has no mercy to give me." In seconds Jordain approached the man and took hold of his throat, shoving him into the door. "Pray for yourself." I stood watch as Jordain sank his teeth into the man's neck. He tried to stifle the human's cries as much as possible but even the tiniest sounds echoed in the hollow. At that point I started to hear commotion coming from the other residents, loud even in whisper. 
    Jordain broke from the man and let go, leaving him to slide down the door. His smile was wide and refreshed inhalation deep. His complexion appeared just a little less worn from the days without sustenance but I knew he needed another. 
    "Why have I always stayed inside on this day? Why have I gone so far as to give those sorry excuses for predators a smidgen of my respect? I am no property of theirs." He turned to me with outstretched arms. "What wonders you've shown me, my love. Let us continue."
    It was quite entertaining watching him as if he was hunting for the first time all over again. Perhaps refreshment was just the medicine he needed. And as we wandered the dark streets together, we engaged in a messy body-dropping session of our own picking humans off as if it was nothing at all, just as we always had. We had stopped eating after two humans and just began killing for fun, snapping necks, letting some who spat nasty remarks bleed out onto the road, we had no cares in the world. It became a game for us really, purposely leaving a trail to be found dancing in the street and kissing as if we had just been wed.
    "We should make our way back, I think we've had enough fun for one night."
    "Amour, the fun has just begun. Do you know what I really want tonight?" I asked what. "You have inspired me and this mood is perfect. I want to kill one of his minions. I want to seek out the woman from that party and give her the attention she really deserved tonight. She could not have gone far."
    "Yes, but what if she's accompanied by one of these mobs you've mentioned? There are only two of us and I guarantee you other solo acts are buried in their homes and following rules."
    "Look at you, showing worry and reason." He kissed my cheek. "It's adorable. You must know you can snap a vampire's neck as easily as you can with a human. Or break anything on them for that matter." He smiled. "I don't know what I like better, watching you ride my cock or seeing how easily bones break in your hands. Really hard to compare the two."
    "Stop." I rolled my eyes and laughed. 
    Clicking footsteps echoed in the quiet night and Jordain straightened his back, raising a brow. I turned around to find a silhouette of another person coming toward us from under a bridge. I could smell human blood but something was strange about the figure closing in. 
    "Could this be the thing I've been dreaming of?" Jordain asked happily. 
    Once the figure became clear under the light of street lamps, I recognized him as one of the men from the party that stood once we were given our formal warning. He was nondescript at the least with dark hair and eyes and stood only a little taller than me. I could not read his thoughts but he confidently marched closer and closer until he was in our immediate line. 
    "I wondered who had been causing such a commotion and lo and behold, here are the two of you before me." He challenged. "I could have sworn you were not permitted to come out of your prized estate tonight."
    Jordain snickered. "I could have sworn I made it very clear to all of you half a century ago that I follow no one's orders but my own. That word must be very hard to comprehend for you." He sauntered over to face the man in a more direct and equally as confrontational fashion. "You know, you haven't truly lived until you have strayed from the herd, my friend." The other vampire stiffened as Jordain circled him, gently touching his shoulder. "Spend the rest of your night with us and I'll assure you'll enjoy our way of life just a little more." His eyes never left mine as he devilishly whispered in the other man's ear. 
    "Is this how you snag humans?" He asked. "It's pretty sleazy."
    "That's how the filth of the city likes it." Jordain answered. “It’s even better in between.” I drew closer to the man, and in a second, threw a fist to his stomach, making him jolt and cough. Jordain snatched him off the ground by his hair and I grabbed the sides of his face, shoving my knee into his nose, hearing it crack loudly. We let the man gather himself for a moment and Jordain politely signaled for me to let him take over. He crouched down in front of the bloody-faced vampire on the ground, placed his hand under the man's chin and smiled sweetly. 
    "I have wonderful news for you." He was unable to respond. "I won't take you home and cut you like I do my whores, like I had originally planned." He stood back up and as the other was trying to rise, he pushed his head back down to the ground with his foot. "Oh no, we mustn't do that now."
    "Fucking pig!" The man choked out.
    "That's your winning response?" Jordain laughed and delivered another swift kick to the vampire's face. "Pathetic!" He walked to the man's feet and pushed them apart with his, then stomped on his ankle multiple times until bone completely shattered and the vampire yelled in agony. "Hmm, that one will take a while to heal." The vampire continued to scream. "Crawl, if you can even get up, limp, I don't care. If you manage to survive the rest of the night, deliver a message to Phoenix for me. Paris has been painted red with blood shed by Jordain Laurent and any rule he has for me or my lover will not go followed. I'll be sure to just send him more useless peons such as yourself, most not fortunate enough to live." 
    Feelings of dread came over me thinking about Phoenix receiving this message, but the night had limited time left and that man would more than likely be reduced to a heap of ash before he got to the entrance. If the situation played out that way, no one would know and we could carry on about our business without the underground coven potentially on our tracks. It would be a pain to cut down other vampires out of necessity and frankly I had no personal issues with Phoenix, so that was a conflict I did not want. I was sure nothing would come out of the night aside from a confidence boost on Jordain's end and sex lasting through morning. For times of creation and discovery were ahead of us, and we were an unstoppable force.

                                                                                    . . . . . . .

  

    I woke midday to the sound of a loud thud on the lower floor and above me stood Madeline with a finger pressed to her lips. I turned my head slightly and Jordain slept soundly next to me, draped lazily over several pillows. I looked back to the young maid who whispered without the movement of her mouth. 
"The curtains are shut downstairs so as not to harm you." I waited a moment for her to creep away and I soon followed, pushing pillows next to the mound Jordain slept on to give the illusion of mass to a sudden groggy wake. I quickly covered myself in a velvet robe I found laying about and silently caught up to Madeline, who shut the bedroom door behind me. Faint traces of yellow and white seeped into the house in places curtains could not perfectly seal. Downstairs there was much commotion, furniture being moved around, footsteps of various workers, but it was not loud enough that it could be heard above. Someone must have dropped something earlier on. 
    Madeline said no words to me on the way down, I saw servants speedily moving trunks and paint canvases into various rooms. I tapped her shoulder to get her to say something but she did not even turn. I soon began to wonder if I was lost in a dream. Everyone moved around me without even noticing my presence and the air enveloping me felt colder and hollow as that outside as I followed her. We approached the parlour and a hooded figure sat in the center of the sofa.
    "If you're worried, I've made sure he won't wake." A familiar voice spoke among the busy footsteps. I walked around the sofa and watched as the vampire shed his cloak, exactly like the one thrown to me the night we met. "After all you have seen, all you have become a part of, the intimacy we shared, you would do this." He spoke lowly. "He never once disobeyed the agreement I had established with him long before you were even conceived as a human. After my generosity to you, after my offer to you to join me and be taught by wise vampires older than your heinous lover, this is what you give back to me?"
From inside his cloak, he pulled the bare severed foot of the vampire Jordain left on the street, and tossed it before me on the floor.
    "Given further communication, I may have allowed the law to be lifted for you specifically. And since you have no 'worthless peons' to break and send back with such spite, I'll have to be the bigger man and do it myself." I merely took a breath and he snapped, "You are not to speak!"
    "I understand a couple of my members decided to threaten you and for that I do apologize. I also understand Jordain's exact actions were not your idea. However I would like to know why you planted the seed in his mind to turn his back on an agreement. Who is it exactly that you're standing for?"
    "Phoenix, I really do appreciate your kindness to me and I do believe we shared intimacy in a way I'd never imagine. I will always be moved by you, and part of me would love to spend my nights learning about someone so close to myself. But I know who my maker is, I am in love with him. I am going to pick him up just as he would me. It pleases him, and that pleases me."
    "I am not angry with you. Hurt and frankly confused, but not angry. That was all I had to say to you and after this day things will resume to the way they were. I will give you this one thing before I leave: pleasure fades eventually and love will cripple you if you continue to tread blindly." He put his hood back on and rose, picking up the foot and walked over to one of the windows to place it on the sill. I watched it turn to nothing but dust. He then motioned to one of the servants to come by and clean it up and the boy did so without the slightest hesitation. Another came from a different room with a blanket and walked beside Phoenix, holding it over his head as he opened the front door and left.
    I hurried upstairs and opened our bedroom to find Jordain still sound as ever, just like I left him for those few moments that felt like forever. Phoenix provoked thought and reason within me that I greatly admired him for. I felt this odd attraction to him since the night we shared. Though his face held some sort of shadiness that I could not bring myself to get behind, I wanted to see him again. I was thrilled to have done so that day. I gently removed the pillows from the opposite side of my lover's cushion mound and climbed back into bed, turning to the other side of him. He had at some point notified his servants to start setting up his work environments and I could only lay and nod off with the slightest bit of wonder as to what would follow.  
    I woke a second time within a few hours, just before sundown. I dressed myself quietly and left the bedroom. Upon leaving, I glanced at the attic door just above, wondering what all else could lie there that I hadn't been told of. Suffering I had not shared. Cries I had not heard. Blood I had not drained. The thought of these things was sort of intoxicating to me. I walked downstairs to find perfectly concealed trunks underneath furniture, a wall mount holding paint brushes, various canvases in every size I could think of, walls covered in knives, hooks about the mantle and across the ceiling in the parlour. The whole display was art in itself. 
    He called to me when the sun set, perfectly timed. I came to the bottom of the stairs and greeted him with a smile. He asked me what I thought of the place and if it served any help to my journey with him. Of course I responded with obvious assurance that it was amazing. He nodded, told me he loved me, and then away we went after all the wait.
 
    "The first rule I have for you is never to go to the same place more than once." Jordain calmly explained on the carriage ride down sleazy nighttime streets. "Whether it’s a brothel or even a park bench, they know who's coming in and going out. You'd not think they do, but they keep record of all their girls. Even if she says she's independent, she's lying. The moment you scoop someone else up at the same place as the last and she goes missing, you're being watched too." I nodded. "The second is timing. Never do too many hits in a few nights' time. In my more, overzealous days, I pulled two a night. But you get smarter about it the more you do it, much like anything else you attempt for the first time. Keep a level head and do not get cocky about it."
    I pulled the thin blue curtain from the window of the carriage and peered into the dark. Lamplight appeared as tiny glowing dots quite far from us not mattering how close we were. 
    "Carefully planning each experience and correctly timing such is how I have been able to create for fifty years. No one has been able to find me and my existence has been denied by officials. Three in a week is bordering, one is too sparse, two is perfect. Make sure to keep it minimal, yet sporadic, so as not to make a pattern accidentally." He crossed his hands in his lap and pushed himself back in the seat. "Have you seen anything yet?"
    I shook my head. He looked up and rubbed his chin in thought. "We've been out for a little while."
    "The fog is pretty heavy tonight, as it was last night."
    "And you don't hear anything either?"
    "Non." 
    "How is your hearing lately anyway? Are you still sensitive?"
    "It comes strong some of the time and then not so much. My other senses are the same, so I think I'm finally starting to even out." 
    "And your memory?"
    I shook my head again. "Nothing aside from the basics. It's so odd, I never thought this would take so long. It feels like I'm going to spend forever in confusion. I'm bothered that all my questions about those times have yet to be answered. Something was mentioned about having a certain gift eventually and I'm wondering why mine has not surfaced."
    "Of course it has!" Jordain giggled, reaching toward me to caress my cheek.
    "You're just like me. Though not exactly developed yet. Your way with words is a little blunt, however your way of, showing, displays the gift fully. Persuasion and seduction. Would I have created anything else?" He laughed. "I'm going to help you develop on these things." Even if my abilities were unbeknownst to me, my experience with Phoenix did not add up to what Jordain said. I kept quiet and pulled the curtain again, losing balance as our carriage came to a sudden halt. Jordain pushed my shoulder to keep himself from falling forward and as soon as he let go, he pounded on the ceiling, shouting "What the fuck is your issue?!" There was no response. 
    Jordain huffed and stormed out, slamming the door behind. For a moment I listened to him yell at the driver before a loud thud sounded and then the carriage started to move again. I stood, planted my feet firmly and hung tight as I swung the door open and gazed upon Jordain now driving rather quickly. 
    "What in God's name are you doing?!" I shouted over the rapid click of hoofs and creaking wheels.
    "We're going back!"
    "Home?!"
    "Non!" Before I could say something else, he added "Just sit pretty and I'll let you know what to do soon!" I slammed the door and leaned back against the seat, exhaling deeply.
 
    After a little while, the carriage came to a slow, quiet stop and I heard Jordain's feet hit the ground gracefully. He gently pulled the door open and told me to get out, then directed me to sit in the front with the reins. He told me he would do most of the work and with not much else in the way of clarification, he turned and walked up to a candlelit house, disappearing inside the golden glow.
    My chest seemed to feel a sudden coldness and tightness with the slow dragging moments of realization coming onto me. Nervous jitters I supposed. I didn't quite know what I felt actually, what I worried about exactly. Was I worried about what would ensue once he came back? Was I afraid of being caught given my notoriously slovenly behavior? Or was it the loss of humanity in me from this point on? It was perhaps a combination of the three. 
    I stared intensely at the house, hearing a yelp and giggles from a higher pitched woman being pressed against one of the upper windows by a nondescript, barely visible man. She faced me, her pale naked body boldly held against the window. Her eyes met mine and she gave the glass a kiss. I hurriedly looked to the horses in front of me as to distract myself from the scene. She would be safe; somehow that thought comforted me.
    Excruciating minutes passed as I stared at the ground and rubbed the horse reins with my fingers. The door to the house creaked open and out stepped a short and slender brunette girl with her hand in Jordain's. I smiled gently at her and said good evening. He waved me off and told me to drive home as he climbed inside with the girl. 
    "Hey!" I shouted, tossing the reins and hopping out of the seat. He told her to excuse him and he exited, closing the door. I heard her laughing inside. "I have never driven in my life."
    He smiled and touched my shoulder. "You use the whip to crack their asses if they're going too slow."
"Do you want this getting tipped over Jordain? You obviously know what you're doing. You should be up there, not me."
    "Two horses can't tip it over." He pat my head and kissed me before climbing back into the cart and slamming the door shut. I pursed my lips and curled my hand into a fist, took a breath, and then assumed my place for this ride. I held the reins in one hand and instead of whipping the horses, I nudged one of them on the butt repeatedly and he humored me by starting to trot leisurely; the other followed immediately. I smiled to myself. The ride home would be slower than what Jordain would have wanted but that's what he got for leaving me in charge.
    I kept an eye out for familiar structures and maneuvered around those places to guide us home. Controlling the horses became easier with passing minutes. Along the way I passed a house I remembered from a short time ago. Though I couldn't see anything, I heard the woman finishing up telling her daughter a story. She was already asleep though. Another driver passed me moving the opposite direction and gave a nod. I thought we had been out for longer, but I guessed Jordain was just wildly impatient. Not surprising in the slightest. I looked up to find a winged figure once again scoping out the city from the black skies with some tiny shrieking companions. From behind me, I could hear Jordain giving this girl the precursor to the whole evening.
 
    I pulled the reins tightly and stopped the carriage in front of the path to our house. I didn't bother opening the door as Jordain would have wanted and walked around to face the animals, petting their harnessed heads and telling them they did a good job. Jordain came around with the woman and whispered into my ear that the carriage was ours now and to drive it onto the property. We had stables, but they hadn't been used in years and were cluttered with whatever the servants put there. I supposed they would take care of it. 
    He took her up to the house and I stayed behind, searching the front seat for a bag I thought I kicked at some point on the way. I found it hanging by a drawstring just off the edge of the cart and sure enough, there were a couple of red apples inside. I moved it next to me and drove onto the path and around the back to the servants' quarters. I pet them again before walking up to the door and an olive skinned man answered when I knocked. 
    "Apparently we own horses now." I told him and handed him the bag of apples. Madeline cut in front of the man and snatched the bag. "It's short notice I know. I'm sure you would all like to sleep."
"It will be taken care of Monsieur. There won't be any sleeping tonight." She replied. Her voice was as grim as ever. "I feel for them." was all she said before walking to the stables.
"Just out of curiosity, do you remember what happened earlier? The other young man in the house?" She looked back at me completely puzzled. "Nevermind." I said walking back to the main house.
 
    The rooms seemed to expand and halls elongated when I entered. A yellow-orange glow filled the place, leaving it darkened just enough. The girl's heavy perfume filled the space and sickly heat floated throughout like fog. In the largest room of the house, there they were on the floor kissing, Jordain's hand up her dress. He stopped as soon as my presence was known.
    "Is your driver joining as well? I might have to charge him too." She laughed. Jordain slapped her across the face;  she held her cheek, hazel eyes watering only slightly at the outer corners.
    "He owns the place as well. Treat him with respect." She nodded meekly and he stood up. "Kiss him and tell him you're sorry."
    She came to me and I wrapped my arms around her tiny waist, pulling her close for what would be her final night. Her lips quivered when they met mine and her heart was pounding in her chest. Her scent was a combination of lavender perfume and alcohol. She wouldn't taste appealing at all. Jordain pulled her away from me by the hair and claimed her lips once again, then mine. 
    "I didn't hear anything." He whispered.
    "My apologies, Monsieur." She said to me quietly. Her eyes were still wet with tears and her youthful face ridden with shock. Already she held an internal cry for help, and it would become harder to do as told by the minute. 
    "D'accord." I kissed the hot red patch on her face and her heartbeat slowed only a little.
    "Get on the floor." Jordain ordered her.
    "Restrain her." She laid on her back and I held her wrists above her head. Her heart quickened again, a faint whimper slipping from her lips, and I whispered that it would be alright.
    "I want to scare you." He whispered hotly, mounting her and reaching underneath the table beside us for a long, black handled blade. He dragged the metal across her skin, from her ankles up to her knees, just creeping under the lifted skirts. "Excite you as you've never been." He brought the blade to her neck, dragging lightly across the skin, and down her chest. A single bead of cold sweat rolled off her temple and her body shuddered. 
    Suddenly, he cut into the lacing of her dress, ripping the corset off and clamping a hand over her mouth when she yelped. He shook his head slowly. He let go of her mouth and looked up at me, sat back and handed me the knife. 
    "Cut the rest off."
    I let go of her hands and she was too awestruck to move a muscle. Jordain climbed off of her and sat beside as I took his place. He moved to hold her down with one hand and started to kiss her tenderly. I took the knife firmly and bunched up the fabric of her dress in my other hand, making a swift cut, tearing it open from that point and sliding the rest off.
    He let off of her and allowed me to do as I pleased. I gazed into her eyes for a moment and all I wanted was to comfort her amidst the chaos. Maybe I could speak to her as Jordain did with his servants. I kissed her to potentially silence her.
    "Can you hear me?" I thought, keeping my focus only on her. No reply. No sudden jolt. Nothing. I silently cursed and resumed, kissing her neck, her bare chest and her smooth stomach. I could not lessen anything and in that instant, I felt just as helpless as she was. Jordain stopped me from inching further.
    My heart felt like it would burst and I swallowed what was left of my humanity. I glanced at my lover and his shirt was open and he had slipped his hand into his trousers, touching himself to ready. Without hesitation and trying to keep the expression of dread off my face, I did as silently asked and made a tiny slash of the blade into her left side. She closed her eyes tight and bit her lip as she grunted. Jordain leaned in to lap at the blood dripping from the wound. Refusing to look at her face, I made a second cut on the top of her breast and sucked what I could of the bitter heat. I suddenly felt nauseous and let off early as did my maker. 
    "I'll take it from here." He said to me.
    I passed the knife back once again and let him take my place. He ordered her to open her eyes and started to kiss her lips hard, driving the blade into her right side. She screamed and kicked her feet. He quickly yanked it out of her and cracked her again across her face. He commanded me to hold her wrists again and I complied. Soon his breeches were at his knees and he pushed her legs apart, forcing himself into her, eliciting another cry. Tears poured down her face and he licked at them, then leaned in to kiss me. The salt of her tears mingled with drunken blood in a sickening frenzy. 
    He pulled back and thrust into her harder, the slap of flesh on flesh thrummed in my ears. I clamped my other hand over her mouth to stifle her screams and cries of pain and Jordain told me to let go. The only attention paid to me was to make sure I was watching his movements. He drove into her roughly, like he did to me. Sweat dripped down the side of his face and his neck. Burgundy red curls dragging along soft skin and intense, maddening gaze honed in on the poor child beneath. He ate up every ounce of her suffering. Her will weakened under my grasp.
    He sat back, raised both hands high and drove into the center of her chest, bone cracking and skin rippling as he tore into her, pulling the blade to her stomach. I immediately scurried back, my chest heaving, listening to her choke and the blood bubbling from her mouth and body. Jordain let out a moan as he released into her, and as she perished. Her head tilted back, blood pouring from her mouth and nose and hazel eyes staring into mine. Jordain threw his knife aside and reached into the open cavity in her torso, yanking out her heart, viscera spilled from her body when his arm pulled out. His eyes met mine and he cradled the organ against his cheek, then dragged it down his body, squeezing what ever was left in it onto his skin, even his cock.
    My mouth quivered, my stomach was sick, and he just stared at me so lovingly. Tears ran down my face and he stood up, dropping the heart on the ground, and walked toward me. He grabbed me by the hair and forced my mouth onto his cock to suck the rest of her blood off, then pulled me in for a kiss. I whimpered against him. I didn't want this anymore. No more. 
    "I love you so much Berith."
    I could not respond, I could only choke on my own weeping. He broke from me and walked to the girl's mutilated body, picking her up and propping her against a wall, seated, entrails about the floor. He closed the eyes that even in death stared at me like I could have done something to prevent such atrocity. 
    "Could you get a canvas, cherie?" He asked, pulling a box out from under a chair, placing it in the cushion and dragging it to face the body. I pulled the first one I could find and brought it to him as he set up his easel and took the tiny jars of paint from the box. I hated having to act after what I had witnessed. I could not describe the feeling creeping under my skin and rattling my very bones. 
    "There's still some moonlight left if you want to go outside." He said nonchalantly.
I didn't play into it. He was testing me. "Non." The shakiness in my voice was still too apparent. "Do you need me to get you anything else?"
    "You'll get used to it." He said, sorting out the colours he wanted. "I want you to do the next one. Not exactly how I did, but similar. I don't typically finish this quickly either."
    "Oui." I answered. He wanted me to be just like him, whether I was gifted the way he was or not. I might have handled it better if I did not string myself out on the way over. I kept telling myself I loved him and that we were unstoppable but after that, I had never felt so terrified. "I'm going to sleep." I touched his shoulder and kissed his cheek before going back upstairs to give myself another sleepless day. Of all the lives I'd consumed, all the things I've ruined, nothing compared to that.
    "Wait." He called. I turned. "Do you like her with arms or should she be without?"
    "You're the artist." I answered.
    "That's not good enough. I'm asking you."
    "Without." I muttered something I imagined he wanted to hear and started up the stairs.
    "Cut them off." I winced and as I slowly turned back around, he was staring at me, pressed and serious.     "There should be a hatchet under the couch if the servants set it up correctly. Don't disrupt the rest of the scene." He reached into the box once more and pulled out a can of powder and a small towel. "Take care of her face and whatever perspiration is left on her while you're at it."
    I took a second to keep from retching and walked back to him, reaching for the makeup and towel. He playfully pulled them away from me and asked for another kiss. I complied with some hesitation and he just assured me once more that I would get used to it. 
    "Remove the arms before you do anything else. Then wipe off any exposed skin and powder it."
    "Even the stomach?" I asked gravely. He nodded as if it were obvious. 
    I don't know why I expected him to leave his chair. He would watch me the entire time I did this disgusting chore, of course. Kneeling on the floor, I spotted the hatchet under the couch and took it in my shaking hand. The heat still radiating from the woman's corpse was sickening. Blood pooled underneath her and her innards sat in her lap and fell along the floor. So as not to step on them, or in the blood, I stood over her straight legs at the knee and bent down to take her left arm at the wrist. I held it with my fingers like a dirty rag and gagged if ever I looked down. I could feel white-blue eyes digging into my back. The feeling crept over me like a swarm of bugs. Tiny little legs on my skin.
    "You know where to sever, right?" He asked.
    I grumbled a yes and held her arm straight out, swallowing nervously before hacking at her shoulder. One didn't quite do it, so I had to go for two strikes. Her arm detached from the bone and some thin strings of muscle stayed behind when I pulled it away.
    "What do you want me to do with them once they're off?" I asked. 
    "Leave them at the servants' door." He replied with a smirk.
    Without a word, I took the other arm the same way and cut that one off in one clean strike. I threw both limbs to the side and knelt onto her unscathed legs. I decided to clean off her face first. Her makeup was streaked with dried up sweat towards the sides of her face and I picked up what little gleam was in her hairline with the towel. I gently patted the blood from around where her arms used to be and decided to powder that before touching the uglier parts below. 
    "Keep it light." Jordain ordered. 
    "Désolé..." I whispered to the now serene face before me.
    Taking a little bit onto the cotton pad in the can, I dusted it onto her face and neck. The washed out look of her skin made blue and purple veins more prominent underneath. I gently went over her collar area, being careful not to dip the cotton pad in the bloody matter where the empty sockets of her shoulders were. I inhaled sharply before I descended. I took my time working on her chest around the start of the cut, and I heard Jordain snap his fingers to hurry me.
        "I'm starting. Duck your head."
    "Can you just fucking wait!" I snapped.
    Jordain laughed heartily and stood, walking towards me. He snatched me by the hair and forced me to look up at him. "I'll shove your face into it if you don't hurry up." I whimpered pathetically in response and he shoved me hard enough to give me a stir before walking back to his chair.
I slid back a bit and bent down to examine the body and see what I actually needed to touch up. As quickly as possible, I wiped off the edges of the gash down the middle of her body and followed with the powder. I stood up in an instant and handed Jordain his supplies, kicked the axe back under the couch, and snagged the arms off the ground on my way out back.
    "Don't look like that, you know I wouldn't have done that to you." He teased. 
    "I frankly don't know with you Jordain. First you absolutely adore me and then a day goes by and I'm treated like a slave."
    "Would you still want me if I was only one of two?" He asked, not taking his eyes off the canvas. I shook my head and stormed outside.
 
 

    

 

 

 

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