“My, my, my. Now, that was impressive, Pet.”
Walter’s eyes jumped from the sight of the depleted waif still in his grip to a figure appearing from behind a tree. Her gloved hands clapped twice while the upward curl of her ruby red lips still held the same condescension they possessed previously. On instinct, Walter released his hold on the girl, stepping backward two paces when her body crumpled to the snowy ground. His brow furrowed in confusion, his arms raised and gaze lowering to behold the sight in front of him.
Charlotte was behind him in a blur, her hands touching his shoulders as she spoke. “Now, don’t start getting squeamish,” she said. “This was only your first kill.”
“My first…” Walter paused, hearing the echo of his own voice and further perplexed at how foreign and yet, how familiar it sounded. He felt something click back into his jaw, a distant part of his mind replaying the image of the first time he saw Charlotte’s fangs retract. A shiver ran the length of his spine. “What do you mean my first kill?”
“It was delightful, wasn’t it?” The wet sensation of her tongue flicking across his ear lobe forced another shudder to jolt through him. This one bore a hint of something different, a primal impulse surging from head to foot. His body tensed as she continued speaking. “So young and so fragile, wasn’t she? Oh, but I heard her pulse and knew you would like her. It beat with so much spirit. Poor frightened thing.”
A gust of wind blew past, but the cold bore no effect. Instead heat bearing an intensity unlike he had experienced tingled where Charlotte touched him; where her breath hit his skin. His clothing still bore the dirt from his burial, and yet something about the world around him made him feel reborn. As his eyes scanned the horizon, he saw the stars shimmer like diamonds. The scents of the world encroached around him again and this time, melded with the sounds of a bustling metropolis giving the night more life than he ever knew possible. His mind spun dizzy as one of Charlotte’s hands slid down his arm.
“What is this?” he finally asked.
She chuckled softly. “What is what?”
“This.” He drew a shaky breath inward. The hollow silence in his chest returned, this time far more noticeable than when he had been chasing down the girl at his feet. His gaze stole to her once more, her fate strangely disconnected from him. “I did that, didn’t I?”
“So many new things. Don’t try to figure it out all at once.” When her hand squeezed his upper arm, her nails dug in past the thinning wool, taunting him with their sharpness. The teeth which had finally retracted began to ache, need returning with its animalistic demands while leaving him to decipher its intent. A pair of lips settled on his neck, warmer than he remembered them being the last time they touched him. The tables had turned. Something about him and Charlotte had changed and he sensed this before he could summon the thought to conjure his own name.
Walter spun to face her, raising an eyebrow the moment their gaze converged. Her hands hovered in mid-air, then settled back onto his shoulders, coasting from the fabric of his coat to the crown of his head. Her fingers tangled with the dirty locks of blond and as he regarded her, their bodies pressed together in an unspoken dialogue. Their faces came within inches, lips hovering as a conversation played out in their eyes.
‘What did you do to me?’
‘I made you one of us, of course. You know it. You just haven’t let yourself admit it yet.’
He furrowed his brow. The corner of her mouth curled upward.
‘Do you think me such a monster still, Pet?’
‘I don’t know what to think.’
‘Then don’t. Follow what your instincts are telling you to do. Find yourself somewhere in between.’
The sharp teeth lowered again and hers slipped down in reciprocation. Their mouths converged in a hungry kiss, bearing a different tenor than any of the embraces she had forced from his lips before. A loud, clamoring part of his soul responded to her every movement, tasting the kiss with relish. He pressed her slim body against his out of desperation to feel bare flesh meet bare flesh, as though they had not engaged the act dozens of times already. Her leg curled around his and her mouth ripped away, the taste of ambrosia on his lips with his tongue lapping every drop their fangs had shed. She grinned in a devilishly erotic manner.
Then, Charlotte Dupris drove her teeth into Walter’s neck.
Desire became a palpable entity, screaming out its demands. As she drew from the wounds, the air grew thick and his fingers dug into her back, bunching the fabric of her dress inside his fists until he tugged it taunt enough to rip. She pulled her fangs out and licked his skin clean, but the bite had driven his thoughts into a frenzy. Nothing short of consummation would satisfy. Walter threw Charlotte violently to the ground, with such force it drove her several inches into the snow. Charlotte hissed, but the sound possessed a dare. Words flew into his mind, this time with explicit clarity.
‘Show me what I have created, my child.’
He didn’t stop to question. Walter ripped his arms from the sleeves of his coat and threw it close to the discarded body mere feet away. Lowering himself onto the ground, he lifted Charlotte enough for their mouths to converge again, letting his fangs scratch her lips with every deep, decadent kiss. The moan she produced pleased him in ways he could not begin to describe, each coaxing him on toward ferocity. When she struggled for the zipper of her dress, he reached for the button of his pants and the moment they were freed, he held her down with newfound strength and surged into her with one violent thrust.
Her back arched, the sound flying from her lips one of surprise and pleasure. He paused, fully engulfed by her, but apt to savor their initial movements. The thrill of discovery took on a sensual tenor, one he struggled to keep slow and taunting until she growled at him and tightened in such a teasing manner, he was pushed beyond all restraint. Their coupling turned frantic. Her limbs coiled around him, gripping on tightly, and as climax threatened to make its appearance, Walter drove his fangs into Charlotte. Her howls of completion sang in time with the pulsing of her core and resistance became impossible. The sweetest crescendo Walter had ever experienced washed over him like a flood.
Shakily, he withdrew and collapsed on the ground beside her. The heavens stared down, as though informing Walter they had watched the entire episode and were weighing in with their decision. He frowned in thought, even when Charlotte nuzzled close and laid her head atop his shoulder. Something about the gesture felt soothing. He was not about to admit that just yet, though.
“You threatened to turn me and I ran. I guess this means you caught me,” he said, an arm curling around her subconsciously. Idle notions danced around him, such as the fact that he was mostly naked. And a dead girl still lay mere feet away. And they were in a cemetery where anybody could wander past at any moment. His bones told him the hour was later than he might have suspected, but he knew just as certainly there was plenty of time before sunrise. His brow furrowed as blurred memories surfaced. “So this is what it’s like to be you?”
A laugh lilted past her lips. “You won’t know what it’s like to be me for a few centuries. At the same time, I’m many years from remembering what it’s like to be you.” The sigh she produced betrayed the delight in her voice. “Many vampires turn children to have allies and from simple compulsions. I do it to relive what it’s like to see this world with wonder.”
“I have a hard time believing you don’t see this world with wonder.”
“After five hundred years?” Her next expression of mirth sounded slightly bitter. “You forget how the world has been anything but wonderful. That’s when it starts to become boring.” For as depressing as the words sounded – and how much they sent Walter to a spiral of trepidation and pity – Charlotte rolled to her side before they could work their black magic against her. The smile had returned in all is mischievous glory, her fingertips playing out a tune across Walter’s chest as they tapped their way to his neck. “We need to wash this filth from you and dress you up proper. You’re my companion now, not some dirty factory worker.”
“I beg your par –” He began, but no sooner had he opened his mouth than the redheaded vixen sprung to her feet, securing the garments he had stripped and torn enough to cover herself. She bent, arching a brow at Walter as she plucked his pants from the snow and tossed them at him. The wicked playfulness had returned for good. While he dressed, and even after he stood and began walking with her toward the cemetery’s exit, he could not help but wonder about the violent mood swing which had afflicted Charlotte. His new maker, however, acted as though nothing had happened.
Instead, she sauntered past the human populace, ignoring their perplexed looks at the state of her garments and the earth still clinging to the snow-dampened clothing Walter wore. Each pulse and scent distracted him, and had it not been for the arm hooked around his torso, he might have been persuaded toward another victim in a much more conspicuous venue. Charlotte pulled him along, though, bearing a form of persuasion which transcended mere coaxing. When she commanded his cooperation, Walter could not help but to grant it to her.
She brought him to their opulent flat and ordered a bath drawn for him. The landlady complained at the hour, but was quieted merely by one look from the vampiress. With an hour, Walter found himself immersed in water, Charlotte sitting behind him and washing off the remnant of his burial. Words poured past her lips, being unfamiliar nomenclature.
Bonds. Feeding. Familiars and discretion.
Walter attended to the lesson and lay in bed with Charlotte afterward, this time of his own accord.
Her lips brushed feather kisses against his skin and presence lulled him into a dreamless sleep. Hunger overwhelmed him when he woke and it took a string of commands from Charlotte’s lips to steer Walter past the landlady’s family and to a narrow side street where a homeless man became his next meal. Desire inevitably clamored to the forefront and after each feeding, Walter would pin Charlotte to a wall or strip her in a cellar and let out his sexual frustrations on his willing maker. In three weeks’ time, he gained enough control of his senses to join Charlotte for a night out on the prowl.
His decadent words became music to his victims’ ears, playing the piper’s tune of seduction. Women first fell to his feet, then men and before Walter knew it, the trail of death would lead to their bed and the dark dance commenced another song. They left Chicago when their exploits raised the locals’ suspicions. They settled in Baltimore as the rumblings of war brought the word ‘secession’ into the public consciousness. Charlotte made the decision, when the calendar turned from 1858 to 1859 that they should leave America and board a boat for Europe.
It took alighting from the train in New York for another memory to strike through Walter’s thoughts.
He frowned when his eyes beheld the city which had been his mortal refuge. His frantic dash from Charlotte’s flat in Chicago to his rented room bore to mind the satchel he had filled with clothes and art supplies, desperately hoping he would make it to the train station before the Grim Reaper had its way with him. In the meantime, he had gone from the prey to the hunter, from the pursued to the pursuer and not once had he inquired about the satchel or its contents. When they drifted past a street vendor selling handmade sketches, Walter felt an ancient pang in his heart. Where was the passion he once held so dear?
“I’ll be back,” Charlotte said after they paid the porter to transport their luggage to the shipyard and secured a hotel room for the night. She left the room with a wink, shutting the door behind her and leaving Walter behind with the promise she’d return with dinner. A few hungry weeks loomed ahead of them and one last night of decadence would mark a veritable famine until they arrived at England. Still, his mind was more consumed by the thought of creation than their need to be well-fed for their trip.
He broke his focus from the shut door and turned to regard the purse where Charlotte kept their spending money. Risking the ire of his maker, he produced a few small bills and some coins and stole away into the bustling metropolis in search of supplies. By the time he returned, a new leather satchel hung from his shoulder, filled with two leather-bound books and several pieces of charcoal, pencils, and an assortment of pastels. He set it beside the bed in their room and wasted no time filling one of the pages with a sketch of the view from their window.
“What in the world are you doing, Walter?”
He glanced up from the book to see Charlotte standing in the entryway, two humans with blank stares standing directly behind her. With a snap of her fingers and a quick glance, she instructed them to sit. The two thralls settled onto the floor without any hesitation while the door swung shut behind them. Walter arched a brow at them. One man and woman, clad in formal eveningwear, stared up at him unblinkingly. “A little more high end than I’m used to us indulging, Mistress,” he said.
“Oh, we’re leaving this miserable continent tomorrow. Let’s give the mortal authorities something to occupy their time.” She crossed the room at a sedate, human speed and stopped beside the plush couch where Walter sat. He felt her eyes trace across the sketch from behind. “You drew this?”
“Yes, I did.” He pivoted in his seat, his gaze drifting up to find hers.
At first the expression on her face remained neutral. When several seconds of regarding the drawing failed to sate her wandering eyes, though, Walter passed the book to her and continued studying her expectantly. She accepted the leather-bound volume. The corner of her mouth curled upward, and while it bore a compliment, he hardly expected the tone of wonder to be present in her voice. “This is remarkable work.” Her eyes shifted back to him. “I didn’t know you were an artist.”
He shrugged. “I hadn’t the chance to indulge it since my turning. We’ve been busy with other things.”
Her nose wrinkled. “Been busy with feeding and fucking, but nothing this extravagant.” The longer she stared at him, the more her face lit up until Charlotte’s smile turned devious. She passed the book back to Walter. “Choose which of the two you’d like to feed on. I’m rewarding you tonight.”
Walter laughed, an eyebrow arched again. “Rewarding me for what?”
Charlotte hummed, hands settling on his shoulders as she leaned in to kiss his cheek. “For giving us our way into society when I return to Europe.” Her cool breath hit his skin, causing the same prickle it had the night he woke as a vampire. It would be the first time the term of endearment passed through her lips, spoken in her native tongue.“You and I are going to light up the night,” she said, “Mon artiste coquin.”