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Reconciliation

 
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Anabelle Stafford
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:50 am    Post subject: Reconciliation Reply with quote

Nightlife could be considered to be the same the world over. When the sun went down, cities came to life, no matter where you were. She'd been far enough to know that for a fact, but always came back to Europe. Even knowing the dangers in returning, still she came back, to tread the paths she'd taught herself over the years, telling herself that such actions would throw him off, make him second-guess his own instincts. Perhaps a part of her wanted him to find her. Whatever her reason, she was back in Europe, in Denmark, in Copenhagen, exploring the changes to the city since the last time she had visited.

The cold barely touched her as she walked the streets she knew, keeping her distance from those who passed by, avoiding their eye contact when she could not step away. The city was an old friend, and like many other old friends, it could be welcoming or hostile to one such as she. She turned a corner ... and there it was.

An old bookshop, almost forgotten by the city it inhabited, owned by one such of those old friends, and kept open well into the deep recesses of the night. She slipped between the stacks, breathing in the scent of time, of paper and leather, the mustiness that clung to these aging tomes, drawing a gloved finger along the spines presented to her. Hunted or not, she could lose an hour or so in here, surely.

She could run, she could hide, but eventually he'd always catch up with her, and she'd be forced to move on, to try and stay one step ahead of him. What he wanted, she couldn't have any way of knowing, not until and unless he caught her. He'd been tracking her for years, catching scent of her every now and then and following her trail, but he was always one step behind. He wasn't the only one on her trail - there was another, someone far more dangerous than him, someone who would stop at nothing to destroy her, simply because she was his.

Once upon a time, he had made her. He had given her the gift of immortality, and she had spurned him because of it, or so he assumed. And now, nearly two hundred years later, they were still playing this game of cat and mouse - her out of fear, him for another reason entirely. It couldn't last forever. Sooner or later, he was going to catch up with her, and it looked like it was going to be sooner, rather than later. He was close on her heels tonight, amazed she hadn't yet given him the slip. Perhaps she was getting sloppy; perhaps she hadn't fed yet. Or perhaps - and this was the more likely explanation - she knew he was following and was leading him somewhere on purpose.

Whether she was leading him somewhere or not, it seemed this was where she had chosen to stop tonight, weary of running. The signs were clear; that this shop belonged to one of them, that violence would not be tolerated. Perhaps that was why she had chosen it, afraid of what he would do to her if he caught up in a place where she could not call on help of a useful kind. Still, she wandered to the back of the shop, sifting through the names of people she had known, a half smile resting on her lips. Some of these, she had written herself. Had he ever guessed that?

Of course he had. He knew her better than anyone, almost better than she knew herself. Her biggest mistake had always been thinking she could fool him or that he didn't know her very well. She'd amused herself with the writing, and he had left her alone, letting her explore that side of her own self without his interference, watching from a distance, but now... Things were getting too dangerous for him to remain in the shadows any longer. It was time for her to come home. The soft tinkle of a bell signaled his entrance into the little shop. How quaint, he thought, knowing instinctively that this place belonged to one of their own kind. Who else would be interested in books this old?

That little bell drew the joy from her face. There was only one person it could be who had caused that soft little jangle, only one person who could have entered so quickly after her. She tensed, her head rising from contemplation as she turned slowly, watching the far end of the aisle in which she stood. Would he approach from there, or would he take her from behind? She never could tell how he would make his move.

He wasn't stalking her, not the way she might think. He was far older than her and faster. If he wanted to kill her, he would have done it by now. No, it wasn't that. He wasn't trying to kill her. He wanted something else. He didn't have to see her to know she was there; he could sense her presence as easily as if he could see her or hear her or smell her. She was there all right, closer than she'd ever been in two hundred years. He was silent in his approach, no step heard unless he wanted to make himself heard. He could have been there in an instant; he could have killed her as quickly, if that was what he wanted, no matter what the rules were about the neutrality of this place.

She listened, as still as death, to the barely there sound of his approach, her body tense for flight. She knew she couldn't fight him - she'd learned only enough to keep herself from harm these past centuries, not anywhere near enough to be able to defend against one of their own. And if she were truly honest, she did not want to fight him. She had missed his company over the decades, his wisdom, everything about him, hating herself for the mistake she had made in leaving death behind herself. She didn't think he would ever forgive her for that mistake.

He stopped in his tracks, confused. She wasn't running. Why wasn't she running? He'd expected her to run, to try and escape. It was what she always did whenever he got close, and he was closer now than he'd ever been in many years. Had she changed her mind about him, or was she laying a trap of some sort? No, not here. Not in this place. Perhaps she only wanted to talk in a place where she knew he could do nothing but listen. He paused for a brief moment and then he was moving again, closer and closer, past rows and rows of books that no longer interested him. He'd read them all a dozen times before.

Still she didn't move, though she had not cornered herself by any means. She could imagine the confusion in his mind at her lack of panic. But it made no sense to run any more. She didn't want to run. He could chase her down in a heartbeat when he was this close, anyway, far superior to her in every way. "I'm not running," she said quietly, aware that he could hear a pin drop in a silence like this. "If you plan on executing me, we should take it outside."

"You wound me, Anabelle," came the sound of his voice, warm and deep and clear, very English, very proper - just the way she remembered it. "Why should I wish to kill you, after all the trouble I've gone through to keep you alive?" That voice was closer now, and yet, she still couldn't see him.
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Anabelle Stafford
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

She couldn't guess from which direction he was coming, the acoustics of the shop and its muffling bounty of the written word confusing her sense of hearing. He sounded so close, and yet she couldn't see him, frozen in place. "Because I killed her," she said simply, her own voice a softer, sweeter echo of his - just as proper, just as English, tense with fear. "And she was before me."

"And you think I would choose her over you? That I loved her more and loved you less? That she meant more to me than you did? You know so much, but you understand little," the voice continued, drawing ever closer until he was standing right before her. He looked different than she remembered and yet, the same. Tall with a slight build; tufts of auburn curls covered his head where it had once touched his shoulders; blue eyes that tended toward green in certain lighting. His complexion was pale, though he'd recently fed, just as it had been when he'd lived. He was dressed in modern clothing - a black leather jacket over a white shirt tucked into blue jeans; black boots on his feet. There was something tucked beneath his shirt, the hint of a leather cord just visible around his neck.

She turned slowly as his voice drew nearer, an unnecessary breath catching in her throat as he stepped into her sight. Like him, she was changed from their last meeting. Where he recalled an elegant girl, garbed in gowns that hid her figure, there now stood before him a woman who favored clothing that hugged - modern clothing, like his. Light jeans, a black shirt that crossed over in front, light leather jacket of her own, brown boots on her feet; her blonde hair, once always dressed high off her neck, now hanging in wheat waves about her face and shoulders. Dressed for comfort, for ease of motion, nonetheless there was a hint of that former elegance glittering on her right wrist, hidden between jacket and glove.

Pale blue eyes watched him warily as he spoke, taking in every detail of his appearance in an instant, and closing briefly, hiding the soft longing that came with seeing him once again. Her own skin was pale - too pale tonight. "She was yours," she whispered, ashamed of herself for the only death she had ever directly caused. "No matter what she said to me, I should not have killed her. I should simply have left."

"Mine?" he echoed, snorting sarcastically, no humor in it, full of derision. "Rosalind was never mine," he said, taking a silent step further, moving with such quiet grace it was hard to tell if he was walking or floating on air. "I regretted my decision to turn her more often than not. Blood is thicker than water, Julian, she always used to tell me. But she was wrong. She never understood how much you meant to me, and even if she did, she wouldn't have cared. She wanted me all to herself. Even when we were children, she wouldn't leave me alone. It was unhealthy, unnatural. I should never have turned her, but she begged and pleaded, and when I wouldn't give in, she threatened suicide." He breathed a ineffectual sigh, mostly out of habit. "I should have told you all this before, but..." He shrugged lightly, a barely imperceptible movement. He would have told her all of it before she'd fled in the night, but it had already been too late.

She listened, silent, to every word he spoke, not even giving ground when he stepped toward her. She hadn't known that Rosalind was his true sister, guilt spiking deeper through her for ending his true blood sibling in so messy a fashion. It made her crime against him so much worse. "You knew my mother," she said softly, choosing not to dwell on apologies he likely didn't want or care to hear. "I didn't know that. Rosalind ... she said things I could not bear to hear. But I didn't ... I didn't know she was still in the house. It was not my intention to burn it, and her inside it. I knocked a candle when I ran away from her. Surely she could have got out?"

"Yes, I knew your mother. I was there when your father... You don't remember?" he asked, looking surprised for perhaps the first time in many years. Very little surprised him anymore, except where she was concerned. He came to a halt a few feet away, just out of reach, but close enough that she could see his face in the dim light, the grief and confusion on his face, and something else that wasn't so obvious.

She shook her head, blonde hair swaying about her face as she looked up at him, reminded for the first time in two hundred years of how tall he was, to tower over her without being achingly close. "She said you loved my mother," she went on softly. "That the only reason you took me in was because of her. That the only reason you turned me was to keep a piece of my mother close to you. She told me I was nothing but a memento mori. I was confused and hurt, and I believed her. I would have left that night anyway, even without Rosalind having one of her ... turns."

"Rosalind poisoned you with her lies," he said, eyes narrowing in old anger but only for a moment. The grief and loneliness had long ago outweighed the anger. There was a deep ache inside him, a wound that had been bleeding for two hundred years - ever since she'd fled from him in the night without a word. "You should have trusted me, Anabelle. You should have told me what Rosalind had said. Instead, you chose to leave without a word of explanation, without even so much as a goodbye."

She stood her ground, her own grief high in her eyes as he reprimanded her, like the child she had always been to him. "Have you forgotten what else happened that day?" she asked, her delicate voice hard with the painful memory it brought to her. "Perhaps I would have waited, talked to you, if you had not dismissed my words to you and left the house. I obeyed as far as I could, but no one could endure that pain with your sister choosing to tear at an already open wound."

"Have you forgotten what you accused me of?" he countered, eyes narrowing at her, though there was little anger left in him, only hurt. "Sires have destroyed their fledglings for less, Anabelle, but I could never do that to you, and so, I let you go. Have you considered who it was that drove that wedge between us? It was Rosalind, always Rosalind. She hated you from the first moment I brought you into the house. Do you know why? Because she knew my heart did not belong to her. Not completely."

"And what was I supposed to think?" Anabelle demanded of him, her voice low but no less hurt than his. "You refused me permission to leave the house unless I was with you, yet you left so often, and when you came back, you would not look at me. Rosalind was permitted to come and go as she pleased, but I had to stay. What else was I to think? I was little more than a child, I didn't understand that what I felt for you was -" She stopped herself before she went on with that thought. "I thought you had a lover you were ashamed to bring back to the house, and I thought I was the reason for that shame. Your refusal to answer my questions ... it did more damage than I had thought it might."

"A lover?" he echoed, laughing, but again there was no mirth in it. "I was protecting you, Anabelle! Protecting you against things you could little understand, even now. I have been protecting you all these years, following you from place to place, making sure my enemies do not become your undoing. Why do you think I turned you? You think I did it because of your mother? You could not be more wrong."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I don't know," she answered him, her jaw clenched with the effort not to shout at him for laughing at her, as she thought he was. "If you did not turn me for her sake, then why? I was so clearly a burden to you, and yet you've spent two centuries protecting me, you say. You should have let me go. It would have been better to die than to live this way, knowing that you will never feel for me what I feel for you." She shook her head, abruptly turning her back to him, shocked at herself for revealing that. She had promised herself she would never tell him, and yet here she was, in his presence for the first time in two hundred years, and the words had come without being summoned.

"How do you know what I feel?" he hissed back, a whisper of words that dripped with pain and loneliness. "Is that what you wish? You wish me to let you go? Tell me to my face, if that is what you want, and I will leave and never bother you again," he told her, doing his best to keep the pain from his voice, the sadness and loneliness and longing. How could she not understand that he had turned her because he could not bear to let her go? And now she was asking him to do just that.

"Don't you understand that is why I left?" she countered, whirling back around with preternatural speed to grip his jacket tightly, scowling up at him. "I could not bear to think that you loved another, that you would hate me for what I had done to Rosalind, that you might only ever see my mother in me and not myself. I left you because my heart could not take the pain of seeing you leave me a little more every day to visit some lover you never denied having." She sighed expressively, dropping her hand from his jacket as she looked away once again, making no attempt now to hide the pain on her face. "I left ... because I thought you would be happier without me."

He looked stunned by her confession, even as she turned away from him, his face paling, though he'd recently fed. "How could I ever be happier without you? You might as well have ripped my heart out when you left. It nearly destroyed me." And not just emotionally. The fire had destroyed his home, his sanctuary, and everything and everyone in it. Probably not unlike her, he'd had to scramble for a safe place to stay, even while his heart was breaking.

"Do you know what my first thought was when I saw the fire?" he asked her quietly, not daring to touch her or turn her to face him. "My first thought was for you. I was beside myself with worry, terrified that you were still inside. I tried to fight the flames, to reach you, but I could not. I wanted to join you in death, until I realized it was not you who had burned, but my sister. You didn't just kill my sister and destroy my home, you took the one thing from me that I loved more than any other, and that one thing was you." As hard as he tried to maintain his composure, his voice cracked at the mention of love.

And yet that mention of love shocked her enough that she met his gaze, pale blue eyes to blue, anguish reflected in every nuance of her expression for the hurt she had caused him. "How could I have known?" she asked him, her voice little more than a tremulous whisper, her own confidence gone with the sudden cessation of her own anger and hurt. "You never told me, and how could I have told you? You were ... you are everything to me, Julian. I thought I was giving you back the life you wanted, the one that existed before you ever knew me. I never meant to destroy anything."

"My life before I knew you was bleak and meaningless. I had talked about ending it, and then I met you. You and your mother. Ah, your mother was a beauty, but I did not love her, not the way that Rosalind made you believe. It was you I was trying to save. It was about you, Anabelle. Always about you. But how could I tell you when what you needed was a father? That is what I've always been to you, isn't it?" He searched her eyes, looking for an answer, his own anguish reflected in his gaze, unable or unwilling to hide it from her any longer.

She shook her head once again, her hands flexing at her sides, still constrained by the society that he had raised her from childhood within, a society that did not allow women to express themselves without mockery. "You were never a father to me," she told him. "You were a hero, someone to be worshiped and obeyed. As I got older, you were a teacher I hated to disappoint, and when I reached womanhood, I knew I was in love with you. I was so sure that you couldn't love me back, that you should have let me die when you had the chance. Why did you never tell me?"

"Let you die? How could you ever think such a thing? Do you remember when you were sick? The doctors told me you were dying and that there was nothing they could do. I chased them all away. I told them I'd take care of you myself. The fools. I asked you what you wanted, but you were too weak to answer. You only took my hand and smiled, and I cried. God, how I cried to see you like that." There were tears gathering in his eyes even as he said it. "I knew I should have let you go. I should not have condemned to this unnatural existence, but I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear to be without you, and so I selfishly made you like me, even though I knew you'd only hate me for it."

"I have never hated you, you ridiculous man," she told him sternly, proof that a dozen or so decades away from him had at least stiffened her backbone. "Aren't you listening to me? I love you. I ran away because I loved you and I thought you would never love me in return. I don't love you as a father, or a teacher. I love you as a woman loves a man, and even two centuries hasn't dimmed that. I was ready to let you kill me tonight, rather than live another day without you."

"I could never kill you, Ana. I love you too much to ever hurt you," he told her quietly. Who would have thought that a girl he had saved from certain death would have grown into such a lovely young woman, one capable of loving someone like him? "I thought I loved you as a daughter once, but then you grew up, and I realized it was not that kind of love at all."

She gazed into his eyes, the eyes of her sire, the man who had made her everything she was and who hadn't realized that she loved him until this moment, stepping just a fraction closer as they spoke. "Why did you let me keep running?" she asked in a low whisper, still making no move to touch him even with her gloved hands, so close and yet seemingly still held back by some archaic rule of the time in which she had been born. "You could have caught me at any time, we both know that. Why did you let me think that you were hunting me?"

The rules had changed in two hundred years. What was it he'd been taught? You must change with the times or be a victim to them. He had done his best, but old habits were hard to break, especially for one who had lived as long as he had. He paused before answering her question, as if he thought she should have been able to answer it herself by now. "I wanted you to come to me of your own accord, but I see that was foolish," he said with a small frown. When was the last time he'd laughed or even smiled? When was the last time he'd had anything to smile about? He couldn't recall. He would have touched her, but thought better of it, despite her declaration of love. "Every fledgling comes to hate their sire eventually. It is only a matter of time."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Disappointed hurt flared in her eyes as she looked up at him, a frown of her own furrowing between her brows. "You still don't listen to a word I say, do you?" she said softly. "I did not say hate. But you only hear from me what you want to hear, or what you think I should be saying, even now. Freja said you were stubborn. I didn't believe her, but perhaps I should have."

"Freja?" he echoed, arching a brow, obviously surprised by that tidbit of information, despite all his years of wisdom and experience. "I should have known it would be Freja who would take you in and protect you." He quieted thoughtfully again, as if considering something. Words were just words. Meaningless. Anyone could say them. "What did she tell you about me?" he asked, curious.

"Not much," Anabelle told him, disappointed once again that of everything she said, he chose to believe the opposite, or linger on details that could be shared another time. "She told me I was an idiot for running away an awful lot. But she also got me onto a boat to Africa when I decided it was time I moved on, when she could so easily have just handed me over to you."

It wasn't that he chose to believe the opposite. He believed her when she said she loved him, but he also knew love could so easily turn to hate. "No, Freja would never do that. She knew how much you meant to me, and she knew other things." If he'd ever had a best friend, it had been Freja. They'd been lovers once, a long time ago, but that had ended quickly, finding they made far better friends. She had been more of a sister to him than Rosalind could have ever been. He was still frowning as he studied her quietly, blue eyes filled with infinite sadness. "Do you trust me, Ana?" he asked, tentatively. After two hundred years apart, it was something he needed to ask.

Pale blue eyes that were a little too stark in her pale face gazed up at him as she finally dared to cross the unspoken line, brushing the back of her gloved hand against his. "Always." The answer was there - no matter the fear of him, no matter how many mistakes she had made or heated words they shared, she would always trust him. He had saved her life, twice, without ever being asked. Why wouldn't she trust him, despite the years of running?

He wore no gloves; he'd always hated wearing gloves, unless he was out in public, and there was a chance he might touch someone and be discovered. And yet, gloved or not, that simple touch from her seemed to speak volumes. Why had it taken them two hundred years to reach this point? He held out a hand to her, offering his in return. "Come," he told her. "We have much to discuss." And he didn't to do it here.

Away from the carefully unspoken neutral territory, where anything could and often did happen. But it would be with him, for the first time in far too long. She didn't need to think about it, laying her hand in his. "I'll follow."

Once her hand was securely in his and she had given him her trust, he wasted no time taking her away from the bookstore. He didn't have to ask if she'd already fed. He knew simply by looking at her. With nothing else to do until morning, they could spend the night rekindling their relationship away from the eyes of onlookers, vampire or otherwise. It wasn't long before he was leading the way inside an old house - so old it seemed no one lived there anymore. No one would bother them there, and there was a dark cellar to hide in should they be caught there at daylight.

She hesitated on the threshold - it wasn't his property, that much was clear, but there was still that moment of hesitation, that quiet need to be invited before she could comfortably step inside. The house seemed abandoned, yet there was furniture about the place. Not that they needed much in the way of furnishings, though a little comfort was always welcome. Anabelle lingered in the gloom of the old house, raising her gloved hands between them. "May I?"

"Of course. I'd offer you a cup of tea, but I'm afraid I'm all out," he said, with just a hint of humor that might bode well for him. Perhaps two hundred years of unrest and loneliness hadn't completely negated his sense of humor. "Sit, if you wish," he said, gesturing to a worn-out chair that looked like it might have been chewed on by rats at some point, but what did he care? Rats couldn't harm either of them and might even prove a tasty snack.

She laughed; a short, soft expression of real amusement that lit up her face, wiping away the wary guardedness she had learned over the years. "Just the thought of tea turns my stomach," she assured him, moving further into the room as she delicately slipped the gloves from her hands, tucking them into her pocket.

He found himself turning his back on her for some reason and gazing out the window into the night where the stars glittered back in the timeless sky and the man and in the moon laughed down at them from above. "I suppose I should start at the beginning," he ventured.

"As far back as that?" She eased herself down onto the worn chair, folding her hand demurely in her lap. Old habits did, indeed, die hard. Her straight back was all the evidence anyone truly needed to know that she had been raised in a society that valued posture, manners, good temper in a woman, above all else.

"If you wish to truly know how I feel about you, then yes..." he said as he turned to face her. "I have never told this story to anyone, not even to Freja." That seemed truthful enough. If there was one thing he was not, it was a liar. Though he might evade or avoid answering a question, he was not one to lie about anything. The truth was important to him; how could one build trust on anything but the truth?

She looked up at him, his wayward fledgling returned to her sire at last, though the bond between them had been lessened by her absence. "I am listening, sir," she assured him. One thing had not changed, it seemed; she still knew when to keep silent.

He wondered if she had any inkling how much it was going to cost him to tell the tale - a tale he'd never told anyone. Not even Rosalind had guessed at the truth. Even if she had, she would have twisted the truth with her jealous, poisoned heart. "I will not go into the story of my life before I became what I am, except to say that it was ordinary enough. There was always a touch of madness about Rosalind. I was a fool to turn her, but I made a promise to our mother to always care for her and keep her safe, and I never break a promise."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Until I broke it for you." She nodded slowly, still wearing her guilt for the death she had caused, a guilt that had only deepened on learning the truth of his close bond with the sister who had tormented her so. "Julian, you do not have to tell me. I trust you."

"No, there are things you don't know, Anabelle. Things I should have told you long ago. I planned on telling you, but..." He shrugged lightly, leaving the rest of that statement unspoken. He didn't need to explain that if she'd stayed, she might have known all this already, but she had left, fearing for her life when there were far more dangerous things to fear than him. In all their years together, he had never so much as raised a hand to her, even once, and still she feared him. He blamed Rosalind, not her.

Rosalind, the sister who had been partially responsible for Anabelle's raising from childhood. The thorn who had taken every opportunity to hurt the child he had brought into their home, with words and in other ways, though Anabelle had always been careful that he didn't know it. "I was too young in the world to have understood," she offered softly, giving him a way out of that complex issue of whether or not he should have told her the truth when she was younger, whether or not she should have stayed.

"I doubt that. You were always able to grasp so much more than you gave yourself credit for. You were a unique child, Anabelle. So full of compassion and the desire to please, the longing to be loved. I tried to give you that. I'm sorry if I failed." He had distracted himself from the story with this emotional rhetoric, but there were things that needed to be said, especially after all the long years apart. "You have always reminded me of someone - someone who was very dear to me - but I came to love you for yourself, and these last years, I've realized I love you more than I ever loved her."

Jealousy flashed in her eyes at his mention of another, a very faint flicker toward a snarl on her lips before she remembered herself. What more proof did he need of her heart than that? Yet she kept herself still and silent, offering him nothing more than a willing mind for which to tell his story.

He was sharp enough to catch the jealous flash of her eyes and the faint snarl on her lips, but it didn't matter. Why were women always so jealous where he was concerned? He could never understand it, all except for Freja. She seemed the exception to the rule, in more ways than one. "You needn't worry. She was dead long before you were born."

If she had been able to, she would have blushed at having her jealousy commented on, looking away uncomfortably. Until he chose to claim her as more than his fledgling, she had no right to feel such a way about anyone he chose to give himself to, be they long dead or very much alive.

Of course, he wanted her for more than just a fledgling. She was only one of two fledglings he had ever created, the other being his sister. She would have learned this if Rosalind hadn't poisoned her with her lies. This was his chance to finally set things straight and to win back her heart and her trust, though it seemed he'd never really lost it. "Her name was Abigail, and she was my wife," he started.

It was a long story, but he didn't want or need to get into the details of it anymore than he had to to make her understand. "She was very young when we married. I was struggling to earn a living as an artist. You can imagine it was not easy. I often thought I should give it up and join my father in business, but Abigail wouldn't hear of it. She'd take in laundry, work as a maid, anything to help us earn a living. Perhaps it was selfish of me. I don't know, but she insisted. She believed in me, you see. She saw greatness where most only saw mediocrity.

"One day, I so happened to acquire a commission. A very important commission. I did not know who had hired me or how they had heard of my work, nor was it important. I only knew that I was going to be paid a large sum of money to create a portrait of a very important lady. It was enough money that Abigail no longer needed to work, and we were able to repay my father the money he'd loaned us to get started. I didn't consider then why I was being paid such a large sum of money. I was only happy for the employment, and it couldn't have come at a better time, as I soon learned that Abigail was with child. Fate, it seemed, had looked kindly on us at last."

Anabelle listened in silence, her jealousy of the wife he had known lost in the nuance of his tale as he told it to her. If she had known this, would she have run that night? She couldn't know for certain. But happy though the tale seemed now, she knew it could only end in tragedy.

"I met with this lady who called herself Serena, though there was nothing serene about her. She was beautiful, to be sure. She had long dark hair as fine as silk and eyes as green as emeralds. Pale skin, as smooth and white as alabaster. She was unnaturally beautiful, but she was not my Abigail. My Abigail was golden-haired and blue-eyed and bright as sunshine. This other was like the moon shining in a darkened sky. I was struck by her beauty, but only as one might admire a diamond or a work of art. As lovely as she was, she seemed cold, distant, remote. I took the commission, of course. How could I not? She was paying me an obscene amount of money just to paint her portrait. There was only one thing she asked of me and that was only to come at night. She rested during the day, she said. I remember her laughing at that, as if it amused her to say it. Of course, you must know she was one of us, but I did not know such things existed then."

Serena was a name Anabelle had heard before, spoken in spiteful tones by Rosalind and often earning the older woman sharp words from Julian. She had never equated that name with her sire's sire, nor ever truly considered who might have turned him, a part of her convinced he had always existed, and would always exist.

"Do you remember Byron? She walks in beauty like the night. That was Serena. I painted her by night, sleeping during the day. Abigail tried to match my nocturnal schedule, but it was useless. The pregnancy was not easy for her, and I could not be there as I wanted to be, too busy painting that vain beauty who commandeered my time. She would sit there silent and still as marble while I painted her, never saying a word, only watching, always watching. It took a long time to paint her - months, nearly a year.

"One day I arrived too early. It was twilight, not quite dark yet. I had been hoping that if I arrived early, perhaps I could leave before dawn. Abigail was growing large with child, and it had not been an easy pregnancy. I was terrified I would miss the birth, busy as I was with my painting. I explained to Abi that it was only temporary, that once I finished this portrait, it would lead to better things. She was infinitely patient with me, infinitely trusting and understanding, like you, but I knew she missed me, and I missed her.

"I couldn't wait to finish that bloody portrait. It seemed to be sapping the life out of me with each brushstroke. Anyway, I arrived early one day, and when Serena finally allowed me inside, she was livid. I have never seen anyone as angry in all my life. Not even Rosalind has ever shown me such anger. She threatened not only to destroy the painting but my entire reputation. I thought it rather ridiculous. After all, I had only just arrived a little too soon. I could not understand what all the fuss was about."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, but Anabelle could, not needing the reason for such a temper tantrum explained to her. The secret of their existence was the one thing all of their kind agreed upon, the one thing none of them dared to flaunt openly. Beneath the anger would have been the fear of discovery, but clearly there was something more. She was beginning to realize that this Serena had coveted her sire more than he could possibly have imagined.

"'Silly man,' she told me. 'I sit here with you night after night and still you do not see.' I didn't understand what she meant by that, of course, but I apologized profusely, and she said she would accept my apology on one condition. That condition was a kiss, but not any kiss. A special kiss. Again, as you can imagine, I had no idea what she meant by such a thing, but I was nearly finished with the portrait, and I only wanted to finish so that I could be paid in full and be done with her at last, so I agreed. One kiss in exchange for her forgiveness. How was I to know that bloody kiss would take away the only thing that was more precious to me than my Abigail?"

"One kiss and one kiss only, I told her, and she agreed. I don't know why I did it. I should have left. I should have destroyed that bloody painting and left. We were happier before Serena had come into our lives. We were happier poor. But I didn't. I couldn't see the danger in it, and so I kissed her. One kiss and one kiss only. That was all she needed, it seemed. She latched onto me like a hungry tiger, too long trapped inside its cage, but she did not kill me. She nearly drained me of blood and left me lying there, helpless, unable to stop her, unable to resist her, unable to do anything but watch her while I died. She told me she loved me.

"Good lord, what a lie! If she truly loved me, she would have let me be, but not Serena, no. She always had to have what she wanted, and she always wanted what she couldn't have. I was horror-stricken, terrified, but it wasn't death that I feared so much as what she'd do to Abigail once I was gone. She wanted a child, she said. One to raise as her own, and not just any child but my child. She wanted to raise it with me. She wanted me to love her as I loved Abigail, but it was impossible, unthinkable. And yet, there was nothing I could do to stop her."

"No ..." The word was a mere breath in the stillness, but still it portrayed all the horror Anabelle felt at the sheer cruelty in her own sire's turning. Not just to take his life and freedom, but to steal away the child in his wife's womb? She could not imagine how he must have felt when he knew what Serena had planned.

Julian turned away from her then to face the window once again, his back safely to her so that she couldn't see the grief and horror that haunted him still, even after four hundred years. The tale tore his heart to pieces, which was why he had never told it to anyone else in its entirety before. It was almost as if he was back there again, reliving it all over again, seeing it play out before his eyes. "I begged her, I pleaded with her. I swore I would do anything she asked of me, only to leave Abigail be, and to my surprise she agreed, but only on one condition, once again. She said she would spare Abigail's life and make me immortal, but I had to promise never to see Abigail again, ever. Nor our child. I agreed, reluctantly, but what choice did I have? I only wanted to die. I wished she'd let me die. Sometimes I wish it still, but I told myself I was agreeing to her terms in order to protect the only woman who had ever meant anything to me. And so, she turned me."

Anabelle couldn't bear to hear much more, heartbroken with him for the horror of his turning, certain there was more to be told. Wondering where Serena had gone to. The way he spoke of her, she still lived, somewhere in the world. Had she grown weary of him? Rising to her feet, Anabelle hesitated, reaching out to lay her cool hand against the back of his neck, needing to share a little comfort, if he could accept it. "What happened to Abigail?"

"Abigail," he echoed the name of a woman he had not spoken in years, whispered like that of a lover, but she was long since dead. Dead and buried before Anabelle had ever been born. "She's dead, of course," he replied, feeling that cool hand on his neck, but not yet ready to face her. "I would like to say that those first days as a vampire were wondrous, but they were not. I was beholden to Serena for everything. There was nothing I could do without her help, without her guidance. I quickly learned that I wasn't so much her protege, or even her lover, as I was her prisoner. She wanted to take me away from that place, far away where no one knew me, where no one might suspect what I'd become, and once again, I agreed, but I needed to see Abigail one last time. So, one night, while Serena was feeding, I escaped from the house and I went home.

"I found Abigail was alive and well and that I'd had a son in my absence. I was careful she did not see me or know that I was there. There was a sadness in her, a deep sadness, and I knew I was the cause of it. It tore me apart to see her that way. It wasn't fair. We should have been together. I couldn't bear it. I promised myself I was going to tell Serena that night that it was over, that I was going back to Abigail, but it was already too late. You can probably guess the ending. Serena learned of my treachery and killed my wife and my son. She told me she'd kill everyone I had ever known and loved if I ever tried to escape her again, and she's still making good on that threat."

The grief Anabelle felt for him was almost nothing to the spike of fear that flashed through her at his last words. Serena was still living, still searching. But not looking for him; looking for her. "How did you get away from her?" she asked, her cool fingers soft against his neck, choosing not to dwell on the pain of the past or the threat to the future.

"Fire," he replied quietly, wondering if she'd see the irony in it. "You've heard of the Great Fire of London, I'm sure. I am to blame for that, I'm afraid. It was a selfish act, a cowardly act. So much destruction, so many lives lost. I had not meant it to be like that. How was I to know the fire would spread so quickly and that so little would be done to stop it? I nearly died in the fire, but I accomplished my goal. I managed to escape and keep one step ahead of her ever since, but I know she will catch up with me one day, unless I finish her first."

Even that was not all of the story, but it was all he was willing to share for now, exhausted from the telling, mentally, physically, emotionally. He sagged a little against the window, head bowed as if in prayer, refusing to let the tears flow even now for those lost to him - a wife and child who had died without ever knowing what had become of him. All those innocent lives lost in the fire. He'd wanted to kill himself then and had come close to doing so, but something else had happened to prevent it.

Anabelle blinked in surprise; learning the truth of who started the Great Fire of London was certainly not what she had expected. But that wasn't worth lingering on. Her sire - her love - was in pain, though he tried not to show it, and she couldn't bear to see him suffering so. Not knowing what to say, she inched closer, her hand straying from his neck to curl about his waist, pressing flat to his chest as her cheek found a place to rest against his shoulder.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"So, now you know why I have followed you all these years, why I tried to keep you safe. I was not trying to keep you a prisoner, Ana, but trying to keep you safe, and in doing so, I only pushed you farther away." He sighed as he felt her hand stray and settle against his chest, covering that hand with one of his own, cold and icy as it was. "I have made so many mistakes," he said quietly. "I have so many regrets, but you... you are not one of them. You have been the one bright spot in a life of pain and darkness."

"You could have told me this at any time in the last centuries," she murmured softly, her fingers parting to gather his between them against his chest. "We have both made mistakes, some we may never forgive ourselves for. I will never leave you again. I swear it." It was a binding promise, motivated by the beating of her heart for him, the desire to restore a little of his faith in her. She never wanted to disappoint him again, no matter the danger.

"You would be better off without me, but you would never be safe. There is only one way I can make you safe and that is to finish Serena, once and for all," he replied, knowing it was the truth, wishing he'd had the sense and the courage to do it a long time ago.

She raised her head just enough to touch her temple to his cheek, drawing her other hand over the shoulder beneath her chin. "How close is she?" she asked, quietly afraid but confident in his presence. Without his restraint in keeping back from her, she would not have grown in these past decades. Now, at least, she knew how to run, how to hide. She knew enough to keep herself safe, if she had to. It was a gift he had given her, even without knowing it.

"Too close. She is always too close," he replied vaguely, turning his head a little to regard her, the pain slowly receding from his eyes, though it was still there, haunting his memories. "It was Freja who saved me. Did she tell you that? She saved me and Rosalind, too. She took us somewhere safe, where Serena wouldn't find us. I wanted to end my life, but Rosalind at least needed me. And there was revenge to look forward to." He turned into her, touching her at last of his own accord to brush his fingers against her cheek and push her blond hair away from her face. "The first time I saw you, you were like a ray of sunshine on a stormy day. I see that has not changed."

"Freja never told me much," she admitted quietly, reluctantly loosening her grasp as he turned to her. "Not even her age. But she taught me how to exist alone in this world, for which I will always be thankful." Her cheek tilted into his touch, the softness of her expression seeming to grow softer still at his caress. "I was just a child," she smiled to him.

"No, my dearest. You were hope. You were the light that shines in the darkness, and you were as lost as I was. Two lost souls. If it was not for Rosalind's treachery, we might still be living in that house, but I fear we might have come to hate each other by now. What is it they say about familiarity? Familiarity breeds contempt? Do you believe that to be true?" he asked, long fingers still touching her cheek. "Ah, but you asked about your mother. Did I ever love her? No, I wouldn't call it love exactly. Your father was a monster. I wished to save her from all that, for your sake, but I was too late."

"She loved you, in her way," Anabelle murmured, but there were no words left to waste on Rosalind and her insanities. He was here, with her, and there was no anger in him as he spoke to her. With each word, she could feel the guarded barriers about her heart failing, falling deeper as she had always known she would. "Familiarity breeds devotion," she told him, her own version of the ill-used platitude, daring to touch her hands to his chest as she leaned into him. "Did you kill him for hurting her?"

Her touch soothed him, consoled him, like music soothed the savage beast that raged inside him, just beneath the surface. "Kill him? Yes, I killed him, but it was too late. He had already killed her, and I was left with you. What was I to do with you? Lying in your bed, clutching your doll, innocent and ignorant of all of it. They would have taken you away, put you in one of those miserable institutions, and I could not bear it. I could not bear to be without you or to think of you there. I knew I could give you a better life, one you could never have had without me. It was selfish of me, arrogant, to make that decision for you, but when you looked into my eyes with such innocence and goodness and trust, I could not help myself."

The look he remembered had not changed so very much over the long years since he had first taken her from her childhood bed and tucked her into his life, but for one aspect - where there was innocence and trust, now there lingered loving devotion, the love only a woman could hold for a man. She had never seen him as a father, not even during the long nights when she had been sick or plagued with nightmares, when he would hold her and keep her shadows far away. A hero, a teacher, a friend, someone she had grown to love far more deeply than she had ever felt she had the right to. "Can you help yourself now?"

"No," he started, gazing into her eyes and seeing only love and devotion such as he had never imagined possible. He took hold of her hand and held it close to his chest, where his heart had once beat with life. His phantom heart that still ached with loneliness and longed for the love of one woman. "You are everything to me, Anabelle, and you always have been from the very first moment I saw you. I cannot explain it. Words do not suffice. I only know that you redeemed my soul. You made life worth living again. I am nothing and no one without you. A mere shadow of myself. I am damned and I have damned you along with me. For that, I am sorry, but I have done all of this out of love, not for Abigail or Rosalind or your mother, but for you. I love you, Anabelle, as I have never loved anyone in nearly four hundred years." And at last, his composure seemed to break, if only for an instant, a single tear tracking its way down his alabaster cheek. Whoever said vampires were unable to weep was a complete idiot.

"Then why can't you believe that I love you?" she asked him in a soft whisper of her own, raising a trembling hand to stroke against his cheek, to wipe that tear away. "How could I not love you? Everything you are is motivated by love, it is a part of everything you do, everything you say. Why, then, can you not believe in my heart, as I do in yours?"

"Perhaps because I do not think myself worthy of your love. Perhaps because I am afraid of it. Afraid of losing you again, like I did once before." He felt his heart stirring at her touch, swelling with love and devotion the likes of which he hadn't felt in countless years. Did she have any idea how alone he had felt for the last two hundred years while he'd watched her from afar? "I don't think I could bear it again," he said, bowing his head so she could not see the fresh tears gathering in his eyes.

She drew him close, her palm curling to the line of his throat as her temple brushed his hair, stepping closer to share an embrace many, many years in the making. "Then taste me," she whispered against his ear, offering what he had yet to demand as his right. She was his fledgling, his seed, he had made her. Her blood was his, and her blood could tell him everything he did not seem willing to believe. There was no lie in the blood.

He lifted his eyes to her, brows arching upwards, clearly stunned by her suggestion. Did she have any idea what the implications of such a thing were, what the result would be? He had already tasted her blood once before, two centuries ago, when he'd made her, but this was different. This kind of union could bind them together like never before. "Do you know what you are suggesting?" he asked, wondering just how much Freja had told her.

"I know." Freja had been wise enough to guess the motivations both for Anabelle's flight and Julian's watchful vigil, careful to make certain that the young fledgling had known all she needed to before setting her loose in the world. Even this knowledge, barely known among their own kind any longer. "I'm not afraid."

He seemed to consider a moment again. This was a decision he did not make lightly, and though it might seem like they had all the time in the world, he knew their time was not limitless. He had already decided that if anything was to happen to her, he would end his own life. Without her, there was no point in living. It had only been her that had kept him going this long. What more did he have to lose by binding himself to her in this way, in knowing her heart and her mind so completely? But what of her? Did she feel the same? If anything happened to him, he wanted her life to go on; he wanted her to find new reason to live. "I cannot live without you anymore," he told her just as quietly.

How could he know his own heart so well and yet not trust that the woman he had raised, the woman he had to all intents and purposes created, knew she loved him with a devotion that was hard to parallel? She lingered close to him, offering everything she had, everything that was already his, with a single look. "I will never willingly leave you again."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He did not have to ask again if she knew what she was doing or if this was what she really wanted. It seemed she had already decided, and nothing he said or did would make her change her mind. Wasn't this what he'd wanted all along? Why, then, did it frighten him so? "I will know everything," he reminded her. "There will be no more secrets between us."

"You already know me," she smiled faintly, drawing her fingers gently along his jaw. "What little you do not know, I am not afraid for you to see. If you are to trust my heart, to trust what I feel for you, you need this, my darling. All I am is yours."

He'd thought he did anyway, before she'd fled from him, but maybe it had been a blessing in disguise. If she hadn't fled, would he have ever been brave enough to let her learn all that she needed to survive, all that Freja had taught her in his absence? He took her hand in his, turning her wrist ever so gently so that her palm was facing upwards, pushing her sleeve up with his other hand so that her veins were exposed. He darted a glance at her face a moment, as if looking for permission, before lifting her wrist to his mouth.

His lips brushed her wrist, soft and gentle, despite the cold, kissing that tender flesh, tenderly enticing her before the pain came. It would hurt, to be sure, but the pain would be brief. She would heal from it soon enough; there was no danger of her dying. After a long moment, he sank the unnaturally sharp incisors into the flesh of her wrist, his lips closing on the wound to draw her blood into his mouth. For the moment, she was his drug, and he was lost thoughts and feelings and memories not his own.

Her eyes were softly warm on his as he looked to her, leaning into him as his lips pressed a kiss to her pale flesh. She gasped softly at the sharp sting of his teeth cutting through to open her veins, letting her blood spill in a slow ooze into his mouth as her other arm wrapped about his waist.

He saw the centuries he had missed; those few years spent with Freja before the time spiraled out into decades spent wandering the world, believing he would kill her if he caught her, aching for the loss of him in her life, for the pain she had been so sure he felt at the loss of Rosalind and his home. Long nights spent torn between flight and surrender, longing to see him, to be in his presence, frightened that such a meeting would end in her death.

Every move she had ever made had been calculated with him in mind - the books she had given others to publish under their own names to throw him off her trail; the wars she had joined as an angel of mercy, giving death where nothing else could be done. She had wanted him to be proud of her, even as she ran, never once believing he might love her at all the way she loved him. And that love permeated everything, every thought, every memory, every part of her. There was no lie in the blood.

There was no mistaking the depth of the love she felt for him, the way it had grown and evolved over the years, even while they were apart. He'd worried she hated him for what he had done, for taking her away from her family, for denying her the release that was death, for turning her into what she was because he loved her too much to let her go. He realized with stunned astonishment while he shared her blood that all of his fears were unfounded and unnecessary. She loved him even more than he could have ever imagined, could have ever dreamed, so much so that his heart felt as though it might burst with the intensity of it.

She nuzzled to his neck as he tasted her blood and everything that came with it, her eyes closed, her hand stroking his back beneath the hang of his jacket. This was his time, a moment of quiet stillness to absorb everything she could not convince him of with words. She could only hope that he did not have some way to convince himself that even her blood was lying to him.

He didn't want to drink too much, to drain her of the life-giving blood she so needed so that she'd need to feed again. He only needed enough to feel her thoughts and share her emotions and know that she loved him just as she said she did. So, they weren't just words, after all. Her blood didn't lie. He drew back from her slowly, licking the last of her blood from his lips, none of it wasted, as precious as the rarest, most expensive wine. He watched as the wounds on her wrist slowly healed and closed, turning her wrist once again to touch a kiss to the back of her hand, softly and tenderly. Something wet touched the back of her hand, and she knew without asking that he was weeping again, brought to tears by the depth of the love that she felt for him.

She breathed him in as he watched the small wound on her wrist heal itself, as the last of her blood was licked clean from his lips, only raising her head when she felt the drip of cool salt water on her skin. The eyes he knew well watched him as he wept, drawing his forehead to hers with gentle hand that swept the tears from his cheeks. "Always, my darling," she whispered to him. "Until the end of time, if you will have me."

"Of course, I will have you. How could you think otherwise?" he asked, his voice barely more than a whisper, not trusting his voice to give him away, though she had already seen his tears. It was, perhaps, the first time he had wept in years, locking his heart safely away inside him and closing himself off from anyone and anything that might touch him, until now. He made no effort to hide those tears from her anymore, letting her see his pain and know that every tear he wept was for her. "I love you," he told her. "As I have always loved you, as I will always love you."

Her lips curved in a tender smile, wishing for a flush that might brighten the paleness of her cheeks as she brushed the very tip of her nose to his, drawing her fingers through the auburn curls that crowned his head. "You cut your hair," she murmured, her first comment on the changes she had noted in that first, tense meeting at the bookshop. "I like it."

"It was terribly out of date," he replied, circling her nose with his, his own fingers trailing through the yellow-gold strands of her hair. Circling like a predator to its prey, though he had not yet kissed her. There were those who believed those of their kind were incapable of love, of physical passion, but they were wrong about that, too. If anything, physical passion was only heightened by their vampire senses. "And you are no longer wearing your hair in curls."

A quiet huff of laughter blew gentle breath over his lips as they lingered together, not feeling the need to rush into passion the way their living counterparts might. Every touch was a gift to be treasured, savored, until the next swept it away. "It was an annoyance to put my hair in rags each night," she confessed tenderly, their words intimate despite the mundanity of their topic. "I like the freedom of this new age."
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"There is a certain anonymity to it," he said, though just the opposite was true, as well. The human race seemed to be growing and thriving as a whole, and yet, they had still not conquered many of the same problems that had plagued them for almost forever - sickness, disease, poverty, war, death. None of those things worried him, except perhaps the last, and even that was unlikely, unless they were careless. He reached for her wrist again, pushing her sleeve back to reveal the glittering thing that circled her wrist. It had been a gift from him given in fondness ages ago. "You're still wearing it."

The bracelet glittered even in the gloomy un-light of the room they stood in, a true antique of blue pearl and diamond, lovingly looked after through many long years. It had been his gift to her on the occasion of her eighteenth birthday, just two years before he had brought her into this life with him, and since that day, it had not left her wrist. "Of course I still wear it," she murmured, glancing from the priceless piece to his face. "It has been my link to you, all these long years."

"I've been such an utter fool, Anabelle. Can you ever forgive me? If I'd known what Rosalind was doing and saying, I would have taken care of it." He didn't say how he would have taken care of it, but in the end, Rosalind owed her life to him, and she would have had no choice but to obey him. He let go of her wrist to touch her cheek again, tilting her chin toward him, gazing into those lovely pale blue eyes of hers that seemed to see into his very soul. "Do you want to taste me?" he asked, tentatively. There was little she didn't know about him now that he'd told her his story, but he wanted to offer her the chance to know him the way he now knew her.

"There is nothing to forgive," she promised him fervently. "We have both made mistakes that kept us apart. The past is in the past." The tilt of her chin felt like a sacred touch, something ineffably intimate in the way he guided her eyes to his. The question hovered between them for a long moment, his hesitance drawing forth hers before she answered him. "Only if you wish me to," she told him finally, though she could not deny a longing to know him as he knew her.

"I wish you to know me as I know you. I wish to bind my heart to yours, forever and always." He knew it was not a decision one should make lightly, but one that would bring them closer together - as close as two separate beings could ever be. It was not symbolic, like a wedding or a handfasting, but a mingling of blood and of thoughts and memories and emotions, shared between two immortals who loved each other to the very depths of their souls.

"All you had to do was ask." Holding his gaze, her fingers trailed up along his arm, capturing the hand the tilted her chin. She lowered her eyes, drawing his palm to her lips in burning kiss that smoothed the same tender touch to his wrist. For just a moment, she hesitated, recalling Freja's words - that with this one action, she would change herself and him forever. But it was just a moment before her lips parted, sharp teeth slicing smoothly into his flesh and drawing back to allow his blood to spill free, filling her mouth with the taste of him. Of him, and of everything that made him who and what he was.

He only tensed a little when he felt razor-sharp teeth pierce his flesh. Physical pain held little sway over him these days, unless it was sunlight. There was nearly four hundred years of history inside him, from his birth in the seventeenth century until now. So much tragedy, so much pain and loneliness. It was unclear how he had managed to survive it, except through sheer force of will. She saw with her own eyes the woman he had once loved and felt the love and the pain of her loss. He had come so close to destruction then. It had been Freja who had pulled him back from the brink and showed him how to live again. They had been lovers for a while, as much as those of their kind could be, but it had not lasted. She saw Rosalind in a new and different light, not as a jealous competitor for his attention, but as a sister, like Ophelia, touched with a little madness.

He had taken his sister under his wing and tried to protect her, just as he'd promised their mother he would, but he had been too indulgent in his love for her and could not control Rosalind. She saw him with her own mother - a mother she hardly remembered - and what she saw there was just as he'd told her. He'd been too late to stop her father from killing her mother, and in a fit of rage and grief and horror, he had killed the man, draining him until there was nothing left of him but a dry husk. And then, he found the child Anabelle, not asleep in her bed as he'd said she was, but crying, as if she already knew that her mother was gone. He took her, gathered her up as tenderly as he could, and took her home with him, where he cared for her and loved her like his own, though she was not and never would be his daughter. She watched herself through all the seasons and all the years, grow into the lovely young woman she was, and felt the tenderness he felt toward her that only grew stronger and deeper with time.

She saw and heard and felt all this through his eyes, his heart, his memories. And then, there was the fire, and she felt his devastation, his desolation. The place they had called home, that had been her home, was gone. He screamed her name over and over, terrified she had perished in the flames. He'd tried to brave the fire, but could not. The flames burned too hot, too strong, even for him. He thought he had lost them both, only to realize he had only lost Rosalind - the sister he had promised to protect. He had failed her and in failing her, had failed Anabelle, as well. For the second time in his long life, he considered self-destruction, but he could not do it, not so long as he knew she still lived.

So long as Anabelle lived, whether she was with him or not, whether she loved him or not, she was in danger from Serena, who would stop at nothing to destroy each and every person he had ever loved. He searched for her, tirelessly following every lead, no matter how vague, until he found her. It had taken years of painstaking work, but he had never given up. He had spoken to Freja during that time. She had asked him to give his fledgling time, and he had, but after two hundred years without her, he could wait no more. He found her in Copenhagen at long last and followed her to a bookstore. It was so like her to go someplace like that, he wasn't really surprised. It even amused him to find her there, but he wouldn't leave her be until he heard it from her lips that she hated him, that she no longer wanted him in her life.

Words he now knew he would never hear from her, beyond all shadow of any doubt. With tears spilling from her eyes, the pain of his past biting at her heart, Anabelle gently licked the blood from his wrist, watching the tiny wounds left by her teeth as they healed clean before her. Her lips found a tender press against his palm once again, aching for the hardship she had condemned him to, pressing into his arms to hold him tightly against the memory of that pain. She had promised him she would never leave again, her path now set beside his for all the years to come. Serena would not find an easy target in her, she was determined. Julian would never have to contemplate ending himself again.
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Anabelle Stafford
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I'm sorry," he told her gently, as he held her in arms that were deceptively strong despite his slight build. He could be as cold and hard and unmoving as marble, but not with her. His fingers stroked her hair, gently, soothingly. "I did not say it would be easy," he added, but then was anything easy that was really worthwhile in life? He knew she was crying, sharing even his tears, but all of that was over now. The past could no longer hurt them - except for Serena. "We have to find her before she finds us, and finish her."

"Not tonight." It was barely a whisper, but the words were there. She didn't want to think about Serena tonight, nor Rosalind, nor anyone else who had touched their lives over the long years. It had been too long since they had simply shared the same air, listened to one another's voices, gloried in the simple thrill of each other's company. Feeling his love for her touched her heart in ways she could not have expressed, needing to find some way to share that feeling if she possibly could. She raised her head, her hand creeping between them to touch his cheek with a loving caress. "I love you, my darling. I have for a very long time."

No, not tonight. He didn't want to think of any of that tonight, not when he had found her again, not when she finally knew how he loved her. His heart swelled at her words, equally unsure how to express his love for her, not quite realizing that he didn't need to anymore. She understood him as completely as he understood her. No more words were needed, nothing more needed to be said. Vampire or not, there were still ways to share such feelings without the need for blood or words. He touched his fingers to her cheek, trailing back through her hair that felt so like silk against his fingers, hesitating for the space of a single heartbeat before leaning in to touch his lips to hers in a cold but tender kiss.

A kiss that had been more than two hundred years in the making, and yet, more than that ... her first. There had never been any other who could distract her from him, even in the years when he had not been able to find her. In her first life, she had developed no friends beyond the walls of the house; in this life, she had saved everything she had in the hope that perhaps he might forgive her misdeeds and love her like this. For a creature whom myth made out to be sensual and experienced, she was a gentle counterpoint, a shy bundle of love and nervous desire as he kissed her.

He had longed for that kiss for nearly two hundred years, ever since she had become a woman and he had realized that he did not love her as a daughter, but as the woman she'd become. He had raised her as his own and then fallen in love with her, only realizing the truth when she was on her death bed, that he loved her more than he had ever loved anyone before, even his Abigail. He kissed her now with all the feeling he could muster, a man to a woman, full of passion and desire, stronger and deeper than was capable of any mortal man. "You deserve more than this shabby hole," he told her, his lips ghosting against hers. She deserved a rich, sumptuous bed worthy of a queen, but perhaps for one night, it didn't matter.

She was utterly undone by that kiss, her first expression of love, of passion, of all the myriad feelings within her that came together to pour her heart into him. There had only ever been him in her heart, though she knew he had loved others, yet her jealousy was faded away now she knew she had held his love far longer than she could have imagined. His quiet words ghosting against her lips, she smiled, rising onto her toes to kiss him once again. "I already have it," she whispered in return. "I have you."

With that said, he smiled and kissed her again. After two hundred years of running away and searching and heartache, they had both finally faced the truth - that they were deeply in love and devoted to each other. No matter what happened from hereafter, no one was going to tear them apart. It might have taken two hundred years from them to reconcile, but they had the rest of forever to be together.

((New characters, new story! Exhausting, though - huge thanks to my awesome partner for indulging me!))
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