It's been forever! Eep! But that's what happens with the back-up story...though we hope to work more on this story. We really enjoy Adrien and Rosalind, and it's so much SHORTER than Dichotomy!
Fading Madness Productions
Four: I Would Eat His Heart in the Marketplace
I wasn't aware of making any sound, but I must have gasped (or squeaked like a mouse, more likely) in momentary terror, because Adrien's eyes snapped up like a feral wolf's. Since my hiding place - behind a somewhat skeletal tree - was utterly unconvincing, she saw me immediately. A droplet of blood slid from the corner of her mouth to splash on her dinner's ("victim" sounds so...illegal) pale wrist.
Given that the proper etiquette for discovering your houseguest eats was never a topic that came up in my grandmother's living room, I settled for raising one hand and wiggling my fingers in greeting. "Hi," I said sheepishly. "This is, ah, exactly what it looks like." Sherlock Holmes I was and am not; just as well, I wouldn't get much out of sex with Dr. Watson, anyway.
The tip of Adrien's tongue darted out and over her dinner's wound, then she dropped the wrist in her grip to fall limply at the man's side. Her golden eyes narrowed in the darkness, obviously seeing more than the faint outline against high candlelight that your average human would see that night. She moved toward me with mesmerizing, catlike grace, her eyes shining in the starlight. "Sleep," she murmured, gazing into my eyes. "Sleep and rest." Her voice sounded of sweet, fresh honey, her every movement carefully orchestrated to grasp and hold attention, to control.
My brows drew together. "Pardon?" I asked politely. "This…" I looked around, "seems an odd place to do so. It's a public park." I'd be robbed if I fell asleep here. Not that I had anything to steal, really.
Adrien's mouth drew into a frown of, most likely, consternation. Behind her, the man she'd had for dinner groaned. She made a sharp motion with her hand. "Sleep!" she commanded, still watching me. Behind her, the man collapsed into a peacefully snoring sleep.
I blinked. "You didn't kill him, did you? Because I saw?" I peeked around her shoulder. "I guess he wouldn't be sawing logs like that if he was dead."
Adrien waved a hand in front of my face. "Sleep."
"Adrien," I argued, a bit bewildered at this strange behavior of hers. "I'm not sleepy. How could I be?! I just saw you bite someone!" A thought occurred to me, born of a memory of a certain Madame Zultani I'd seen at various carnivals around New Orleans when I was growing up. "I also don't believe in hypnotism," I told her, just in case, "especially of the instant variety." Now, of course, I know that Adrien was both amazed and frustrated by my nonchalant response to her mind juju, but at the time I was afraid that the man she'd been feasting on might have been an opium addict. Drinking opium blood couldn't be good for a person, and there were dens hidden here and there throughout the city.
Adrien studied me for a long moment, opened her mouth to say something, then closed those distracting lips without uttering a word. "It's all right," I told her, "I knew you were something." I tried to sound reassuring. I certainly didn't want to sound like an obsessed, lovesick teenager, thrilled to find her crush had been eating someone, not stepping out for an intimate rendezvous. But I probably did.
Adrien took a deep breath, her eyes flickering up and down my body. "You're not.." she murmured mysteriously.
"Not…what? Human? Yes I am!" I felt defensive. She clearly was not human, as I assume any kind of blood drinking would make me sick, but it still felt a bit insulted at being accused of alienism or werewolfism, or some such as that. "I eat vegetable, chicken, fruit . . . that sort of thing. Even pastries, as long as I can stay in my costumes."
"I enjoy vegetables from time to time," Adrien mused thoughtfully. She walked around me, looking me over all the way around this time. I probably blushed. "I"m not saying you're like me, but you're not fully human. You saw me leave the house while I had a glamour, I never knew you were following me, and you're not susceptible to suggestion as humans are." She managed to convey the sense of checking off these points without even raising her hands.
"I'm just a normal person," I told her, without revealing how much I'd once wanted to be anything but.
"Hmm." Noncommittal. Adrien, apparently noting that I didn't have a wooden stake or anything else of lethal interest to creatures of the night, turned her back on me and crossed to her meal. She murmured something to him under her breath, gently tilted his head back, and sank her teeth, with dramatic cliché, into his neck.
If I was a normal person, this is the point at which I would have run screaming. Probably even a normal person from New Orleans. I just watched with an odd sort of fascination. Somehow, I knew that Adrien wouldn't hurt me, nor would she kill this stranger. People are what they are; you can't attack someone for keeping herself alive by whatever means necessary, especially when it's not permanently damaging in any way.
Or it could be I was already obsessed with her. Either way.
She licked the wound again, then gently lowered the man to the ground. He curled up in a comfortably sleeping ball at odds with what had just happened to him. Little did I know then that being bitten by a vampire is more a drug than an attack. She straightened, tucked a long lock of hair behind her ear, took a deep breath, and crossed back to me.
I stared at her.
"I'm what humans call a vampire," she told me, matter-of-factly.
I found this a little insulting. "I am literate," I returned archly, "even if that doesn't fulfill the image northerners like to paint for those of us born and raised in Louisiana."
Adrien chuckled. "Of course. Well. I'm not used to having to explain this, since every other human I've ever met had the good grace to fall under my spell." She continued on before I could make some idiotic comment about her being a vamp-witch. "I'm not allergic to garlic or crosses. I can't fly. I don't howl at the moon or turn into a bat."
"That's…kind of sad. I'd like to fly. Personally."
This earned an outright laugh, which kept me from feeling as if I'd gone completely braindead for saying it out loud. "I'm not technically dead, so the entire Serbian panic last century was a bit overdone. I'm not certain what my current state of living is, really. I'm design living rooms. I'm not a scientist." I nodded numbly. "I do need blood to stay alive, and sun will, in a short amount of time, burn me to a thin crisp. Which is painful." Her mouth twisted into a wry smile to match her dry tone, "Trust me on that one."
There were undoubtedly dozens of things I could say at that moment, ranging from bad vampire pick-up lines (Are those your canines, or are you just happy to see me?") to terror-filled whimpers. What poured forth was a rush of random information one step away from nonsense. "Of course, a lot of those superstitions are modern, and don't really appear in the old Slavic tales," I prattled pointlessly. "Though being dead is common in many mythologies. The...Sumerian Lilitu of the Akhkharu was adopted by the Jews as Lilith. But she was a demon. You don't seem very demonic."
"Some people say Lilith's a goddess," Adrien answered, clearly amused. "I don't think I'm particularly demonic or godlike."
"You don't seem the type to commit suicide and wander the world for revenge., or to kill maidens and bathe in their blood. You have a sense of humor." She chuckled. "See?!" I demanded. "You're laughing at me right now."
Adrien reached out and rested her hands on my bare shoulders. They felt cold against my skin, but that happens at midnight in Chicago. "It was a man," she said gently.
"A man?" An irrational surge of gender-jealousy surged through me, despite the fact that I didn't have a clue what she was talking about.
"The one who turned me. It was a man. No demons, no spirits, just a man with vampirism."
"Oh. Well. If you had four arms, you could be Kali-"
She kissed me.
I blinked slowly. "You . . . kissed me," I stated with crystal-clear obviousness. It had been a quick thing, no tongue whatsoever, but my coy, flirtatious toes curled in my shoes anyway.
"It seemed the fastest way," the vampire who had become my houseguest explained gently, "to get you to stop talking."
"Oh." Again, my internal genius forced its way to my tongue. "Your breath is a bit metallic."
"I guess because you were . . ." I motioned to the gently snoring man nearby.
Adrien pulled a small tin from the pocket of her carefully tailored slacks and pulled out a mint leaf, popping it in her mouth and chewing lightly. She took my arm with consummate grace and elegance, leading me gently back onto the little walking path. "Are you well?" she asked judiciously. She seemed to be searching my expression for fear that I might swoon.
"Yes." I frowned, wondering if I should voice the concern nibbling at my insides. I decided, after a moment, that she deserved to know what thought danced over and over through my mind. "Are you . . ."
"Am I?" politely, as she helped me over a nearly nonexistent puddle.
"Are you forming a friendship with me to do that?"
"To turn you? Or to feed from you?" She shook her head, sleek black stands sliding across her face. "The answer is neither. I do not turn people, nor do I feed from women?"
Since anyone reading this is now well aware of my general, overall lack of sane responses to vampires named Adrien, you will no doubt be unsurprised to learn that my response to this announcement proved to be disappointment. "You don't like women?" I pouted, though at the time I probably thought I was being secretive about it. "I thought you did."
"I don't feed from women."
I choose to deny that my lower lip poked out. "That doesn't answer my question." I sighed, then came to a sudden stop. Ever-graceful, she didn't lurch at all. "I should be afraid of you," I suddenly realized, "shouldn't I?"
"Why?" she asked, turning her body to face me. "I'm much less frightening than the man who tried to attack us, or those who hide in alleyways searching for victims. I simply have unusual dietary habits."
My eyes narrowed. "But you tried to put me in a trance like that man back there." Even my traitorous toes felt a bit betrayed by that.
"Self preservation, which was thankfully, if inexplicably, foiled." She reached out and ran long, slender fingers through the loose red curls by my cheek. "You have nothing to fear from me," she assured softly. Her touch felt inhumanly delicate, yet somehow earthy and real. My head tilted toward her hand automatically.
When I spoke, it came out as a whisper. "Putting me to sleep would be self preservation? What could I do to you?"
"Tell someone, have the wrong person overhear, or turn me in to the police. I was going to remove the memories so they wouldn't bother you."
"But you couldn't." And she didn't know why. "You don't trust me?" I couldn't say this really hurt. Adrien's secret was well beyond my kin, and she had every right to wish to keep it from someone she'd known only a few days; especially since I was an actress and hardly a respected member of the high society to which I suspected she truly belonged.
But she shook her head again. "It's not a matter of trust. There are those who would make their fame hunting my kind, and even more dangerous, those who hunt us only out of hatred. These men and women know exactly what we are, and don't depend on inaccurate legends. They would not stop at harming a human who knows of vampires. It's best that you not know."
"Then I suppose you'll be going," I said, feeling my shoulders droop pitifully, "so that I can't tell anyone about you, and since your power didn't work on me."
She watched me for a long, thoughtful moment, searching my expression in the flickering lamplight. "Only if you wish me to leave."
I let out a huge huff of air that my mother, in her vast wisdom concerning properly ladylike behavior, would have called a growl. "For a moment, please stop being so mysterious and try being straightforward!" I demanded, exasperated. "Do you have any intention of dining on me? Do you want to stay? If you do want to stay, then why?!"
Gentle hands turned me, leading me at a fast clip back to my rooms. She clearly, and logically, felt this conversation wasn't properly suited to a city street, even in the middle of the night. "I wasn't aware I was being mysterious," she said. I still feel this was an all-out lie, though Adrien is often unaware of her own personality quirks, despite knowing mine so well. "I have no intention of hurting you, or anyone else, and I'd like to stay if . . ." she stopped momentarily to open the door, then hurried me up the stairs to my outer landing. "I'd like to stay if you'll have me," she said seriously. "I find you beautiful, and intriguing, and I've nothing has interested me in over a century."
I flushed, less-than-secretly pleased. "Over a century? Really?"
"Yes. I usually find life rather dull and repetitive in these days, but you're," she seemed to search for a word. Alluring? Undeniable? Lovely? Talented? "Different."
I knew I couldn't hold her attention forever, a young runaway turned second-rate actress, with no connections, family, or advanced education beyond my own voracious appetite for books, but I decided, in an instant, that I would hold on to her as long as I could. "You want to stay?" I asked, just to make sure I hadn't created the entire conversation in my imagination. She nodded.
"Also, if I left, I would have to find a place of my own." Her mouth curved into that familiar, teasing smile. "That would be most inconvenient, as I have a lengthy consultation scheduled."
I turned and opened the door, symbolically holding it for my dark guest. As it so often would in the weeks to come, my good manners fell prey to outright curiosity. "Does it hurt when you feed on someone? Is that why you don't want to feed on me?"
She grinned then, showing her teeth for the first time. Lurking at the edges of this smile were sharp, white canines. "It doesn't hurt. They don't feel anything. I've been told it's quite pleasant." Fangs should not be sexy, but they are. "There's surely some scientific explanation for how humans become and live as vampires, but the study of biology has never held much interest for me." She settled herself easily on her steamer trunk, long legs tucked neatly to the side. "I have a friend who could explain a variety of theories with mathematical equations and DaVinci like illustrations, if you'd like. He lies in…" her gaze wandered thoughtfully to the tin ceiling, "Belize, last I heard from him. Or was it Brazil?"
"I'm from New Orleans," I answered, which should explain all in itself why I don't' have to have science backing up what I know to be real. I watched her there, so warm and funny, inadvertently mysterious, and agreed with my overzealous toes. "I won't tell anyone," I said, with the sincerity of one who has sworn on the grave of a loved one while holding the holy book, "especially if you'll stay."
"Very well then." A nod and a smile. "I'll stay until you tire of me."
I needed no time to consider an answer to that statement. "Oh, I won't."