Could this be possible…?
Could that be her…?
Am I dreaming?
Or have I gone mad?
Standing there he watched as this young girl dressed in her Sunday's best came out of the church. She couldn't be much older than ten and reminded him so much of someone he once knew. He squinted trying to get a better look as the sun assaulted his eyes, whatever the pain he would get a good look at this girl.
Beautiful blonde curls bounced as she turned her head looking for someone, emerald green eyes searched the crowd, fare skin shone making his eyes hurt more.
Growling he fell further back in his crypt to keep out of the sun cursing his damnation.
Dante kicked the wall wishing he could have at least heard her name. Realizing he left quite a dent in the marble he calmed himself down. He was lucky to get the time he had to stare at her, being an old vampire he can be out in the sun for small periods of time. Ancients can walk the day if they wish but those vampires are tens of thousands of years old.
He resolved to see her next time, he would go into the church if he had to, at least there the sun should not shine.
The next Sunday came and Dante ventured out of his crypt in his Sunday's best of a satin red suit. Little did he know in that era that type of clothing was considered odd he soon realized this when he walked through the crowd of people and into the church with many eyes on him. As he walked in he picked a red rose and put it in his front pocket.
He stood in the far corner so as to not be burned by the sun coming through the windows. The preacher started by reading from the bible's certain verses and Dante didn't hear anything he said as he scoured the church for that little girl.
"Hello there are you new?" the preacher called him out.
"Yes I am passing through and thought that I should not miss a day of church and came to sit in on one of your sermons," Dante quickly lied pleased he was so quick on his feet.
"That's good, I'm Pastor George, could we get your name stranger?" he asked.
"My name is Dante," he said smoothly and out of the corner of his eyes saw the quickest flash of gold.
"Welcome Dante I hope your stay with us is pleasurable," Pastor George then went back to his sermon leaving Dante to search the crowd again.
The church finally let out after the longest hour in Dante's life and he stood near the door as people stared and a couple of teenage girls and some young women giggled and blushed as they looked at him. Then he saw the flash of gold again and followed it out the door. There she was, the most beautiful little girl looking around.
He walked up and kneeled down beside her and she looked frightened.
"What are you looking for?" he asked smiling.
She hesitated, "My parents."
"They don't go to church with you?" he winced a little as the sun began to beat down on him.
"No they're always too busy with work," she huffed clearly bothered by that fact.
"Hmm, well that must get lonely sometimes," he replied picking the rose from his pocket.
"A little," she said kicking a rock at her feet.
"Well Ms…" he let it hang for a few moments.
"Ashley," she answered sweetly.
"Well Ms. Ashley I want you to have this rose, but there is something you have to know about this rose," he said and she seemed very attentive , "Now you have to listen closely, are you listening?"
"Yes sir," she nodded vigorously.
"Its magic," her eyes grew wide then squinted.
"You're lying," she said sounding huffy again.
"No really watch this," he touched the very top, and the stem and petals of the flowers turned black and then after a few seconds it went red again.
"Wow how did you do that?" she asked her eyes as wide as plates.
"Now whenever this rose glows red that means I'm nearby, than you will know you are never alone," he smiled standing to get out of the blistering sun.
"Thank you sir," she said smiling as she held the rose.
"My name is Dante," he said as he walked away happy.
He ran back to his crypt to rest, a few minutes after reveling in the dark he peeked out of the crypt to see Ashley still standing out in front of the church, the only one still there. She was staring intently at the rose that still shone a bright red and then looked in the direction she saw him walk off.
He sat back in his crypt to sleep off the burning sun's damage.
Ashley played with the rose until her mom showed up wondering if it was just her eyes playing tricks on her when Dante made it turn black.
"That's a pretty flower where did you get it?" her mom asked trying to make up for being late.
"A guy at church," Ashley answered and nearly gasped as it turned black deciding to hide it just in case her mom thought it was something bad.
The rose turned red a lot in the first two years Ashley had it but after her 13th birthday it rarely turned colors although for some reason it preserved itself. By the age of 15 Ashley began to believe she had an overactive imagination when she was younger and stopped believing that the rose would ever turn red again. She took one of the petals to preserve in glass so she could wear it as a necklace.
Not only did her belief change but her style completely transformed, she was no longer Sunday's best girl who attended church in dresses and skirts with the beautiful blonde hair. She wore black from head to toe completely stood out no matter where she was in town. No more dress shoes she stomped around in combat boots that weighed at least three pounds each. Even her hair was black but it still curled halfway down her back.
She was the outcast of the entire town, nobody talked to her unless it was to pick on her. Lonely didn't even begin to explain how she felt. Even though she didn't believe in Dante she would spend nights looking at that petal around her neck wishing for it to turn red.
Another birthday come and gone, 17 years old, feels the same as 16, 15, 14. Still an outcast, still bullied, still will never be accepted.
Ashley ambled slowly through the alleys taking her normal route home dreading the nagging her mom will do as soon as she walks through the door. Life, how amazingly shitty it is.
She stopped suddenly as she heard something in the distance, footsteps that stopped quickly after her. Beginning to walk again she tried to separate her footfalls from other noises around her. Distinctly she heard someone else walking close.
Bursting out in full run she heard her follower do the same. Turning the corner she tripped over a trashcan and fell twisting her ankle. Trying to stand she yelped and began to whimper and started crawling away as her pursuer rounded the corner.
The new pastor of her church looked down at her his eyes showing nothing but hunger and his smile baring all of his teeth. There were whispers about the new pastor but not many believed them especially since he seemed so energetic and fun in church.
"Hello Ashley, fancy meeting you here," he said advancing slowly like an animal that knows a feast is at hand.
"I'm sure its more than a meeting you have planned," she spat at him as her back hit a wall.
"Well what makes you believe that?" he said standing a few feet away from her. Then his smiled widened, "Not like you can go to anyone, who would believe the person who has no friends. A cry for attention is all they will believe."
He was right, when he was done with her all she would be able to do is live with it, not even the police would believe her against the pastor.
He straddled her struggling as she fought back, biting, scratching, whatever she could do. In the fray he ripped the rose petal from her neck and looked at it curiously.
"Odd I always thought it was a black petal," he said investigating it closely.
"Are you blind of course it is," she huffed struggling against his grip. Looking up at the necklace she realized he was right, inside the piece of glass was a bright red rose petal. Suddenly she began looking in all directions.
Was he here?
Could it possibly be him?
Am I truly not alone?
"Whatever," he said and started ripping the shirt as she wiggled and bit his hands.
"Not very smart are you?" a smooth voice stopped the pastor in his tracks, "I thought you were a man of God? Hmm guess looks can be deceiving."
The pastor jumped up and looked around wildly, "Where are you coward?! Show your face!"
A deep laugh followed, "You are preying on a poor girl and I'm the coward?"
"Prove you're better than me," the pastor challenged, "Come out and fight me."
Something flashed by, then there he stood under a street light, straight black hair that flowed past his shoulders, a long trench coat that adorned him like a second skin, and black jeans that fit tightly to his legs. And those eyes, deep pools that would drown the soul.
He smiled and in his hand he held the necklace that the pastor held only a minute before.
The pastor patted his body then looked at him astonished, "Demon!"
"You wish that was all I am," he said his face suddenly darkening, "An outcast is she? Too bad she never told you about her one friend."
In a flash he was on the pastor lifting him in the air and throwing him against the wall all with one hand. Before the pastor could even begin to get up he was on him again propping him up against the walling and throwing punch after bone crushing punch in his face and ribs. Picking him up he threw him across the ground with ease.
The pastor skidded across the alley and hit the wall on the other side. Once again he was on the pastor picking him up to eye level.
"W-what are y-you?" the pastor asked. The man half smiled as he watched the pastor tremble.
"I am the bump in the night, the coldness you feel in a warm room, the thing that watches you when you feel like you are being watched, I am your worst nightmare, I am Dante," he smiled wickedly.
"You are a demon!" he cried.
"Yes you have already said that. Now listen carefully, you are going to leave this place and not come within even a hundred miles," he growled, "I will have you watched by my minions and if you rape or assault anyone in any town you move to I will kill you myself in the most bloody and horrific manner." Throwing him down he turned to look at her.
"You have an hour to get all your things and leave, by tomorrow you have to be at least 500 miles from here." The pastor looked at him incredulously but he still didn't turn back to him, "Go now before I change my mind and kill you." Before he even finished the sentence the pastor was already halfway down the alley.
Dante was still looking at Ashley as he slowly walked forward as if gauging her reaction, the anger that his face showed just a moment ago melted into a mask of concern as he moved closer to her. For some reason he looked familiar and she couldn't believe the picture that came to mind.
"I believe this is yours," he said smiling as he took out the necklace that he stole from the pastor, "What a beautiful shade of red."
"Y-yeah," Ashley stuttered. One of his eyebrows rose as he regarded her.
"You do not remember me do you Ashley?" he asked looking a bit saddened and she shook her head slowly, "Well its my own fault it has been quite a few years. Are you ok?"
"I think I sprained my ankle," she said trying to stand.
"No, no hold still," he then lifted her up cradling her in his arms, "Comfortable?"
"Y-yes," she blushed a bright red.
He began walking keeping her perfectly steady in his arms and she couldn't help but lay her head against his chest. She expected to hear the beat of his heart but nothing was beating in his hard chest. Looking up at him she soaked in all she could of the familiar face, strong jaw, high cheek bones, straight nose, and deep cerulean eyes. It couldn't be him though, he hadn't age a day, and how could he have no heart beat?
"Who are you?" she asked looking up at him.
"Dante at your service," he replied smiling down on her baring larger than normal fangs.
"What are you?" she asked then blushed, "Er, sorry I didn't mean that."
He laughed deeply, "No, no my dear its quite alright." But he did not answer.
She plucked at his shirt absentmindedly for a bit then realized what she was doing and stopped. Soon her mind wandered back to her house where no welcoming arms would await happy that she's safe. As they closed in on her house she shuddered just wondering how long her mom was going to bitch tonight.
Instead of going to the front door though Dante circled around the back to where her room was. He jumped lightly landing on the roof right outside her window and as quietly as he could he opened it stepping inside her room. Carefully he laid her on her bed and even propped her ankle up then he slowly walked around the room.
"You have changed a lot since I first met you," he stated looking at her.
"You'd be surprised how much people change within a few years," she replied a bit snippier than she meant.
"I see," he sighed then sat down on the edge of her bed and looked at her intently, "You really do not remember me?"
She looked away from the sad stare he gave her, "I-it just can't be you."
"And why not?" he asked moving closer forcing her to look at him.
"B-because, y-you haven't changed," she stuttered in reply.
He leaned back, "Ah, 'tis a gift and a curse."
"What is?" she prodded.
"Nothing you need to worry about," he answered. Standing up he turned away then turned back and looked at her with a smile, "Your birthday was today right?" she nodded, "Here take this, consider it my gift." He unlatched his ruby cross necklace then kneeled on the floor beside her bed.
She sat up to get a better look at the necklace, "Wow, its beautiful." He smiled as she admired the present.
"Now it is all yours," he kissed it lightly and put it gently in her hand, "Please take good care of it."
She looked at him in awe, "I'll never let it out of my sight."
"Now my dear Ashley listen closely," he said quietly and held her hand, "You always have me, never believe you are alone. I am no figment of your imagination nor am I some dream. Whenever you need me most you will find me at your side."
She nodded smiling to stop herself from tearing up.
"You should do that more," he smiled.
"Do what?" she asked.
"Smile, you look so radiant when you do," his palm rested every so lightly on her face his fingers gently stroking her cheek.
She couldn't stop one tear from trickling down her cheek. In a flash she was in his arms being held tightly.
"Oh no my dear, there is no need for tears," he whispered sweetly in her ear. She looked up from the comfort of his chest and he kissed the tear from her cheek and then trailed small kisses all the way to her eye.
"I'm sorry," she said barely audible.
"Nothing to apologize for," he smiled gently laying her back down on her bed, "It has been a long day for you, you should rest and I would highly advise against running around on that ankle for a few days."
"No!" realizing her outburst she blushed, "I don't want you to leave."
He smiled a smile that took her breath away, "I will always be close my dear believe me I would never want to be too far from you, the only reason I wake in the night." Winking he kissed her forehead and when her eyes opened again he was gone.
Only until she laid down did she realize how utterly exhausted she was and was helpless to the waves of drowsiness that assaulted her. She drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next morning she woke and stretched flexing every muscle including the wrong one yelping as her ankle shot pains up her leg. It all came flooding back, falling, the priest trying to make his way with her, and then the mysterious Dante come to save the day of a girl he doesn't know.
She flopped back her arms falling on each side of her and she heard something crinkle. Looking under her right arm she found an envelope with a wax seal. Picking it up she scrutinized the seal, it was to wolves circling around a beautifully scripted D. Turning it over in her hand she saw her name neatly scrawled onto the back. Her fingers began to tremble as she gently opened it treating it as if it would catch aflame in her hand that very instant.
All that was in the envelope was a folded piece of parchment, pulling it out she recognized the familiar scent. Her palms began to sweat as she opened the letter. Beautiful calligraphy in neat rows covered the entire paper, her heart began to jump in her chest.
My Dearest Ashley,
By the time you read this you would have had your night's sleep. I am truly sorry for leaving so soon after I introduced myself, I hope you can forgive me. To be truly honest though I watched over you the whole night and did not leave until the first sun's rays peeked over the horizon. I would have gladly stayed the whole night at your bedside but your body was far too tired to have me keeping you up.
I also must apologize ahead of time, I know you would like to see me again tonight but I have to make sure that priest is far out of reach. I do promise that I will be visiting you very soon and we will be able to speak more.
Also dearest try not to leave the house today, I want no excessive walking on that ankle of yours.
Your Dark Knight,
She read the letter again and again, soaking in the beautiful words, the promises of another visit. For the first time in years Ashley was happy, she looked forward to the next day instead of dreading it.
Looking out her window she felt reborn, getting up she hobbled out of her bedroom heading to the kitchen for some breakfast. Nothing would sour her mood today she thought as she made herself a bowl of cereal.
As if in answer her dad shuffled into the room, oh god why did his day off have to be Sundays? Sitting down at the table she tried ever so hard to blend into her environment. He itched at his eyes as he walked past her grabbing the same box of cereal she just used. She wolfed down her cereal as fast as she could without grabbing his attention and she quietly put her bowl in the sink thinking she made it home free.
"Didn't hear you come in last night," he said gruffly as he sat.
She stopped and leaned against the wall for support, almost made it, "You must have been sleeping."
"Well thing is I went to bed at midnight," he growled, "So either you have the stealth skills of a ninja or you broke curfew." She stared at her feet not knowing how to explain it away.
"That's what I thought," he looked up at her anger already showing in those tired eyes, "Get out of my sight, you're lucky I don't put you under house arrest." As she limped away he looked up, "Wait!" he eyed her, "What happened to your leg?"
"I tripped over some clothes in my bedroom," she quickly made up.
"Hm, well I'm sure that taught you to clean up after yourself," he went back to his cereal and she hobbled away as fast as possible.
The rest of the day she was utterly bored, she tried to read but kept getting lost in thought, she watched some T.V. but her dad came into the room. Eventually she gave up and lay in her bed staring at the ceiling not in tune with the world.
Night came and she began to feel a bit tired, as her eyelids drooped she thought of tomorrow and fell asleep with Dante's beautiful smile teasing her heart.
She woke to her annoying alarm telling her it was time for school, today she was actually glad she was going to help keep her mind off Dante. As she got up she looked out the window into the dark morning and gasped. Running to the window she looked out into the dark… it was gone. Turning back she got ready for school still thinking about the flash of blue she saw outside of her window.
Sitting in the same seat on the bus she always sat in she listened to her iPod ignoring all the outside noise.
Walking through the halls at her school she glanced over the poster advertising the school's prom coming up in two weeks. Stupid really, it was just a popularity contest that all the girls prettied up for and all the guys thought they were going to get lucky.
The rest of the day she focused on her school trying to make the time go by faster. She ignored the kid that ran into her at lunch making her drop the so called food that the cafeteria ladies gave her. She ignored the blatant whispers the girls did while looking and pointing at her. She even ignored the girl that tripped her on the bus.
This was how she normally was anyway, but today it couldn't dampen her mood. There was somebody out there that cared about her, that truly wanted to be around her and that would protect her from harm.
Getting home she went straight to doing her homework to burn another two hours. At five she was completely done and the time began to slow. Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days.
Was he going to come tonight?
Did he really care about her?
Was she finally not alone anymore?
She read and reread the letter over and over, imprinting the beautiful scrawl into her mind. Gently she traced her name on the back of the envelope, she could almost feel his love in each letter.
A tap on her window made her fall of her bed in a jumbled heap; she could hear soft laughter on the other side of the window and cursed at herself for looking like an idiot. Untangling from her blankets she walked to the window a scowl still deep set on her face.
The handsome man with his brilliant smile quickly melted away her embarrassment. Opening the window as quietly as possible, Ashley smiled at Dante and before she could blink he was already in the room his hands on her cheeks.
"My dear Ashley," his voice took her breath away, "I am ever sorry that I did not visit you last night. I do hope you can forgive me."
"Of course," she put her arms around his lean waist breathing him in, his body was cold and hard but he smelled of everything warm. His scent made her think of the sun.
Smile deepening he looked down her with his intense eyes, "I am so glad that you can forgive me so easily. If you felt even half the pain I did from being away from you I am sure you would combust." Her heart beat faster and faster making the blood rush too fast through her system. Swaying a little he held her more firmly, "Are you ok dear? Your heart is beating unnaturally fast." She nodded afraid that any other movement would cause her to faint.
"Good, but I do ask if you would sit, you look a bit off balance," his smile sent another wave of shock through her.
Nodding she ambled to the bed with his arm around her waist. Sitting cross legged on the mattress she smiled as he lay in front of her propped up on an elbow. For what felt like hours they stared at each other, neither one blinking.
His hair as black as raven feathers flowed silkily on her bed, his cerulean blue eyes blazed into her green ones, his long black trench coat was open revealing the white plains of his abdomen. If his chest didn't move from breathing she would have thought him a marble depiction of a god.
He half smiled as her eyes roved his body. Shrugging off his coat he laughed quietly as her face turned beet red, his laughter only made it worse. She made a move to cover her face so he couldn't see her blushing but he caught her hands.
"My dear is something wrong?" he asked concerned touching his features but the half smile was still present.
"No, nothing at all," she whispered, "Quite the opposite really."
He chuckled his eyes glancing over her body, "Yes I would have to agree with you on that." The heat in her face was raising so high in temperature that she was sure that she was running a fever.
"Why me Dante?" she asked looking at him, although the question was vague he understood immediately.
"You remind me of someone I knew," pain surfaced in his features. Her heart suddenly crumbled in on itself, his hurt was hurting her more than she expected. Suddenly he smiled again but it didn't touch his eyes, "And I am drawn to you like a moth to a flame. I can not resist you Ashley and I do not particularly want to." His voice had deepened making her heart thump all the harder.
Dante began to move closer and Ashley froze still not knowing how to react. Their lips were now mere inches apart, she could feel his cool breath mingling with hers. A sudden knock on the door and Dante and his coat disappeared.
"Yeah?!" Ashley was angry for whoever was knocking on the door. If she could she'd rip out their throat.
Her mom walked through the door and looked around, "Was somebody up here?"
"No," Ashley lied quickly.
Not listening to her daughter she walked to the closet and opened it… nothing. Kneeling she looked under the bed… nothing. Moving to the window she opened it and looked out… nothing.
"I thought I heard voices," her mom muttered scrutinizing the darkness.
"You really should get that checked out mom," and stay out of my room, she thought.
Her mom walked out still ignoring her, when she closed the door Ashley looked around the room in a panic.
Another tap on the window and she looked out to see Dante hanging upside down outside her window. She moved quietly to the window and opened it. He swung in and had her in his arms in seconds his cheek lying on her head.
"How did you do that?" she was in disbelief on how fast and quiet he had been.
"Magic," he answered holding her tighter as she struggled against him.
"Dante…" she sighed as her hands fell to her side in defeat, "Really, I don't want anymore secrets."
"Mysteries are so much fun though," he kissed the top of her head and she almost forgot what she was asking.
"I want to know more about you," with much effort she angled her head to look up at him through his unbreakable grip, "Please."
He sighed letting her go crossing his arms over his paper white chest, "Why? So I can ruin all of this?" Anger seeped into his words for the first time since she met him.
"How would you ruin this?"
"Because of what I am."
She gave him a small smile, "No matter what you are Dante I will not stop feeling the way I do about you."
His eyebrow rose wrinkling his smooth forehead, "And how do you feel about me?"
She looked like a deer caught in headlights, could she trust this man that she just met with her heart? Would he ever hurt her? Does he feel the same?
Cold hands held her face and she closed her eyes to the gentle touch, "How do you feel about me dear?" His voice was smooth like silk, opening her eyes she saw the intense emotion in his features. She knew how he felt about her now, she knew he needed to hear this, everything rode on it.
"Dante…" his eyes bore into her, "You are the first person to truly care about me. You are my dream come to life, you are my knight in shining armor here to save me from my personal hell." Her voice choked a little, "When I needed you most you came, you took me from the darkness that threatened to envelope me, you gave me something to hope for, to wish for. You gave me someone to love." She threw her arms around his waist, "I love you Dante."
His arms wrapped around her holding her against him. She laid against him tears flowing quietly down her cheeks. Feeling him move away she cried out, "No!" it was quickly stifled as he brought his lips down on hers. The first one was quick, too quick for Ashley and she rose on the tips of her toes encircling her arms around his neck to kiss him again.
"Ashley," he sounded breathless as he stared down into her eyes, "I love you more than life itself. I would give anything and everything to have you by my side forever." He sighed deeply, "The thing is, would you want to be with me forever after you find out what I am?"
She touched his face with her finger tips and he grabbed the hand putting the palm on his lips. He smiled grimly against her hand then opened his mouth as if to bite her. Something sharp poked at her hand but not with enough pressure to hurt.
"What is that?" she asked, not answering he turned her palm kissing each finger lightly letting the sharp things brush against them.
Still confused Ashley watched as he stopped on her pinky finger and staring at her intently. Standing straighter he smiled, she only noticed them once before and never thought much of it then, two gleaming white fangs. Then he held that same hand over where his heart was, still nothing beat there.
Dante had expected her to scream, had expected her to run away, had expected her to call him a monster, like so many of his victims have. He didn't expect her to kiss him, he didn't expect her to lay her head on his chest, he didn't expect her to say…
"Dante, I don't care what kind of creature you may be. If you are a werewolf, fine, if you are a vampire, fine. To me you'll always be Dante, the one person to ever care about me."
Pulling her from his chest he looked at her, her brow furrowed then she frowned. Here it comes, he thought to himself waiting for the rejection.
"Dante, there's no need to cry," he felt her warm fingers brush away his tears of blood, "I love you, I don't want you to be sad."
A smile threatened to swallow his ears as he heard her say those words, "Oh my dear, these are not tears of sadness, I am happy, ever so happy that you love me." His eyes took in her beautiful face, she could have been Marianne's twin. He had his love back now and nothing was ever going to take her from him.