Anyone but Me

By Free the Dancing Llamas

Chapter seven: There's something there that wasn't there before

I woke up in the carriage, my head leaning against Armand's chest. His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

"Bonjour kitten." I felt the timber of Armand's soft voice as it reverberated through his body. "Did you sleep well?"

"No." I mumbled, straightening myself, and sitting upright in the carriage. I felt a twinge, an unpleasant pain shooting in my neck.

"Oh?" Armand chuckled, a small smile began to slowly make its way across his face, "What a pity."

"How much longer do we have until arrival?" I questioned, as I tried to put as much distance between us in the carriage as possible. It was starting to get a little too cosy in the carriage. Repressing the urge to touch him, I stared out of the window, watching the scenery whirl past us.

"Hm. Perhaps two hours at the most. We are only half way there judging by our surroundings."

"Two hours?" I asked in disbelief. I sighed, hoping that the carriage ride would go faster. "And what pray tell, oh master, will we be doing when we arrive at the gracious Vache country house?"

"You take such a tone with me? Am I not your husband?" Armand replied, grinning, his eyes shining with anticipation. I felt slightly perplexed, but mostly annoyed. Was he baiting me? Two could play at that game.

"Oh no, dearest husband, you mistake me. I would never take that tone with you. You are my beacon of light, the paragon of saintliness and perfection. You are the thorns to my rose, the tea to my teacup, the pope to my church, the tree to my forest. "

Armand's grin turned into a fully blown and very effective smile. I tried to protect myself from it, but I could not stop the bubbling in my stomach from intensifying and a heat like no other spreading throughout my whole body.

"I suppose I am also the virgin to your vampire?" Armand laughing hysterically as he saw my expression turn into one of a frown.

"I still have that cross with me." I replied darkly, glaring pointedly at him, as he threw his head back and laughed even louder.

I turned away huffily, deciding that I preferred looking at the scenery and not Armand's impish grin, or his devastatingly, regrettably handsome face. I found it infuriating how such a simpleton could compel me to want to beat and kiss him at the same time.

"Good Heavens!" Lord Vache exclaimed, laughing as I stepped out of the carriage ignoring Armand's offer to help me out. "You are finally here! Did it take you long?"

"No, not at all," Armand laughed softly, straightening the hat on his head. "A few hours."

As we stood about the front of the gargantuan mansion, which was apparently the Vache country house, servants milled about us, taking our luggage and heading within the house. Presumably placing it into the rooms we would be staying in.

"And you, my Lady?" Lord Vache beamed, turning his attention towards me. "How did you find the trip?"

"I cannot feel-" I felt Armand's gaze on my own. I suddenly beamed at Lord Vache and continued; "my bottom. It is the strangest feeling. I think it has become part of the seat."

"Eh." Lord Vache replied, "Not one for carriages, I guess. My darling wife is the same way you know." I tried not to frown at being compared to the horrid Lady Vache. "Ah but I am a terrible host! Please let us proceed to the greenhouse where we might have some tea. I am sure you are parched."

"Thankyou Aimeri." Armand replied warmly.

"No, thankyou Armand." Lord Vache smiled as we were lead through the side of the building and through the beautiful gardens. There was an array of colour all over the place and the smell absolutely exquisite.

"Lord Vache," I could not stop myself, "If I may say so, your gardens are very well kept."

"High praise from a beautiful Lady." Lord Vache smiled, "What else could a man want or need?"

As we walked further into the garden we came across a lovely greenhouse, and seated within was Lady Vache sipping tea with a similar looking beak-nosed woman.

As we entered the two ladies looked up at each other, and to us.

"Marianne, darling, Lord and Lady D'Artangn are here."

"Well good day." Lady Vache greeted rather stiffly eyeing the bonnet it my hand.

"Armand, Celia, may I introduce my sister-in-law, Miss Valerie Adaire."

"I did not know you had a sister, Lady Vache," Armand replied warmly, as he placed a kiss on both women's hands. I tried not to glare at Lady Vache's beak-nosed, horrifyingly unattractive sister as a unbecoming blush flew across her cheeks. Or rather, she wasn't that bad looking, neither was Lady Vache, but I still disliked both of them greatly. I felt Armand place a hand on my posterior, giving it a gentle squeeze as if to remind me of exactly whose house I was in and to not be stupid.

"Enchanted," I tried smiling, as I elbowed Armand in the stomach, curtseying.

"Come, Armand, I must simply show you the new stallion I purchased from the east. A magnificent creature, strong, but far too reckless." Lord Vache announced excitedly as he steered Armand out of the greenhouse, "Ladies, we shall be with you in at least an hour," Lord Vache smiled as he and Armand walked out.

"Won't you join us for tea, Lady ." Lady Vache smiled, her face cracking at the edges like glass.

Silence ensured, as I took a seat opposite Lady Vache and her sister.

"Now, my dear," Lady Vache tittered, serving me some tea, "Don't you think you ought to put that bonnet of yours on? I see a few unbecoming freckles on you face. Really, now dearest, if you wish to keep your husband I would take my advice."

"Oh, yes. But it must be so hard to have to compete with such finesse and beauty such as that as Lady De Barbe. Oh goodness, particularly with her outstanding breeding and well...rumour has it that your mother was, well..." Miss Adaire giggled. I had to stop myself from merely leaning over the table and pouring scalding tea all over their beaked faces. I pushed back the tears begging to drip from my eyes. What I really wanted to know, was how they had known of my own past and that of my mother's.

"Oh ladies," I pushes a cold smile onto my face, and I did not even pretend for a moment that it was meant to be friendly. I could see the fear settle into both their faces, "If I wanted advice on how to be single," I stared pointedly at Miss Adaire who blushed, "Or how to be a shameful adulteress," I smirked at Lady Vache watching the colour fade from her sweaty, pale face, "Then I would take your advice. However, I am content to be myself, for anyone else would just not do."

As I threw a small party in my head I knew instantly that this weekend was going to be the cause of my slow and painful descent into hell.

My body nearly collapsed in relief as I threw myself into the bedroom Armand and I were to share while on our stay at the Vache Country estate. I practically skipped to our bed and threw myself on it, sighing as I attempted to release the tension of the afternoon's tea from my body.

"Long afternoon?" A gentle deep voice asked, as I felt the mattress underneath me shift. I turned around on my back, my head now resting on one of the pillows. I watched Armand as he lay down opposite me, laying on his side to face me.

"You'll get your clothes wrinkled if you lie like that" I managed to mutter under the scrutiny of Armand's gaze.

"I hardly care."

"I thought you and Lord Vache were supposed to be only gone an hour and join us for tea."

"It was a very pretty horse." Armand chuckled, as I snorted.

"Well unfortunately Lady Vache is not." This earned a disapproving grimace from Armand, "I had to suffer for three hours listening to…well I am not quite sure what…I stopped listening after five minutes. She then insulted my mother by referring to her as a prostitute. And yes, she did practice the profession-"

"Your mother was a-"

"whore? Yes," I replied airly, trying to keep the anger and sadness out of my voice, "You did not know? Oh well, allow me to inform you, you married the daughter of a harlot. God rest her soul, I do not care what anyone ever said, she was a good woman."

I searched Armand's delicate face, wondering what he thought. If he would be repulsed by me, by my background. I viciously hoped not. I wanted more than anything not to care what he thought. And then he did the strangest thing, he leaned over, laying his head against my chest, as if a child, leaning the long line of his body against the side of my own.

"Is that why you were put into the orphanage? She was unable to care for you?" Armand gazed up at me, placing a soft kiss on my neck. I shivered, unable to suppress the sensations this caused throughout my entire body.

"No. She tried to look after me up until my aunt and uncle took me away from her when I was twelve, and placed me in that dreadful boarding school." I turned away from Armand's face, an almost impossible feat, wondering why on earth I was telling him this. Perhaps it was because after a life of not speaking to anyone, I could hold it in no longer. I swallowed the large lump in my throat, willing my voice to keep going, "She- she was an excellent woman, despite her occupation. She willingly would sacrifice any part of herself to make sure that I was always clothed and fed, even if she was not. I was told just after Adele had left with Raphael that they had found her hung from the ceiling of one of her lover's houses." I quickly turned to my side, surprising Armand, willing my self not to cry. I pressed my cold, sweaty palms against my face, trying to will the tears back into my eyes. But they would not, and they just poured out of my face as if some sort of dam inside my head had finally burst open, "She called me her little star," I randomly sniffled. I felt myself go red, not from anxiety and sadness, but because of my embarrassment of what I had just done.

"Ma chéri d'amour" Armand whispered, pulling me into his chest, kissing the back of my neck. Even in tears, I could not help but shiver at his touch, "Cry my darling, you have spent far too long in silence."

"What is wrong with you," I whispered as I forced myself to stop with the ridiculous crying. I had had enough of being weak for one day.

"What do you mean?" Armand asked gently, pulling us up into a sitting position so that we were facing each other.

I looked away from him as I said, "You are so…odd…I just don't understand you."

"Odd? How so."

"You make me so angry." I blurted, twisting my hands nervously in my lap. I realised that I had been degraded to all that I feared. "You barely talk, and when you do, you're so…I can't even describe it. I don't even know why you asked me to marry you. You could have had any other girl. And you chose me. I have no idea."

"Your eyes were the same as mine." Armand smiled softly, tucking my disheveled hair behind my eyes.

"Can you not see colour?" I asked, as I restrained myself from gravitating towards him. I could not comprehend the emotions overcoming me. I wanted to smother him, but not with a pillow.

"No. You misunderstand me." Armand chuckled, his face, I realised, increasingly inching nearer to my own, "Your eyes were the same as my own in that they were sad."

I felt my heart go through my throat and for a moment all I could do was stare at the odd creature I was married to. A part of me wanted to kiss and touch and hold him and the other wanted to run away as fast as possible.

"Words cannot even describe how stupid you sounded just then." I grimaced as it slipped. I swallowed, watching his face falter slightly, and I knew the damage I had just done. And before I could rectify the situation and tell him that I did not mean a word of it a maid knocked on our door to inform us that we were invited to dinner.

I realised with great sadness that we had come so far, to only be set all the way back to the beginning by my foolish little mouth. I resolved to keep hold of my emotions and control myself. It did not matter, I decided, whether he loved me or not. I was going to keep control, and hope to god that he might never find out that even the smallest inch of my being wanted him to love me. I sighed as we exited the room, praying to my mother, hoping to god that I would overcome my stupidity and horrid personality.

I felt so very stupid and foolish sitting next to Armand at dinner. I spent a good portion of the time wondering if he truly despised me now. I felt so very angry and confused, mostly at Armand. I wondered what on earth he had done to me, or fed to me to make me feel so…vulnerable and weak.

I wanted so very badly to apologise, however instead I merely shoved the emotion down with the food and tried to actually listen to Lady Vache chatter away to everyone and anyone who would listen. I poked the food in my plate with a fork, wondering if Armand ever lusted after food. He had been denied it so long. And then it occurred to me. Although he could not actually consume food, could he not taste it?

I watched briefly as Lady Vache's beak-like nose bobbed up and down with every word. I then realised, what better a way to frustrate Lady Vache than to do something so inexplicably shameful and improper. If I combined that with the fact that I could eat and taste food, and one always had that aftertaste in one's mouth, why I could kiss Armand, and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Before my brain could protest, I started first with the wine, making sure to swish it around in my mouth before swallowing it for good measure.

Turning to Armand, I smiled my most pleasant smile and asked, "My darling, have you sampled the wine?"

Armand turned to look at me as if I had grown two more heads. Even Lady Vache stopped talking briefly to send a curious glance in our direction.

"Celia, you know that is entirely impossible for me." Armand laughed humourlessly.

"I'm not quite so sure it is impossible." I replied, "I think we should try and see if you can taste it. But you must cooperate with me." I asserted, swallowing all my nervousness down into the pit of my stomach, where butterflies wrecked havoc.

"Alright." Armand nodded, almost a little too fast. Perhaps a little excited that maybe he might be able to taste something.

With that I quickly cupped Armand's cheeks in my hands and brought his face to mine for a kiss. I managed to slip my tongue into his mouth, taking Armand by surprise. After a few minutes of not breathing, I pulled away briefly, waiting to see his reaction.

Before I knew it, Armand had practically pulled me into his lap, muttering, "Really is quite exquisite," just as he covered my mouth with his own.

"Glad you like it," I heard Lord Vache laugh jovially.

Reluctantly I pulled away, wanting instantly to attatch myself back to his burning mouth and feel the way his lips made my entire body tingle and burn. I turned away, realising that I did not want to see Armand's expression.

"Oh really," Lady Vache droned, "The wine isn't that great."

Dinner had ended over an hour ago and in the mean time I had retreated to my chambers to bathe and dress for bed. I gazed at the fire, watching the flames caress the air. There was something relaxing about the crackling of the fire and the way the heat radiated throughout my body. I sat in front of it, beneath a rug, brushing my wet hair, with albeit a little difficulty. It was always a little difficult to brush it after a bath.

I ran a towel through it again, trying to stop it from dripping onto my nightgown. But it was no use; the towel was already wet beyond help, and there was far too much hair. I felt a towel being draped over my head. I took it off, turning slightly, watching Armand as I sat behind me quietly, taking the brush from my hand.

Armand began to pull the comb through my hair, gently getting rid of the knots. I felt myself shiver as his hand swept up my hair, brushing his hand across the bare skin of my neck. As the contact left tingles all over my body, I wondered what he was thinking about. Whether he was angry or still annoyed with me. Even what he thought about dinner.

"You have so much hair." I heard Armand chuckle. I repressed a shiver, as his breath tingled against my ear and neck. I felt Goosebumps take over my flesh and suddenly I felt far too hot in front of the fire. "How do you handle it all."

"With difficulty," I replied as steadily as I could. I tried to tell myself to keep my guard, but it was no use. I was not even listening to myself anymore and I was beginning not to want to.

"Kitten." Armand sighed, putting down the comb, and pulling my back into his chest. I felt it to be rather cold, and realised that had no shirt on, just his breeches. I blushed turning away from his perfection.

"Ah come, do not be shy." Armand chuckled, his laugh travelling from his chest spreading through my back and throughout my entire body. I shivered. "You did not mind the other night."

I stilled, he had seen me watching him undress. I knew immediately that colour was invading my cheeks, I could practically feel the warmth on my face. Heatedly I recalled the vision of a couple of nights ago. It was true I had seen him change. In fact I had seen all of him. Or as much of him as I could have seen in the light provided. There was no denying that I had felt a little delighted by him. But still, I had a sick feeling that he had indeed been putting on a show. There was only one thing to be done.

"You're cold. Have you not fed recently?" I felt Armand come to a complete stillness behind me. Only Armand could do that. I had never seen any other person able become so still and silent like he could. I supposed it must have been one of his Vampire abilities or something of the like. I had come to notice that his body temperature would always change, depending on whether he had gone out and fed or not.

"No. Not since two days ago." He murmured quietly. Pulling my hair to cover my neck. I frowned, his actions strange. Was I tempting to him, I wondered.

"And are you hungry?"

"I suppose." Armand replied, controlled, almost like he feared my response. Like he feared my judgement. I wondered why he should fear such a thing. Really I was an irrelevant, small human being. When had my opinion ever mattered to anyone? Least of all someone who probably had the strength to snap me in half.

"What does it feel like to give blood to a vampire?" I asked, fiddling with the hem of my nightgown.

"I refuse to take your blood. So why bother asking?" Armand replied stiffly, as he withdrew his arms from my waist, pulling back to stand up. I felt the icy cold fires of anger worm their way up into my veins. I revelled in the familiar feeling. Oh anger and me. We were good friends. I jumped up, bringing myself to my full height. (Which albeit, was not a very impressive height to begin with).

"Look, stupid monkey head," I replied, as I grabbed his collar bringing his face down to the level of mine. He was practically bowing. "I was not offering, so listen before you make stupid monkey-vampire comments as you often prone to doing. Besides, what is so wrong with my blood? Is the blood of a commoner, a whore's daughter, not good enough." I spat

"No, kitten, it's not like that." Armand sighed, encircling me with his arms, my hands still holding onto his collar.

"I'm sure." I sniffed huffily. I was not too annoyed. I just enjoyed making Armand squirm.

"I love you too much to hurt you like that." Armand replied softly, his breath tickling my ear. Yet it was not the warm breath that sent thrills up my spine this time. It was the words. I tried desperately to ignore them. "I do not think you are ready for such a thing. No matter how much progress we have made."

With that, Armand swept me up and dumped me onto the bed.

"Time to go to bed." He sung. "We must get up at seven tomorrow."

"No." I moaned in horror as Armand collapsed onto the bed next to me. "That is far too early for me to be handling Lady Vache."

"Kitten. Please behave." Armand sighed.

"I always behave." I smirked, as I pulled the bed sheets back and tucked myself in the bed, my hair still a little damp.

"Of course." Armand chuckled, slipping into the sheets. I turned to face the fire, it still crackled, but it was slowly dying down. I felt Armand wrap an arm around my waist, and pull my back into his chest.

"Get your slimy little hands off me." I murmured as I was being pulled into sleep. I didn't particularly want him to remove them, but I didn't want him to think I liked him. Because. I didn't.

"Are you thinking about me naked?"

I shot up in the bed immediately, "That's it, you are sleeping on the floor." I demanded, my cheeks flaming red, matching the fire behind me. I began pushing him off the bed, but found he was ridiculously heavy. "Get out, get out, get out."

He had still not moved an inch and began hysterically laughing; "You did not mind me so much a few hours ago when you threw yourself at me at the dinner table. I rather enjoyed that."

"Shut up stupid. You do not know what you're talking about." I spat, as I jumped on him, trying to squish him. That only made him laugh harder at me. That was when I realised that he was still only wearing his breeches. "Where is your nightgown?" I asked huffily as I tried not to look at his chest.

"Mm. It was not packed. I think Mary thought I would have little need of it." Armand replied as he tried to stifle his laughter, snaking an arm around my waist and pulling me on top of him. I inhaled sharply, trying to calm myself down.

"Let me go, Armand."


A/N: Woah! I updated! If it wasn't for the crappiness of this chapter, I'd be really happy... But anyway, I had most of this lying around my documents and thought, why not attempt to update? As in terms of character development and relationship, etc. A lot seemed to happen in the chapter, whether any of it made sense, is another story...

Also, people ask: Why can't they just both tell each other how much they love each other? and you know, get it on? My answer is simple: Because they're both stupid. And even when they make progress they stuff it up...or rather Celia stuffs it up. Mind you Armand doesn't help. I sometimes want to punch him...Actually i want to punch Celia as well. She's so confusing. One minutes shes like: "omg, I love you Armand, lets have babies!" and next she's like, "I hate you so much, I'm going to make sure I piss you off."

ALSO. O-M-G Celia totally kissed Armand! AT THE DINNER TABLE! THE SCANDAL!

A big thanks too all my readers and reviewers! I don't know why any of you actually put up with me and my horrid writing. But yay =D