A silver crescent of moon hung in the sky, like the grin of a Cheshire cat, obscured by boiling black rain clouds. They were threats of the storm to come, grumbling with premature thunder. The night was humid; the stale summer air was barely stirred with the whisper of a breeze, a breeze that did little to take off the heavy heat. It rustled through the thick-branched maples lining either side of the narrow dirt road simply called "The Avenue." It whistled past the lone man hovering in the shadows and flapped his long, black cloak gently about his legs. The man remained motionless, however, without even the steady rise and fall of his breathing to betray that he lived.

Because he wasn't breathing.

Cold, amber-colored eyes peered out from under furrowed, raven-black eyebrows in impatient perplexity, and pale skin shone like a lamp in the ghostly moonlight, stark white against the dark hues of his eyes were unblinking in a face that was as hard and unmoving as if it were set in stone. His blood red lips were pursed somewhat petulantly and defined his look of anxiety and impatience even more. Long-nailed hands clasped each other tightly behind his back. He held himself with a royal bearing. His clothing certainly did nothing to deter that image: he wore finely cut velvet breeches of a dark green that was hardly distinguishable from his cloak and a black shirt that was trimmed in silver only hindrance to his prince-like appearance was the waxy, tired pallor on his pale face. It was as though he hadn't seen sunlight in months – perhaps years.

There was a predatory look about him - from those emotionless golden eyes to the soft leather boots on his feet - a feline grace, poised and prepared to attack at the first hint of his prey.

The telltale rustle of movement in the grass nearby caused his head to snap in the direction of the sound – the first sign of life from him - save for the eerie glow of his eyes – and a long-bladed knife appeared in his hand.

"Who's there?" he demanded, his voice harsh. He fell into a defensive crouch. His eyes darted about, searching for any warning of an adversary.

Two pinpricks of light appeared in the distance, watching him in silent defiance and waiting in the shadows. For a moment the scruffy-looking ginger cat studied him, an odd look of distaste on his face. Then with a soft hiss and a flick of its wiry tail, it disappeared with as little noise as when it had first come.

Heaving a heavy sigh of relief, the man slumped wearily against the trunk of a large tree, and his knife vanished into the sheath hidden up his sleeve. He scrubbed a hand through his tangle of dark curls and shook his head at his own jumpiness. He laughed wryly, but the laughter was soon a sharp gasp of pain. With a wince, he squeezed his eyes shut against the sharp convulsions that ripped through his chest and pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. A deep hunger tore at him, flesh and bone...and blood.

Forcing the feeling to subside, he clutched at his ribs and struggled with consciousness. His legs shook beneath him, threatening collapse, and he gave in, sinking to the ground with a strangled sigh. How long has it been? He hadn't realized he was so…starving. Blood pounded in his ears, deafening him…blinding him even. He needed...

"You really shouldn't go so long without feeding, Lucian."

The gentle, chiding voice brought a small resurgence of hunger in him, a tiny white flame of pain that threatened to burn through his ribcage. He brushed it off.

"You shouldn't have come," he whispered, not looking up at the beautiful, sun-browned face he knew hovered just inches above his own. Her heartbeat hummed softly in his ears as she ran a cool hand over his brow. He shoved her away, resisting the aching thirst that blazed up and down his wouldn't. He had to resist…

"But I did come," her voice was soft but determined as her hand returned to his cheek.

He heard the grass rustle quietly as she knelt down beside him and turned his face further away. He couldn't look at her; it was too much. The gentle pressure of her hand made him turn back to her, a hopeless sigh escaping his lips as her face came into view in the silver moonlight. The weak light made her look ashen, dark shadows gathering under her fierce, green eyes, but she looked beautiful nonetheless. So beautiful and so…alive.

Her light brown hair was tangled and tousled beneath the hood of her deep green riding cloak, a testament to her haste and the cold wind that still rustled in the branches. A few stray strands fell across her cheek, brushing against her lips as she bent over him, and she tucked them back with impatient fingers, reaching a pale hand up to push back her sudden, white-knuckled grip on her wrist stopped her.

"No, you mustn't be seen. Go home, before we both make a mistake." The strained, pinched look never left his face. "You shouldn't be here."

"It's not for you to say where I should or shouldn't be. The choice is mine," she smiled thinly at him and pushed back her hood with her other hand. "And I chose to come to you."

His shoulders sagged, but whether from relief or defeat even he wasn't sure. "It is a decision I hope you do not come to regret." The sound of her heartbeat still pounded in his head, filling him with a terrible thirst and fear. He pushed on, nonetheless, ignoring the pain still clawing at his chest. "It is not too late to leave and be rid of me forever, Elaine."

She lowered her gaze demurely at the sound of her name. "Leaving now would not rid me of you. It's far too late for that."

"You would not want what I have to offer you."

"You offer me more than I could ever hope for. You offer me a freedom unlike any I could ever gain in this place –"

"Freedom has no part in –"

She cut him off with a gentle hand on his cheek and a soft smile. "- and you offer me a love that will last an eternity."

A cold fury suddenly flared in his eyes. He cast her hand from him as though it had burned him. "It is not such a fairytale as you would make it."

The smile faded from her eyes. "It cannot be such a Hell as you paint it to be, all blood reds and black darkness."

"You do not know what it is. You could not imagine such a Hell." His legs shook as he climbed to his feet, but his voice did not. "To prowl the shadows and prey on that which I once was, to be this nightmarish creature, this demon –"

"You are no demon, my love." It was no struggle for her to regain her footing and face him. She stood like a fierce angel, eyes flashing and hair framing her flushed face like a halo. It was not her face that drew his eyes, however. Her throat stood bare (her cloak having slipped from her left shoulder.) Her pulse was visible there, throbbing was all he could do to hold himself back.

"You cannot understand." He licked his lips hungrily. "You do not know the harm I would cause you at this very moment."

Her eyes followed his gaze and she did seem to not to obscure his view, her fingers began to work deftly with the clasp of her cloak. His lips parted slightly in anticipation.

"How could you harm me when you have no strength left in you?" The dark green wool slid fluidly from her shoulders and bared her throat entirely. Lusty hunger surged up within him.

"Drink."