Chapter 25: The New Deal
To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. ~Soren Kierkegaard
The next day, I stayed alone in my empty house, not moving, not speaking, nothing. I was in my grieving stage now. I didn't want anyone, not even Ethan, to come over. Micah'd been trying to reach me, but I didn't answer the phone. No word from Henri. Like I expected him to call. Heh. Finally, I decided that enough was enough. I was tired of waiting. I started to roam the crowded sidewalk. It was a Monday morning, and cars packed the streets on their way to work or school. Bikes road by, but I ignored it all. I was going to Henri's. I know, I know. It's dangerous. At least Halloween was over. Just over night, the Order adopted a singular uniform for us vampire hunters. Turns out, the outfit I wore last night was the choice. Go figure. Who'd have guessed? I certainly didn't. With the new uniform, we can blend into the shadows so we can get the drop on vamps easier, I guess. Truthfully, I don't think it helps. It just an excuse to make us wear the hottest damn clothes imaginable. And I don't mean hot as in sexy. I mean in HOT, like sweltering hot. I found the penthouse (How I remembered its address, I have no idea) and knocked on the door.
"Henri?" No answer. Pfft. Typical.
"Come on, Henri. I want to talk." About what, I was still trying to figure that out. I pushed on the door, and it opened. Not ominously, but it was unlocked. I walked in and closed the door behind me.
"Henri?" Let me just say that his living room (It's a miracle I found it) was…amazing. Extraordinary. It looked as big as Gavin's dining room, minus the tables. Old paintings, older than this penthouse, framed the cream-colored walls. There was a large fireplace on one side of the room, opposite of a door that, I guess, led to the kitchen. The portraits caught my attention. They were portraits of, I guess again, his…relatives? Maybe. They kinda looked like him.
"Admiring the family tree?" I jumped out of my skin. Damn Henri. God, you'd think I'd hear him coming. There in the doorway to the kitchen, stood Henri, smiling. His fangs protruded slightly out of his mouth. Oh, great. He still likes my outfit apparently. Fine. I frowned and looked up at the ancient fireplace.
"Not typical for a penthouse, is it?"
"No, it isn't. But this room itself is special." He gently touched a painting near him; one of a young girl with black hair and blue eyes. She was kneeling in front of twin brothers with the same black hair. One boy had amber eyes, the other blue. They stood behind the girl with giant grins painted on their faces. They were all wearing Renaissance clothing. I knew at first glance that the two brothers were Henri and Gavin. The girl, however…
"Who's the girl? Is she a childhood friend? Giselle?" Henri laughed, "No, she's my sister." My jaw dropped to the floor in disbelief. Holy mother of God. Henri has a sister. I peered at the picture. Yes, they were all related. And Henri was alive during the Renaissance? Whoa.
"First of all, you never told me when you were born…"
"You never asked."
"Forget it," I snapped, "Second. What's your sister's name?"
"Rinka." That word held the same emotion that he always used with my name. It told me he loved her.
"Is she…you know, a vampire?" Henri's face hardened instantly, and the hand that had been stroking the frame curled into a fist.
"No. She died in a fire." A fire?
"Oh, I'm so sorry. When?"
"Why do you care?" he growled, staring at me with eyes filled with fueled anger. Oh, damn.
"Why could you possibly…" he shook his head and sighed, "Why are you even here, Antoinette?"
"It must be important if you're so speechless." Maybe the reason I'm speechless is because of what you're wearing, which is practically nothing. Today, he wore red boxers and nothing else. I shifted on my feet and rubbed my arms, "I…love you, Henri. What I wanted to know was if you love me. I mean, I really need someone to love me, especially now, with Liz…" I didn't finish.
"Antoinette." I found I loved it when he called me that. I shivered. Familiar arms wrapped around me, "I understand, Toni. But we can't love each other."
"The Mark caused this, didn't it?"
"Can we get rid of it?"
"Then I don't care if we can. We won't," I pressed closer to his bare chest, "Whether it's the Mark or not, I love you."
"You don't know what you're say-…"
"No." I kissed him. That feverish spark spread like a wildfire through my body. His cold, bare chest felt hot against my skin.
"S-stop…" Henri's panted when my lips left his, "…before I…" He pushed me to the ground, breathing heavily. His eyes had gone crimson with hunger. Shit.
"S-sorry," I stuttered breathlessly and shuddered. That brief heat left me suddenly cold. Hmm. Henri nodded at me before walking from the room stiffly.
"Henri, wait!" I followed after him and found myself on a beautifully styled balcony. For such a modern penthouse, it felt so timeless. No wonder he lived here.
"Henri," I winced as he grasped my arms and growled, "Just stop, Toni. STOP!" His voice echoed on the terrace. He dragged me until my legs brushed the edge of the balcony, dangling over the streets.
"I'm sorry, but it's true. I love you."
"It's the Mark talking, not you."
"You're wrong, Henri, I…"
"When Giselle Marked me, I felt like I couldn't live without her. The Mark controls you," he hissed into my ear. I didn't want to believe him, but what if he was right? The love for him was almost instant impulse. Not gradual at all.
"Toni, I can't take it."
"Yes, you can."
"Do you want to die someday, Antoinette?"
"It's not like I have a choice, Henri," I muttered through clenched teeth. Too many emotions. Conflicted emotions.
"But you do. Oh, you do," he murmured, finally releasing my arms. I'd have bruises later.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"I'm dangerous." Yes, you are.
"I don't care."
"You're an idiot, then." Well, thanks a lot.
"Listen, we have feelings for each other. Admit it. And don't say it's the damn Mark, because it isn't." Henri threw up his hands in the air, "Fine. Is that what you want, huh? For me to say 'I love you'? Do I get to fill the void in your heart left by your dear sister?" His words stung. I wouldn't look at him. Gentle hands, so familiar now, caressed my cheek and my head lifted.
"Then there's the problem of the Order. They can think you escaped."
"Isn't that treason? Lying to the Order?" he asked, eyebrows raised. Hmm. Yes, it was treason; high treason.
"If they lock you up again, you'll just escape again, right?"
"Yeah, sure. But what if this time, it's execution, not trial?" I sighed. He had a point.
"Are you saying you aren't going to turn yourself in?"
"Perfect. You're finally learning." Now I was feeling depressed. I'd come here to maybe…compromise. Now, it was crumbling to my feet.
"I want to make a deal," I stated as firmly as I could, looking into those dark, dark eyes. He stared me down, meeting my eyes undaunted. Damn.
"Why?" I refrained from rubbing my forehead in frustration.
"Only you, Henri. A deal to help me take down my uncle and to keep you out of jail." I held up a finger before he could protest, and reasoned, "What's in it for you? Glad you asked. It gives you control over the clan. I'll make sure of that." Henri crossed his arms, "So, you want me to help you bring down Robert? In exchange for control and protection?"
"What about the Order?"
"They can believe you're missing." Henri laughed, "You're taking a big risk doing that."
"I don't care."
"You're so stubborn," Henri murmured with a crooked smile. The grin made my breath catch.
"What?" That shocked me. And most things don't.
"I'll help you. But you have to do something." Uh-oh.
"What do you want?" I muttered. He smiled sweetly at me (Causing my heart to race) and took my hand in his, "Keep these…feelings you have for me secret. No one, not even Ethan or Micah, can know."
"Why? Is it supposed to be a secret?" I asked with a small smile.
"Let's just say it'll ruin my reputation." My smile faded into an annoyed frown, "Oh. Gotta protect that."
"Glad we understand each other."
"Mmm-hmm," I sighed heavily and looked at my clock, "Well, I need to go to work." Henri gave a final sweep of my clothes with his eyes before leading me inside and to the door, "We have a deal, Toni. Don't back out now." That's what I'm afraid of. Life should be better now, right? Sadly, I'm wrong. Life just got a lot more complicated. Damn it.