Owen was always nervous leaving Madeleine alone in the house while he hunted. Being the bane of humanity left him knowing what lurked out there, and he loathed leaving Madeleine unprotected.
He walked down the main street on a warm, summer evening. He caught a whiff of jasmine on the air as the wind gusted down the narrow street, banging shutters against the hundred year old buildings. The evening was quiet, nearly all souls tucked up at home or in the city’s core finding distraction from the summer heat. They were all used to it, though. The sticky, humid weather was hardly worth mentioning anymore.
Owen tossed the remaining stub of his cigarillo on the sidewalk and ground it under the heel of his black leather boot. He was the picture of a gentleman, with his crisp white shirt, despite the heat, black vest and burgundy cravat. He smoothed a wisp of blond hair back from his face, the remainder held back with a leather tie at the base of his neck.
He walked slowly, nodding politely to those he saw, eyeing them carefully. Owen was choosy about his prey. He liked the beautiful ones, the soft ones. He liked them innocent, unaware of the cruel world around them. He didn’t like to see knowledge in their eyes of what he would do to them. When the women finally realized that his kisses on their neck were not from love or even lust it was too late. But Owen didn’t have to look them in the eye when he drank their blood. Their eyes afterward, Owen found when he finally had the courage to look, were glassy, betraying no sign of life or emotion.
He saw her then. He paused behind a lilac bush, it’s flowers gone in the spring, and watched as she left her lover’s townhouse by the back door. Owen retreated deeper into the shadow as he heard her footsteps in the alley behind. He back tracked until he could cut through the yard of a dilapidated home and intercept the young woman behind the house.
He chanced a glimpse at her in the last few steps before she ran into him. High colour in her cheeks revealed her infatuation with the man she just left. She had a wide, dreamy smile that extended to the sparkle in her eyes.
“Oh!” she yelped as Owen stepped directly into her path, catching her by the upper arms. She didn’t yet realized she was caught in a spider’s web. “Terribly sorry, sir. It’s so difficult to see tonight without the moon.”
She bit a cherry red lip, the sparkle replaced by anxiety. Proper girls don’t run down dark alleys at night and this gentleman might not be a gentleman at all. Or worse, he could be one of her father’s associates and she would surely be sent to the nunnery.
“It is quite a dark night,” Owen said, still clutching the girl in his arms. “Why is a pretty young thing like yourself out alone on such a dark night? You’re father would not be pleased, now would he?”
Her face fell. “Please, sir, I beg you not to tell my father. My suitor is an honourable man, I can assure you, but he has not much money and my father doesn’t allow me to see him so if you would please, please … “
Owen held up his hand. They were so trusting. Just a simple mention of her father, a neat appearance, and she assumed he was one of her class. He was, but then, he wasn’t. “My dear, I won’t say a word.” Her smile and the sparkle returned. “But please permit me to walk you home. It’s a dangerous world we live in. Not everyone is as trustworthy as they should be.”
“Yes, thank you sir,” she said, nodding. Owen released her and offered his arm, which she accepted. They walked in silence down the alley and into the street, in the direction of the bay. The smell of jasmine was on the air again. The sounds of the city diminished and were replaced by the click of the couple’s heels on the sidewalk.
“How do you know my father?” the young woman asked. She looked at him with large, jewel bright eyes. Deep blue, like his Madeleine’s. He felt a twinge at the thought of his wife and shook it off.
“Oh, through some committees we sit on at city hall,” he said absently. This was enough to satisfy her although it was a complete guess by Owen. He knew her father was probably in business, due to his preoccupation with the income of his daughter’s suitor, and vaguely naming a committee was enough to bore the girl into acceptance. Owen was fortunate that few of the women in this city were interested in the work of men.
They stepped off the sidewalk to cross the street, empty of horses and carriages at this hour. Halfway, Owen stopped and pulled the girl into his arms again. He looked into her eyes as the fear returned. Again, thoughts of Madeleine and that twinge of anxiety. He pushed it away. He couldn’t be hasty. He got caught when he was hasty. He let the girl go. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be so forward. I don’t even know your name.”
He watched her let out the breath she’d been holding. “Sarah.”
He smiled, careful not to show his teeth lest his fangs had already descended. “Sarah, lovely. I am Lucien Robillard. Might we sit for a moment? I’m afraid I feel somewhat woozy from too much cheer this evening.”
Sarah nodded, her smile not quite as wide as before. “Yes, certainly.”
They sat side by side on a small iron bench in the small park in the square. Crickets chirped. Sarah stared off in the distance, turning her head as Owen brushed her hair away from her neck. His fingers tangled in her dark curls and as she opened her mouth to protest, he clamped the other over it, muffling the scream as he sunk his teeth into her neck.
She was a slight girl and further hindered by the corset she wore. She struggled briefly, but quickly lost consciousness as her blood drained into Owen’s mouth. Her body went limp as the last pulse of her heart pushed her remaining blood out of her body. Her pale complexion took on a silvery sheen despite the lack of moonlight.
Owen wiped his mouth with a handkerchief pulled from his coat pocket. He felt another twinge for Madeleine, but stronger. Something was pulling him home. He could feel it now that his hunger was sated. He had to get home. Something was wrong. Something to do with Madeleine. He left the dead girl where she slumped on the park bench. Some one would find her, he thought as he broke into a run to reach the nearest street where he could find a carriage for hire.
Panic started to rise and he knew he needed to calm down. He couldn’t get the nearest carriage. The driver would remember a man, out of breath and running, when the police canvassed the area the next day looking for Sarah’s murderer. Once he thought he was far enough away, he doubled back two blocks to make it look like he’d come from town. He waited a few seconds, it was all he could spare, to catch his breath. He hoped he looked drunk rather than distraught.
“Where you headed?” the driver asked.
“French quarter,” Owen replied, climbing in. His apprehension was growing.
Madeleine lay sleeping in their bed, wrapped in soft cotton sheets, the cover kicked off because of the heat. She’d opened the window after Owen had left. He specifically told her not to, but it was so hot she had no choice. She couldn’t sleep until she felt the warm air drift in and settle on her skin.
She slept deeply. It was just a few hours before dawn but she’d gone to sleep early. It was difficult to sleep during the day with the temperature so hot. Heat seemed to bother her so much more these last few months since she became undead. She preferred the cool of the night and the chill of stone to the heat wave they currently faced.
She slept so soundly she didn’t hear the scuffling noise outside her bedroom window. The sound of someone climbing up the trellis on the side of the house, crushing the red roses underfoot. The thorns failed to impede his progress. He slid one leg, then the other over the sill, brushing the gauzy curtains away to reveal the sleeping woman in the room.
He paused. He hated this woman but he was still arrested by her beauty. The silk nightdress clung to her body, the slight hips and tiny waist to the soft cup of her breast. One hand lay on her stomach, the other reached for a partner that wasn’t there. Her breath came in and out evenly, softly.
Rafael wanted to touch the ivory skin of her cheek and feel the soft blonde hair on the pillow. But more than anything he wanted to strangle and stifle the breath that came out of her mouth.
He walked slowly towards the bed, placing a hand on the solid wood post at the foot and watched. It took him this long to get here, he might as well enjoy this. Take pleasure in killing her. Then he would wait, while she laid dead in her bed, her blood soaking the sheets and pooling on the floor for that partner she reached for but couldn’t find.
He kneeled on the bed, the wooden stake in his right hand and leaned over the sleeping Madeleine. Her eyes fluttered open at the movement, unfocussed. “Owen?”
With his free hand he covered Madeleine’s mouth, pressing her into the bed. She struggled as she realized who he was, but he used his weight as leverage and she couldn’t get free. He could see the panic in her eyes, the fear and the anger. Those jewel blue eyes widened as he raised the stake poised above her heart. She tried to scream but no sound was audible behind Rafael grip.
He paused, revelling in the fear he caused in this woman. That pause, that moment of arrogance, cost him his life.
Madeleine’s pet, a gift from a witch in Martinique, slowly slithered its way from under her pillow and coiled. He failed to see it with the lack of light. Before he could strike, the snake did, sinking its fangs into his throat, depositing its poison.
Rafael fell backwards off the bed, clawing at the snake that was firmly attached to his windpipe. It was impossible to scream. He thrashed on the floor for a few agonizing seconds before the room went black and his life was extinguished.
The snake let go and slithered out of the room, leaving Madeleine clutching at a pillow and shaking. She couldn’t move and couldn’t comprehend how close she had come to death. Owen had cautioned her that her life would be endless but it was almost over before it began.
Madeleine had no idea how long she sat there, shaking, staring at the corpse on the floor of her bedroom. Her breathing slowed and she began to comprehend that all of it was over - the chase, the fear, was all over. Their pursuer was dead and they were as close to freedom as they had ever been.
Owen shook her out of her revere as he crashed through the door, nearly stepping on the body of Madeleine’s husband in his rush to her. He was panting, having run up the street and the stairs, praying to whomever would listen to let her be breathing when he got there. He looked to Madeleine for an explanation.
She smiled. “He climbed in the window,” she said, nodding towards the open window. “He almost staked me but Slither bit him.
“He’s dead,” she whispered, as if there was some confusion as to the body on the floor in front of Owen.
“I told you to keep the window shut,” he said, a wrinkle creasing his brow. “I told you something like this could happen and to make sure the windows and doors were locked. It doesn’t work the same for regular mortals, Madeleine. You can’t keep them out by not inviting them in.”
Madeleine’s mouth fell open. “You’re lecturing me? Our greatest foe, the man who’s been following us, hunting us across continents and oceans is laying dead at your feet and you’re lecturing me about leaving the window open?”
The wrinkle stayed. “What do you want me to say?”
She smiled, a devilish light in her eyes. “I don’t want you to say anything, except perhaps how much you like to make love to me.”
The wrinkle disappeared and his thin lips stretched into a grin. He stepped over the body and took his wife in his arms, kissing her. His hands slid up her thighs, over the curve of her ripe ass, slipping her thin nightgown over her head. It fell to the floor with barely a whisper.
She climbed up on the bed, kneeling. They were face to face, she immodest about her nakedness. His eyes roved over her porcelain skin, the thick curly hair and black lashes that seemed to sweep across her cheeks like great gothic butterflies. She pulled at his necktie, unbuttoned his waistcoat and shirt, tossing each aside with deliberateness and forethought. The tie landed in the pool of blood that still seeped from the dead man on the floor.
She placed her palms on his smooth chest, one hand sliding around his neck, the other sliding down, below the waistband of his pants. His black slacks hung low on his hips, accentuating the length of his sculpted abdomen. She unbuttoned his pants to get a better hold of him, her hand gripping his shaft, as she pulled his head toward her for a kiss.
Owen’s tongue flicked over her razor-sharp teeth. They were new, unlike his which were still sharp but he felt their wear. Her new hunger permeated everything - her hunt, her kills and her sex. She was ravenous in almost all aspects of life.
She pulled on his cock and broke their kiss with a gasp, retreating to catch his breath. Madeleine’s fingernails dug into the back of his neck as she pulled him forward again. Then just as violently she backed away, sitting back on her heels and looking at him through half-lidded eyes. Owen pushed his pants to the floor, standing as naked as she, and moved toward her on the bed. Her thin, wiry arms wound around his neck and he pulled her onto his lap. Poised above his hard cock she hesitated, drawing a moment of pleasure in a split second of denial.
Owen didn’t thrust and Madeleine didn’t impale herself like she had with other men before. Their relationship was different; it was slow, methodical and squeezed and coaxed every moment of lust from their bodies. They were in no rush; they had eternity to experience pleasure.
Face to face as Madeleine slid over his cock, the electricity between them increased to a fever pitch. Her ruby lips peeled back from her teeth, sharp and snarling. She’d nicked him before and doubted that she’d never do it again. Her hand snaked down between her legs and she rubbed at her clit, engorged with blood and passion.
Owen lifted her easily and set her on her back on the bed before him, her hand still between her legs, her tongue licking at the corner of her mouth. He grabbed her hand and plunged his face into her crotch, licking the spot where her fingers had just been. His own fingers slid into her cunt, slick with her own oil, and milked her orgasm closer. He could sense her near, her passion like a living thing that made his pulse race.
He drew back, picking her hips up onto his lap. This time he did thrust forcefully, her shoulders arching, sending her breasts with their tiny, pert nipples to the ceiling in waves of pleasure. She cried out, fingernails tearing at the sheets, her head twisted back in spasms of ecstasy. Owen came with her, his body calm as he felt his consciousness reach a higher plane of feeling. It was euphoric, the energy created between them.
Dawn was breaking, with shafts of sunlight dancing on the carpet below the open window. Owen closed it gingerly, avoiding the blistering rays, and shut the blackout curtain to the world.
As Madeleine lay in her husband’s arms, lightly brushing his forearm with her fingertips, she asked, “What are we going to do with the body?”