Saturday, January 29, 2011

"I can't tell from here, darlin'." Unconsciously, Nick has shifted into a Southern accent, and he absently strokes Star's fingers where they lie across his wrist. "He might be mesmerizing her, but I can't be sure…."

He comes out of his apparent trance and his pale cheeks flush for a second as he realizes what he's been doing. "My apologies." With that, he rises from the table and heads upstairs. Raina moves to follow, but I catch her wrist. "I would speak with you when you have leisure. If I may have the use of your room for the night…?" She nods. "I have had a strange pair of days, and I'd like to take some time to try to work things out. If you have time later…." She nods again, clearly impatient to join Nick. "Then I bid you a good night."

Sleeps comes not nigh my bed that night. There are too many things to consider, to feel, things that make my head whirl and my heart ache. A hundred times I tell myself to stop thinking and go to sleep; and the more I resolve not to think, the more I think.

I still feel Conal's loss like a blade in my breast, and I think of all the things I should have said - things I'll never get to say now. I think of the plans of escape I had not the courage to attempt - how much worse could things have been if we'd tried? I tease myself like this till my face is wet and my jaws ache from clenching my teeth.

About dawn, there's a knock at my door. Who…? The question is answered when Raina enters, smiling. "Nick's asleep," she says. "Or whatever he does at this time of day. I told him I was coming here and he smiled just before he did that creepy 'dead' thing he does."

She undresses, smiling seductively, and climbs under the covers with me. She clasps me against her softness and her lips find mine. I sigh into her mouth and wonder what it would be like to have a woman like this for my own. But she is Nick's lover, and I - what am I?

A question for another time. At the moment, another question occupies the forefront of my thoughts and I must have an answer or my curiousity will eat me alive.

"Lady Raina," I begin, but she puts a finger to my lips.

"Gareth," she says. "I think you can dispense with the 'Lady' part. I'm just Raina, okay? I appreciate the respect, but I think we've gone past the need for formalities - don't you?"

"Raina, then." It feels wrong, disrespectful, but I push on. "There's no tactful way to say this, so bear with me, please.

Raina - I've seen you completely naked twice" - I smile - "not counting tonight, and I've seen you from very close range. I can't be mistaken. For some reason, Nick hasn't marked you. Do you know why?"

"Marked me?"

"Bitten you, if you prefer. With women, vampires tend to bite the throat, the breast, or the inner thigh, or sometimes a combination of the three. While vampire bites do tend to heal quickly, there should be at least some residual scarring - but there's nothing there."

She smiles. "That's what's been making you crazy tonight?"

"And last night, too - yes."

"Well, it's simple. Nick promised not to bite me before we ever shared a bed the first time."

"How long have you been lovers?"

She seems to look inward, as if calculating…. "About nine months, give or take."

The breath leaves me in a hiss. "That's amazing."

"Huh? I don't understand, Gareth. What are you talking about?"

"Raina," I say, "for a vampire, marking his lover is an essential part of lovemaking - particularly if they are truly in love. That Nick has restrained himself for nine months is, in my experience, unheard-of. His self-control must be something out of legend."

"I told him I didn't want to be his midnight snack."

"Oh, Raina." I smile sadly. "Raina, marking one's lover has nothing to do with feeding. It is the most intense pleasure for both the giver and the receiver, and it is never given lightly. Nick must love you very much indeed."

"Gareth, you're confusing me again…."

"Nick aches to mark you, to give you the pleasure that only this type of lovemaking can give; but because of a promise made when you didn't truly know him, he has refrained. And I'd wager that he's never mentioned biting you as a form of love-play, has he?"

"No - never."

"Of course not, because he would be afraid that you would misconstrue his motives. If he told you of the pleasure he can give in this way, you would have wondered - would you not? - if he was only giving into his baser instincts, and making up 'facts' to justify doing what he wanted to do anyway."

"Okay, Gareth. You've been very 'tactful', as you say, in all this - so let me get this straight. You're saying that if Nick bites me, not for food, but as lovemaking - "

"You have no concept of the pleasure it can be for you both."

"Wouldn't it make me a vampire, too, eventually?"

"Oh, no, it doesn't work like that. To make another person a vampire requires a conscious act of will - otherwise the world would be knee-deep in vampires. It also requires a prolonged exchange of blood - and you would have to drink his as well."

"Ewwwww." Raina is silent for several long moments, thinking. Then she turns to me, smiling.

"Looks like Nick and I are going to have to have a long talk when he wakes up." Here eyes are smoky. "In the meantime - you're not really sleepy - are you?"

As it happens, it's some hours before I sleep….

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