Chapter 2


He was watching her.

Margaret tried not to shiver, tried to pretend like she didn't know that he was on the balcony above the garden. She hadn't known that there was a balcony until the ghosts had all stood together looking up at it. She had been so scared when she had first realized that he had been watching her, had been able to see her walking through the gardens and speaking with the ghosts. At first she had avoided the garden. She had fled the manor house, seeking a place to wait out his command in private so that he could not see how terrified she was.

Now, though . . . Now she found herself back in the garden every night as the sun sank past the walls, waiting for his voice to ring through her mind. It wouldn't take long- the sun had almost set.

An owl fluttered past her, nearly soundless in the cooling air, and she turned to watch it glide through the garden, through ghosts and around trees. How long is it going to be until he can fly through me? she thought despairingly. She knew that she was starting to become wraithlike herself- the ghosts themselves were concerned about it. Teresa was the leader of the ghosts, the oldest, and she was the closest Margaret had come to having a friend in this land. How old precisely Teresa was, Margaret didn't know, but Teresa had confirmed that she was the first that he had killed, and she seemed to show sympathy to the younger, still living woman.

Teresa was not in the garden tonight. Margaret knew that she was probably not going to rise and walk again for a few days- he had killed her so long ago that it took much of the spirit's effort to retain her form and memories. Teresa had walked two days ago, and thus Margaret would be without Teresa's guidance tonight, the night she so wanted comfort.

He never watched her unless he was going to call her.

She wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly chilled and resigned. Not afraid, not anymore. She didn't know why he had kept her alive for so long, why he continued to feed on her month after agonizing month. At first, she had been glad for the extra time she spent on this earth: she had plotted her escape, dreamed of running free, traveling back home again. Once she reached home, her brothers would defend her and make certain that he would never have her again.

She had tried escaping him. Only once. She had saved food for weeks, planned carefully her route, and the morning after he drained her, still dizzy and faint, she had slipped out the back gate and out onto the road heading south. She thought she had gotten away, thought that he had not yet noticed, had not been able to follow her- and then, thundering in her skull, had came the cry: Margaret.

Margaret. A much dimmer version of that furious call echoed throughout her mind. She flinched. Three years of it, and she still was not yet used to the sound of his voice ringing through her head. She held herself tighter, willing herself the strength to refuse, to hold out against his demands. But again, he called out to her, this time more fiercely, Margaret.

Unwillingly, she stood. Then she regained control of herself and forced herself to stand still, quiet, at peace with the world. She let her mind drift, tried to completely block out the thought of his commands so that she could ignore the next order that would come. It never helped- but she had to try. She would not give in and go willingly and docile, like a lamb led unknowingly to the slaughter. In the beginning- just that once- she had gone willingly. Now the lamb knew the shepherd for a wolf, and would not be led innocently into danger.

Margaret, come to me.

She couldn't fight it any longer. Even as she raged and fought against her body, her feet turned her towards the manor house. All too soon, she had reached the stairs; she didn't stumble as she ascended them, though even that small release would have been a victory for her. Enough control over her own body to allow herself to fall, to slip, to stumble and move away from the man standing at the top of the steps.

Acknowledging her defeat with a bitter defiance, she finally raised her eyes to look at the man standing before her. Taller than she by five or six inches, he was dark and intimidating in ancient clothes of fine velvet and silk. Once, she had been impressed by his aura, by the chillness and still threat that hung about him. Once she had trusted him, not realizing that beneath the handsome skin a monster lurked.

Petrothe. That was the name he had given her then, and she still was not certain if that was the name he truly bore. She avoided thinking it, neatly sidestepping about it in her thoughts by calling her master him, and he. She didn't want to think about how gullible she had been a mere three years earlier, about how in love she had been with a man who never truly was real. The Petrothe she had fallen in love with had promised her joy, respect, and love- the monster he really was only gave her sorrow, pain, and disregard.

His eyes were dark and eager as he took her hand. She felt him close his own larger hand about hers and was helpless to pull away from the small touch that she had once sought. "Accompany me upstairs," he said softly, but the thrum of power in her mind made the request a command of iron. She walked beside him, a mockery of what she had once wished for: the lord and lady strolling through their manor. The lord was everything she had dreamed of, but more besides, and the manor was rotting and dark, dusty and forgotten from the world. And she- she was no lady, no cherished wife. She was barely chattel, merely a blood source.

He opened the door to his rooms and led her to the center of the room. It, like the rest of his manor, was hung with heavy weavings dark and dank with the passage of time, heavy with despair and futility. He turned to face her, sliding his hands from hers up to her shoulders. They were warm- she always thought that he should be cold, corpse-like and ghastly, but he felt as alive as any man. "Stay still," he whispered, and she felt her body freeze at his command. She wanted to panic, to move away, to retreat before the onslaught she knew would arrive.

His hands were trembling as he cupped her face and looked at her with his dark intense eyes. Then he leaned forward and kissed her- gently, softly, like she had always thought he'd kiss her, as though he really did love her. She used to be able to pretend, for just that short kiss, that things had turned out the way she had dreamed- that he was the lord he had claimed to be, that she was his cherished lady, that he was not the monster that kept her alive only for his own needs.

He was still kissing her, making his way down to her throat. She felt his tongue- warm and slightly rough- gently touch the open bite-marks on her neck. With no other warning, he opened his mouth and sank his teeth into her. She tried to scream, but wasn't sure if she had managed to make a sound or not. He sucked greedily at her neck, and she felt hot liquid blood pool and trickle down her throat. The world began to look faded, blurry, and she could feel her legs weakening. She fell forward, nearly swooning, but he had strong arms around her and was supporting her so that he could continue feeding, continue sucking her dry . . .

The room reeled once, and she no longer felt his arms on her back or his lips at her throat. Blackness wormed into her vision and everything was gone.

He was sleeping when she woke. She always woke before he did. She sometimes wondered if he arranged it that way.

Her throat was slightly sore but no longer painful. But that was not what made her cry.

She was still alive. He hadn't managed to drain her to death, and so she awoke to her own personal hell.

In sleep, with his hooded eyes shut and his features relaxed, she always thought of him as Petrothe. He cradled her in his arms even as he slept, one hand resting protectively- lovingly- on her back, the other tangled in her hair. It was what she had wanted to happen, that first night when they had arrived her three years ago. It was her dreams come to life: she and Petrothe, lying entwined together on his bed, in his manor. It was so perfect, so like what she had once wanted.

And so completely different, so terrible.

So when he awoke, when he shifted and opened dark eyes to see her lying quietly and enchanted to be still beside him, she always had tears in her eyes. And he looked down on her- no longer the Petrothe she had once dreamed of- and his eyes were terrible and shining with a strange light that made her want to tremble and flee.

"Leave," he said at last, and he sounded displeased, voice tight and nearly angry.

It was the one time that she did not fight his commands; she rose from the bed and bolted for the door, leaving shattered dreams and all-too-real nightmare behind to watch her go.


Author's Note: Thanks to my roommate for helping me with Petrothe's name . . . I managed to get through the first chapter without speaking it once, but it would be impossible to get through the second chapter without it. All thanks and praise to roommate . . .

Sorry this took so long to update; it was rather hard to work out a way to entwine her view with his from the previous chapter. Updates may be sporadic in the future, but I do plan on updating again. Eventually. Sooner if you people review . . . J