I was never really one to put much faith in…well, faith. I never believed in the existence of angels and demons. That is, until I met my own, personal, demon. And she took me for a ride! First, in her cherry-red 1963 Corvette hard-top convertible, then later, in… But let me go back to the beginning. My name is Marie Claire Bonnelaux, and if that sounds a bit upper crust, you would, unfortunately, be correct. I was born to wealthy parents; new money by upper class standards, but still rich. I was part of the society dinner, socials, balls, etc., and for twenty-three years, I didn't mind it. I even enjoyed it. I was born into it and I figured that I would find some high society man, get married, and have rich kids. But that plan, and what really happened, were two very different things. We met for the first time at a dinner party for my mom's birthday. I was nineteen, my brother Jarod was sixteen, and my sister Carly, who had married the previous year and moved away to another country, so she wasn't in attendance, was twenty-two. The dinner was over and everyone was talking in the sitting room when, out of my periphery, I saw someone slipping out to the balcony. Thinking that maybe the person was feeling a little alienated, I decided to join them. What I saw made my heart skip a beat. It was a woman; of that there was no doubt. She was facing the setting sun, her pale hands resting lightly on the balustrade. The slight breeze was ruffling her long, black hair and her black satin evening gown looked like it was molded to her tall, lean body. "Hello, Marie." Her voice was pitched low and soft, like velvet. "How did you know I was here?" She laughed, and it was melodious. "I heard your footsteps, heels clicking on the hardwood. You know you have a very rhythmic walk?"
"But how did you know it was me and not someone else?"
"There are eight women in that room wearing the exact same perfume, but you're the only one who smells like you." I walked up next to her and placed my hands on the railing, as well. "Beautiful sunset."
"Is it?" When I looked over at her, I realized that her eyes were closed. "My eyes are extremely sensitive to sunlight. Even this sunset, dim by your standards, is enough to cause me a great deal of pain." Here, she smiled. "And sunglasses look a bit out of place with an evening gown." I thought her smile was more beautiful than the sunset. And where that thought came from, I wasn't sure. But, then again, I didn't really care. "It's just about dark. I need to be going."
"But it's still early. Are you sure you won't stay?"
"I'm sorry. I have too much to do before sunrise." She turned her back to the sunset and opened her eyes. They were the most beautiful golden-brown, emphasis on gold. "Can I at least get your name before you leave?" She laughed again, and I could see her teeth gleaming. "Leslie," she said as she walked away. Leslie. Beautiful name. Beautiful woman. But since when did I find women attractive? The rest of the evening dragged on. When I finally went to bed, I dreamt of Leslie; her full red lips on my throat, sucking on my pulse point, her teeth gently breaking the skin. I sat up straight in bed,
automatically touching my neck, where I imagined I could still feel her bite. I was still sweating, but my breath and heart rate were slowing. I didn't get much sleep the rest of the night. And over the next couple months, I realized that I wasn't attracted to women, just one, particular woman. It was almost two years before I saw her again.
It was my twenty-first birthday and my parents were throwing a fancy dinner and a ball. The meal was done and the dancing had just started, when suddenly, she was there, right beside me. She hadn't made a sound, but I wasn't afraid. Somehow, I had expected her. "I was worried I'd be late. Marie, would you honor me with this next dance?"
"Of course. Thank you. And I'm glad you were able to make it."
"Wouldn't have missed it." Just as the next song was about to begin, she gently took my hand and led me out to the dance floor. She was wearing a black, backless, satin dress that looked stunning, and I told her as much. Beneath her pale skin, a blush would be easily visible, so when I didn't see one, I was mildly surprised. Most society women at least pretended to blush at such a statement. "You must be used to hearing such compliments."
"Yes. But more than that, I'm very aware of how others see me. But I do appreciate a genuine compliment."
"In that case, you're welcome." When the Waltz ended, I invited her to the garden, where we could walk and talk. "I haven't seen you for almost two years, what happened?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry. My job takes me all over the world. I tried to make it back for your birthday last year, but we got snowed in."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I was curious, cause for a while there, I was beginning to think I'd hallucinated you." This time, her laugh was long and loud, and infectious. When we finally calmed ourselves, I said, "I'm sorry. That wasn't right." When she touched my arm, her hand was warm, and I realized that it had been cool, before. I thought that was odd. "You're fine. I'm not some vain society lady. Yes, I'm very, very, very old blood, but that doesn't make me vain. I don't think there's a single thing you could say or do that would offend me."
"Good, I'm glad."
"I'm only here tonight and tomorrow. Would you like to have supper with me?"
"Yes, I'd love to."
"Good. Now, I have some business to attend to tonight, so what do you say to one more dance before I have to leave?"
"But it's not even that late."
"It's almost midnight."
"Not possible. We've only been out here a few minutes."
"Check the stars." I looked up and marveled. She was right. Several hours had passed in just a few moments. The guests were surely wondering where I was. "They saw you walk out with me."
"But after so much time, they must be worried about me."
"They are no more aware of the passage of time than you were."
"Huh?" She laughed softly. Such a beautiful sound. "I'll explain it another time. Now, let's go have that dance." She offered me her arm and I took it, then we walked back to the house. The dance was magical and, at the end, she bowed low to me, and said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Marie." And with that, she was gone, almost like she had vanished into thin air. And I didn't even know when or where to meet her for supper. I supposed I'd find out tomorrow. That night, she sweetly haunted my dreams again. This time, I didn't wake up when she bit me.
It was fast approaching four o'clock and so far, I hadn't heard or seen anything from Leslie, and by a quarter-to-five, I was beginning to think she had changed her mind, when a cherry-red Vette pulled up in front. I knew that had to be her. Thankfully, my parents were in the back, in their office, cause they would have a conniption if they saw that car. I don't really remember going outside to meet her, but I do remember her opening the car door for me. I think she walked back around to her side to get back in, but I'm not sure. Next thing I recall, she was speaking to me, so I turned to look at her and said, "I'm sorry?"
"I said, 'how do you like Chinese?'" She chuckled again. "Chinese what?" She gave me the most incredulous look. "I knew I was gonna have to work on you, but damn. I invited you for supper, so what do you think I'm talking about?"
"I'm sorry, I've just never had foreign food. At least, as far as I'm aware."
"Well, now you will. But it will be done right."
"You're going to cook?"
"Oh, lord, what would my parents think?" She laughed gain and I joined in. A few minutes later, we pulled into the parking garage of a high rise and we took the elevator up to the top floor. It looked like one massive open room taking up the entire floor. I guess that was what they called a loft. She turned on the CD player and turned down the volume. I had never heard that kind of music before, but it sounded good. "What kind of music is that?"
"Hard rock, not quite metal." I had a perplexed look on my face, so she explained the various types of rock & roll, and when she was done, she turned up the volume a bit so that it was easier to hear. "It's not bad, I kind of like it. Who is it?"
"AC/DC. I can send a couple of CD's home with you if you'd like."
"Yeah. That would be great."
"Ok. But I want them back next time I'm in town, and take care of them. Not a single scratch."
"Got it. I'll be careful with them."
"I believe you will. This is meant to be played much louder, but we'll wait till you're used to it." My mouth went dry watching her walk away. She made black jeans and a white t-shirt look like haute couture. At the same time, however, I felt distinctly overdressed in my long-sleeve collared button-down shirt, slacks and heels. "If you're uncomfortable, I have some street clothes you can borrow." I stared at her in shock. I finally realized that this was the third time she had answered a concern without me having to voice it. "How did you know what I was thinking? I never said a word."
"You just looked like you were uncomfortable and I figured it was because of the disparity of our dress. If I was wrong, then I apologize."
"No, you were right. For the third time. The first time was almost two years ago, when you were standing on my parents' balcony and I saw that your eyes were closed."
"That was just understanding human nature. I knew in advance what you were gonna do, so I already knew how to respond."
"And the second time, in the garden last night?"
"Just a lucky guess. We had just been discussing the time, so I figured you were worried about what the guests thought."
"Ok. I'll accept that. I guess I just don't hide what I'm thinking very well." She smiled at me and I thought my heart would stop beating right there. "So, do you wanna borrow something while this water boils for the rice?"
"Sure. Thanks. But you are just a bit taller than me, so anything of yours will probably be a little long."
"We can make adjustment." When she put her hand on my back to guide me to her bedroom, I felt like I was going to melt. Why did she spark such desire in me? How?
I stood in her dining room in a white t-shirt, faded blue jeans, and sneakers. The tennis shoes were an exact fit, but the jeans and shirt were just a little bit long. "I don't think anyone will even notice the difference, not with the sneakers on. And the shirt's not that much longer than it would be on me." I smiled back at her. "Thank you. I've never worn anything like this, and it feels really nice."
"You're welcome. You look beautiful in it." I blushed deeply, extremely flattered by her compliment. "Thank you. You're beautiful, too." She just nodded in acceptance and went back to watching the stove. The water was boiling, so she poured in the rice. "This is the part that takes the longest, but once the rice is done, it'll only take a couple minutes." She pulled out a large, bowl-shaped pan and set it on the counter next to the stove. "What's that?"
"It's called a wok. That's how you cook most Chinese food. With a high enough heat, most food cooks in just a couple minutes. And I have a special gas burner just for this, on the other side of the stove. The gas jets are about six hundred degrees. I have to pay extra for it, but I don't use it much and it's worth it. I think you're gonna enjoy this." I nodded, hoping that she was right. I had never had anything like this, before. She smiled again, and I got lost in her warm eyes. I placed all my trust in her and believed that she was right. I smiled back and nodded in return. Her grin grew broader and she reached into the fridge and pulled out a covered dish, took the cover off, and said, "I made the chicken earlier, so all I have to do is reheat it. It'll go in on top of the rice, and the vegetables will be last."
"Sounds good." A few minutes later, she dished up two plates and set them on the table, along with a bottle of red wine. "I found that this particular type goes well with this recipe. Care for a glass?"
"Yes, thank you." She poured a small amount in the glass and handed it to me. I swirled it for a moment, sniffed it, then sipped, sifting through the flavors with my tongue. It had a pleasant fruity aroma, a mild oaky taste with a citrusy undertone, and a sweet, honey-like aftertaste. I nodded. "It's good. I like it."
"Eighty years old. Wonderfully aged." She filled my glass, then her own. She came over and pulled out a chair, inviting me to sit. For some reason, I found myself blushing again as I walked over to the chair. Once I was comfortably seated, I said, "Thank you. You didn't have to do that."
"Certain social niceties should still be observed, even in one's own home. Especially for a lady such as you." For the third time today, she made me blush. "Thank you. Next time you dine at our home, I insist on returning the favor."
"Yes." She graced me with a delicate smile that was quite appealing. "Very well, then." As we ate, we talked, learning about each other. "You said your work takes you all over the world. What do you do?"
"I'm a member of a band. Mostly, I handle the music board, called a mixer, but there are also times when I get up on stage."
"Do you play or sing?"
"Oh, wow. What do you play?"
"That's great. Would you play something for me later?"
"I'd be delighted."
So, after supper, she pulled out her "power ax", as she called it, plugged it into her amp and adjusted the volume. "I'll keep it down, for now. Wouldn't do to deafen you on our first date."
"Oh, is that what this is?"
"Of course. Dinner, music, maybe a late movie if you're up to it."
"That sounds good. I think I'd like to go to a movie with you later."
"Awesome. Now, this is a song I wrote two years ago. After our first meeting. There are no lyrics, because John will do that. But I hope you like the music." She began to play, strumming the guitar, softly at first, then picking up the pace. I could almost make out words within the music. It was harsh, but beautiful. When she was done, and the last strains were fading, I said, "That was beautiful. You wanted me to hear it before the lyrics were added, which is why you've waited so long, isn't it?"
"Yes. I don't know what kind of lyrics John'll add, and I wanted you to hear the music that was written for you."
"Thank you. No one has ever done anything like that for me. I don't know what to say."
"You liked it?"
"I loved it, Leslie. It was wonderful." She smiled, shyly, but still did not blush. That was really strange. "Thank you, I'm glad you like it."
"You know, I've never seen you blush. Why is that?"
"I don't know. I never have."
"So I've been told. So, you up for a movie?"
"Stay in or go out?"
"Go out. I've never been to a movie theater." She smiled, put down her guitar, rose, and extended her hand. I accepted it and she pulled me to my feet. "You know, you have the most beautiful blue eyes, Marie. The most beautiful I've ever seen." I swallowed hard. "You have incredibly beautiful eyes as well, Leslie."
"Thank you." She finally looked away and said, "So, shall we?" So we headed back down to the parking garage, where she helped me into her car. When she got in her side, she started it and flipped a switch. The roof lifted and retracted into the trunk. "Impressive."
"Thank you." She smiled again and we pulled out. It took almost an hour to reach the movie theater, and we had about ten minutes before the movie was supposed to start. She ordered a large coke and an extra large popcorn for us to share, then we headed back to see the movie. "Don't you need tickets?"
"I buy my tickets for a full year, then I decide which movies I wanna see when I'm in town. Saves time."
"I bet," I said as I stole a handful of popcorn. She laughed and led me to our seats. During the movie, we shared the coke and popcorn, and when it was over, we walked out, tossing out our garbage on the way. Back in the car, she turned to me and asked, "Anything else you're wanting to do? Sky's the limit. I mean it." I tried to think if there was anything else I wanted to do. I had already had such a full evening though. But looking into her eyes, I knew exactly what I wanted next, but I was so scared. "You still here?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm sorry. How about some ice cream?" I finally managed to say. Her smile was warmer than the sun on a summer day. "You got it." So we left the theater and headed further into town. We pulled up at a Dairy Queen, she got out of the car, came around to my side, opened the door, and gave me a hand out. We went inside and she insisted on paying, again. She ordered two peanut buster parfaits, which I had no idea what it was, but she urged me to try it. I was glad she did, too, because it was delicious. It was really simple, but really good. We ate our parfaits in silence, not speaking at all till they were finished. "That was wonderful, thank you. You've shown me so many new things, today."
"You're welcome. And it was my pleasure. I honestly enjoyed exposing you to these things." When I smiled, she closed her eyes, as though basking in it.
After Dairy Queen, Leslie finally took me home. When we pulled up in front of the house, she put the car in park, turned to me, and said, "I had a lot of fun, tonight, Marie. I can't wait to do this again."
"Me, too. You said yesterday that you were only here through today. So when will you be back?" The saddest look came over her face and she answered, quietly, "Six months. Almost to the day. It's gonna be tough, being away." I took her hand in mine and waited till our eyes met. "It's going to be hard for me, too. So I want you to come see me right away. The minute you get back to town."
"I will. I promise." She let go of my hand so she could get out and let me out of the car. She continued to hold my hand as I stood in front of her beside the car. "You have those CD's I loaned you?"
"Yes. And I'll take care of them."
"I know you will. I'll see you in six months, Marie." With that, she brought up my hand and placed a kiss on the back of my hand, then turned and walked back to her car. When she paused at her door, I said, "Bye, Leslie." To which she nodded, climbed in, and drove away. I waited till I couldn't see her taillights anymore before I headed back inside. I was still wearing the clothes Leslie had loaned me but I was carrying the clothes I had worn earlier. It was getting late and I figured my parents were probably be in bed. At least, I hoped so. They'd have a fit if they saw what I was wearing. I managed to make it to my room and get changed into my nightclothes without seeing either of them. It took me a long time to fall asleep, but I finally did, dreaming of Leslie, again. The next day, dad was in the dining room, getting ready for breakfast when I came in. I sat down beside him, where he sat at the head of the table. "Who were you with so late last night?" he asked. I debated, briefly, on whether or not to be honest with him, but nothing had happened and Leslie had been so sweet to me. So, I told him the truth. "Her name is Leslie. She was here for mom's birthday two years ago and my birthday yesterday, and she wanted to return the favor."
"Is she the one you were dancing with?" I gulped, but refused to look down. "Yes, father."
"Well, I hope she was respectful towards you." I breathed a silent sigh of relief. "She was, father. She paid the the theater, and ice cream afterwards. She held all the doors open for me, and at supper at her place, she held my chair for me."
"Sounds like a very respectful person."
"Why has your friend only been here twice in two years?" For some reason, I wanted to jump up and scream that she was more than just a friend, but I forced myself to remain seated and speak calmly.
She's a musician and it takes her all over the world, so she can't be here very much."
"I see. Is she still here, or is she gone?"
"She's gone. She won't be back for six months. Then, I don't know how long she's going to be here."
"That's too bad. Separation like that can be hard on a relationship."
"Yes, it can." We finished our breakfast in silence and I went back to my room to listen to the CD's that Leslie had loaned me. Within two weeks, I was listening to them at an ear-splitting level and loving it. It was that music and knowing that I'd see her again that got me through those six months. I woke up one morning, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that she would be home that day. At about six-thirty that evening a knock came at the door and I raced to answer it. I didn't have to look, I knew who it was. We wrapped our arms around each other, holding tight. I could feel her stroking my blond hair, and tears of joy coursing down my cheeks. "I missed you so much," I choked out. "I missed you, too. I couldn't wait to get back. Listen, I have to ask you something: my band is playing here in town in about twenty minutes, so would you like to come?"
"Yes! I would love to!" So we separated so I could change. I put on the clothes she had loaned me, including the sneakers, and flew back downstairs. We got in the car and headed into town. We stopped behind a club and headed inside. She got me a seat in the middle of the room, then went over to check on the mixer, flashed the band a thumbs up, and ran up to the stage. She grabbed her ax, checked the tuning, then walked up to the mike. "Ladies and gentleman, we are Nosferatu!" she shouted, and the room erupted in screams. I joined in, but my shouts were for Leslie, more than the band. When the crowd finally quieted, she continued, "This song is for someone special to me. This one's for you, Marie." They began to play, and I recognized the music she had written for me. But when she started to sing, I felt like I was going to cry. It was hard rock music, but the emotions behind the music and lyrics were beautiful. When the song ended, she put her guitar down and walked back over to the mixer, where I joined her. I leaned down, practically shouting into her ear to be heard. "That was wonderful, thank you. I really enjoyed that."
"You're welcome. I enjoyed writing and performing it for you. That's the first time I've written anything in quite a while."
"Well, I'm glad I could inspire you." She smiled and went back to what she was doing while I watched. We stayed there till almost midnight while the band played, and cleaned up when they were done. On the drive back home, she said, "I'm sorry I didn't come see you sooner. We got in about four, but we had to set up at the club. We didn't even know about the engagement until we landed."
"That's ok. At least you did find the time to come see me."
"Thank you. Are you busy tomorrow?"
"No. Are you?"
"No. How would you like to spend the evening with me again?"
"I would love to. What do you have planned this time?"
"I don't know yet. I was thinking maybe a fancy dinner out, theatre, and maybe dancing after?"
"Sounds positively delightful." This time, her smile made my heart rate triple and my breath catch. "I'll see you around four tomorrow, then, yeah?"
"Yes." Once again, she kissed the back of my hand, but after escorting me to my door, this time. "Good evening, Marie."
"Good evening, Leslie." Again, I watched her drive away before heading inside. Dad surprised me when he spoke up from the family room. "Was that your friend Leslie?"
"Yes, it was," I said, somewhat tartly. Dad just smiled and said, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was paying court." His comment made me pause for a moment. "I think she might be."
"Is that what you want?"
"Yes. Very much."
"Then you should invite her in, next time, so we can meet her."
"Are you serious?"
"She's supposed to pick me up around four, for dinner tomorrow. I'll invite her in, then. But please try to be nice to her."
"You know I can't speak for your mother, but I will be."
"Oh, thank you, daddy." I gave him my strongest hug, which he returned, then I said, "I'm going up to bed. I'll see you tomorrow, daddy."
"Goodnight, sweetie." I practically skipped to my bedroom, I was feeling so wonderful. It took me quite a while to get to sleep that night, as well. I finally dared to dream of so much more with Leslie than I ever had before. Since I didn't get to sleep till late, I also woke up late, but I was still awake with plenty of time to bathe and prepare. I wanted to be beautiful for her. The doorbell rang just a few minutes before four o'clock and I was there to meet the woman of my dreams. Literally. The butler answered the door and I stepped forward, taking in Leslie's tall, gorgeous form. Holding out my hand, I asked, "Won't you come in for a few minutes?" Nodding, she said, "Of course. May I ask the occasion?"
"My parents want to meet you. You are paying me court, after all, aren't you?" She laughed in pleasure. "I am indeed. And I would be delighted to meet your parents."
We walked into the family room in designer ball gowns; mine in cobalt and hers in midnight black. I thought she had never looked as beautiful as she did now. Without a trace of nervousness, she stepped forward and said, "Mr. and Mrs. Bonnelaux, my name is Leslie DeMoore-Desmond, and I humbly ask you permission to formally pay court to your daughter, Marie." The way she spoke was extremely old-fashioned. They haven't spoken like that in over a century. Mom's eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she promptly fainted. I hadn't even seen her move, but Leslie was there to catch her before she fell. She picked mom up and placed her in a chair, then returned to my side. "I'm sorry for shocking your wife so bad, Mr. Bonnelaux."
"Nonsense. My wife is just very sensitive. The money comes from her side, not mine. I had to work for my wealth."
"My family urged me to work from the time I was young, so I'm no stranger to it, or to those who have less."
"Certainly. Now, getting back to your request: I only have a few questions for you."
"I will answer them honestly, sir."
"Good. Do you care about my daughter?"
"Very much, sir."
"Are you willing to take care of her?"
"With my last breath." Dad smiled at that. "Finally, are your intentions toward my daughter honorable?"
"I told you that I would answer honestly, and so I will. My intentions are not as honorable as some may wish, but I will respect your daughter's wishes and boundaries."
"I appreciate your honesty, Ms. DeMoore. I'd rather have you tell me the truth than lie and say your intentions were totally honorable." I could feel myself blushing, but Leslie just stood there, stoically. "Thank you, sir."
"Therefore, it is my privilege to give you permission to court my daughter." I sighed in relief and she smiled and nodded. "Thank you, sir."
"So, what do you have planned for this evening?"
"An early dinner, the theatre, and perhaps a ball, afterwards."
"Are you taking your convertible?"
"No, sir. For the evening I had planned, I thought a limousine might be a little more appropriate."
"Too bad. It's a beautiful car. Very well cared for." Leslie beamed at that. "Thank you, sir."
"Have a good evening, then. Have fun."
"Yes, sir. And thank you, again."
"Goodnight, Marie." As we turned to leave, Leslie offered me her arm and I took it. I couldn't resist asking, "Since you're courting me, does that make you my girlfriend?"
"Do you want us to be?"
"So we are." Suddenly, I was walking on the clouds. There was only one other thing she could have said that would have affected me more, but I wasn't sure if either of us was ready for that.
Dinner was at Martindale's, where the meals were almost two hundred dollars a plate, and you had to reserve a table at least two months in advance. Even my parents rarely at here. "How did you manage to get a table on such short notice?"
"I have a standing reservation. My family did a favor for the owner a few years ago and he insisted on rewarding us, so we agreed to this."
"Wow, that's great. So, what are we having?"
"That's up to you. You can have whatever you want." So we both had plates of pasta in red sauce with garlic bread. I was stuffed by the time we left and headed to the theatre. They were doing Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, which was my favorite. When it was over, we left the theatre, headed toward the car, when a man suddenly attacked us. Or, rather, attacked Leslie. He fired a gun at her and she screamed in agony. As the man pulled a silver spike from his coat, she looked at me and yelled, "Run! For God's sake, Marie, run!" But I was so terrified that I was rooted to the spot. I wanted to move, but I couldn't. I heard this inhuman growl come from Leslie as she grabbed the man's hand, mid-swing toward her chest. Bones broke and he groaned, falling to his knees. When she opened her mouth, she had long sharp fangs, and she used them to puncture the man's neck. Then, I did run. I wasn't sure why I was running though. Was it because I had dreamed of her doing that to me? Or was it because she had obviously killed him? Or perhaps, because she wasn't human? I honestly didn't know. As I rounded another corner, there she was, and I screamed in fright, stopping in my tracks. She held her hands out to me, palms up. "Please, darling Marie, wait just a moment? Let me explain?"
"What are you?"
"A demon. I'm a vampire, Marie. The man I killed is a Hunter. He hunts and kills my kind. I'm so sorry you had to witness that. I didn't want you to find out this way."
"So, how was I supposed to find out?"
"I was going to tell you in about two weeks, before I left again; that way, you'd have time to think about it while I'm gone. I swear, I don't want to hurt you. I love you, Marie."
"How can a demon possibly feel love?"
"I don't know, but I swear to you, I do feel it. And I'm sorry for the pain this has caused you. If you want me to, I'll disappear and you'll never see me again. I swear."
"I have no idea what I want, right now. I'm scared of you, but at the same time, I'm still attracted to you. I don't know what to do."
"Do you want me to take you home? I will if you want." Shaking my head, I replied, "I don't know." She stood there, not coming toward me, or backing away. She still looked like the gorgeous woman I loved. What was I supposed to do? It took several minutes, but I finally made a decision.
I ran and threw my arms around her, trembling. "Are you alright, Leslie?" As she wrapped her arms around me, she said, "Yes, I'm fine. The bullet was silver, but it went straight through. Within a day or two, there won't even be a mark left." I pulled back slightly and said, "Tell me everything, please. No more secrets."
"I could get in serious trouble, but I love you, so I'll tell you. But let's go back to the car first, where we'll have a little more privacy." I agreed and we walked back to the car. Once we were both seated, she picked up the line to the driver and gave him instructions. When she hung up, she turned to me. "I just want you to know, I could be exiled from the nation for revealing this to you."
"Good. First of all, I am a vampire; what's known as a Pureblood, because I was born a vampire, and so were the rest of my family. Vampires are very proud, noble, honorable people. But we also have demonic souls, while physically, genetically, we are almost identical to humans. We are living, not undead. That was a myth that a number of younger vampires started hundreds of years ago. They allowed humans to see them entering tombs in the morning, and leaving after dark. That, combined with the drastic lack of knowledge in the way human bodies decomposed, gave rise to the idea that vampires are the dead returned to life. Gave the humans another reason to fear us. But we do live and breathe, though our hearts only beat once or twice a minute, and our breathing is the same, giving us the appearance of a walking corpse. Our muscular density is such that we are much stronger than your average human; on the order of ten times, without having the appearance of greater strength. We are also many times faster, which is how I was able to cut off your escape."
"And your strength is how you broke that man's bones with no apparent effort."
"Yes. We also regenerate quickly, especially if we feed regularly."
"How often do you feed?"
"I feed about twice a week. Homeless, mostly. People no one is going to miss."
"You said that bullet was silver, and that spike he used was silver too. Why is that important."
"We're severely allergic to silver. Hit a vital organ with it, and you kill us. Leave silver in our body, and it will make us sick and eventually kill us."
"Are there other ways to kill you?"
"Yes. Beheading and fire. We tend to go up in flames as if we're soaked in gasoline. I had to watch a friend of mine die that way."
"Do you have other weaknesses?"
"Holy water. Burns like fire. And sunlight. Mainly bothers our eyes, which is why you've seen me wear sunglasses during the day."
"Do you have any other abilities besides speed and strength?"
"Some of us can fly, fewer can make ourselves invisible, but all can walk on walls and ceilings."
"How do you become invisible?"
"It's not easy, and only a master can do it, but basically, we block off certain neural receptors in your brain, specifically the ones dealing with your eyes. Basically, we convince your brain that we're not there, even though we are."
"So you're not really invisible."
"We can also read minds. And yes, that means that I lied to you that day, but I didn't think you were ready for the truth."
"I've dreamed of you several times. Did you cause them?"
"Not in the way you mean. While I'm aware of them, they are entirely your creation."
"What else can you tell me?"
"Everything." She explained about the houses, how she had the name DeMoore, about the Queen, and the symbol of the nation. "The black cross is the symbol of the nation, it marks you as one of us, or protected by us. But we have to give the cross to a human in order for the protection to apply. You can't simply pick one up and expect us to protect you."
"I'm willing to bet you have one for me. Don't you?"
"Yes. I was going to give it to you when I got back, if you still wanted to see me." I moved towards her and took her hand. "I want to keep seeing you. No matter the consequences."
"I'm so glad." She enveloped me in her arms and, a moment later, chuckled. "I'm 245, out of a maximum potential lifespan of 1000 years. And if I turn you, you would pick up about where I'm at, because we age ten times slower."
"I see. So we'd live about the same amount of time."
"Yes, but take the next couple of weeks to really think about it. And if you still want to when I leave, then I'll do it when I get back. Deal?"
"How long will you be gone?"
"You'll miss my birthday."
"I know, love." I sighed. "Alright, you have a deal."
"Good. You still up for some dancing?" I smiled at her. "Yeah."
"Alright, we're here. Let's go in." She opened the limo door and gave me a hand out, and I took her arm as we walked toward the building. A door man held the door open for us as we walked inside and onto the dance floor. We danced for hours, till I almost couldn't stand up anymore. Then, we went back to her loft so she could give me the black cross she had for me. It had a gold chain and black hills gold on the front. It was exquisite. "Thank you. It's beautiful."
"I'm glad you like it. Now, you're under our protection. If you're ever in trouble, we're honor bound to come to your aid." She clasped it around my neck and I didn't hesitate to kiss her. We kissed for what seemed like hours, but was really just a few minutes. I couldn't believe how soft her lips were, or how sweet her mouth tasted. This had to be heaven.
When we parted, my breathing was ragged and I clung to Leslie for dear life. "I think my heart rate picked up a bit there."
"Yeah. You're not quite as cool as you usually are." She laughed and squeezed me tight to her. "I love you, Marie."
"I love you, too, Leslie." We kissed one more time, briefly, before we went back to the car. On the ride, we simply held each other close, in intimate silence. When we arrived at my home, she escorted me to my door, wrapped her arms around me, and we leaned in toward each other to kiss. It was soft and sweet, and full of love. When the kiss ended, she asked, "Can I come pick you up to go shopping for some casual clothes?"
"I'll even bring the Vette." I laughed. "Sounds even better." We shared one more brief kiss before she walked back to the car. I was on cloud nine, waking back up to my room. So what if I was in love with a demon? It happens, right? Right! That night, the feel of her fangs puncturing my neck was exquisite. I woke up at nine, took a long bath and put on a thin, yellow, flowered summer dress. I spun around in front of the mirror, but suddenly stopped dead. I wasn't the only one reflected in the mirror, anymore. I was expecting you at the front door, not in my bedroom," I stated, speaking to her reflection. Well, I thought I'd surprise you." I ran to her and threw our arms around each other. "You certainly did. Does dad know you're here?"
"Not yet. My car's down the street. And I had just gotten in when you saw me."
"Meet me downstairs? Otherwise, dad's gonna wonder how you got in."
"Agreed. I'll see you down there. I love you."
"I love you, too." We kissed and she walked over to my window and launched herself out. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I applied my makeup and tied my hair back before going downstairs to meet her. She hadn't quite arrive yet, so I talked to my dad while I waited. A couple minutes later, the doorbell rang and the butler answered it. A moment later, he came into the family room and announced, "Ms. DeMoore-Desmond, for Ms. Bonnelaux." When I turned around, Leslie had a dozen roses in her hand and a smile on her face. "I was passing by the flower shop on my way here and these looked beautiful. I thought you might like them."
"Thank you. They are beautiful." I took them from her and sniffed at them. They smelled wonderful. "Let me go put these in water and we'll leave. Okay?" I stopped and gave her a peck on the lips as I went by. I went to the kitchen and the cook gave me a vase to put the roses into, then filled it with water. I set the vase down on the table in the family room, promising to put them up in my room later. We took each other's hand as we turned to leave. She walked me out to the car, opened the door for me, and handed me in, then walked around to her side. We drove into town, where the lower classes usually did their shopping. I felt a little out of place, but Leslie's presence made me feel better.
A salesperson approached and he smiled broadly at Leslie. "Odd, to see you in here during the day. Shouldn't you be bursting into flames?"
"Oh, har de har har. Jack, this is my girlfriend, my intended, Marie. Marie, meet jack. I helped him establish this place back in 1920. Now, Jack, I need some clothes for Marie. Just casual, like I wear."
"Sure thing." He waved for us to follow him. "Does he know what you are?"
"He should, considering I turned him back in 1903."
"So he's one, too."
"Yeah. He was dying and I felt sorry for him, so I offered him a choice."
"What was he dying of?"
"Polio. They were years away from a vaccine."
"So vampires are immune to it?"
"Immune to all disease. Just another perk." She released my hand and sat in a chair, crossing her right knee over her left, while Jack gesture for me to come stand in front of him. "Jack, please, that's rude. You need to speak out loud."
"Sorry, Leslie. It's gonna be tough getting just the right size, since she's only about an inch and-a-half shorter than you, which puts her right between sizes."
"I know. But that's why we came to you. You can make it work." He glared at her and then started walking around me, measuring with his eyes. "We can't do anything with the shirts, but we can hem up the pants about half-an-inch. You want everything, or just outerwear?"
"Just the outerwear."
"Got it. So you know, personally, how well the rest fits?" I blushed, furiously. "No, she does not. She has been a lady, thank you very much." Leslie laughed at that and Jack just shook his head. "Alright. I know when I'm beat. But you're right, Leslie is very much a lady. It's the way she was raised, I guess."
"I imagine. She's very much a lady, but she's also very confident. I guess she gets her confidence from her vampire blood, right?"
"You got it. Speaking of-"
"The Queen finds out and you're toast, regardless of the fact that you're from the House of Desmond."
"I know, Jack." The she said, quietly. "She's worth it."
"And what if she turns me? Will she still be exiled?"
"No. Then, it wouldn't matter." Our eyes met and I knew that she knew, that I wasn't going to back down on this. She sighed in resignation. "When I get back. Like we agreed." I smiled and nodded in agreement. Jack went to pick up some clothes and came back with his arms loaded. He dropped a load of clothes at me feet and picked up a pair of jeans, holding them up in front of me. "Yep. Half-an-inch. I can probably have these done later this afternoon, if you want to come back for them."
"Sounds good. We'll be back about four."
The next stop was a dressmaker's. "This place carries dresses that cost a fortune, but they're for casual wear. And they feel like it. You'll like these."
"Let me guess, someone else that owes you?"
"No. I actually owe them. They saved me from trouble a few times by getting me a dress at the last minute. I always paid for it, but I still owe them."
"I see. Dresses to wear around the house?"
"Yes, but elegant enough to wear to a ball." We spent almost an hour there while they took measurements. When they were done with the measurements, they brought out several samples of cloth to compare. After I had chosen several, they took them to the back to work on, promising to have them done in a couple weeks. So we headed back to the car so we could go to lunch. In the car, she said, "Another perk to being a Pureblood vampire is that we can travel through shadows. We literally step into a shadow in one place, and step out of a shadow in another. But the shadow has to be dark enough. I'm talking pitch black."
"Wow. Can we do that?"
"You might get really sick, but yeah. If you want to. But after sundown, when the shadows are deepest."
"Alright. Maybe a flight first, then that, later." She smiled at me again and it made me feel warm and cozy. I saw her love in that smile. We pulled up in front of Dairy Queen again, but this time, I ordered for myself. I just had a double cheeseburger with fries and a soda, while she had a "flamethrower" burger with fries and a soda. Speaking quietly, so that we wouldn't be overheard, I asked, "So, if vampires drink blood to survive, how can you eat solid food?"
"Our bodies can't metabolize it, like we can blood, but we like solid food every so often, too. And today, I felt like having something hot. Hence, Dairy Queen."
"Okay. That answers that question, then. I have so much to learn."
"Not really. You'll learn everything you need to know after I turn you. So I wouldn't really worry about it."
"What do you mean, I'll learn everything?"
"Genetic memory. Everything you need to know about vampires will be stored in your genes. And that includes our history, back to the beginning of time."
"Oh, wow. Saves time on learning. But I'm assuming you know the real reason I want you to turn me."
"I know. I can't wait to taste your skin, and I don't want to be separated from you, either." We reached out and held each other's hand, looking lovingly at each other, not caring who saw us. We loved each other and that was all that mattered.
When we left Dairy Queen, we went to the movie theater again, since we still had some time to kill. Knowing what Leslie was still frightened me a little, but I also trusted her, completely. We cuddled up together as we watched the movie, laughing our heads off. We enjoyed it immensely, and when it was over, we headed back over to Jack's to pick up the clothes that I had been given. Leslie was so wonderful to me. I fell more deeply in love with her every day. After we picked up my clothes at Jack's, we went to a Foot Locker to pick up some shoes, then to Corral West for a pair of boots. After that, we went back to her place so that I could change. She stayed in the living room while I went back to the bathroom with a pair of faded blue jeans, a dark blue t-shirt, and the boots. When I came out, her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "You are gorgeous! Spin for me, please?" So I did and she whistled. "You have a nice, tight, sexy ass, especially in those boots. You're so beautiful."
"So are you, my love."
"Come here, darling, I love you. Give me a kiss." Our kiss was lingering, soft, sweet, and conveyed all the love we felt for each other. We wrapped our arms around each other and held one another close. "This evening, we'll take a shadow in one corner of my loft and go to a cabin I have up north, where we can watch the northern lights. Would you like that, baby?"
"Yeah, I would. I've never seen the northern lights. I've heard that they're beautiful."
"Oh, they are. And we're coming into the season when they're at their brightest. Then, we can fly back. Would you like that?"
"Yeah. Sounds fun. Will I be able to do all that?"
"Yes, you will. And you'll have all the knowledge you'll need to do it."
"Awesome. So, do vampires ever sleep?"
"No. We don't need to."
"You never get tired?"
"Nope. We spend countless days and nights never sleeping. Some find it tedious. I know I did before I met you."
"Oh, that's so sweet, darling."
"Thank you, but I was just being honest."
"I know, and I appreciate that." We shared a kiss again, then she picked me up, effortlessly, carried me to the couch, sat down, and settled me in her lap. "I love you, Leslie."
"I love you, too, Marie." We spent the rest of the evening snuggling up together, till Leslie determined that it was dark enough to travel. The loft was almost pitch black to my eyes, but she put her arm around my waist and led me to a corner near her bed. I couldn't tell the difference in the shadows, but I assumed that she could, so I trusted her. "Come here. Hang on tight to me. If I lose you, you'll be lost in limbo forever. I don't want that to happen, and I'm certain you don't either."
"Alright. I'm ready." I gripped her and as tight as I could, wrapping my other arm around her waist, molding my body to hers, and we stepped forward.
How do I describe what it felt like to step into a shadow? How can you say something is cold, when there is no temperature to judge it by? How can you say something is dark, when there is no light to judge the darkness? How can something be empty, yet full? The trip was short and we were out of the shadow in a few second, but I was so disoriented that I stumbled forward and Leslie grabbed hold of me before I could fall. "Here, sweetheart, sit down." She guided me to the nearest piece of furniture and helped me sit down. "You'll be okay in a minute. Just let it pass." She held me to her and stroked my hair. After a few minutes, I finally got my equilibrium back and pulled back, slightly. "You feeling better?"
"Yeah. Whoa. I wasn't expecting that at all." She laughed, lightly. "Yeah, even happens to us, somewhat, the first time. You'll get used to it." Leslie let go of me and walked over to a door and opened it, reaching inside. I finally caught on to the fact that I could see, albeit dimly. When we first arrived, it had been pitch black. Or maybe that was just my eyes due to traveling through the shadow. "A bit of both. The chemical receptors in your retinas were scrambled, but the lights hadn't started yet, either, and now the sky is lit up. Here, wrap this blanket around you, cause it's gonna get cold." I accepted the blanket, wrapping it snugly around myself. I was already feeling somewhat chilled. "Yeah, sorry, there's no electricity out here in the cabin."
"You know, you really have to stop reading my mind." She chuckled, "You're probably right. I'll try to work on that." I leaned forward and kissed her, lightly. The kiss was sweet, tender, warm, and loving. When we pulled apart, I caressed her cheek. "I love you, so much, Leslie. You are the best thing in my life.
"Same here. And I love you with all my heart. My beautiful lady." We shared one more kiss before we headed outside. She guided me to a bench, cleared off the snow, and we sat down, with me wrapped in her arms. The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, really were spectacular. All iridescent greens and blues, with occasional streaks of brilliant violet, amber and orange. "Wow, this is incredible."
"Told you it would be." We continued to watch for about an hour, until I was shivering from the cold. My teeth were chattering like castanets, so Leslie scooped me up and carried me inside. Within moments, she had a fire crackling in the fireplace and we were sitting in front of it, getting warm. "Let me go fix some hot tea. It'll help you warm up, too."
"Ok. Sounds good. Thank you." So she grabbed a teapot from the kitchen, then went outside to fill it with snow. She set it just in front of the fire to melt the snow to make the tea.
We both sat there, drinking our tea, even though she didn't really need it. I think she just likes her own tea. "You're finally getting your color back. Your skin was pale and your lips were turning blue. You really had me worried, there for a minute." She brushed the backs of her knuckles over my cheek, and her hand was warm compared to my skin. "I'm sorry," I said. I didn't realize how cold it was getting till we'd been out there almost an hour. It's just that the lights are so beautiful."
"I know. But if we get a chance to come up here again before I turn you, we'll build a fire out there, so that you can stay warm."
"Would you bring me here to do that? We can watch the northern lights, then come back into the cabin. How will you turn me?"
"I'll be gentle about it. You should be ready to make love by then, so it will be during our lovemaking; I'll bite and nearly drain you, then you'll drink my blood, and within a few hours, you'll be a vampire."
"I'm ready to make love now. I'm just scared."
"I don't know how." She burst out laughing, loud and long. When she finally calmed down, she wrapped her arms around me, pulling me in close. "Oh, darling, no one is born knowing how to make love. Not even us. All you can do is learn. And you will."
"But what if I can't properly please you?"
"Then I'll be frustrated, but no harm, no foul. And there's no proper way to please someone." I smacked her in the arm and she chuckled. "You know what I mean."
"I know, baby. I do. I've been wanting it, too, for quite a while, but I wanted to make sure you were ready, first."
"I know. But not tonight. Tomorrow."
"You need to feed, you're colder than usual."
"That's why I said tomorrow." We spent the rest of our time silently snuggled up together. But finally, with the fire burning low, she asked, "Do you wanna fly back, or travel through the shadows again?"
"It'll be faster to travel through the shadows."
"Ok." So we rose and headed to the darkest corner in the cabin. This time, I was more prepared for the effects, so it wasn't nearly as disorienting. We came out in my parents' garden and I closed my eyes, leaning on Leslie till the dizziness went away. We shared a sweetly powerful, yet gentle, kiss, then we said goodbye, and I headed inside. My mom stopped me as I was heading up to my room. "We're having a party in the ballroom of the Grand, tomorrow evening, for a friend's birthday."
"I have plans with Leslie tomorrow. Do I have to go?"
"Yes. Thomas has been a friend to this family for forty years. It's not gonna hurt you to be there."
"Okay, mother. I'll be there."
"Alright. We'll see you in the morning." So I said goodnight and went on up to my room.
Leslie was sitting on my bed, waiting for me. "I'm sorry, I forgot to give you this." It was a cell phone; very high end. "It's incredible. Thank you."
"Of course. I'll run you through it tomorrow."
"There's this birthday party I have to go to tomorrow. I just found out."
"Do you want me there?"
"Of course. You're my love, my life."
"Ok. I'll be there. I love you."
"I love you, too. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." We kissed again and she took off, out my window again. I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I kept tossing and turning, wishing that Leslie was there to hold me. The next day, I slept late and, when I woke up, I turned on my stereo, listening to Rob Zombie. Leslie had mentioned that he was technically metal, but certain albums were solidly standard hard rock. I really liked his music, especially Dragula and More Human Than Human. I let it play while I took a shower and dried off, then took care of everything else that needed to be done. Finally, I put on my robe and went back to my bedroom. I dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and went in search of my dad. When I found him, I said, "Dad, do you think I could get a car? I wanna be able to drive myself around. And if you agree, if we could go this afternoon, before we have to go to the party?"
"Sure. Have an idea what you want?"
"Something fairly new, maybe within the last five years. Possibly similar to what Leslie has."
"Okay. Well, grab some lunch and we'll go when you get done eating."
"Oooh, thank you, daddy."
"No problem. Did your mom tell you about the party?"
"Yeah. That's why I mentioned it."
"No, I mean in regards to Leslie."
"Mom did say anything at all."
"Hmmm. You invite Leslie?"
"Of course. She's my girlfriend. Why wouldn't I?
"That's not gonna make your mom happy." I groaned. "Mom gonna try to set me up with someone at this party?"
"That's why she sprang it at the last minute."
"Great. Dad, you understand, don't you? I'm in love with her."
"I do understand. Believe me. But apparently, the same can't be said of your mother. I'm trying, though."
"Thank you, daddy."
We left the house a little before 12:30, and went to the car lot, downtown. Dad had me browse while he spoke with a dealer. As I was browsing, I found myself headed towards the back of the lot, almost as though I was drawn there. A particular car drew my attention, and I knew this was the one. Leslie had told me once that she had felt an inexplicable bond with her car; something that couldn't be defined. I knew I had found the same thing with this car. It was a little older than I had originally intended, but that was fine. It was an Arctic White 1992 Pontiac Firebird. I loved it. Dad came out with a dealer and came over to where I was standing. "Dad, this is the one I want. I like this one."
"This one, huh? Alright, how much is it?"
"That one, for a '92 in such excellent condition, is $2200."
"Not bad. Sure you don't want a newer one?"
"No, this one. This is the one."
"Okay. Well, let's go in the office and sign the paperwork, then we can take it home. I'll call and add it to the insurance."
"Thanks, dad." We headed back to the office and I signed the papers and picked up the keys. As I was headed out to the car, Leslie stepped up to me."
"Leslie, honey, what are you doing here?"
"We've been called in front of the Queen and Council."
"For revealing your secrets to me."
"Yeah. They wanna see us right away, so we need to get going."
"Ok. Did you bring your car?"
"No. We'll have to take yours. I'll guide you." Just then, my dad came up to us. "Good afternoon, Leslie. I wasn't expecting to see you until later."
"Yeah, I'm afraid something came up and I'm gonna have to borrow Marie for a while."
"Alright. Do you think you will be back in time for the party?"
"Wouldn't miss it."
"Ok. See you at home, Marie."
"Ok, dad. I love you."
"I love you, too." We hugged and kissed on the cheek, then he turned and left. "So, being summoned before the Queen and Council is pretty serious. How serious are we talking?"
"We could both be killed." I stopped and gaped. "They could kill us both?"
"Remember when Jack said I could be in serious trouble if the Queen found out?"
"This is what he was talking about. I broke the Cardinal Law by revealing everything to you. Now you're a danger to us. And so am I If it was as simple as betrayal, I would simply be banished, but I put the entire nation at risk. If you let our secrets slip to the wrong person, we could be annihilated. We have to be very careful when we get there."
"I will." We drove for almost two hours, till we reached a large building on the outskirts of some town. This was bigger than any mansion I'd ever seen; it was more like a palace. "Come on. Council's already convened. We have to hurry." She took my hand and led me down hallways and through doors till I was completely lost. I was grateful that Leslie knew the way, cause I never could have found it on my own. Finally, we arrived at what was obviously the council chambers, and we walked to a pair of empty seats to one side of the semi-circle. When she knelt low before one of the figures, I thought it prudent to follow suit. When we straightened up, someone else spoke to us. "You've been brought here because you broke the Cardinal Law of the nation. You have not only exposed us, but you have put us all at risk. Explain your actions to our satisfaction, and we may be lenient."
"As you know, I was attacked by a Hunter, out in the open, in front of my intended. I had to defend myself, and in the process, I revealed myself. And when she demanded an explanation, I loved her, so I gave it to her. I still do. I thoroughly scoured her mind before I revealed our secrets to her. She is trustworthy. And, we already have an agreement to turn her when we get back from Europe next year."
"You still broke the Cardinal Law. Trust is not the issue."
"I disagree. I believe the law serves its purpose, but in those instances where a human can be trusted, we should be allowed to make that decision." The woman we had knelt to, raised a hand for silence. "As Councilor Ryan pointed out, Leslie, trust is not the issue. She may fully intend to to keep our secrets, but what if our enemies got their hands on her before you can turn her. No one knows if she'll be strong enough to resist giving them the information. And Marie, you can tell us all you want that you won't, but until the moment comes, even you don't know for sure. You're a liability. And that cross doesn't guarantee that we'll be able to protect you."
"I understand that, ma'am-"
"You will address the Queen as 'Her Majesty', human!"
"Back off, Dauren!" Leslie growled. "Enough, both of you! The girl was unaware of who I was and was as respectful as could be under the circumstances. And Dauren, I don't appreciate the slur."
"Of course. I'm sorry, your majesty."
"Now, Marie, what were you saying?"
"I was just saying that I understand what you're saying, Your Majesty, and it's true that I can't be certain how I would react if I was captured by your enemies. I don't know how to prove to you that I will keep your secrets, but I swear to you, that I will. I would rather die than see Leslie or her people come to harm."
"Your Majesty, you heard the girl, kill her!" Leslie stepped in front of me. "Try it, Collen! Just try it!" The Queen roared like a lioness, and Collen backed off. "Enough! One more outburst from the Council and you will be dismissed. Understood?" There were nods from the Council members, and mutters of "Yes, Majesty." I would have snickered if the situation wasn't so serious, and Leslie hadn't smacked me the second the thought crossed my mind. "Majesty, may I speak openly for a moment?"
"You may. What's on your mind?"
"If I might, you know me. When we were growing up together, and even after you took the throne, you trusted my judgments. I have always been your advisor. I'm asking you as an old friend, please trust me again."
"You're out of line, addressing the Queen in such a manner in formal Council!"
"I warned you! Council is dismissed! Leave!" The twelve Council members filed out, leaving us alone with the Queen, who stepped down and approached us. "This is much better.
"Leslie, you are my friend and I do trust you, but you broke the law, and a Queen, I can't ignore that. You know this."
"I know. I'm simply asking you to trust me. I know Marie better than anyone else. She means what she said."
"That's as may be, but you know my stance on that." I stepped forward, now. "Your Majesty."
"Please, we're informal, now. Call me Erin."
"Erin. I don't know what I could possibly say that would convince you to spare us. If the only option is death, then so be it. As long as I have my love at my side." I linked arms with Leslie, trying to stand tall and proud, though I was afraid to die. Erin stared at us for the longest time, and I had no idea what she was doing. "So, you two are both willing to die for each other?" In unison, we replied, "Yes." Erin nodded and began to pace away from us. Suddenly, she spun around and pointed at Leslie. "Do you swear to take care of it yourself, should anything happen?" She gulped, but nodded, resolutely. "Yes. Without hesitation. She is 'my love, my life'." I beamed at hearing her repeat the very words I had used just the day before. "Very well, Leslie. I hate to do this, but I want your blood oath that will take care of it, personally." My partner released me and walked over to a cup sitting next to the Queen's throne. She picked it up, set it on the throne, slit her wrist with her teeth, and dripped her blood into the cup. The Queen drank from it, then set it next to her throne again. "Now, swear."
"I swear, on the blood I gave, that, should anything happen to Marie, I will do what is necessary to preserve the Nation."
Leslie and I were driving back home, grateful to be alive, holding each other's hand. We had the windows down, our hair blowing in the wind, when Leslie squeezed my hand and said, "I love you, Marie. With all my heart. In the end, you're the one who saved us both."
"Though it's hard to believe. I don't know what I said that convinced her to let us go."
"It's not what you said. It's what you didn't say."
"I was willing to take your place. I didn't care if I died as long as it was together, or they let you go."
"That's what convinced her to give us a chance. But I have to make sure nothing happens to you."
"Is the blood oath that big a deal?"
"Yes, it is. Now, if I fail to take care of the problem, if one come up, she can kill me simply with a thought. She doesn't have to be anywhere near me. And I willingly gave her that power, to protect you."
"Thank you, my love."
"Thank you." I brought our joined hands to my lips and kissed her knuckles, then she did the same with me. With Leslie, I experienced for the first time in my young life, what true, real love, was.
I dropped Leslie off at her house, first, then I went home, so that I could change for the party. I decided to wear a deep blue, sleeveless dress made of silk, to complement my eyes. I was nervous about this party, this evening. I would be so happy meeting Leslie, but knowing that my mom was going to try and set me up with someone made me nervous. But at least she would be there for me. I was looking forward to seeing her there, seeing what she was going to wear. Someone knocked on my door. "Come in." My dad came into the room and smiled at me. "You look beautiful. And I'm willing to bet that Leslie will think so, too."
"I hope so. I like being beautiful for her."
"I might be back really late, dad. I just wanted to let you know." Dad came up and placed his hands on my shoulders. "If you want to stay the night and come home tomorrow, that's fine. And no matter what happens at the party tonight, I'm behind you and Leslie. I'm supporting you two."
"Thank you, dad." I smiled. 'Would you still support her if you knew what she was?' I thought Still, I appreciated what he said. "Okay. We'll see you at the party, alright?" Your mom and I are leaving so we can make sure everything is set up properly. You know how much of a perfectionist your mom is."
"Yeah, I know. Leslie's gonna make an entrance, and claim me, somehow. Not sure what she's gonna do, but I expect it to be shocking."
"You know her best. See you in a while."
"Bye, dad. Love you."
"Love you, too, sweetie." We embraced and kissed, then he turned and left. Once he was gone, I shut my door and got undressed so that I could get into my party dress. I really hoped that Leslie liked it. I was certain that I was going to love whatever she wore. I was tired and hoped that we would retire early without being rude. Meeting the vampire Queen and Council and arguing for your life will drain you, quickly, and the adrenaline rush that came with our victory was wearing off, leaving me feeling tired. No, exhausted. Still, I had to put in an appearance at this party, and stay long enough to be polite. When I was finally ready, I packed a bag with some everyday clothes, so that I could stay at Leslie's tonight. That done, I headed downstairs to my car, threw my bag in the back, and sat behind the wheel. For a moment, I just sat there, remembering when I had dropped Leslie off at her loft and the passionate embrace and kiss we had shared. It had been a reaffirmation of our love and commitment. It had been wonderful and I loved her more every day, if that was possible. And I realized something else, now, too. I was no longer afraid of the demon within her. The vampire simply could not scare me, because, just as I had been willing to die for her, so she had been willing to die for me. I loved her so much. Thinking of that love calmed me so that I could face this party and my mother's attempt to set me up. I started the car and began the hour-long drive to the party.
I pulled up to the entrance and allowed the valet to park my car while I headed inside. It would be another half hour before Leslie could arrive and I couldn't wait. Whoever my mother was setting me up with, I would be honest with him from the start. I wasn't the kind of person that would string someone along. As I walked in, mom found me and dragged me over to one side of the room. "Marie, I want you to meet Michael, Thomas' son. Michael, this is my daughter, Marie, whom I told you about. Now, I have some more work to do, so I'm going to leave you two alone to talk." I just glared at my mother's back until Michael spoke up, catching my attention. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Marie." I allowed him to kiss my knuckles as I said, "Likewise, Michael. But I want you to know that, in spite of what my mother may have told you, I'm not single, she just doesn't like my girlfriend." That seemed to shock him. "So you're gay?"
"Anyone else would probably say 'yes', but I have to say no. I'm straight, except when it comes to Leslie. She's the only woman I've ever been attracted to. I've never been attracted to any other woman, before or since."
"I see. That's ok. I think the bartender is really hot."
"David? That bartender?" Michael nodded and I couldn't help laughing. My mom was trying to set me up with a gay man. That was hilarious. That meant that I had nothing to worry about. The smile threatened to become a permanent fixture on my face. And just wait till I told Leslie. She'd really get a laugh out of it.
I felt a presence in the room and I smiled. I knew, by the feel of it, that it was my Leslie. She definitely made an entrance. All heads in the room turned towards her, while I pretended not to notice her. Oh, but I was very aware of her walking up behind me. I felt her stop right behind me, without touching me. She leaned closer to me and whispered really low, "Good evening, love."
"Well, I'm not yet."
"Not till later."
"Yeah, once we get outta here."
"I can't wait."
"I know." She sat down beside me and took my hand in her own. "I love you, Leslie."
"I love you, too." We shared a brief kiss, then I said, "I've got something to tell you. Michael, the guy my mom was trying to set me up with is gay. So, nothing is gonna stop us from being together, not that there ever was. I'm willing to leave my parents' place if I have to. We will be together forever."
"Forever, my love." We stayed long enough for Thomas to blow out the candles on his cake and start opening presents, then Leslie cloaked us and we slipped out. She hadn't driven, so we took my car back to her loft. We started kissing in the elevator on the way up and she kept having to urge me to slow down. But I was so happy to give it all to her tonight; give her everything of myself. Only for her, though. Only for her.
We lay together, in each other's arms, our breathing returning to normal. "That was incredible, Leslie. I've never felt so loved in my life." I squirmed around so that I was facing her more directly. "You are so gorgeous, baby. I love you, so much."
"I love you, too, Marie. And I believe that you are equally as beautiful. I can't wait until we're joined forever."
"Me, either. I want to be with you so bad." She got sad, all of a sudden, and that worried me. "Baby, I've got some bad news. Right before I went to the party, I found out that we're going to be leaving early."
"When? When are you leaving?"
"I have to leave in the morning. We have a nine a.m. flight. I'm sorry. I wanted more time, and I thought we'd have it, but we got hooked up, and our agents started selling more performances. None of us knew about it till this evening. And, even though I don't need the money, a lot of others do, and they have no one else to run the mixer. So, if I refuse, the band doesn't go, and everyone else is out of a job. They all lose they're income. I can't do that to them."
"I understand. When will you be back?"
"October, next year. Provided we don't have any more extensions on it."
"I hope not."
"Promise you'll call me. I'll keep the phone with me that you gave me, so you have no reason not to. I love you, so much, Leslie."
"I love you, too. And I promise that I will call you every chance I get." We kissed, lingeringly, then she picked up her bag and turned and headed off to board her plane. I already missed her, terribly, and she hadn't even boarded yet. I was going to be without my lover for an entire year. It was going to be the longest, most depressing year of my life. The only thing I had to look forward to, were the sporadic phone calls from my beloved. But she wouldn't be able to call very often, because the band was going to be quite busy. Still, I know she enjoyed what she did. And that made me happy for her. I watched as the plane taxied to the runway, quickly picking up speed. It lifted into the air and climbed, then began to bank, heading east, toward Europe and Asia. I waited until it was completely out of sight before turning and walking back to my car and drove home. I couldn't wait for Leslie to call me. It took almost an hour to drive home from the airport and I spent the time listening to one of my CD's. It was a new Rammstein album Leslie had bought as a present on her way to the party yesterday. It was in the original German, which I understood, since I had learned during my school studies, and I didn't think the English translation sounded as good.
When I finally got home, I headed right up to my room, locked my door, threw myself down on the bed and began to scream and cry. I knew that this would get back to Leslie and would make her feel bad, but I couldn't help it. I was going to be so lonely without my beloved. I must have cried for an hour, before my tears finally began to dry and I started to catch my breath. Leslie was my love, she was my life, my other half, and I was going to feel so incomplete until she returned and we would finally be joined. Forever. I finally rolled onto my side, still sniffling and drawing in shuddering breaths. It took almost twenty minutes to calm down enough to go and draw a bath. Leslie probably wouldn't be able to call me till late tonight, or tomorrow, when her plane landed. Whether she called tonight or tomorrow depended on whether or not they had a show immediately after landing. I hoped she would have a chance to call before their first show; I really wanted to hear her voice. And I would be glad when I was finally turned, so that we could communicate telepathically. Then, we could be communicating right now, instead of me being so miserable, right now, missing my beloved. Once the tub was full, I undressed and slid in, letting the hot water begin to relax my body. I picked up the remote to my stereo and turned it on, playing the CD's I had. The water and the music helped, somewhat.
It was much later, as I lay in bed, desperately trying to sleep, that my cell phone went off. Leslie was the only one that had that number, so I knew it was her, even before I checked the ID. I hit the send button and put the phone to my ear. "Hi, baby. I missed you, too. I love you, so much."
"I love you, too. I'm sorry I broke down like I did. I just miss you so much."
"I missed you, too. And don't feel so bad. I kind of went hysterical myself. I didn't expect to miss you so much. Even now, talking to you, I still feel miserable. I want, so bad, to be there with you."
"I know. I wanna be with you, too. I really miss you, darling."
"Me, too. Hay, I've got an idea. I know people in the nation. I'll have someone drop by and bring you to some of our concerts."
"Yeah, and I'll try to get my dad to loan me the jet so that I can come."
"Sounds like a plan. Listen, they're calling me to help finish set up. We have our fist set in half-an-hour. I gotta go. I love you, baby."
"I love you, too. Have a good show, darling. Good night."
"We will. Good night." I hung up the phone and set it down on my nightstand. I felt better, having talked to Leslie. Maybe now I could get some sleep. I did finally manage to drift off, dreaming of what my life would be like, once Leslie and I were finally together for the rest of our lives. Once again, I slept late, not waking till almost eleven. We would be having lunch in about an hour. Even getting to see Leslie on occasion, it was still going to be a long year. I dressed and headed downstairs to have lunch with everyone else once it was ready.
Mom met me at the bottom of the stairs and said, "We need to talk, honey. Come into the sitting room. Come on." So I took a seat in one of the chairs facing the couch and mom sat down facing me. "I'm sorry for trying to set you up at the party, sweetie. I guess I forgot what it was like to be so in love. I felt that way about your father for a long time, and in a lot of way, I still do. My mom didn't like your dad, either, because of the fact that he grew up working. We had to run away to get married. We were head over heels in love with each other. And the sex, oh my god!"
"Mother, too much information! Seriously!"
"I'm sorry, but I'm just trying to say that I understand, even though I lost track of that for a while."
"Thank you, mom. And the sex was wonderful. It was fabulous."
"Ok. I didn't need to know that, honey."
"Payback, mom. But you're willing to support us, now, instead of opposing us?"
"Yeah, you have my support, I promise."
"Thank you, mom. That means a lot to me, really." I got up and gave my mom a hug. "I love you, mom."
"I love you, too, sweetie." After a few minutes, we went to the table, still talking about our relationships. When dad saw us, he smiled. "Good to know you two made up. It was hard to see you on opposite sides of this."
"I know, me, too, dad." Mom walked over and gave dad a hug and a long, lingering kiss. It was a lot like the kisses that Leslie and I shared often. But it was surprising, because I hadn't seen them kiss like that since I was a young girl. It was good to see it again. I couldn't help smiling at them. When the kiss ended, dad looked happier than ever.
And I was happier than I had been in a long time, now that both my parents were behind us. I couldn't wait to tell Leslie. I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed her number. No matter what time it was over there, she would be awake, it was just a matter of whether or not she was busy. It rang twice before it was answered and I heard my beloved say, "Hi. What's up?"
"I just wanted to let you know that my mom finally came around. She's finally on our side; she's offering us her support. It's so nice to have both of them behind us."
"Yeah. I'm really glad that your mom is supporting us. I'd like her to be there for both of us at our joining. But we can never have a vampire joining, so it'll have to be a human one." I walked away as she spoke, stepping into the other room, but still keeping my voice low. "Yeah. We could land right back in trouble with the Queen if we allow my parents to be involved." I heard another voice, very faintly, on the other end, then Leslie said, "I'm talking to my girlfriend, Roger, so shut up." There was a brief pause, then, "Yes, the human one. Now, be quiet, please. I'm trying to talk. Sorry about that. Roger's always been kinda nosy. But it is really good to hear about your mom. And next time we're together, we'll start planning our joining ceremony. Considering that we can't have a regular wedding in the human world."
"I know. But at least we'll be together. And I'll keep my parents informed, and make sure we get their input."
"Of course. I was actually gonna suggest that. Tell me, where have you always dreamt of getting married."
Without hesitation, I said, "In Paris, France; at the base of the Eiffel Tower. That's always been my dream."
"Alright. In that case, you got it. We just have to get your family there, and we can work out the rest of the details later."
"Sure. I'll let you go, for now. We're gonna have lunch pretty soon."
"Nice. It's around 2:00am here. We were all just getting ready to go out and feed, so I'll talk to you later. I love you, darling."
"I love you, too." We hung up and I headed back to the table. "So what's Leslie up to?"
"They just got done with a performance and they're going to grab a bite to eat."
"Oh. Where are they at?"
"In Europe, somewhere. Not real sure where. She said it's almost two a.m. there."
"Oh. What does she do?"
"She runs the mixer, and occasionally plays and sings. She has a beautiful voice."
"That's nice. But I'm just concerned, though. How long is she gonna be gone?"
"Till October of next year."
"It's still early March. She's going to be gone for over a year?"
"Are you sure you're willing to wait that long? That's an awful long time to wait for someone."
"I'm dead certain, mom. There's just something about her. She's everything to me."
"And you're absolutely certain that she feels the same way about you?"
"Yes. We already had to face her family over this, and they threatened to disown her. We finally convinced them not to. We want to be together forever."
"That's kind of quick."
"I know, but it just feels so right, like it was meant to be. The only way I can describe it is like it was fate. It was literally love at first sight."
"Ok. Now, if you feel this way, why didn't you go with them when they left?"
"Well, first of all, I didn't want to just up and leave without letting anyone know. And also, it's not a good idea. They play really hard rock n' roll, and the crowds can sometimes be dangerous." 'Not to mention, I wouldn't feel too comfortable around all those vampires when they're hungry,' I thought. My mother sighed theatrically and said, "All right, as long as you're absolutely sure." We hugged tightly and I said, "Thank you, mom." Just then, lunch arrived and we all sat down to eat.
Dad spoke up next. "So, what was that about Paris and the Eiffel Tower?"
"Oh, Leslie and I are planning a joining ceremony and she asked me where I've always wanted to be married." Mom said, "Well, you know, Notre Dame is in Paris. Your father and I considered being married there."
"I know, you've told me. And my French Tutor was married in the cathedral. But I've always just envisioned the base of the Eiffel Tower."
"But that's kind of: tourist vacation postcard, you know."
"Your mom's right. It kind of is like a postcard they sell to tourists."
"Well, maybe you're right."
"But Notre Dame is very beautiful and very majestic."
"You're right, dad. That's a good idea. Have to talk to Leslie about it, but I'm sure she won't mind. I'll mention it next time she calls." We spent the rest of the meal discussing my joining with Leslie. If only they knew about the real joining. This would just be a symbolic ceremony, and the real joining would take place that night, when she turned me. Forget about the cabin up north, I was going to be joined with my soul mate, forever, in the city of love. She would turn me in Paris. It was going to be so romantic.
Over the course of the next two weeks, my parents and I and Leslie planned our joining ceremony, and Leslie and I, alone, planned our actual joining. And when the dressmaker's called, I went to pick up the dresses that Leslie had ordered for me. When I got there, I inquired about something. "Can you do wedding dresses? Leslie and I are planning on getting married in Paris, France in October of next year, and we need wedding gowns."
"Certainly. We'll get started right away. You want to go with the traditional white?"
"Yes. Something elegant, yet comfortable; something that will take her breath away. And I assume you'd know what style she'd prefer."
"Sure. We'll have them done in time. Don't worry."
"Thank you." I picked up my new dresses and headed home. I couldn't wait to see what those ladies came up with. Judging by what I had in my hands, it was going to be something to see. Mom met me at the door and immediately wanted to look at my dresses. We took them up to my room so that we could lay them out on my bed and get a good look at them. Suddenly, my phone rang and I picked up. "Hey, baby. I just picked up those dresses we ordered two weeks ago. They're really beautiful. Thank you, so much."
"You're welcome. I love you, so much, darling."
"I love you, too. I ordered wedding gowns for us, from them. Not sure when they'll be done, but they've got over a year."
"Yeah. Listen, I called to tell you two things. First: my cousin Miranda is going to pick you up tomorrow for the concert in Reutlingen, Germany. And second: after the set is finished on Wednesday, we'll have a break for about a week. So I'll be able to come home for a while."
Tears started trickling down my face, I was so overjoyed. "You mean it? A week?"
"Yeah. A week. Will you have the loft ready when I get back?"
"Oh, yeah. Yeah. I'll have everything set up. I really miss you."
"I miss you, too. It'll be good to be home. Get to hold you in my arms again."
"Same here." We took a moment, just listening to each other breathe, then Leslie said, "I look forward to seeing you, tomorrow. And you'll be backstage the entire time. So we'll definitely have some time together once the concert is over."
"That's fantastic. Can I just stay with you till Wednesday and just come home with you?"
"If you're willing to take the risk, then I would be overjoyed for you to stay."
"Alright. I'll pack my bags tonight and be ready to go tomorrow. I can't wait to see you again, love."
"I know. I'm really looking forward to it. Miranda will be there about four, tomorrow, so have your room dark enough to travel. Unless you'd rather have her come by early in the morning and fly you."
"No, I'll take the shadows with her. What's she like?"
"Miranda is a really sweet person, really caring; I think you'll like her. She's about four inches shorter than me, blond hair, green eyes, and you can tell she's a lady, like you. Very feminine. And while vampires are naturally bi, you'd say she's straight. Not like you and me."
"Like I always was before you came along. Mom's wanting to discuss my dresses, so I'll let you go and I'll see you tomorrow. I love you, baby."
"I love you, too, baby, bye."
"Bye." I turned and walked back to my room, where mom was still going through my new dresses. "These are really beautiful, honey. Leslie picked these out for you?"
"Well, not really. She just took me down to the dressmaker's and they measured me, and I picked out the material. She just paid for it."
"That was sweet of her."
"Yeah, it was. I thought so, anyway. She paid in advance, cause she didn't know when she'd be coming back and she didn't expect to come back this soon."
"Well, try a couple of them on, let me see how they look on you. I bet you look really beautiful in them."
"I hope so. She's so gorgeous, I try to be beautiful so she'll find me attractive."
"I'm sure she does. She'd have to blind not to see how beautiful you are, sweetheart. Come here. I love you."
"I love you, too, mom." We shared a brief hug and a kiss, then I went to my bathroom to change.
I took three dresses with me, and the first one I changed into was the charcoal black. It fit perfectly, and I understood how Leslie always looked as if she was poured into her clothes. When I stepped out of the bathroom to let my mom see, I twirled, letting her see both front and back. "Oh, wow," she said. "You do look beautiful. And I know Leslie will feel the same way. You're beautiful, dear." I couldn't help blushing. "Thank you, mom. I sure hope so." I tried on the rest of the dresses I had taken into the bathroom with me, then I changed back into my street clothes. Once everything was put away, I grabbed a couple of bags to pack for my trip to Leslie's concert. Mom sat on my bed and talked to me while I packed. Finally, the following day arrived and early in the afternoon, someone knocked on my bedroom door. "Who is it?"
"It's Miranda. You about ready to go?"
"Yeah. Give me one second." I had to hurry up and finish getting dressed before I said, "Ok. Come in." She opened the door and came into my room. "Hey. I'm Miranda. It's nice to meet you."
"Same here." We shook hands and I could feel her strength. What I didn't feel, was drawn to her. I didn't feel that inexplicable bond that I always felt when Leslie was near. Miranda smirked and I said, "Go ahead. I know you read my mind, so go ahead and answer my question."
"I'm sorry, I know it's rude, but you do broadcast. I know you can't help it, but you're really quite loud, you know?"
"Like I said, I know you can't help it. But, anyway, the answer to your question is really very simple. You and Leslie are soulmates. You are, literally, the other half of each other's soul. You're destined to be together."
"Is that why I fell in love, even though I'd never been attracted to women before?"
"That would be it. I didn't understand it, at first, but looking at you, now, I understand. She was so lonely, these last few years. She always believed, from the time she was young, that she would someday find her soulmate. She would never let herself get that close to anyone else. But when she found you, a little over two years ago, she was so excited when she came to me. But I couldn't understand it, then. Seeing you, now, though, I do. Not only are you as beautiful as she said, but I can also tell how intelligent you are. You are her match, in a lot of ways."
"Thank you. Can you explain the concept of soulmates a little more?" Miranda smiled. "Sure. We've got some time." She managed to explain that soulmates were a single soul that had been torn in half; thus, they were always connected, no matter what happened. So that meant that, in some ways, we would always be aware of each other. I couldn't feel her, like this, but I could always tell when she was near, even when no one else was even aware of her. I had thought I was so aware of her simply because I was so in love, but now I realized that it must be our connection as soulmates. "So, you ready to go?"
"Yeah. Let me turn out the lights."
"You sure about that?"
"Yeah. I've done it twice with Leslie. It's scary, but it's really neat, too."
"Ok. Let's go."
It was still a short trip, but it did seem to last a little longer than my last trip did. That could be due to how far we had to travel. When we finally arrived, I had to clutch at Miranda and she wrapped her arms around me. "You okay?" I managed a nod. "Yeah, I'm okay. I've traveled through shadows before, but I think it was just the amount of time in limbo that got to me. I'm alright, now, though." I stepped back and said, "Take me to her." We both smiled and Miranda turned to lead the way. "Come on. The whole band is this way. They're almost done setting up." She led me further and I realized that we were clear back where the buses were parked. But up ahead, I could begin to see the back of the stage and I started to hurry. I couldn't wait to see Leslie again, and I knew she felt the same way about me. I had to ask Miranda a question. "Has Leslie been bugging you? I mean, about me."
"Yeah, kind of. Especially since she left for this tour. Bit like I said, now that I've seen you, it's well deserved." I was curious if Leslie knew I was there, but I figured that would wait for after our reunion.
We climbed up on stage and there she was. She was so beautiful that it took my breath away. I was so happy in that moment that I felt like I could cry; and then, suddenly, her arms were around me, holding me. I sank into her embrace, breathing in her beautiful, exotic scent. I did begin to cry, then. I was so happy to be back with my beloved, my soulmate. Miranda was right, she really was my other half. "And you are mine. I endured so much after I found you. But how could something that feels so right, possibly be wrong?"
"I know what you mean. I love you, so much, darling."
"I love you, too, baby." She pulled back just enough to lean in and kiss me, so sweet and tender, but with an undercurrent of barely restrained lust. "That'll have to wait, beloved. You have a concert. And I don't plan on letting you up for a while. I love you." She groaned, deep in her chest and I felt it vibrate my body. "I know. As much as I'd rather hold you than my ax, you are right. I do have a job to do. And I love you, too." We kissed again, briefly. "I'll be backstage, waiting for you. Go do your thing." One more brief kiss and she went back to her bandmates. "Okay, Leslie, how's the mix?"
"I can't get the bass to stabilize, it keeps fluctuating. That was the problem last night."
"We know that. The question is, why?"
"I don't know, David. I really don't know."
"We can't do another concert with the mixer wigging out like that. It's not fair to our audience."
"Yeah, but Paul, it's brand new. It shouldn't be messing up at all."
In the end, they finally got the problem with the mixer fixed and the concert continued. I was ecstatic to be hearing Leslie play, and absolutely overjoyed whenever she sang. Finally, when the concert was over, all that was left was to tear everything down. Once that was done, Leslie approached and said, "We have one more show tomorrow night, and then we go on the road for our last two. But right now, there's only one thing I'm interested in." With that, she took my face in her hands, and fervently pressed her lips to mine. I was instantly lost in the taste and feel of her. When she finally pulled back, we were both flushed. I leaned into her, trying to catch my breath, but her wonderful scent only seemed to make it worse. "Come on. Let's go back to the bus. The others will give us our privacy." She helped me back to the bus and back to the bed. "This is the only bus with an actual bed, and there's only one reason for it." We smiled and she pulled me down onto the bed. She was slow and gentle, as was I. Our passion left us breathless, but also panting and thirsting for more. We couldn't seem to get enough of each other. I finally fell asleep sometime around dawn, wrapped securely in my lover's arms. I was too exhausted to dream and I slept the majority of the day. When I finally woke, it was to the fact that something was missing. It only took me a second to realize what was missing. It was Leslie. She wasn't in bed with me, and I got no response when I called her name. I didn't want to panic, but it was creeping in on me. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. "Just a moment."
I threw on a robe and went to answer the door. One of Leslie's bandmates was at the door. "Have you seen Leslie?" I recognized Roger's voice. "No, I just woke up a minute ago and she was gone."
"She was supposed to meet us half-an-hour ago for set up. She's never been late before."
"I don't know. She didn't say anything and she didn't leave a note."
"Wait, someone's coming. Too fast to be a human."
"Is it Leslie?"
"Yes, it is. Looks like she just got back from hunting." Just then, she came into view and in just a few seconds, she was at the door of the bus. "Outta my way, Roger."
"Set up started half-an-hour ago. We're waiting on you. We can't start without you."
"I know. I'll be right there." Suddenly, Leslie rounded on him and growled, deep in her chest. "I said, I'll be there. Now, get out of here before I rip your head off. I need to speak to my fiancée." She turned and shut the door in his face, then came and put her arms around me. "I'm so sorry, baby. I didn't think I would be gone so long. I tried to get back before you woke up. I love you."
"It's ok. I love you, too. Next time, just leave a note, please. I know you can take care of yourself, but I still worry about you."
"I know you do, darling. And next time, I will leave an explanation, I promise. Now, are you going to be okay while I go do set up, or do you wanna come with me?"
"I'll be ok here. I'll get something to eat and see you after the concert. I love you."
"I love you, too." We shared a brief kiss and she turned and left.
After the concert was another night of unbridled passion and, once again, I didn't fall asleep till around dawn, but we would be on the road soon, so it wasn't a big deal. I was gently awakened some time later by the feel of lips on my skin. I smiled as I came awake. "Morning, baby."
"Morning. What time is it?"
"Almost eleven-thirty. Some of the road crew are hungry and they were wondering if you wanted something to eat. So, you want anything?"
"Yeah, sure. Whatever they're getting. It doesn't matter."
"Ok. They know. They'll bring you something."
"Thanks. I love you."
"I love you, too." We kissed sweetly for a moment, then I said, "I better get up and get dressed if I'm going to have lunch." I freshened up in the bathroom of the bus and put on a pair of black jeans, black t-shirt, and the boots she had bought me. By the time I was dressed, the road crew had arrived with my breakfast. I thanked them and sat down at the table to eat. I didn't realize just how hungry I really was until I opened the sack and the smell made my stomach growl.
After breakfast, I picked up my phone and called home. I hadn't spoken to my parents or Jarod since I had left. Remembering the support of my brother made me smile. From the beginning, he had thought it was fortunate that I had fallen in love. After three rings, it was picked up by our butler, Morris. "Bonnelaux residence. How may I help you?"
"Hey, Morris, it's me, Marie. Can you put dad on?"
"Certainly, Miss, just a moment." It was a minute or two later when my dad came on the line. "Hi, hon. How are you."
"I'm good, dad. Kinda tired, cause I didn't get to sleep till almost dawn, but I'm really happy."
"Leslie the reason you're not sleeping?" he asked mischievously. "Yes, but I don't want to discuss that with you, dad. They did two shows, last night and the night before, and we're on the road right now. Where are we headed?"
"Ulm first, where we have a show tonight, then a show in München tomorrow night."
"Did you hear that, dad?"
"Yeah, I did. Just the two shows?"
"Yeah. Then we have a week-long break, then after the break, we'll be in Prague. There'll be one show, then we go to Romania. That's apparently going to be the biggest concern in the tour. There will be five shows in Bucharest. Once those shows are done, I'll be coming home while the band continues with the tour."
"That's good. Here, your mom wants to talk to you."
"Hi, sweetie. How are you doing?"
"I'm good. Tired, but good."
"That's good. Have you eaten today?"
"Yeah, just a little bit ago."
"What did you have?"
"I had a strawberry strudel, a pastry called a kuchen with cinnamon, and vanilla icing, eggs and ham, and I gave the coffee to Leslie and she made me some tea."
"Wow, sounds good."
"It was." Mom caught me up on what was going on at home. It wasn't much, but it was good to hear about what was going on. "Hey, mom, can I talk to Jarod?"
"Sure, let me get him." A couple minutes later, Jarod came on the line. "Hey, sis, what's up?"
"I'm flyin' high. What about you?"
"Not so much. My belly's kinda draggin' the ground."
"Uh-oh. What's wrong?"
"Ok. You know about me and Sharee."
"Well, I ran into someone that I used to know and we got caught up. Clarissa and I are almost a perfect match. I have so much more in common with her, but I don't want to hurt Sharee. I don't know what to do, sis."
"I don't know, either. Fortunately, I've never been in that position. I wish I could help, bro. Give me a sec." I covered the phone and put it on my lap. "What do I tell him? He sounds absolutely miserable."
"Here, let me see the phone." I handed it to her and whispered, "I'm going to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back."
"Ok. Jarod, I'm like your sister, I've never been in a position like that, so I can't really help you. The only thing I can really say is that you need to talk to both of them. And you need to decide which one you really want. You have to decide if you want to make Sharee happy, or yourself. And you need to find out what Clarissa wants. Ultimately, you have to make yourself happy. I'm sorry I can't help you more than that." She paused briefly and said, "Ok. Well, your sister will be back in a sec… Alright." When I came back, she handed me back my phone. "Your brother wants to talk to you again."
"Ok. Hey, bro. Did she help you at all?"
"Yeah. A little, anyway. I've got an idea what to do next. So I'm not quite as depressed."
"That's good. I hope you figure out what to do. I hate for you to be miserable."
"I know. I'm glad you're happy, though. I really am. And I'm looking forward to your wedding."
"Well, it's not a wedding, it's just a joining. But I'm lookin forward to it, too. But what about Carly?" There was a long pause before Jarod replied, "She's not sure about you and Leslie. She's glad you're happy, but she feels that your relationship is wrong. I don't know what's going to happen there."
"That's too bad. I was hoping she would stand with me. But if not, then would you? Would you stand with me?"
"I would love to. If Carly doesn't come around, I will definitely stand with you."
Once I finished speaking to Jarod, I turned to Leslie and asked, "So, have you figured out who will stand with you?"
"Yeah. Miranda will stand with me. She was ecstatic when I asked."
"That's great! When did you ask her?"
"She was there during set-up yesterday and I asked her if she would. I figured she'd say yes, but it was great to hear."
"Yeah, it is. I really like her. She's really nice, I like her."
"I know. So, you'll have your brother if your sister doesn't come around?"
"Yeah. But I hope Carly comes around so that she can be part of it. I was her maid of honor when she got married, and I always hoped she would be mine."
"I know. But even if not, hopefully she'll come around eventually."
"I really hope so." I leaned forward, toward Leslie and we wrapped our arms around each other. "No one has heard from Carly since she found out about us. Even my mom finally came around. I just wish I could see my sister. I miss her."
"I know, baby. I know. When was the last time you saw her?"
"That last time I actually saw her was at the wedding. I've talked to her since then, but I haven't actually seen her since the wedding."
Leslie simply held me, offering all the comfort she could. After a while, the lack of sleep and the comfort of her body put me to sleep. I managed to sleep till late evening, when the band started setting up. I got dressed and headed out backstage. I sat down out of the way and watched the finish their set-up. It didn't take long and, when they were finished, Leslie came over to sit with me. "Hey, honey."
"Good to see you're finally awake." I poked her in the side and said, "That's your fault."
"I didn't exactly hear you complaining." I blushed, furiously. "Shut up." All she did was laugh, but she did have a point. There hadn't been a word of complaint from me. "In fact, I seem to recall several times you screaming for more." I blushed even more hotly, if that was possible. "Yeah, well, you know what they say about too much of a good thing."
"It can kill you?"
"No, you don't get anymore."
"You wouldn't dare."
"Keep this up and watch me." She shrugged, nonchalantly. "Oh, well. I've gone a lot longer than you're capable of."
"Don't tell me all this time?"
"Yeah. Till you." My jaw hit the floor. "No way."
"Mm-hmmm. Miranda told you, I haven't been close to anyone, and that's not something I would do with just anyone."
"Oh, my god, so it was the first time for both of us. I didn't realize."
"I gave you everything that you gave me. We belong to each other. And we would even if not for that. We are soulmates, love, and always will be. I love you, darling."
"I love you, too." We put our arms around each other and shared a sweet, wonderful kiss that was simply warm and loving. When we parted, I said, "I understand that we fell in love because we're soulmates, but I still don't entirely understand why we are."
"I don't think anyone does."
"But even in spite of that, I feel so blessed to be with you. Since I met you, I haven't been able to imagine being with anyone else. I love you, so much, baby."
"I love you, too, with all my heart." We shared another sweet, gentle, compassionate kiss. When we parted, she rose and headed back over to the others. They checked over everything twice more before the concert started. Once the final checks were completed, that was when the fireworks started. And of course, Roger started it by butting in. "Why were you out feeding yesterday, when you should've been helping us with set-up?"
"That's none of your fucking business, Roger."
"Actually, I think it's all of our business when you delay us like that, just for your fuckin' toy."
"Roger don't do this. You know what they mean to each other. This isn't right."
"Shut up. I don't care what they think they feel. She's putting us all aside for the girl. She never should've come here.
"That wasn't your decision, Roger, it was ours. And if I was really putting you aside, we would've taken off and left you hanging, you know that.. You guys need this gig, I know that. I won't let you down. The only reason I was ever here was for you. You, of all people, should know that by now. When you asked me to join the band, I did. And it wasn't because I needed the money. Anyway, why do you think I'm trying so hard to find a replacement? If I didn't care about you guys, I wouldn't. But I do. And I'm asking you to please stay out of my private business."
"Roger, just let it go. She is trying."
"This whole thing is fucked up, Leslie, and you know it. A human interacting like she's one of us. It's too dangerous for her and you know it. I don't care what you see in her, she shouldn't be here."
"So that's what this is about. What do you have against Marie? What has she ever done to you?"
"She's human. She should stay in her human world. She doesn't belong here."
"She belongs wherever she want to, Roger, and she wants to be with me, so that means she does belong here."
"How do you figure that one? You know the risks, you know how fragile she is. And not only that, but what about us getting hungry? She's food, Leslie. She's not one of us."
"You're bouncing all over the place. Just get to the point."
"That is my point. She's a human. She's not one of us, she's not part of our world."
"I see. I gave you a second chance. I thought you had put your prejudice behind you. I thought you understood that Hitler was wrong."
"The more I see, the more I think he had the right idea. His vision just wasn't broad enough. We don't belong with humans, and they don't belong with us. They taint our purity, make us weak. They don't deserve to live."
"Yes, they do. The Creatrix favors them. All they have to do is have faith in the savior and they permitted into heaven. No matter how much we believe, we're forbidden. We can never enter heaven. We are the ones who don't belong."
"We are superior in every way. We deserve to rule the universe." That is not our place, as I have told you." I whipped my head around in the direction the new voice had come from and saw the Queen just stepping out of the shadows backstage. One of them must have contacted her about what was going on. Apparently, distance didn't make any difference in telepathic communication. The Queen stopped in front of Roger. And I was beginning to think that that wasn't his real name." I had a lot of questions to ask Leslie when we got the chance to talk. "Erin, thanks for coming." So Leslie had called her. "Of course. I was afraid this day might come."
Erin turned back to Roger and said, "Due to your attitude and the way you feel about the human race, of which you used to belong, I am hereby excommunicating you from the Nation. Give me your cross." He reached up and ripped it from his neck and threw it at her feet. "As well as being excommunicated, you're dismissed from the House of Desmond and you belong to the House of Chthon [K-thaw-n]. You should fit right in." Roger stormed off the stage and, as he passed where the Queen had appeared, two men appeared out of the shadows. They were obviously guards by the way they looked and dressed. "Come with us, quietly, now." They put their hands on his arms and shoulders and marched him into the shadows. "Lori," the Queen said, "You're in charge of the band's finances from here on. And Leslie, you don't have to worry about finding a replacement. One has been found and he will take your place after the break."
"Thank you, Erin. I appreciate that. Now Marie and I can accelerate our plans."
"Good. And even though it's supposed to be a human joining, I will be presiding. And I will keep it limited to a human ceremony. I can't wait to see the two of you standing up there." Leslie bowed her head deeply and said, "Thank you, Erin. I know I speak for Marie when I say that we are most grateful to you for doing this for us." I rose then, and came to stand beside my beloved, taking her hand and interlacing our fingers. I said, "Thank you, Erin, from the bottom of my heart. It would mean so much to both of us to have you preside over our wedding."
Later that night, after the concert, our bodies cooling in the air, I asked about Roger. And Leslie told me everything. I was right. Roger wasn't his real name. His real name was Oskar Schindler. The same man who had freed all those Jews. History recorded that he died, but he didn't He was miraculously hanging on by the merest thread when Leslie had arrived. She had admired his heroism and felt she had no choice but to save him. I held my lover as she finally mourned the loss of a precious, steadfast friend. It had only been the last couple months that he had changed, and no one could understand what had caused it. Once her tears had subsided and she started to catch her breath, I heard her whisper, "I will miss you, Roger." If she was capable of sleeping, she would have drifted off, shortly, but as it was, I was the one who fell asleep. And fell into the strangest dream. As he lay dying, I saw Leslie appear on a rooftop where she had apparently been watching. She jumped down onto the ground next to him and leaned over him. I didn't hear what she said, but I did see her slash her wrist with a knife from her belt and press her wrist to his mouth. At this point, I realized that I wasn't actually dreaming, but I was seeing what Leslie had done when she saved Roger. I wasn't sure how or why I was seeing it, but I understood a little bit of why she had been so attached to him.
I finally woke again sometime later, with my lover wrapped around me. "He was very brave. I understand, now."
"I thought you would. He took a huge risk doing what he did, and see how he was repaid?" She put her fingers to my lips and said, "I don't want to talk about it anymore." She kissed me with a furious passion I had never felt before. She attacked me. That was the only way I could describe it. I knew she hurt and needed my love in order to heal. It was wild and savage in a way I had never before experienced with her, and I knew that I would be ina lot of pain later, but it was still worth it. I was willing to do anything to help her.
I heard Leslie up front, in the dining area of the bus, sobbing as if her heart had been ripped out. I sounded exactly the same the day she had left for this tour. It was painful, but I got out of bed and went to her. I knew why she was bawling and I knew that only I could help. As I went to put my arms around her, she cried out, repeatedly, "No!" But finally, she collapsed against me, and her sobs got worse. It was a long time before she finally calmed herself enough to say, "I'm so sorry I hurt you. I'm so sorry. I told you I'm evil."
"No, you're not. You were hurting and you needed to release that. You took a primal pain and soothed it with primal love. I understand that, and it's ok."
"But I hurt you. How could I hurt you?"
"I know you didn't mean to. It's ok, baby. It's ok." She still cried, but now it was gentle, cleansing. It was another half hour before her tears finally subsided and she started to catch her breath. "Oh, Marie, you are so much more than I deserve. You're so wonderful. I swear I'll never hurt you again. I swear."
"I know, love. I know."
We ended up soaking in the tub for a while, letting the hot water soothe our tired bodies. "Oh, shit."
"I just thought about it. When we get home, I need to restock my fridge, freezer and cupboards cause they're almost bare."
"No, honey. Not you. We. We will stock the loft with food when we get back." She gave me a puzzled look. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I assumed that I would be staying with you when we get back." I frowned then, worried. "Unless you don't want me to."
"No, of course I do. I'm sorry, I just didn't think about it."
"What happened to reading my mind?"
"My own mind is in so much turmoil that I can't hear anything else. I'm sorry, baby. I love you, and I do want you to stay with me. As long as you really want to. I love you, so much."
"I love you, too, darling. Let's finish our bath and go lay down again."
"I can't. I wish I could, but we have a show tonight. As soon as we get done here, I have to go do set-up."
"Baby, it's still morning. You don't have to set up till this afternoon. We can go lay down for a few hours."
"Ok. Yeah, that sounds good. This feels good, too. But after we get home, we'll go to the market and stock the loft. I have a question for you. Do you want to stay in the loft, or do you want a house? A real house."
I couldn't answer right away. I love Leslie's loft, it was beautiful, but I loved the idea of a real house. I'd grown up in a large, beautiful home, and I would love to have a house like the one I'd grown up in. I was torn between my childhood dream and what we had now. The only thing that was certain was that I wanted to be with Leslie, wherever she was. I loved her and she was what mattered. And I told her as much. "I love you. The loft or a house doesn't make much difference to me. As long as we're together, that's all that matters to me."
"I love you, too." We kissed and held each other tightly. After our bath, we dried each other off and headed to bed, where we could lay down and rest for a while. I, of course, fell asleep, and woke later, without Leslie. I knew she was down at the stage, doing set-up, so I threw on a shirt and pair of pants and my socks and boots and headed over to the stage. They were all there, getting everything set up. I walked up to Leslie and put an arm around her waist. "You feeling better?"
"A little. It's just gonna take some time. Especially about you."
"I told you, it's okay."
"Sweetheart, we are fiercely protective. We kill those who hurt the ones we love. That's the way we are. But in this case, I was the one that hurt you. Killing myself isn't an option."
"Oh, baby, no. Don't be so hard on yourself, please. It hurts me." That was low and I knew it, but I needed to drag her out of this slump, somehow. She half-smiled, so I knew that she had heard my thoughts, which meant she was definitely improving. "Alright. I'll try." We shared a sweet, gentle kiss, then she went back to her work.
After the concert, we went to bed and simply held each other throughout the remainder of the night. There was just the concert at München left before we could go home. Knowing Leslie, she would be able to skip the show in Prague, but she would have to at least come and see the show in Bucharest. I know she had been looking forward to that set since they set out. Personally, I couldn't imagine half-a-million plus people packed into one place. It was mind-boggling. But it would definitely be interesting to see. During set-up that evening, the head of security, a vampire as well, came running up to the stage. "Lycans incoming, half-a-mile."
"Shit! Which direction are they coming from?"
"Southwest to northwest; at least thirty of them."
"Shit! We can't handle that many."
"And reinforcements won't arrive in time."
"Marie, run, get back to the bus, now!" I turned and bolted. I didn't know what Lycans were, but if they had almost a dozen vampires worried, I should probably be panicking. Back in the bus, I pulled the door shut and latched it. A few minutes later, I heard the sounds of what was obviously a battle. There were screams of pain and victory, shouts, and roaring from both sides, as well as wolf howls.
Suddenly, I heard a noise outside and something slammed hard into the side of the bus. There was a weird howl of pain that faded into silence, then a beloved voice shouting my name. I opened the door and Leslie grabbed me, wrapping her arms tight around me. "Thank the Goddess you're ok." She was practically panting, but I don't think it was due to the exertion of the fight. I turned my head to see what had hit the bus and she brought up her hand to block my sight, but not before I saw a naked man covered in blood. I gagged, I wanted to vomit, but I couldn't. My mind just went black and I clutched Leslie tighter, trying to hang onto my sanity. "It'll be okay. You're alright. Shhh. It's ok. It's alright."
"I'll explain later. Right now, I have to get back to the fight. Will you be okay till I get back?"
"Yeah, just hurry."
"Ok. Latch the door and don't let anyone in but me. And try not to look at the thing as you go inside."
"Ok. Just hurry back, baby."
"I'll be back as soon as I can, I promise." We kissed briefly, then I turned and headed back into the bus. Leslie stayed where she was till the door was latched again. By the time I looked out the window, she was already out of sight.
It was almost an hour before the sounds finally died down and, a few seconds later, someone knocked on the door of the bus. I knew who it was, but I felt obligated to check anyway. "Who is it?"
"It's me, baby." I still looked out the window before unlatching the door and opening it. She pushed past me toward the bathroom, saying, "I'm all bloody and I need a shower. And we've only got an hour till the show starts. We had to postpone it a bit because of this."
"Are you alright? Did any of them hurt you?"
"A few scratches, but they're already healed. I'm just glad you're okay." She gave me a quick peck on the lips before she stepped into the shower. "Will you explain everything after the show?"
"Of course. I promise." She took her shower and changed into a new outfit, then gave me a hug and kiss before heading out onstage. In spite of the attack, the concert went as usual. I guess diehard fans really will put up with anything. When the show was over, she came back to the bus, scooped me up in her arms and swayed side-to-side. Leslie finally let me go a few moments later and we sat at the table in the dining area. "What happened tonight? Why were those men attacking you? They obviously weren't Hunters." She took a deep breath and turned to face me. Taking my hands in her own, she said, "No, they weren't. They were Lycans. Werewolves."
"Yes. And most of us won't admit it, but they are our own bastard offspring."
The vampires had always had an uneasy truce with the Loup Garroux: shape-shifters that transformed into wolves. The vampire House of Lycons [Like-owns] tried to strengthen that bond and also erase many of the genetic weaknesses inherent in both races. Both were severely allergic to silver, but Loup Garroux weren't sensitive to light, and vampires were much stronger. The first generation of the experiments looked human, but covered in wolf-like hair. Descendants of this generation still exist openly today, known as wolf-men. Successive generations had this bred out of them, but something else cropped up. During the full moon, they would change into half-human, half-wolf creatures. And each successive generation grew to control their changes, but also grew more savage. Finally, the Queen put a stop to the experiments, but the House of Lycons continued with the experiments in secret, and when the Queen found out, she expelled them from the Nation. They were the first house to be expelled. Around two thousand years later, the Birthright Queen decided to enact a law that kept vampires from interfering with humans. "She forced us to blend in. But the House of Chthon didn't agree with that decision and they tried to overthrow her. But you can't do that with the Birthright Queen. Her will is absolute. They were tried for treason and expelled. That's why she put Roger in the House of Chthon."
"I see. So why do the Lycans hate you so much?"
"I don't know. They hate the Loup Garroux, too. But nobody knows why."
"So, not only do we have to worry about Hunters, but also Lycans." She smiled. "Yeah, but not at the same time. They'll kill each other as quickly as they would us."
"But at least Lycans are allergic to silver."
"Yes, but so are we. And our strength is nearly equal, so we're fairly evenly matched. But let's forget about that. You want to go home now, or get some sleep first?"
"Probably best for me to get some sleep. It's been an exhaustive day."
"Okay. While you're sleeping, I need to go feed. You be okay while I'm gone?"
"Yeah, I'll just be sleeping. Just hurry back."
"I will. I'll be back as quickly as possible." I got undressed and crawled under the covers. Leslie laid down on top and I snuggled into her arms. It wasn't long before I fell asleep, and I didn't even realize when Leslie left to go feed. I did, however, feel her when she returned. She slid under the covers with me and pulled me into her arms. Almost instantly, I was asleep again, feeling safe and loved. I woke up later, early in the afternoon, and we both went to take a shower and change before we headed home. We packed up all the clothes we had in the bus and took a shuttle to the airport. Leslie said, "I could fly with you and the bags, but this is simply easier and less conspicuous."
The plane landed on the runway and we finally got to disembark after almost twenty minutes and no explanation of the delay. Leslie immediately marched up to the counter and demanded to know why we had been kept waiting so long. They lady was polite and courteous, looking through the computer for the nature of the problem. She frowned and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not seeing anything that might have caused the delay. Let me check with maintenance and see if there was a problem with the ramp. Just a moment, please." She picked up the phone and dialed a number, waiting for a response. When someone evidently picked up, she made an inquiry into our delay. After another minute, she thanked the person and hung up. "I'm sorry. The maintenance crew found something in the mechanism that extends the ramp. They didn't want to create a panic, so they didn't say anything."
"So it turned out to be nothing?" Leslie asked. "Yes, it turned out to be harmless, but they wanted to make certain, first."
"I see. Thank you. And tell the maintenance crew that we appreciate their thoroughness."
"I will. And thank you for flying United." We thanked her again and headed off. The only thing we had checked was Leslie's guitar, and she had been a grizzly when it came to having it loaded. She had warned them that if there was so much as a scratch on the case, she would have all their hides. I didn't realize how much she cared about that guitar, till then. But she was even more protective of me. She never removed her hand from mine, not even on the plane. And periodically in the airport, she would gently squeeze my hand, as if reassuring herself that I was still there.
We went to the loft, first, to drop off our stuff, then we headed to my parents'. I rang the bell, waiting for Morris to answer it. When he did, he smiled and extended his hand. "Welcome home, Miss Bonnelaux. Welcome, Ms. DeMoore. Come in. I'll let everyone know you're here." The first one to greet us was my brother, Jarod. We hugged each other tight, smiling and laughing. "Welcome back, sis. I missed you."
"I missed you, too. Now, let me formally introduce my fiancée, Leslie DeMoore-Desmond." My brother didn't hesitate to wrap his arms around her, too, and she returned the hug. When they parted, he said, "It's nice to meet you, Leslie."
"Welcome back, Leslie," my mom said. "It's good to see you again."
"Likewise, Mrs. Bonnelaux. I'm honored to be welcome in your home." Leslie's upbringing was showing again, but I didn't mind. Being born in the 1700's made her a lot more chivalrous than more modern suitors. Besides, I was in love, and her old time attitude was endearing. My mom and Leslie embraced for the first time and my spirits soared. I felt tears begin to trickle down my cheeks. My lover and my mother, not only getting along, but actually liking each other. I put my arms around them, and they put theirs around me, as well. The two most important women in my life were united, and there was only one more that should be here.
"Mom, have you heard from Carly?"
"I called her after we spoke to you. She's glad that you're happy, but she's having trouble accepting your relationship with Leslie. Jarod, your father and I, are trying to convince her that it's okay. We are."
"I know, mom, and I appreciate it. We both do." Leslie took a step forward and said, "Mrs. Bonnelaux, perhaps, if I could speak with Marie's sister. I may be able to convince her. At least, I'm willing to try."
"I'll see what I can do. For now, would you like to have supper with us, Leslie?" I smiled. It would be my turn to hold Leslie's chair, as I had told her I would. We headed to the dining room, where my dad sat at the head of the table, mom sat to his right, and Jarod next to her. I sat on my dad's left and Leslie sat next to me. As we ate, we talked about the concerts, particularly the drama, but judiciously edited so as not to reveal details that it was best they not know. Humans are allowed to know that vampires exist, but it's forbidden for humans to know all their secrets. But in this case, to prevent any harm coming to my family, we would keep it a secret. Besides, they may not be able to handle it as well as I did. After we covered the concerts, talk turned to Leslie and my wedding. Mom said, "We've talked to the people in charge, and they won't let you rent Notre Dame for your wedding. Gay marriage isn't allowed in France."
Leslie growled and said, "I'll talk to them. I may be able to convince them. I have influential friends around the world, one of the benefits of being in a famous band." So we continued to talk and, after supper, Leslie excused herself to make a phone call. When I entered the room a few minutes later, I could hear her speaking fluent French, apparently trying to procure Notre Dame for our wedding. After a few more moments, she cursed and threw down the phone. "They won't go for it?" I asked. "No, they won't. I can't seem to convince them. I'll contact Erin and see what she can do for us. I'm sure she'll succeed where I failed."
"You tried, that's what matters, beloved. If they won't give in, we'll think of something else. What matters is that we will be joined forever. Where isn't as important."
"I know, but you've been looking forward to this for weeks and I really want to give it to you."
"I know, darling. I know." We held each other for a few minutes, simply taking in the comfort of each other's presence. Finally, we parted and kissed soft and loving. "The wedding isn't as important to me as the honeymoon, you know that."
"I know. But I still want to give you this dream."
"I know. Let's go home. It's been a long day. I'd like to go home and get some rest. And I wanna be alone with you." Leslie smiled and chuckled. "Alright, let's go. We'll say goodbye to your parents and leave."
We spent the remainder of that evening and all night in bed, wrapped in each other's arms. Every once in a while, it still took me by surprise that I fell in love with a woman, against all expectations. And tonight was one of those times. I looked my fiancée in the face and said, "This is unbelievable. I never expected to fall in love with you. I never expected to feel anything like this. Sometimes I wonder if this is real, or if it's just a fantasy."
"I know what you mean. I still feel that way sometimes, too. But this is definitely real. Believe me. This is as real as it gets, my love." We shared another kiss that quickly led to another round of lovemaking. I finally fell asleep, wrapped securely in my lover's arms. It was morning when the soft sounds of someone singing woke me, and the smell of breakfast kept me awake. First, I made a trip to the bathroom, then headed out to the kitchen. "Morning, baby. Did I wake you?"
"Yeah, but it's okay. I needed to get up. What are you fixing?"
"Eggs, bacon, hash browns, sausage, and pancakes. Sound good?"
"Sounds wonderful. I love you, darling."
"I love you, too. You know, I still feel bad about hurting you. When I saw the bruises last night, I almost couldn't bring myself to touch you. But I love you, so much."
"I know. And I told you it was okay. You needed that. You have nothing to feel guilty about. I was a willing participant. You need to stop beating yourself up."
While we waited for word from Erin, we took meals at my parents' house and waited to see if Carly would call. A couple days after Leslie's call about Notre Dame, we heard from Erin. She had come to an arrangement with the French Government. Since my parents' anniversary was coming up, they would let us use the cathedral to renew their vows and have a private party. In actuality, however, once my parents renewed their vows; after dark, Leslie and I would have our joining ceremony. Then, we had the entire restaurant reserved at the Eiffel Tower for a joint celebration. It was good to have friends in really high places. We contacted the dressmakers to find out if our dresses would be ready by June 23rd. They assured us as they would be and so all we could do was wait. But after we received the news that we would have the cathedral for our wedding, we finally went shopping for groceries for the loft. We drove to Walmart and went inside. We each grabbed a shopping cart because we planned on getting a lot of groceries. We started at the back with the milk and eggs and everything. We bought two gallons of milk, several different types of juice, a case of fifty eggs, three tubs of margarine, and about twelve boxes of butter. And that was just to start. I asked Leslie why she had gotten so much better and she explained that she planned to do a lot of baking. I asked what kind of baking, but she just smiled at me. Okay, so I'd have to wait and see. As we were walking up front to check out, she took control of her cart with one hand and reached out with her now-free hand and put her arm around my waist.
The bill for our groceries and everything came to almost four hundred dollars, but we had enough provisions for a couple months, at least. She didn't always eat solid food, but I ate three times a day. After our wedding, though, neither of us would need to eat anything. The real reason I couldn't wait for our wedding, though, was that I would finally be joined by my soulmate forever. And I knew that she felt the same. Once we arrived at the loft, we put away all our provisions, except for a few things that Leslie wanted left out for lunch. She prepared some pork chops in a marinade in a gallon-sized plastic bag. "Those are for supper. Now, let me get started on our chicken for lunch. I'm going to dredge these in a mix of egg and water, then in a seasoning mix. And we'll have vegetables and cheese, and some soda. Anything else you can think of?"
"No, but can I help?" She just smiled and gestured me over. She taught me how to prepare the chicken and I even did a few pieces myself, then, while the chicken cooked, we started steaming the vegetables and melting the cheese. The vegetables and cheese were done about the same time, and we poured the vegetables into the melted cheese. We served it up and sat down at the table. We talked, briefly, but we spent the majority of the meal in comfortable silence. Afterward, I helped her clean up the dishes and put them away. She was fastidious about keeping her loft clean, but I still helped her with that task, as well. I wasn't going to be a lay about while I was here and I wanted to prove that through my actions. Once we were done with our housekeeping, we went over to my parents' to finish packing up my stuff. I packed up more than half my room, with Leslie's help.
My parents knew that I was moving out, so it wasn't a shock when we showed up with bags for my stuff. As we left, we promised to come over again the following day. We drove home and she opened her closet. It was huge. Until now, I'd been getting clothes from my old bedroom, so I hadn't seen the inside of her closet, before. But what amazed me more than the sheer size of her closet, was how much empty space there was. "When did you do this?"
"I've always had a lot of empty room in my closet, and I just moved my stuff around so you can put yours up by mine. I love you, baby." I turned and put my arms around her and leaned in to give her a kiss. She helped me put everything away, since she had the closet organized a certain way. Once that was completed, we went out to the kitchen so we could start supper. Once again, I helped her fix dinner, and she lit candles on the table once it was almost ready. She poured the wine and I carried the plates to the table. We sat beside each other, frequently looking into each other's eyes, lovingly. After we ate, we sat on the couch and watched a movie, then went to bed, where we made gentle love again.
The next morning, I went to talk to the head of the Kung Fu studio. I had studied there for a while when I was younger, and I wanted to resume my studies, now. I didn't want to be completely defenseless anymore. I knew that, until I was turned, there was no way I could hold my own against most of the creatures out there, but I would be able to fend off any Hunters that decided to harass me. And besides, I was just sick of being completely defenseless. As I stepped into the studio, memories of my first stages came back to me. I learned slowly, at first, taking longer than anyone else to learn my forms and having to work twice as hard to perfect them. However, there came a point where I caught on, and suddenly, I was passing the rest of the class. My old sifu came up to meet me and we bowed to each other. "What brings you here?"
"I would like to resume my studies, Sifu. I need to learn how to defend myself and the ones I love. I still remember what I learned before, but it's not enough."
"I see. Go and change and we will begin."
"Thank you, Sifu." I took my bag to the locker room and changed into my outfit, called a Saam. As I stepped onto the mat for the first time in years, I felt a peace settle over me, and a sense of purpose. It was then that I knew for sure that this was right for me. "For today, we'll just review what you learned before. Now, do some light stretches, then run around the track for ten minutes, and finish with some heavy stretches."
"Yes, Sifu." The session lasted for an hour and, as I was walking out, Leslie was standing by the door. "Why didn't you tell me?" Tears were coursing down her cheeks and I just ran to her, throwing my arms around her.
"I wanted to surprise you. Today was my first time in years. I know I'll be able to defend myself when you turn me, but I don't want to be defenseless in the meantime. I just want to improve so that I'm not so helpless anymore." She kissed me, then, passionately. "There's no doubt you're soulmate. I love you. If you need to do this, that's fine. And remember, if you need a sparring partner, I've got three black belts in Kung Fu. And you're not gonna hurt me."
"Thank you, baby. Now, let's go home." She threw her arm around my waist and we walked out to the car. We held hands all the way home, where we took a shower and changed before heading over to my parents'. As we sat around, talking, the phone rang and, a few minutes later, Morris came into the sitting room. "Mrs. Carly is on the line." I jumped up to answer the phone. "Hey, sis, what's up? I haven't heard from you in forever."
"Marie? You sound different."
"I know. I've relaxed quite a bit since I met Leslie. I've dropped my upper-class attitude. I realized that just because I have money, doesn't make me better than everyone else. I'm exactly the same."
"It's true. We're better off than those who have less, but we're not better. In fact, we're worse in some ways. I high society, there's a much larger stigma attached to relationships. And that shouldn't be the case. Carly, love is love, no matter what form it takes. Leslie and I love each other exactly the same way that you and your husband do. The only difference is the package. But the present is the same."
"That's interesting. I guess I never thought about it that way. I need to think about it; I need some time."
"Ok. Just remember, my love for Leslie is no different than your love for your husband."
"I'll think about that. I love you, sis. Can I talk to mom?"
"Sure, here she is. Mom, Carly wants to talk to you." She took the phone and I sat back down next to my fiancée. "You did good. It's pretty much exactly what I would have said."
"Well, it seemed right. And every word was true: love is love, no matter what. Our love is no different than the love my parents have, or Carly and her husband."
"I know that. You don't have to convince me. There's something I want you to watch when we get home. It's called "Before Stonewall" and "After Stonewall". Stonewall Inn was a club in Greenwich Village, NY, that catered to gays and Lesbians. There was a mass riot when a bunch of police showed up and tried to arrest everyone. I could tell you about it, but you should see it."
"Were you there?"
"Yeah. It was brutal. We'll talk about it after you watch it."
"Okay." Not long after, we excused ourselves so that we could go home and have supper. Leslie put in the movie for me while she prepared supper and we ate in front of the T.V. When the first one was done, she put in the second one. After seeing what happened, I understood a lot better what Leslie's perspective was.
"I was on the wrong side of the whole deal. I was a police officer sent to the club to arrest everyone. I didn't want to, but I had a job to do. No one knew that I was a vampire, of course, so I had to limit myself to their speed. Still, I grabbed as many as I could and made sure they got away. I wasn't going to arrest them for being who they are. The next day, I handed in my resignation, and left my badge and gun. I haven't been back. Everything has changed, but after that, I still don't trust them."
"I understand that. But it's late and I'm tired. Let's go to bed." The dressmakers contacted us on the twenty-third to let us know that our dresses were finished, so we went down to try them on. As I was checking the fit, the door opened and someone stepped inside. "Am I too late to get in on the wedding?" I couldn't help it. I screamed in delight and ran to greet my sister. We threw our arms around each other and hugged each other tight. "You're just in time. We're gonna be leaving tomorrow to have the wedding the following night. Mom and dad will renew their vows about an hour before sunset, then Leslie and I will have our wedding after dark. Then, we have a joint reception in the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower."
"Sounds good. What will I be wearing?"
"You still have that eggshell-white, off-the-shoulder dress you wore for Cousin Vanessa's wedding?"
"Yes, I do."
The plane ride was long, but quiet, and we had a meal of chicken, corn, peas, and a biscuit. After we touched down, we went to our hotel to put away our supplies, then went out to look around the town. Leslie was quite familiar with the town and she showed us sights that wouldn't be on a typical tour, then she took us to an out of the way restaurant for supper and helped us order something that we would like. And we did enjoy the restaurant. We went to an ice cream parlor for dessert, then back to the hotel. Mom and dad went to their room and Leslie and I went to ours. We rose early and got ready for the day, because it was going to be a long one. Leslie and I would have to change later, after my parents renewed their vows, but for now, we had on dark peach dresses, to match my mom's cream colored gown. Dad would be wearing a black tuxedo, and Carly would wear a wine-colored gown. It took most of the day to prepare for the ceremony, but once we were ready, we loaded into the limousine and headed to the cathedral. It had been decorated in white, black, cream, and burgundy. It looked beautiful. Miranda came up to us and said, "We decided, rather than redecorate after the rededication, that we would combine the decorations. Gonna make it easier to transition. And David will actually be presiding over your parents' rededication. He's taken catechism classes and he's registered as a catholic priest, so we can keep this completely internal. Or, if they prefer, we also have a Christian pastor."
I told her that my parents would prefer the Christian pastor, but agreed to have the catholic priest present for the renewal of the vows. But when it came to mine and Leslie's wedding, the catholic priest wouldn't be around. Which was good for us. They were still getting everything set up, but they were almost finished. My parents were back getting dressed for the ceremony, and they wouldn't be ready for another half-hour, then it would be another two hours before the ceremony started. All we could do was wait. And that was what we did. Finally, the ceremony started about two hours before sunset, with my mom walking down the aisle to meet my father. The pastor started the ceremony and we breezed right through. We had half an hour till dark, when our ceremony would begin, but we had to change first. So, Leslie and I split up, headed into separate rooms to change into our wedding gowns. Mine was white, buttoned up the back, all the way up to my neck, and fell over my feet, the sleeves coming over my middle finger and hanging clear down, almost to the floor. The veil fell to my chest and the train went down my back to trail about two feet behind me. It was beautiful and soft and fit me perfectly, of course, just like all the dresses the ladies had made. I couldn't wait to see what Leslie's wedding gown would look like. If mine was any indication, it would be stunning, maybe even more than any of her others. I couldn't wait to find out.
I stayed back in the foyer till the wedding march started. I was surprised to hear an electric guitar along with the piano. Had to be Leslie, playing for me. Dad took my arm and a couple of band members smiled and nodded as they pulled open the doors to the chapel. When I saw Leslie, I started laughing. I was right, she was playing along with the piano. But she did look exquisite. Her dress was more eggshell white, with a V-neck that showed off her…assets to marvelous effect. It was a sleeveless bodice with a separate skirt that was pleated and hung down to her ankles, and she was wearing white, high-heeled sandals, where I had regular pumps. My beloved was more beautiful than ever. She was breathtaking. When my dad kissed me on the cheek and left me at the altar with my bride-to-be, Leslie handed off her guitar and took my hand in her own. Erin took a step forward and began the ceremony. When she asked for the rings, my brother came forward and Leslie and I both smiled at him. "Thanks, little brother."
"Yes, thank you, Jarod."
"Ah, it's no problem. I'm glad you're happy, sis." He handed us the rings and stood off to the side, while we began our vows. As I felt that gold band slide onto my ring finger, my heart skipped a beat. I had to remind myself that this was just the ceremony and the real joining would take place later. I smiled and took a deep breath to get my bearings. Fortunately, Erin waited for me to be ready before she started on my vows. But once I was ready, Erin started and I repeated my vows and slid her ring onto her finger. She took a deep breath and her eyes gleamed.
After we finished our vows, Leslie took a step forward and slowly raised my veil. Suddenly, I felt as though I had never been kissed. It honestly felt like I was a young girl about to receive my first kiss. I waited, breathlessly, for the first touch of her lips. Her kiss was sweet and soft, almost hesitant, and I parted my lips, inviting her in. Our tongues met and danced, till I had to come up for air. I'd been so caught up in the kiss, that I didn't hear the cheering till after we broke contact. She took my hand and we walked down the aisle, leaving the church, and got into the limo that would take us to the Eiffel Tower. We had reserved the entire restaurant for a joint reception. We were there till around eleven, dining and dancing. On the way back to our hotel room, Leslie and I held each other, occasionally whispering about our love. Once in our room, she put her arms around me and drew me in. "Do you wanna stay here, or go back to my cabin?"
"Are you kidding? This is the city of love. And even though I hate to say it, this is more romantic than your cabin. No offense."
"None taken. This is a beautiful city. We could live her, if you wanted. Put you closer to your sister. And traveling through the shadows, you could see your parents and brother any time you wanted." I smiled and my eyes sparkled. "I would like that. Very much. But for tonight, just love me. Love me forever." We kissed and began to make love. At the peak, she bit my neck, straight into my carotid artery, just above my shoulder. And it was so exquisite, that I plunged over the edge, into ecstasy. I barely recalled drinking her blood in return, but I remembered that it tasted sweet. Before long, I passed out.
I awoke sometime later, and I could hear the song Sleeping Sun, by Nightwish playing from somewhere. 'Where is that music coming from?'
'From the main room of our suite. Come join me.' So I got up out of bed and glided out to the main room of our suite, where Leslie was sitting, listening to music. 'What do you think?'
'Everything is brighter, clearer. I know it's not even dawn, but I can see more clearly than I ever could as a human. And my hearing is so much more acute, as well. I can hear you in my mind.'
'Of course. You also have all our memories.'
'Yeah, when I think about it. I'm also hungry.' She stood and held out her hand. 'So let's go get dressed and go hunt.'
'Yes, let's.' Out on the streets, I took deep breaths, taking in the scent and taste of the city. 'This truly is a beautiful place, baby. Thank you for all of this, my love.'
'Just wait, there's more. But first, you need sustenance. Once the transformation was complete, my blood could no longer sustain you. You have to feed, or you'll begin to grow weak. Feel you surroundings, find your meal.' I closed my eyes and searched my mind. Four homeless men in a seedy, rundown part of the warehouse district. 'Come on. Let's go eat." We raced to the warehouse district, faster than most humans could drive. We arrived in a matter of moments, appearing in the middle of the group between one eye blink and the next.
They startled, but didn't run, which was to our benefit. We mesmerized all four of them and practically had them lining up for us. 'You take three of them. You need more than I do. And don't drain them completely. No more than three pints from each. Leave them alive, but wipe their memory. That way they don't remember what happened. Their wounds will heal pretty quickly.'
'Ok. You may have to stop me. I don't know how well I can control myself, yet.'
'I know. I'll be here.' So, I grabbed my first meal and sank my fangs into his neck, straight into the carotid artery. My fangs prevented the blood from spurting everywhere, allowing me to drink as quickly or slowly as I wanted. When I heard Leslie's voice in my mind saying, 'Enough.' I was still hungry, but I obeyed. Besides, there were two more for me to slake my thirst with. But even after I finished with them, I was still hungry. 'That's enough for tonight. Much more and you'll start getting sick, you'll start craving more and more. You'll descend into a pit of darkness that you'll never recover from.' She put her hands on my shoulders. 'You will adjust, I promise.'
'Ok. Let's go back to the hotel. I won't be quite so tempted.'
'Alright. There's a shadow at the end of the alley dark enough that we can travel back to the hotel.'
'Ok. Maybe tomorrow we can start looking for a new place to live.'
'Yeah. So come on. It'll only take a few seconds.' And she was right. In a matter of moments, we were back in our hotel room. 'Come here. I want to make love to you again, my love.'
'So do I.'
Three weeks later, we'd closed on a beautiful, two-story, white house about fifteen miles outside of Paris. Leslie called an agent back in America to sell her loft, since we wouldn't be needing it anymore. We made several trips through the shadows, hauling our stuff to our new place. I loved it. I loved my wife and our home. But as I learned, our life wasn't going to be all fun and games. There was a pack of Lycans headed for Paris, and if they got there, there was no telling what kind of havoc they might wreak. So far, there would be twelve of us, but more were on the way, and would be here by tomorrow. I had less than a week to train before the Lycans arrived, but since we didn't sleep, we had twenty-four hours a day to train. We fed once before I started my training. "Before I helped Roger start the band, I was one of the Queen's guards. I suppose I still am. Though I haven't acted in any official capacity in years. But, of course, I still remember my training, and training new Guards."
"I see. You think my Kung Fu training will help?"
"Definitely." She smiled as she said it and we shared a brief kiss, then she went to our closet and picked up two cases that were on the floor. She set them on the couch and snapped one of them open. Inside was a longsword, with an ornately designed hilt and matching scabbard. When she unsheathed the sword, I could tell the blade wasn't steel. It looked like silver.
"These are silver swords, but the handle is wrapped so that it protects our hands."
"Yeah, cause just touching silver can hurt us."
"Heart, brain, or throat. Fully transformed, a werewolf's heart weighs around eight pounds, whereas an adult human heart weighs around two pounds. They'll be fully transformed when we meet them, but when they first begin to change, the heart enlarges first, pumping massive quantities of blood to the brain and the muscles, allowing the body to transform."
"So if I get a chance, kill them before they transform."
"Exactly. And if you get a chance to drain their blood, do it. Humans can survive on just two pints of blood. They'll be in a coma, but they'll survive. Lycans have eight pints of blood and losing a mere two pints will kill them. They have to have at least six pints to sustain their massive bodies." She sheathed the sword before handing it to me and picking up the second one. "I used to carry both swords, but this one is my favorite. And that one, now, is yours. Just being familiar with the weapon isn't enough. You have to know the weapon, make it an extension of yourself. Now, let's go practice." We headed down to our training room in the basement and she began to instruct me in how to fight with the sword. I was a quick study due to previous weapon's training during my martial arts. Five days later, I was as proficient with the sword as my wife and we were ready for the battle. That night, we fed again, just a few hours beforehand, leaving us time to get into position.
With the swords strapped to our backs, we raced to the frontline, which was a back road roughly twelve miles west-northwest of Paris. It was an old gravel road that was seldom used, and scouts reported that this was the road they were traveling down. One thing more people don't know about Lycans, is that they have incredible stamina. They're capable of running for days, when fully transformed, without tiring, just like us. But their sheer size and strength, combined with their viciousness made them very dangerous enemies. But we couldn't let the danger deter us. Besides, even though there were fifty Lycans, there were almost eighty of us. Realistically, we could lose about twenty or thirty of our own, but that was the reality of battle. We heard them and felt the ground vibrate before we actually saw them. They appeared, at first, as a dark smudge on the horizon, but it didn't take long before they were close enough to see clearly. Sunrise was in four hours, and then traffic would start coming down the road, what little there was of it. So we had to have this over with by then. The command to draw our weapons was given, followed by the command, "Battle stance." We kept out main foot forward and dropped our other foot back, our swords held vertically in front of us. I took a split second to ask, 'We ever use firearms for this?'
'Used to, but it was too easy to hit our own. That's why we use the swords. More control.'