The next morning was as bright and warm as the day before; this summer was going to be a dry one, which meant our grapes would need some help from the river. Thank goodness for Papa’s invention of sluices to flood the parching vineyard with water, just enough for survival. I’m hoping my ox blood did the same for the parched vampire; today I had to pluck up enough courage to find out if it had worked. So I rose and got dressed, and after a quick breakfast I made my way down to the cottage.
I unlocked the cellar door, and this time I took an oil lantern for more light. I found the body where I had left it, and the pot still untouched and filled with the ox blood. He hadn’t woken up. This made me angry; what the hell did I need to do to revive a vampire? Did I want to revive a vampire? I started to pace the cellar talking to myself, debating what I had to do and whether I should even dare do it. There was something about this man lying at my feet that made me believe saving him from starvation would be greatly rewarded. Warmth filled my heart as I bent down, put the lantern next to me, and picked up the pot of ox blood. I looked at the vampire, then at the blood, back to the vampire, and then it dawned on me: he was weak, dehydrated and literally quite dead, so how was he going to consume the blood, you bloody idiot?
The book said vampires prefer human blood, so if I gave him a little of my own mixed with the ox blood, he would perhaps waken that night. Maybe, just maybe; this was a first for me, so who knew what I had to do? I took the knife I had used to cut the canvas open the day before and hesitantly put it to my wrist. Wait, something told me. The knife is dirty and needs to be sterilized first; use the flame of the lantern to do so. I drew the knife though the flame, a couple of times each side, then cooled it down in the pail of water. I closed my eyes tight while I ran the length of the blade across one of my wrists; it burnt as it cut and I gasped with pain. I had to concentrate to keep from passing out. I was not upset by the sight of the blood, but by the fact it was mine. I aimed the droplets of blood from my wrist at the man’s lips; his skin seemed to absorb them like a sponge. I then let a couple of drops splash into each of his red eyes and watched as his eyes turned into the most beautiful deep blue I had ever seen. As the drops of blood splashed onto his body, the burnt, pruned skin seemed to plump up and become smooth, clear, and strong. I started to panic: it would take a lot of my blood to plump up his body the way it did his face.
Something then told me, Stop and sear the cut before you lose too much blood. I realized the implication of the words, so I took up the knife again and drew it through the flame, and this time I used the heat to seal the skin. I screamed with pain and blacked out. Not knowing how long I was unconsciousness did not concern me, but what did matter was that I found myself lying on the man’s chest. I recoiled from his cold and damp body and fell back with a shudder. I had to get this over with. So, bracing myself for the job at hand, I took off the clothing I had put on him the day before. As he lay naked again, I slowly poured the ox blood over his skin, making sure I wasn’t wasting any by spilling it on the floor. It slowly seeped into his pores and gave his skin a smooth, soft, and more human look. I smiled as I looked down at him. My god, he had turned out to be a very handsome man indeed. Being a hormonal teenaged girl, I felt my head spin with desire as I looked at every – yes, every – inch of his gorgeous, masculine, strong body. If he woke up now and took me as my first – well, so be it. I gasped at the thought. If Marcus had to find me now, I would simply die with embarrassment. That’s enough, the voice echoed in my head. Get me dressed. And so, with a little disappointment, I dressed him well enough to call him decent.
I sat watching him, hoping he would move – any movement would do – hoping the blood had worked. What if he needed more? I needed to get him more, and mine was the only blood available now. So I looked at the knife, picked it up, and started to sterilize it again. I had to find something to let my blood drip into so that he could drink once he awoke. That way he would not have to bite and rip me or Marcus apart to satisfy his hunger, and we could live another day. So I ran up to my cottage kitchen and took out a goblet. While I was there, I cut my wrist open and, leaning against the kitchen table to prevent me from falling over, let the blood flow into the goblet until it was almost full. Tying it up with linen ripped from my undergarment, I bandaged my wound up. I did this so that it would be easier for me to open the wound again, should I need more blood tomorrow.
Although a bit weak, I managed to take the goblet down and place it next to the vampire. I looked into his face. He was the most masculine man I had ever seen. Marcus was handsome, but what lay here in my cellar was striking, a symbol of manly strength, purity, and power. It generated from him like steam. What I sensed from him was breathtaking, making every part of my soul know I had done the right thing in saving him. Then I slowly made my way back up from the cellar, locked the door, and staggered to my room, where I fell into bed, fully clothed. I slept the rest of the day and into the night.
I woke up around midnight feeling cold. I remembered I had opened my window to cool my room down that morning and now, feeling the air chilling, I needed to get up to shut it. Staggering lazily over to the window, I looked up to find the light of the full moon cascading over my skin; I felt its power as I looked at the shadows on the moon’s face, and I smiled as I closed the curtains and made my way back to bed. Realizing I was still in my clothes, I pulled off my tunic and stepped out of my chemise, and then climbed back into bed; lying on my back, I wondered if my vampire had woken up yet and what he was doing right then.
I pulled the quilt over my naked body and, settling in to fall asleep again, drifted into a dream of the man I had saved. Seeing him lying on the cellar floor of my cottage, I watched him transform from a mere speck into the largest man I had ever seen, built with strength and power that coursed through his chest, arms, and legs. His face seemed to be chiseled out of marble; every line had definition; his jaw line – tough; his cheekbones – firm. Heat ran through me, desire bubbled up from deep inside me, when, suddenly, I felt a cool, large hand cover my mouth. I screamed into it. My brain registered this was a man’s hand. I needed to get away from him. He must have snuck into my room while the window was open. No, this can’t be happening, my brain screamed. I kicked out and tried to scratch the arm pinning me down, but he did not budge.
“Shush,” said a voice in the darkness. “I mean you no harm.”
The voice was powerful, deep and mesmerizing as it spoke next to my ear. Could that voice be coming from my vampire? I asked myself. I’m sure I heard it in my head before. Could it be coming from the man I rescued? Had it worked? Oh my, was he here to kill me? Then why hasn’t he done so already?
“Shush,” the voice said again, “I’m going to let go of your mouth now; promise me you won’t scream.” I nodded. “I trust you, and I need you to do the same with me.” I nodded again, and slowly he let go of my mouth. I took a deep breath and tried to focus in the dark to see who was standing over my bed. Now that the moonlight was closed off by the curtains, I couldn’t see a damned thing. It was pitch dark.
“Who are you?” I whispered nervously as I drew the quilt up to my chin, aware of my nakedness beneath it. My heart started to beat erratically.
“You know who I am,” he sneered as he moved away from me.
“Oh my, it worked?” I asked, excited and anxious, all at the same time. I sat up, holding even tighter onto the quilt.
“Yes,” he replied. His voice came from the window I had closed earlier.
“How do you feel?” I said weakly, hoping he wasn’t hungry.
“Better now, thanks to you. But you had me going through hell there for a day,” he replied as he opened the curtains slowly, letting the moonlight in.
“Oh?” I frowned as I held the quilt even closer to my body, scanning the semi-darkness for a shape or movement from the man I thought I would be able to see.
“First you cut into me, and then you stabbed me, taking whatever was left of the energy I needed to heal myself; then you put blood next to a very weak, starving immortal, who was unable to get to it for hours.” His voice filled with agony came from different parts of the room.
I winced. “I’m so sorry, you gave me no indication you were aware of it all,” I replied looking around the room, trying to find the man I had tortured. And then I realized: “Damn! You were alert when I undressed and washed you, too?” Heat rushed to my cheeks.
“Oh yes,” he whispered. I felt him sit on the edge of my bed. I finally got to see him – not clearly, but I could make out the largeness of him; although sitting, he still towered over me. He had looked less intimidating lying on my cellar floor than he did now, sitting next to me. He was so close that I could touch him. My stomach tightened and I felt lightheaded, either because of the embarrassment I felt or because I hadn’t eaten the whole day; so I sank down and put my pillow over my head and moaned.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, putting his cool hand on my exposed shoulder. I jerked, making him remove it again.
“Not feeling very well; maybe because I forgot to eat today,” I replied.
“Hmm,” I heard him say, and then I felt him take my wrist in his hand. I wanted to pull away, but I knew it would be pointless. He started taking my bandages off and I peeked out from under the pillow to watch what he was going to do next. Slowly he took my wrist to his mouth. I winced and waited for him to bite into me, but instead he stopped to look at the wound.
“What are you doing? I asked.
“Sealing off your wounds,” he replied and bit into his own wrist. I gasped. He began spreading his blood over the cuts and as he did so, I felt the skin knit together and heal. I looked down, watching it seal until there was no evidence of the cut. Taking my other wrist, he did the same.
“How did you do that?” I asked looking at my wrists more closely for some kind of scar; not finding any, I looked up at him.
“If there is anything I have learnt over the centuries, it is this: don’t ever leave any kind of evidence behind, no matter how insignificant. If you are planning to feed me your blood, you need to eat regularly and well.”
“Centuries?” I asked. He didn’t look centuries old; well, maybe when I found him, but certainly not now.
“Yes,” he replied, not elaborating. I decided to change the direction of our conversation slightly in the hope of getting a better answer.
“What happened to you to make me find you washed up on the beach?” I asked as he started pacing my bedroom floor. He stopped and looked back at me, trying to find the words to answer my question, and started pacing again.
“I was dethroned by someone in my coven, and I plan to go back and find out who it was,” he replied scornfully. As he looked back at me, the moon reflected the sadness in his eyes, turning them from a deep blue to a dark and empty hue. This frightened me a little; I did not want him to ever look at me in that way, and I vowed he never would.
“Dethroned? Are you a king or something?” I asked surprised at his claim, and I tried to sit up again.
He laughed. “Or something,” he replied.
“Okay. Sire, are you at least going to tell me your name, or will I get a short, meaningless answer to that as well?” I was starting to get frustrated at his manner.
“You’re angry? he asked, surprised at my tone.
“Yes. I’m not sure why, but I’m getting the feeling you don’t want to share your past with me and I don’t understand why not. I saved you from the unknown and all I get is short, inconclusive answers.”
“I understand, and I apologize. My name is Lucien Vallianto, and I’m the ruler of a coven of vampires. I was made sovereign by my creator just less than a thousand years ago,” he stated. I sat straight up, forgetting my giddiness, and tilted my head in interest. He stood at the foot of my bed and looked at me – or, should I say, his beautiful blue eyes burrowed into my soul as if to find something inside. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable but, instead, warm and tingly.
“I was a monk living a life of solitude in a monastery up in the Simbruini Mountains of Italy. Around 530 AD, when I was forty years old, I was turned into a vampire,” he started telling me.
I gasped. “That makes you almost a thousand years old,” I whispered in amazement.
“It does? What year is it?” he asked, surprised.
“One thousand four hundred and fifty-six.”
“Well, that means I have been stuck in that coffin for over five hundred years.” He looked at me in amazement. “I have to get back and reclaim what was taken from me,” he said as he started pacing the room again.
“Where is it you need to go?” I asked, upset that he wanted to leave me so soon.
“Back to Italy.” He walked up to me and sat next to me again, taking my hand in his. “I need your help again, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, of course, my lord, as long as you take me with you,” I replied.
“No, that will not be possible; my path is long and certainly dangerous.” He frowned, and when we looked into each other’s eyes, he saw determination in mine and I detected concern and sadness in his.
“Long indeed, so you will need nourishment. What better companion could you have than me to take care of that?” I smiled back at him.
“Annabelle, you have no idea what you are asking me,” he whispered.
I moved slightly away from him, hugging the quilt closer again. “How do you know my name?” I asked.
“I listened to your brother, Marcus, talking to your uncle this evening. I was getting accustomed to my new environment,” Lucien replied, turning his head and looking intently at me.
“What did he have to say about me?” I asked angrily.
“I’m afraid your wine harvest will not be successful, and he is planning to leave this place.”
“What? How could he say that? This is our home! Why would he want to leave our home?” I asked, shocked.
“Annabelle, you are not making any sense; one minute you want to leave with me, and the next you’re upset because your brother wants to do the same thing.” Lucien smiled at me.
“Well, at least I could have returned and have my brother here when I did,” I responded.
“Return? No, that would not have been an option.” The smile left his face and an expression of concern returned.
“Well, now that I know there is nothing to return to, I may as well go with you, if you will let me.”
“Will your brother agree to come with us?”
“Marcus? Why?” I was surprised at his suggestion.
“Your brother is the only person left in your life; leaving him would certainly be difficult at first, but later you will start pining for him, and that is something I will not be able to endure.”
“Lucien, you say that as though you care, and as if you —”
“Care? No, not ‘care,’” he interrupted. He reached over, took my hand, and kissed my wrist where the cut would have been.