Yvette was used to the darkness that greeted her as she entered Viersan’s house. Since he had revealed himself as a vampire several months ago, he had dropped several humanizing mannerisms that he had adopted to keep her at ease. One of them was room lighting. Yvette was tempted to tease her Regnant for this stereotypical mannerism of working in darkness, but she couldn’t be sure of how he would react to such teasing, so she kept those thoughts to herself.

Moving with easy familiarity through the quiet hallway, peered through the darkened passage. She expected to find things as she usually did – the room empty and dim light emanating from the large office where Paul spent most of his time. Instead, she noticed the television – on, but silent – flickering in the otherwise dark room and a form that had to be Paul relaxing on a nearby sofa.

I thought Paul kept that television strictly for appearances, Yvette thought, surprised. I’ve known him for over a year, and I’ve never seen it turned on before.

Her eyes adjusting to the dark, Yvette saw Paul glance at her, but she couldn’t discern the expression on his face.

“Good evening, Yvette. You’re home earlier than I expected.”

Yvette suppressed a frown. Paul didn’t sound quite right. “Errands didn’t take as long as I thought.” She shrugged. “Quinn was more flexible than you anticipated.”

Paul chuckled quietly. “Folded like a house of cards, you mean?”

Yvette nodded, certain that Viersan could see her far more easily than she could see him.

“That’s good.” Paul turned and reached for a lamp beside him. A minimal glow suffused the immediate area, not even reaching where Yvette stood - somewhat tentatively - on the room’s threshold. But it helped. Yvette could see that Paul was lounging – sprawling – on the sleek sofa that dominated one side of the living area. His shirt was open at the throat and the tie that was usually an elemental part of his ensemble was nowhere to be seen. His trousers, at least, were his usual European label, but Yvette was still disconcerted..

For Paul to be sprawling around the house – even his own haven – without every element of his signature garb was not the norm. Yvette wouldn’t have been much more surprised if she had found him wearing drag and a Carmen Miranda hat.

Paul sensed her confusion and suppressed a smile. There was nothing like doing the unexpected to keep a retainer on their toes. And who knew what else might happen? Paul sat up a little and gestured for Yvette to join him in the dimly lit room.

Undeniably curious about Paul’s behavior, Yvette joined him, sitting cross-legged upon the soft cushions. Despite the exquisite furniture, Yvette wasn’t comfortable. Most of their conversations took place in his office, or the kitchen. Viersan didn’t seem to have much use for a traditional living room, other than as camouflage. The small aberrations were piling up, and increasing Yvette’s anxiety, although why she should be so anxious wasn’t clear to her.

She waited for him to speak, to give some reason for his departure from tradition, but he remained silent, regarding her from the other end of the sofa. The lamp behind Paul rendered him a silhouette and Yvette fought down a wave of déjà vu as he stared at her in the dim room.

“This seems familiar.” She commented quietly. Paul had asked her to tell him when she experienced such moments of familiarity, for reasons he didn’t care to divulge. Given her devotion to Viersan and the apparent harmlessness of the request, she easily acquiesced.

Paul rummaged through his memory for a moment at matched the evening to a past moment. Montreal, he decided, a wave of satisfaction moving through him, another strange evening in half-light. He supposed the flickering light of the television was an adequate replacement for the yellow-streetlight of that Canadian city, twenty years ago…

A long moment passed before Paul finally spoke up. “I can’t imagine why,” his tone was light, hinting at a joke he wasn’t sharing. Yvette couldn’t discern his expression and she bit back a deepening scowl.

“Are you…alright?” Yvette asked, hesitantly.

Paul nodded. “I’m fine. A little drunk.” He admitted.

That shocked Yvette. I think I would have rather found him in drag, she thought wildly. “Drunk? How do you get drunk?” she asked, slightly alarmed. She didn’t know vampires could do that.

“Easily.” Paul shrugged. “Feed from someone who’s drunk. I visited some of my herd, earlier.”

“Oh,” Yvette nodded. “Of course.” That makes sense, she realized. “But why do you want to get drunk?”

“Why do you?” Paul countered. “I have my reasons,” he added, his voice firm, “but I don’t want to talk about them just yet.” And ‘because I just wanted to’ doesn’t bear adequate dignity, he didn’t add.

Yvette nodded. She had learned when not to press an issue with her Regnant. If he’s drunk enough, he’ll tell me anyway, she decided. Maybe he’s just doing it for fun, but… her worldview of this self-possessed vampire didn’t allow for such things as alcoholic escapades. I suppose I shouldn’t judge so easily, she chided herself.

Paul stood up, suddnely. “Stay there,” he told her.

“Where are you going?” Yvette demanded mildly.

“Just to the kitchen.” Paul called over his shoulder as he went that way.

Yvette shrugged and remained seated. She was surprised by this evening, but not too unpleasantly so. She half-listened to the sounds emanating from the kitchen. Is that a bottle being uncorked?

Paul returned, carrying a bottle of wine and a single glass. He placed both on the table, next to where Yvette patiently waited. It seems so, she shrugged mentally.

Paul poured half a glass for her, not at all hampered by the continuing darkness “Why should I be the only one?” he suggested, and returned to his previous spot on the couch.

Why not, indeed? Yvette decided, taking glass and sipping from it. Given that she spent most of her time here, she kept Viersan’s kitchen supplied with her favorite food and drink. There was little point in buying his favorite foods, after all. The chilled sauvignon blanc refreshed her increasingly dry mouth and she quickly drained the glass.

“So tell me about your day.” Paul ordered. “I’ve decided to take things easy, as you might guess,” he smiled, suddenly disarming.

There was no arguing with that, Yvette realized, so she proceeded to tell Paul about her scheduled meeting with Quinn, a man who was anxious to be rid of a competitor in the family business.

As she neared the end of her short monologue, Paul suddenly reached out and grabbed her by the hand as she idly scratched her cheek.

Yvette had to fight hard against the urge to squirm, although breaking free might not have been possible against Paul’s hidden strength. “What?” She asked uneasily as Paul roughly pulled her hand closer to him, almost toppling her in the process.

“Your nails.” Paul stated simply, his tone distracted.

Yvette felt another shiver of the familiar, but decided not to mention it. “What about them?”

Paul shook his head for a moment. “You never take care of them.” He sighed.

Given that Yvette could barely see her hands in the low light, she didn’t argue.

“It’s not something that really concerns me.” she protested weakly.

Paul sighed in contempt. “How can anyone not be concerned about that?” He abruptly dropped her hand and stood up, heading towards the back of the house. “Back in a moment,” he assured the increasingly confused Yvette. Just how drunk is he? She wondered.

A few moments later, Paul returned, carrying what looked like a large leather wallet. He re-took  his previous spot on the sofa and opened the folded wallet to reveal a collection of small, strange tools. Yvette felt a moment of unreasoning panic until she recognized the assortment as nail scissors, emery boards and other instruments to do with the care of fingernails. Yvette almost laughed at herself, but wondered, instead, at why she had felt that moment of panic. I know I trust him, she thought. But I don’t understand him. That much is obvious.

Without any comment, Paul took Yvette’s right hand in his, examined it critically and reached for a pair of nail clippers.

“Never took care of them…” Paul muttered as he busied himself with an impromptu manicure. Yvette was torn between laughter and suspicion. Was this some private joke of his, or was he being tactless? She wished she could tell, but she could no more read him than she could read Sanskrit.

Despite her confusion, Paul continued to trim and file her nails, as she watched. He held her hands with particular care and wielded his tools carefully. She was amazed at his dexterity, given his state and the dim light. An advantage of unlife, perhaps?

“Past lives.” Paul pronounced quietly.

“What?” Yvette asked, wondering where this unexpected tangent had come from. “You believe in that?” Yvette asked, not expecting a serious answer.

That answer was several minutes in coming, as Paul concentrated upon finishing the shaping of Yvette’s nails, and uncapped a small bottle of clear nail polish.

“Oh, yes.” Paul confirmed, carefully adding a coat of lacquer to her nails. “You, for example, lived a life very similar to this one, quite recently.”

Yvette smiled, deciding it would be more prudent to go along with Paul’s odd humor, but she couldn’t suppress a momentary chill. “Because of the déjà vu I keep experiencing?”

Paul nodded, not taking his eyes from her hands. “That’s it exactly.” He enunciated carefully, concentrating on the small brush he was manipulating

Yvette shrugged with her free shoulder. “It’s as likely as anything, I suppose.”

Paul glanced up at her, “Of course it is,” his smile was mischievous, but the dim, wavering light transformed it into something unsettling. “Why do you think we get on so well? We must have known each other before.” It’s as close to the truth as I’m going to let you go, Yvette, he thought quietly to himself.

He’s drunk, Yvette reminded herself, trying not to be alarmed, or take offense. “You’ve lived long enough.” She murmured, reaching for a non sequitur.

“Hm, and not nearly so long.” He placed her hands down on the coffee table. “Let that dry for a minute,” he suggested, as he gathered his tools together and carefully returned each to its proper place in the leather folder.

Yvette regarded her hands. Paul had carefully trimmed, buffed and varnished her fingernails with a skill and speed she wouldn’t have credited him with when sober, let alone when drunk. Who expects a criminal banker to be a manicurist?  But her nails looked good - pretty and polished. And entirely not in keeping with my everyday routine, Yvette sighed mentally. I give it two days before they’re cracked beyond repair.

Paul smiled in satisfaction at his handiwork, pleased to have done one of his favorite things. He turned to the sole lamp that had provided light throughout the encounter and turned it off, leaving Yvette blinking owlishly in the fresh darkness.

“Paul…” she warned, smiling slightly. “I know you can see in the dark, but if I fall over and break a nail…”

“You’re not going anywhere.” Paul contradicted her casually. She could pierce the darkness enough to watch him slump back on the sofa in his earlier relaxed pose.

Why did she feel that chill again? “I’m not?” she tried hard to keep her tone calm.

“No,” Paul shook his head. “That varnish needs to set.” He reminded her, gravely.

“Ah.” Yvette nodded, unable to tell if he was being serious, or merely deadpan. She couldn’t bring herself to voice her unease, but Paul seemed to sense it. He poured her another glass of wine and held it for her to grasp carefully with her fingers. As she drank, she noticed that Paul’s gaze was not upon her face but her hands, as she gingerly returned the glass to its resting place, and placed her hands back on her lap.

He has something for hands, Yvette realized, surprised once more. How strange…Then again, he is strange. He is a vampire.

Paul saw the realization and following puzzlement upon his companion’s face and took satisfaction in the fact that she wasn’t immediately repelled. Of course, she’s just had a glass and a half of wine on an empty stomach. But Paul wasn’t going to slight himself any advantages this evening. His impulsive decision to take care of her hands had awoken and old hunger, and he was feeling just reckless enough to see where it would lead.

“Just stay there and let the polish set,” he suggested.

Yvette spoke again, her voice a restrained whisper as she glanced down at her hands in the dark. “Is…Is that all?”

Paul regarded her for a moment, weighing factors known only to him and smiled a conspiratorial half-smile, as if they shared a secret – which we do, Yvette thought. “No, not all,” he replied, softly.

He touched her hands lightly, testing the varnish and nodded to himself, apparently satisfied by what he felt. Yvette frowned at his actions, but didn’t comment. This was a side of her Regnant that she had not seen before, and she wanted to know more.

Keeping his glance down, Paul firmly took both of her hands in his. Yvette blinked in surprise, her slight intoxication and their ongoing Bond quelled her anxiety, but sharpened her curiosity.

For several moments, he just held her hands, letting her permanent heat enhance the momentary warmth of skin flushed by a recent hunt. How long has it been since I did this? He wondered. It doesn’t matter. It’s been too long. Rachel never really understood my...peculiarities. And to have her now, with skin unblemished by a thug's attentions... It was a pleasure he never expected to have. Paul didn't see the point in denying it to himself any longer.

Sensing Yvette’s curiosity – and diminishing tension as the wine affected her – Paul slowly moved his hands around hers, languidly chafing some warmth into them. She tried to pull away from him, just for a moment, but he easily held her in place until she relented.

By the time Yvette’s eyes had adjusted once more to the darkened room, Paul had opened her hands, palm up, and was gently massaging them. His actions were slightly clumsy, as he insisted upon keeping things symmetrical, holding one hand in each of his, running his thumbs along the creases and muscles that defined her palms. Finally, he dropped her left hand in her lap and focused his full attention upon first one hand, then the other.

Yvette was strangely unsurprised by the deftness of his touch, as if she had always expected him to know how to do this, but she was surprised by her own reactions. There was something unmistakably sensual in the way Paul touched her, and she couldn’t deny its effect on her. Her breath came faster as Paul kept his head bowed, pushing against her skin with a firm pressure against muscle, lightly trailing his fingers over the sensitive skin of her wrist.

Is he trying to seduce me? She wondered, muzzily. But that doesn’t make any sense. What good would it serve a vampire to bed his own ghoul?

Paul, his head turned away from her, listened to her in the darkness. Try as she might – and she was trying – she couldn’t hide how she felt. Oh, Paul, he chuckled mentally, what are you going to do? It was a question to which he already knew the answer. He leaned forward and kissed Yvette’s palm, gently pulling his teeth across the mound of her thumb.

Yvette’s gasp of surprise pierced the air, and Paul smothered another smile as he trailed his tongue along her fingers. He could do this until the sun rose, indulging himself in a favorite act, but he knew he would push his ghoul beyond the bounds of propriety if he did.

Not that that would be such a bad thing, he admitted as he sucked Yvette’s index finger into his mouth, eliciting another shaky gasp. He felt her other hand resting upon the back of his neck, idly stroking at his hair, and the edge of his collar. No, not such a bad thing at all.

Yvette felt like she was about to come apart. She didn’t want to break this strange spell that seemed to have befallen them, but she also couldn’t deny that she wanted Paul’s ministrations lavished on more than just her hands. She muffled a squeak of disconcerted pleasure as Paul nipped at a fingertip. Her whole hand was tingling, over-sensitized and Yvette wondered how long it would be before she did something foolish – if it wasn’t already too late.  Why won’t he look at me? Dimly, she thought it was probably because her face wasn’t important to him at the moment, but she buried that as quickly as she realized it.

Paul felt her fluttering pulse against his cheek and made a decision that the ever-calm part of his mind recognized as a risk. But that part of him wasn't being heeded at the moment. Sitting up slightly, he spared her a momentary glance - enough to realize she could barely see him through the dark and her own disorder - and bit through the thin skin of her wrist.

Yvette cried out in surprise and flinched, but Paul had anticipated that and he easily held the small wound to his mouth as he drank from her, enjoying the mixed flavors of her blood and his.

The blood was a further intoxicant, threatening to destroy all thought. Paul had so much of this woman, but he always wanted more. To be in each other’s grasp like this, her hand quivering against his cheek, his teeth in her flesh, was only a shadow of what he could imagine, but it was what he would have to settle for.

The sharp pain in Yvette’s wrist had receded, leaving her awash in an exhilarating, frightening mixture of fear, arousal and anticipation. How much was he going to take? Did he intend to seriously weaken her? She had to trust him.

For one long minute, the silence was punctuated by Yvette’s rapid breath, counterpointed by small noises of satisfaction from Paul as he fed. Yvette felt dizzy – more than just wine, this time – and swayed against Paul’s restraint. Paul felt that, and, as suddenly as it had begun, he healed the wound upon her wrist and fractionally moved away.

Yvette exhaled a shaky breath as Paul lowered her hand to his lap. His head was still bowed, but close to her, very close. He could feel the warmth of her breath in his ear.

“Paul…” she whispered, her voice thick with tension.

“Shh.” Even that small effort had cost him. His fangs wouldn’t retract, and Paul believed that it was only because he was so close to surfeit that he wasn’t tearing into Yvette’s throat - the same throat that hovered scant inches from him as she breathed in his ear. Against his own wishes, Paul took Yvette in his arms, pressing her forehead into the crook of his shoulder, unable to suppress a growl rising in his throat.

Yvette froze, that animal sound warning her that something was very wrong. But Paul held her firm. A small voice within her mind warned her that struggling would be the worst thing to do, and she heeded to it, even as she felt him freeze against her.

Paul’s jaw was clenched as he fought the Beast within, that told him to take what he wanted. I am not going to lose this woman to a moment of Frenzy!  He struggled against his predatory instincts for several fraught moments, willing the Beast to go back from whence it came. Finally, he felt calmness return, and he was able to retract his fangs. Stifling a sigh of relief was a bonus.

Feeling him relax, Yvette did the same, barely raising her head from Paul’s shoulder. He could feel her heart beating rapidly and Paul wondered what excited him more – her fear or her ardor. The combination was one he could rarely resist. But the price for that kind of indulgence would be too high. Even his self-control could not be depended upon if he were to allow this to continue.

“Paul,” she whispered again. “I…”

“Go.”

“What?” her confusion was evident. It was not what she had expected to hear.

“Go.” Paul repeated, insisting, his head still bowed. “You shouldn’t stay.” What is that perfume she's wearing? Oh yes, jasmine. She's always liked jasmine.

“But…” Yvette’s voice trailed away. She took a deep breath, summoning effort. “I want to stay.”

Paul almost laughed, but he feared an edge of hysteria. Plus le change, plus le même chose, Paul thought, dizzy with conflicting emotions and fresh blood.

“I want you to stay, too.” He admitted, wondering if the demons of irony were laughing at him. “But it’s not safe.” God, he could feel her pulse through her flesh, feel the Beast growling beneath the surface. When did he let things get so out of control? Or was he fooling himself in thinking he had control in the first place?

Her hand slid around his waist, the other still rubbed at the back of his neck. She spoke into his shoulder, as if she couldn’t bring herself to look at him. “I don’t believe that.” She muttered. “You’ve not hurt me, yet.”

“And I don't want to, now.” Paul admitted, ignoring the bloody suggestions that fermented within his mind. “You must go.”

Yvette wanted to scream in frustration. To be so dizzingly close and then denied was maddening. But, through her hands, she could feel the tension that still wracked Paul and she felt the effort it was costing him to keep the Beast at bay. She could no doubt convince him to allow her to stay - at her own peril. Sighing, Yvette gently extricated herself from Paul's grasp and gathered her things.

Paul couldn't look at her. To even glance upon Yvette would endanger her, and Paul had no intention of destroying his creation - not yet. He heard her pause briefly, no doubt hoping for a reprieve - the fool. Finally, the front door opened briefly and was shut with exagerrated care. Paul counted to twenty, slowly, and then threw the nearby coffee-table across the room. He knew he would regret it later but, for the moment, the physical act of destroying furniture would have to be a sufficient substitute for what he wanted but couldn't take.

 

 

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