She heard her brother screaming in the front parlor. Running down the stairs and into the room, she was in time to see a monster grab Frank from behind, bury its sharp fangs beneath his ear, and rip out the side of his neck.
Blood sprayed the parlor wall with its exclusive Lincrusta wallpaper, then settled down to pulse in a sharp arc onto the very expensive Persian carpet. Her brother dropped to his knees and clutched his throat, and Victoria could smell the blood running over his hands. He gurgled something unintelligible at her, and then the monster behind him yanked back his head and slammed a railroad spike into his eye. She heard what she thought was bone shattering. Brain matter squelched out of his eye socket around the spike. Tossing aside the body, the monster straightened and looked at her.
The room was still. A fire crackled on the hearth. Tea waited on the trolley before the fire. Her brother's books for reading were stacked on the floor beside his chair, not one had fallen. The normalcy, the warmth and coziness of the scene made her want to scream.
The monster stepped over Frank's body. Its fangs retracted as it grinned, its ridged forehead crackled and dissolved as it paced casually toward her. She gasped in recognition of the face the monster now wore and put out a hand to stop him.
"Hello, little bird." He bowed over her hand and kissed it.
"This can't be real," she whispered when the man shoved her hard against the paneling. "I must be asleep, have fallen into a nightmare."
"Your nightmare have a name?" Glittering blue eyes regarded her. He put her hands over her head. "You know who I am, my beauty?"
"William," she whispered. He was one of her older brother's friends from Christ Church. Her gaze skittered to Frank's corpse. William was no longer a friend, perhaps.
"Here now, he's gone. Look at me." Cold fingers held her jaw, brought her attention back to him. "So you do know me. Saw you flittering about the house when I was here last. Pretty and free as a bird. Didn't think you could see me."
His hand was sneaking beneath her skirts, seeking her warmth and willingness. His other hand stroked her throat, soothing and exciting at the same time. Something awoke at his touch between her legs and she shuddered. Moaned softly, as if she had waited for him her entire life and had only to see her brother dead to find William waiting for her as well. Her hands slid down the paneling to rest lightly on his shoulders.
"My little bird." His eyes flashed yellow and he bumped his nose against hers, matching his breathing to hers and seemed almost to be trying to take her breath into his own mouth.
"You don't smell like death," she murmured.
"You smell like tea and violets. Are you scared of me?" He sounded amused.
"Of poor William and his bloody awful poetry?"
His breath was cool on her neck. He licked her.
She jerked away so hard, she banged her head on the wall. "You...."
"Me." He kissed and nuzzled and nipped at her skin, sending more shivers between her legs. Arching against him, she felt something long and stiff press closer to her. She could feel the power surging through him, sense the wiry strength that would not let her go.
"You're tasting me before you kill me, aren't you?"
"That I am, pet."
"Why did you kill Frank?"
He glanced back at the body before the fire. "Your brother laughed at me. Said he'd rather have a spike driven through his head than listen to one more line of my bloody awful poetry. I obliged him."
"That's all you have to say? 'Oh?'" He shook her a little. "Your beloved Frank is lying there all bled out, you've got a vampire at your throat, and all you can say is 'oh'?"
"You're a vampire now?" Her fingers traced his brow.
"Three nights gone."
"I liked your poetry." She was shaking against him, but still found the courage to keep meeting his gaze. "I wish someone would write me poetry someday."
"Guess I wrote it for the wrong bird, and let the wrong sibling read it." His blue eyes grew thoughtful before William shrugged. "Too late, too bad, really sad."
With a growl, he summoned the demon again. Fascinated, she stared. Lowering his head, he poised to strike. Her fingers buried themselves in his mussed curls, and she tried to pull back his head. As if she could.
He licked up her jugular. "What now, little bird?"
"Do you even know my name?"
"You're Victoria." He licked his fangs, anticipating. "Seventeen now, soon be coming out and dancing at your own parties. Not so much now that your brother-guardian's dead and I've got you."
Her fingers toyed with his curls. "Would you recite a poem for me before killing me?"
He snorted in disbelief and then began to laugh. The sound and the vibration rumbled through him, making her feel it from where his thighs were thrust against her all the way down to the tips of her toes.
"I will if you will, nightingale." He nudged her with his hip. "You first."
She licked her lips. His mouth was there in an instant, his fangs shredding the soft skin. He purred. "Want a taste of you now."
He licked the blood from her lips while she whispered against his mouth.
"He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold."*
"Lovely thing." He kissed her. Hard. She kissed him back with her arms entwined around his neck, her mouth both eager and hesitant because of his fangs. He knew she'd never been kissed before, any more than he had kissed anyone before Drusilla three nights ago. She felt so hungry to feel something--anything--before he killed her. William wished he had the time to do her properly.
"It's your turn now," she urged him, trembling between his hands like a fragile wren.
He let his game face melt away and tucked her hand inside his loosened shirt to hold it against his non-beating heart.
"This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm'd- see here it is-
I hold it towards you."**
"Your heart doesn't beat, and yet you live." She went up on tiptoe to peer inside his shirt as if the mystery might reveal itself with her looking. When she had finished, her expression was a mix of curiosity, dread and fascination. "What are you, vampire?"
He had thought to drain her--a sweet, unwilling nightcap for him after he'd killed her brother. But that was before he knew she saw him and wanted poetry from him. Perhaps he should have taken her and turned her, all while forcing brother Frank to watch? Too late now for such games, what would Drusilla say about his incompetence?
"You really want to know what I am, pet?"
"I am most curious."
He lunged against her then, sank his fangs deep and drained her within seconds. Victoria spasmed with what William thought might have been an orgasm, but his limited experience wouldn't let him be certain. Opening a vein in his chest, he held her face close and whispered, "Drink."
She lapped weakly like a kitten and whispered his name. Her heart stopped as he carried her up the stairs. Laying her in her brother's bed, William whispered poetry and nonsense as Victoria slipped into death.
He left before she awoke because Dru and Angelus were looking for him to return before dawn. He knew he couldn't stay, couldn't guide her. He was still learning himself. Besides which, his sires had plans to take the boat-train over to France and with them he had to be.
"We are both eternal now," William scribbled in the note he left beside the girl. "That means we could meet again. Sorry for the mess in the parlour. See you later."
*From "After Death," Christina Rosetti, 1862
**"This Living Hand, Now Warm and Capable" by John Keats, 1819.
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