The Assembly ball was the last time she truly felt well. She recalled the night with perfect clarity, each detail clear and colorful, down to the color of her perpetrator’s eyes.
They were not brown, as everyone around her assumed, but the deepest red she had ever seen. Why she noticed them, she could not say. He had, after all, disparaged her in a most insulting manner moments before, and she only glanced up at him once as she made her way to Catherine; she wished to scorn him with a look, but found herself instead caught by his eyes, horrified and entranced in ways she could not understand.
She could not explain how she knew his eyes followed her the rest of the evening, only that she knew they did. She could not explain how she knew he was not what he seemed, but she knew.
She could not explain why she wanted him so badly.
But she did.
After the Assembly, nothing was ever quite right. The entire world had become gray; things once bright, cheerful, and colorful now lost their luster, and she was strangely drained of all energy. Attending Mary’s illness at Hampstead House lifted the malaise for a few days, but when she returned home, all returned to gray.
Those eyes still haunted her.
She often started at small sounds, and when she searched for the cause of these little interruptions, she found nothing, though she was certain someone was watching her. She never saw anyone, but the memory of those eyes stayed with her, until she almost swore he was there, watching her. She could not explain it, but she knew.
It was only a week ago he made his presence known to her. She was taking a turn in the wilderness beside the house – not too far, for she no longer had the energy she once boasted- when she met him, in a deep shadow just as dusk was ending, as she was returning to the house. Energy filled her body, the attraction drew her in, and before she knew what she was about she was standing in front of him, her arms wrapped around his neck, her head tilted just enough that his lips could brush against her collarbone before coming to rest on her neck. How long they stood thus she did not know – an eternity, a moment, she could not tell for time stood still.
“I love you,” she heard over and over as they stood thus.
Her next recollection found her at the door of her home, her hand on the doorknob, her shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders and neck. Drained of all energy, she barely opened the door before she fainted from the weakness the lack of his presence caused.
Her family was in an uproar over her appearance; pale, drained of all color and vigor, and sporting two small insect bites on her neck, she was quickly removed to her bedchamber and put to bed. Exhausted, she fell into a troubled sleep, in which she knew only his eyes, his lips on her neck, his voice repeating one phrase over and over again.
“I love you.”
She remained in bed in the week that followed; pale, drained, and weak. Only when he appeared at her side, as he did every night, did she have any energy. Each night he came and their strange affair continued. Propriety was thrown out the window; she had no energy for such concerns anyway, and no will to thwart him even if she wished it.
She wished for him.
No, she loved him.
She wished for his touch each day when she lay, attended by sister Mary, in her bed and listened to the books her sister read in an attempt to distract her. She wished for it each time her younger sisters giggled outside her sickroom door. She wished for him when her mother reprimanded Mary for her attentions, and sent her downstairs to ‘save’ her from her sister’s malady. She wished for it when her father came to check on her and went away looking grim through his smile.
She wished for him every moment of every day. She loved him with every fiber of her being.
And when night came, and he stood before her, blood lust and worship in his eyes, she was finally content.
How long her love stayed with her each night, she knew not, nor did she care. He was there, and she was alive once again. Each night she clutched him to her a little harder, wishing he could take her wherever it was he went during the day, for she was certain he did not return to Hampstead House, and she wished only to be where he was. He seemed to understand her wordless pleas, and each night, he held her closer and whispered reassurances his love.
“Not yet, love. Soon. But not yet.”
Five days he repeated this to her. Each day she grew weaker and wished for her lover more and more. Each night she wordlessly begged him to relieve her suffering and take her away. Each night he responded with the same words.
On the sixth day, a strange feeling flooded through her. As the day went on, it intensified. Though still weak, she seemed to be changing in some strange, indefinable way. She felt stronger.
When her lover arrived that evening, he noted her changes with a smile the likes of which she had no idea he was capable. Again that night her strength returned, her will submitted to his. Again that night she wordlessly begged him to relieve her suffering and remove her from her ancestral home. Again, his lips pressed against her, she knew his reply.
“Soon, love, soon.”
And she knew it was true.
Weakened again by his departure, she watched the sunrise with a languor her body no longer supported. Strength now ran through her limbs. By noon, the sunlight pained her eyes and she begged Mary to close the drapes. By nightfall, she held herself back from bursting out of the room; well, whole, and unstoppable. It was with great restraint she hid her strength and waited until Mary had retired and the house was quiet.
She was standing by the window when her lover appeared.
Now his strange eyes gleamed with triumph and love and worship. Now the luminous smile lit his face. Now she was crushed into his embrace. She was lost as his lips touched her, his sharp teeth leaving no mark on her fair skin. Now she pulled her lover into her bed and their embrace began again. Eons passed before their pleasure climaxed. Now she wordlessly made her request. As her lover’s lips met hers his answer resonated through her.
In short order they were ready to embark on their journey together, and as her lover took her hand, she turned to him and smiled. She felt his love swelling inside her, and her own love poured over him.
“We have an eternity now, my love. What shall we do next?”
Her love’s vampire teeth were prominent in his smile. “We shall return to Candlewild, my loveliest Charlotte. The coven is waiting to meet you.”
As they disappeared from the room, a small letter fell onto the bed.
As the sun rose, a distraught Mary woke her father to hand him the scrap of paper in Charlotte’s handwriting.
To My Dear Family,
I have married my love. We are on our way to Candlewild, where I shall be introduced to his family. We will return soon to see all of you. My life is forfeit without my dearest William, and I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me.