Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2
It is a cobbled street rising upwards between old stone buildings. Golden lamp light and ash-hued shadow bathe the view, casting the scene with an eerie tint that, in a word, is just plain spooky. From somewhere down and around the corner, pounding music and rowdy voices drift, the only other sound being the loud echoing click of her heels against the stones. She's a tiny little thing - delicately proportioned, slim as a supermodel, and not even five feet tall. Her skin is deeply tanned almost hiding the smattering of freckles splashed across her nose. Long blood red hair falls to her waist, its underside streaked with black, her face framed by snowy white bangs. She's wearing a dark purple dress with a black leather jacket, fishnet stockings, and black knee-high boots. She's dancing in the streets, twirling and spinning around, and singing a song in a language too old for anyone else but her to remember.
And, most importantly of all, she is alone.
I wait for the perfect moment, until she is midway up the hill, too far from where she came from and where she's going to reach either if she tries to run. The business these buildings host closed hours ago, the bars and clubs now filled with patrons are too far, too noisy to hear anything but their own fun.
When I step out, blocking her path, she halts her dance and smiles. This close, I notice her large eyes are the colour of the night sky above us, complete with stars. Odd, but then given her lack of aura I suspected she was something more than human.
"Good evening, little one," I purr. "Out here alone tonight, are you?"
She cocks her head to one side like a curious puppy, studying me, her expression tinged by just a bit of uncertainty but devoid of any fear. Pity. "Hello yourself, stranger" she says, her voice quiet and flavoured by an almost-but-not-quite Irish lilt. "And I'm fairly certain you're the sort my Da warned me about, the sort I'm supposed to steer clear of."
I grin, take a step closer to her and am delighted when she takes a step back, unease flaring in those star-studded eyes of hers. "I'm fairly certain there are no other strangers like me," I tell her. "One of a kind, I am, and a good thing too; world couldn't handle any more like me."
That unease of hers deepens, becoming something darker at its edges, but still not quite what I'm looking for, what I need. She starts to fiddle with the charms of her necklace with one hand and takes another step back. And then another. "I...I can't, um, chat anymore. I have to go; I have someone waiting for me and he doesn't...doesn't like it when I'm late."
"Ah, jealous type, is he? Who's this then, your boyfriend? Ah, and what will he do then? Punish you? It's not but a wee chat we're having, harmless, through and through."
Shaking her head, she wraps her arms around herself and looks around, nervous now, but still not where I'd like her to be, where I need her to be. "No, not my boyfriend...not exactly but, ah, if I'm not...if I'm late he'll come looking for me. He, ah, he was hurt recently - isn't quite himself yet...coming to look for me would be bad."
Well, this was new. Hundreds of times I've done this, first time I've heard anything like this. Then again, not-quite humans are always a mite unpredictable. "Aw, now, can't be that bad, can it? Only a moment here to chat, that's all, hardly a drop anyone waiting will notice. Cross me heart."
Her eyes narrow, suspicion stiffening her spine. "I have to go." She turns and starts to walk on up the street.
I let her get a few lengths away, then smoothly move to get ahead of her again, my graceful speed easily taking over her stumbling gait. I reach for her and curl my fingers around her upper arm, my grip tight enough to hurt. "Now, now, little girl; didn't your Da teach you it's rude to runaway like that?"
She struggles, pulling on her trapped arm, but it does her no good and I revel in the fear that seeps from her, washing over me like rain in the desert. Delicious. "I'm already late. Please, he can't...he really shouldn't be out. It's d-d-dangerous."
"I'm sure he'll be just fine without you for a spell."
Shaking her head, her hair tangling around her face, she pulls harder on her arm and pushes at me with her free hand. "Not dangerous for him, for everyone else. He's not...not ready. Not yet. He...Oh, just let me go! Please! You don't understand what cou-"
The cacophony of human voices suddenly stills for a brief second of silence before screams suddenly rent the air, cutting off her words. She sags briefly, defeated, bowing her head. "Never mind," she mumbles.
"What the hell is that?" I demand, more alarmed than I care to admit.
As if in answer, a shadow appears at the base of the street, becoming a man's silhouette as it draws closer. His long, dark silver hair is tangled mess, his feet are bare, and his clothes - black jeans and an unbuttoned dress shirt - are ripped, torn, and bloody. He's pale, like marble, with a griffin and hourglass tattoo over his heart, and a smattering of injuries - bruises, gashes, cuts, all of them severe -in various stages of healing on almost every inch of him that's visible. Blood is smeared over his face, a beautiful face, an angel's face, despite the craze in his ruby eyes and the severed arm held in his hand.
The girl sighs, resigned. "That's Tru, my mate. Honestly, he's normally a very calm and level-headed soul and usually leaves the insanity-born murder sprees to me but he was pretty badly injured recently and he's still running on pure instinct. Mostly. Do you think burning down the club or bar or whatever he just slaughtered will be cover up enough? You can't just vanish the entire clientele of a...drinking establishment, after all, not anymore. Um, you should probably let go of my arm now before Tru is close enough to notice."
"THAT is your mate?!"
She winces and gives me a sheepish look. "Like I said, he's usually a lot more, ah, sane. Just having an off few days. Once he heals, he'll be back to his usual civilized, rational, less homicidal self."
There is something very wrong with that picture; like imagining a panther mated to a gazelle. "YOU are mated to THAT? YOU?!"
"Well, it's not like Fate gives you much of a choice about these things, you know; although, now that I think about it, I doubt there'd be very many interspecies matings if she did. Which is a total shame, really; I once had a fling with a Ganesh who, while admittedly not the most well endowed male ever to grace the planet, more than made up for it when it came to what he thought to do with all those arms of his, to say nothing of his trunk. Truly imaginative thinker. My arm, please."
"My arm? That thing you're currently squeezing and bruising? I'm going to need it back now. Your arm's continued attachment to your body depends on it.
" I let her go and she smiles, beams really, and thanks me, then buries her hand in my chest. The pain burns at first, like a flash flare, then aches, every breath setting off a spearing pang that cuts me through to my core. Her fingers are curled around my heart, gripping hard enough that I can feel the imprint of each finger against the flesh of the muscle, each one a potential knife just waiting to stab in deep.
"You know, important life lesson alert, it would be rather wise of you to do some research into this whole big bad wolf routine of yours; not that it goes much better for his prey, but, so far as as fairy tales go, big bad wolves rarely skip away to happily ever afters." She leans in and places her cheek against mine, inhaling my scent before chuckling and whispering, "And I should know, after all; I was big and bad before there were such things as riding hoods and brick houses."
She opens her hand, pulls it out of chest, and lets me crumple at her feet. I'm injured, yes, but it's not fatal; I'm going to heal, going to live. I lay bleeding in the street, watching as she skips over to her monstrous mate, not a single bit of hesitation or fear about her. She actually laughs and bounces when she reaches him. She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him, indifferent to the blood that coats his face.
"Hi, Tru," she murmurs when the kiss breaks, smiling bright enough to dim the sun by comparison. "Did you miss me?"
The vampire growls and kisses her again, roughly, savagely, so that this time when they part, her face is smeared with his victims' blood. And she laughs and playfully smacks his chest with one hand.
"I love you too, you great big dummy."
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