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Authors: Michele Hauf

Tags: #Horror, #Time Travel, #Ghost, #Paranormal Romance, #vampire, #paris, #michele hauf

Dark Rapture (10 page)

BOOK: Dark Rapture
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She found herself intrigued by this wild side of Vince. The sweat dripped down his face and over his chest to his tight stomach. Tongue dipping out to trace the corner of her mouth, Scarlet imagined tracing her fingers down his wet body. To hold him close and let him control her the way he controlled an audience.

Then Vince disappeared behind Gary and her fantasy was abruptly stopped by her brother’s intricate guitar solo.

The band’s motto, made up by Gary and Vince, was to feed the rock n’ roll addict’s habit. And Wild Child did just that.

The floor beneath her feet vibrated with the pounding rhythms of dancing bodies. She was crowded closer and closer to the railing as everybody around her danced to their individual set of instructions. Moving away from an all too eager dance partner, she lost her footing and bumped into an unyielding man. A cold rush of liquid spilled down the side of her body as his hand lost hold of his glass. From her hips down to her thighs a flood of vodka soaked quickly through her dress.

“Oh no!” She pulled up the fabric to examine what had happened and inadvertently granted the extremely drunk man a great view of her thighs.

“Here, lemme help you.” The punkish young man, sporting a nose ring and an armful of skeleton tattoos, slid his hand down her waist and hooked his bony fingers under the wet velvet.

A wave of nausea engulfed Scarlet as his fingers pressed into her thigh, and her heart started pounding twice the speed of Gary’s solo. She tried to push him away but the undulating crowd was making it hard enough for her to keep her balance.

“No, please, it’ll be all right.”

Just then, the crowd swayed and she was crushed into the man’s body, face to face. It was all she could do to tilt her head to the side to get away from the obnoxious odors that emanated from him. Looking from side to side for an exit, she saw none.

The man pressed a moist hand against her thigh and smiled wickedly, revealing crusty yellow teeth. She felt his other hand snake around the necklace that hung between her breasts and he rested his knuckles forcefully against her chest.

Scarlet looked around not knowing what to do. The smell of rancid booze and cigarette smoke choked her.

Suddenly, the man’s eyes bugged, and he stifled a choke, releasing his clutch on her necklace. His face twisted and he started to gag. She felt his other hand leave her leg, and watched as he pulled at his throat, gasping for breath. In a flash, his body left the floor and was flung away to land in a heap beneath the stamp of the crowds’ feet.

Sebastian.

He stood filling the space that her aggressor had occupied. He smiled at her, sans sunglasses, and immediately Scarlet forgot her aversion to him. She welcomed his protective hands as they gently slid around her waist.

“I’m so glad you’re here.” She started her thanks frantically but hushed as Sebastian raised a finger to her lips.

He touched her ear with his nose as he whispered, “I will never let anyone hurt you, Scarlet. I promise.” He kissed her ear. “You must learn to trust me.”

The sweet tickling of his breath sent a rush of desire tingling down her neck. Trust him? Well, for now she would, or at least until he got her safely out of this place. She pulled him close so his body hugged against hers. The crowd seemed to leave them alone, for she felt nothing near except the steady heat of Sebastian’s breath upon her chest.

“I do trust you, but—” She forgot the questions that had burned in her mind for the past few days as his eyes held her bewitched like a flashing gold piece hypnotizes its victim. She stepped forward, raising her lips expectantly for his kiss.

Vince sang as the crowd pushed them close to the railing and Scarlet’s heart matched the fast beat of the music as she awaited Sebastian’s next move. The crowd was lost in the distance as he pressed his lips to hers. She didn’t even notice when Gary’s guitar stopped dead silent for an awkward moment.

Sebastian’s body limned hard against hers while his mouth softly nourished her need, seeking out her desire to taste and experience the dark rapture his body promised. It was a need that burned deep inside her breast, a need that could only be fulfilled by him.

“Let’s go,” he whispered.

“Go?” Her lips quivered. “Yes. Let’s go.”

Not remembering why she was there in the first place, Scarlet let Sebastian lead her through the crowd and out to the parking lot. As she ducked into his car she heard him say, “I’ll take you home. You’ve had enough excitement for tonight.”

Soon her house was in sight, but all she could think about was what
he
might be thinking. Was he planning to take her inside and ravish her? Or did he have a more sinister plan in mind?

I shouldn’t have gotten in his car. Haven’t I learned my lesson by now?

“Would you like me to see you to the door,
cherie?"

She looked out the window at the familiar sight of pruned shrubs around her front door. What did he say to her? Had he no intention of coming in with her?

“No. I’ll be okay now.” She opened the door and stepped out. Actually, she was more confused than ever about his intentions toward her.

“Sebastian?” She leaned inside the Corvette's open window.

“Yes?”

No, she thought, I can’t ask him, he’ll think I’m crazy. “Nothing. Thank you again for rescuing me from that horrible man.”

“Scarlet, you must learn to trust me. I can be a very good friend. Good night.” He drove off, leaving her standing in the driveway.

“Sure. Anything you say.”

How odd. Here she was feeling rejected by the man, the same man who might have raped her if given a chance days earlier.

“I must be going crazy,” she said as she stepped through the front door.

Must be the alcohol. She felt sure that if she hadn’t had that one drink, her mind would be clear, and right now she’d be thankful to be away from Sebastian, instead of desperately wanting him to return.

***

Sebastian stood on the porch, watching as the moon slowly crossed the silver-streaked sky. The wicked vibrations that signaled another of his kind danced crazily about him. But that was the problem. He was unable to tell where they were coming from.

There was another vampire close by, but he was unable to determine who it was, something he could easily have done when he was a young and new vampire. As it was, the years had taken their toll. Now his senses would only bring him to the location; if there were more than one person around he had to actually
touch
them to determine which was the vampire.

“This mortal life will be my end.”

He scanned the houses across the street, seeing easily through the curtains, making out the kitchen tables with the crumbs still on them, and the beds holding sleeping mortals.

But he couldn’t zoom in on the vampire.

“I’ve got to make new blood,” he whispered. “I need to regain my power if I am to fight Francesco.”

That much he had learned over the years. A vampire’s strength increased when he extended his bloodline.

His eyes focused down the street, finding Scarlet’s bedroom window, where the curtains billowed out in the breeze.

“Forgive me for what I must do,
ma cherie.”

 

Chapter Nine

 

Scarlet walked about her room, picking up the clothes she’d discarded the night before. She sniffed at her dress. Sebastian’s spicy scent still lingered in the fibers. Burying her nose in the material, she breathed deeply his exotic flavor until the smell of the spilled booze reminded her of her close call with the punk from hell.

She had offered to help Gary and Vince with the painting today. She hoped that Gary wouldn’t be too mad at her for abandoning him mid-concert. He had left this morning without so much as a word to her, in fact, the slamming of the front door had shocked her awake.

Downstairs, a single sheet of paper lay in the middle of the kitchen table with blue felt-tip scribbled across it.
Scarlet, we need to talk. Gary.

She crumpled the paper in her fist and gazed out the window. What would she tell him? He must have seen her last night with Sebastian, and he’d figured out that she had left the bar with him.

It was her life, wasn’t it? She could see whomever she chose. She tossed the note in the garbage.

“Scarlet,” she asked herself, “what are you getting yourself into?”

***

Sebastian sighed as he imagined making love to the woman who possessed his every waking thought. Her luscious body moving in rhythm to his, her rose-cream lips parted in a sigh of satisfaction. It was a constant, her image. She was always there in his mind. It was becoming too much to bear. He had to have her,
a jamais.

Forever.

And now it was more imperative than ever. If he was going to fight Francesco he needed to gain strength.

The phone beeped seven times as he determinedly punched out Scarlet’s number. It was now or never. He exhaled, running his fingers through his hair as the receiver rang.

“Hello?” Her voice made his heart beat anxiously.

“Scarlet? It’s Sebastian.”

Silence. He'd surprised her. There was a metallic rap over the line as she shifted the phone and it clicked against her earring. After a long pause, she spoke carefully. “Hi. I didn’t expect to hear from you, but I’m glad that you called.”

His hopes rose with her brightening voice. “Good.” Now or never, he told himself. “I was wondering if we could get together again tonight. I think we have some things to talk about, you and I.”

“You do?”

“Yes.” He had to convince her. “I know that you have a lot of questions.”

“Yes, I do.”

Still the reluctance in her voice. But she would come. She would agree to see him.

“But I don’t want to meet you at your house," she said. "Let’s meet on neutral ground, okay?”

“Whatever you wish. As long as I get to see you it doesn’t matter where we meet.”

“I’m going over to the mansion today to help paint. We could meet later. Around seven or eight?”

“That sounds perfect, but I’ll have to ring you when I get home, I’ll be at the studio most of the day and I’m not sure when I’ll be done. I’m overseeing the final cuts on the pieces I did for Fury’s album. Would it be all right if I called you later?”

“Yes.”

“Fine, I’ll call you as soon as I get home.”

She said good-bye and Sebastian hung up.

She did want to see him again and she would come to him. And of her own free will. His heart burst with anticipation. Things were going to be right from now on.

***

Scarlet arrived at the mansion with lunch in hand. Feigning a diet, she immediately headed upstairs to begin painting, leaving Vince and Gary to consume the large bucket of chicken she’d brought as a peace offering for her lateness. She was so nervous about meeting Sebastian tonight she had no appetite.

Up in Vince’s room, the paint remained untouched. Sitting on the floor, she leaned against the large canopy bed. The door swung open and Gary entered. He leaned against the wall, chewing a strip of greasy brown meat from a chicken leg, and immediately started in.

“So, are you going to explain yourself? Or are you hoping that I’ll ignore the fact that you left with DelaCourte last night?”

“Gary.” She didn’t want this to turn into an argument, but felt it was going that direction.

“I thought you wanted to see Wild Child play? You left after the second song, Scarlet. And with Sebastian! What the hell is going on?”

“Gary, I know you’re going to be mad but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to stay and listen to you guys, and I hate that I missed you, but…" There was no good explanation for her leaving. At least, not one that was good enough for her brother.

“This creepy guy spilled his drink on me, and Sebastian happened to be there, and he kind of rescued me from him. And I didn’t want to stick around with a wet dress, so when Sebastian offered, I let him take me home.”

“Why didn’t you come backstage? I could have gotten someone to help you.”

“I don’t know, I guess I lost the party mood after that happened. When Sebastian said he’d give me a ride I didn’t even think. I wanted to get out of there. I’m sorry, Gary. If it hadn’t happened . . .”

His sigh was more of an infuriated huff, but Gary nodded and waved the cleaned chicken bone in the air. “Next time let me take care of you, okay? I don’t want you giving DelaCourte the impression that you want any more to do with him. That
is
how you feel?”

The silence between them could have been cut with a machete. Scarlet nodded, secretly crossing her fingers behind her back. “I promise you that if I’m ever doused by a drunk in a bar again, I’ll let you handle it.”

“All right, well, I guess I should let you get to work. Vince and I are going to start ripping the crusty wallpaper off in the room adjoining the grand room. He thinks it will make a great recording studio. Do you need any help in here?”

She grabbed the thick brush and waved it in the air in painting motions. “No, I think I’ve got the hang of it. Before the day is over, Vince should have a freshly painted room. And tomorrow I’m going to do yours.”

“Great, don’t forget to take a break. Come down later and we’ll have some coffee.” Seeming a bit reluctant, Gary cast her a lingering look and then left.

Scarlet slumped back against the bed. Thoughts of Sebastian flooded her mind and she replayed their phone conversation in her head.

What was he up to? Were her suspicions correct?

An image flickered in her mind: Sebastian walking toward her, canines bared upon his opened lips. He beckoned her closer with a bend of his finger and she followed, slipping a white silken scarf from her neck. He turned her away from him and as the silk slipped over her fingers, she shuddered to feel the touch of his hand on her neck. Her heart pounded with anticipation, but instead of flinching, she stood bravely awaiting his kiss, wanting his vampire’s teeth to pierce her jugular and to bring her the dark rapture he had promised.

The brush dropped from her hand, landing with a dull clank on top of the unopened paint can. She blinked and shook the bizarre image from her head.

What was I thinking? I must be going crazy.

She pondered whether she should meet with him tonight. Twice already she’d made that mistake. Was she up for strike three?

***

It was nine o’clock and Sebastian hadn’t called. She had passed up an offer to go with Gary and Vince to Brandy’s tonight. Of course, after Gary found out whom she would rather spend her time with, he had left her once again with a cold stare. Vince merely shrugged and followed him out, but not before nearly crumbling her determination with his sad puppy-dog expression.

Scarlet rapped her nails across the kitchen counter and stared at the telephone. “If you don’t call soon, Sebastian, I’m leaving. I’m not going to sit around waiting for you.”

She straightened the toaster and the salt and pepper shakers and slumped into a chair by the table, positioning herself so she was directly in line with the luminescent green figures glowing out from the clock.

Her hair was fixed to perfection, her curls falling down her back like liquid mink. Her black silk dress had been chosen only after much deliberation. From the tiny diamonds in her ears to the spike velvet heels she wore, everything had been picked with hopes of pleasing Sebastian.

The clock changed to 9:20.

Why am I doing this? I’ve never waited for any man before. I’ll give him ten more minutes. If he doesn’t call, then I’m going to catch up with Gary
.

Go to him, Scarlet.

No, she would not satisfy the guy by going to him, although she had the weirdest feeling that she should search him out. She paced the gray-flecked tile between the refrigerator and the counter. Outside, the sky had darkened to a misty gray and fog floated around the trees.

Another glance at the clock. 9:35.

That was it. Scarlet grabbed her keys.

Sebastian’s house was dark when she drove slowly past it. The porch light wasn’t on. He can’t be working this late, she thought, trying to think of one more reason why she should give him a second chance.

Come to me, ma cherie
.

She took the turn a few blocks past Sebastian’s house, pausing at the stop sign to watch the hypnotic swaying of the willow branches in the yard directly to her left.

Did I hear something?

She reached down and flicked off the radio. A glance in the rear view mirror showed the dark street behind her, with clouds of mist floating like ghosts in the night.

“I must be hearing things,” she said, and then turned the car
left
instead of right.

She drove slowly, taking the turns and streets automatically, driving farther from her planned destination. Here and there, the Jeep passed through a cloud of low-hanging mist, as if the clouds had been banished from the sky and sought refuge near the earth. She drove down a street lined with lemon trees and was reminded of the sour situation she’d entered into with Sebastian. What was it about him? Every time she was away from him she loathed and hated him, yet each time he appeared she was ready to bow down before him, offering herself as his eternal slave.

The iron gate in front of Vince’s mansion came into view. The red ceramic tiles on the pointed roof of the far tower stood out against the graying sky, a lone lookout lost in the blur of fog. As if drawn by some magnetic force, she turned into the driveway and flicked off the ignition.

Scarlet stepped out and looked across the yard. A faint mist sprinkled her face with drops of warm summer dew. Freshly cut grass lay strewn across the lawn, its green summer smell refreshing the heavy air.

Why did I come here?

She looked across the front of the mansion where the fieldstone had been replaced and re-plastered. A window, the one at the top of the stairs, was open and the long white sheers that she had hung for Vince were blowing out.

She looked from the window to the front door, and back to her car, lost as to why she had driven to the mansion instead of the bar. She shook her head and then stared back at the dark house. The wind whipped the curtain at the window, a ghostly soul begging for release.

“Well, I’m here,” she whispered. “I might as well go in and close the window.”

She found Vince’s hidden key beneath a pink mottled rock. Slowly the carved oak door creaked open and the crystal chandelier tinkled an icy warning. It had never made such a horrendous noise when she’d gone through it so many times before. Why tonight, she wondered, when she was alone and slightly askew herself, did it have to sound like a prop from a horror movie?

She flipped the light switch by the door, but the long marble hallway remained dark. Of course, Vince hadn’t put light bulbs in the unreachable hall chandeliers yet.

“I know the kitchen light works,” she whispered, and made her way toward it.

The full moon shone through the window above the kitchen sink, beaming a white path down the hallway. The noise of her heels echoed as she stepped down the long empty corridor.

Reaching the kitchen, she stopped by the light switch, her long fingers poised in midair.

I love you, Scarlet.

The hair on the back of her neck tickled and rose to attention. “Hello? Is anybody there?” She tilted her head to the side, knowing that she had heard something. Her name?

Then came a loud whipping noise and Scarlet jerked her head toward the grand room. Her heart beat rapidly and a lump formed in her throat. With her fingers settling onto the switch, she peeked around the wall. The windows let in enough moonlight to give the huge room a grayish-white tinge. Newly purchased garage sale couch and chairs sat quietly in front of the iron vault door like shrouded soldiers guarding their post. The room seemed cold and monstrously large. And then the noise came again, increasing in loudness as she leaned into the grand room. It was a heavy, thrashing sound. Beating of wings?

“I can’t believe that Vince would leave all the windows open.”

Scarlet lost all fear as she walked across the grand room toward the large windows on the far wall. Someone had left them open and the long white sheers blew like sails at high sea, whipping savagely across the room with each gust of air.

BOOK: Dark Rapture
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