Authors: Michele Hauf
Tags: #Horror, #Time Travel, #Ghost, #Paranormal Romance, #vampire, #paris, #michele hauf
Trying to catch her breath was hard, for the cool breeze from the ocean wafted in her throat, drying it painfully. She looked across the beach just beyond her yard. The sky glimmered pink at the horizon. It was still early. They had only spent a few hours together.
He had changed so quickly. There hadn’t been enough time to guess what was going to happen. But she could only think one thing as she bent to examine her aching feet.
She felt her forehead again. The cut seemed to have stopped bleeding, but she followed a trail of slippery blood down her face, wiping it away with her sweating fingers.
It was hard to believe what had just happened. Sebastian had been so charming and such a gentleman. And then he’d changed into an animal, pawing her and seething with malevolent intentions.
Did I lead him on? I did want him to kiss me.
She sank back against the door. A little body contact. Was that all it took?
“Ohhh,” Scarlet groaned, and massaged her aching hip, sure she’d find a bruise there when she undressed.
Sebastian's fingers had unmercifully dug into her flesh and she now noticed that the seams at her hip were frayed and had been pulled into a hole. What would he have done if she hadn’t gotten away? She shuddered as the cool breeze sifted through the thin silk of her dress and raised goose bumps all over her body.
And now she realized that it wasn’t over yet.
Looking through the side window by the door she saw a glow of light from the kitchen.
If she was careful she could sneak in. She couldn't let Gary discover what had happened, knowing that he would freak out. She covered the hole in her dress with her hand. Maybe Gary wouldn’t hear?
Being painfully careful as she turned the knob, Scarlet opened the door and snuck toward the stairs. She could hear Gary rambling on about something to Vince in the kitchen. One of them snapped open a can of pop and she listened to the liquid glug as it was quickly emptied down a throat.
Not eager to be discovered, she bent her knees alternately and wiggled her toes above the floor. Her feet ached and her head pounded. Wanting the comfort of her own bed, she reluctantly started for the stairs, but her ankle twisted. Instinctively, she grabbed for the wall, her fingernails scraping across the flowered wallpaper as she went down, cursing the fact that she had just waxed the floor.
“Scarlet? Is that you? You’re home.” Gary’s mouth dropped open and he raced to her. “What the hell happened!”
Vince took her other hand in his. “Did Sebastian do this?”
Gary’s face tightened and the veins in his temples pulsed with anger, reminding her of their father. “Is Vince right? Is Sebastian to blame for this?”
“Ouch.” She flinched when Vince touched her forehead and he pulled back as if he’d been bitten.
“I’m sorry. We should put a bandage on this.” Vince headed toward the kitchen and Gary helped her to stand and led her to a chair.
“It’s nothing, guys.” She tried to act casual.
Why am I such a klutz? This would have been much easier if Gary hadn’t found out.
She rubbed her arms to bring some heat to them and tried to persuade Gary not to be angry. “I slipped and hit my head.” She stopped and spread her hands out on the table. Her nails were stained from the blood on her forehead. What am I doing? she thought. Why am I covering up for Sebastian? “I’ll be okay. Please don’t make a big thing out of this.”
“A big thing!” Gary raged as Vince appeared with a first aid kit he’d found up in the bathroom. “Where did you slip? At Sebastian’s? And why are you home so soon? Something must have happened. Oh my God!” He fingered the tear in the side of her dress and Scarlet winced . “What happened?”
Scarlet could feel tears forming, and strained not to let Vince see her cry.
Seeing how upset she was, Gary took her hands in his and knelt beside her. “What did Sebastian do to you?” he asked softly.
Her sobs grew louder and she threw her arms around him while he nestled her within his comforting grasp.
“Please don’t be mad Gary, things just got a little out of hand.”
“A little out of hand?” He held her back from him and looked at the cut on her head. “Look at yourself, you’re bleeding, shaking, barefoot. Did you walk home?”
“Ran.” She began hiccuping between sobs and felt like a silly child who had gotten hurt doing something she knew she wasn’t supposed to be doing.
Gary jumped up, almost knocking Vince and his medical accoutrements over, and started to pace in front of the two while Vince dabbed at the cut on her forehead with a wet cloth. “I’m going over there. I can’t believe this! You have to tell me exactly what happened.”
Between loud sniffles she explained as best she could. "…and then we started to dance. He was so charming. I had no idea.” She paused and blew her nose into the tissues Vince had handed her. Gary chewed madly at his gum as if he was pumping up his machine gun to fire at Sebastian.
“Like I said,” she continued, “he was very nice, and then he started to kiss me—which I didn’t mind at first—but he started to get so rough, and he wouldn’t stop. So I kicked him. And then he pushed me away and I hit the table. I don’t think he tried to push me into the table. I’m sure he feels bad—”
feels bad!” Gary paused in his pacing. “Please, Scarlet, after what he just did to you, don’t give him any mercy.”
“I ran all the way home.” She looked to Vince, who was at least giving her a sympathetic ear without beating his chest like an angry chimp. “I’m glad I don’t live any farther away, otherwise I don’t think I would have made it.” She felt the bandage and thanked Vince for his kindness. “I’m tired, I want to go lie down and just forget this whole night.”
“Fine, you go lie down. I’m going to kill that bastard.” Gary pounded the counter with a fist, toppling the empty pop can into the sink. “I can’t believe he actually thought he could pull that crap with my sister. What the hell was he thinking?”
Vince agreed, smacking a fist into his hand. “I think we should go over there and give him a piece of our minds.”
“No!” Scarlet pleaded, “I don’t want you to do that.” She wasn’t sure why, but it seemed to make sense at the moment. She wanted to talk to Sebastian before Gary became involved. Maybe he hadn’t been feeling well, as she’d thought. There had to be a reasonable explanation for the way he had acted. “Just leave it alone. I don’t want to blow this out of proportion. I just want to forget about tonight. Please?”
“I’m not going to let him get away with this, Scarlet. He thinks he can treat any woman like dirt and that’s just fine and dandy. Not by me, it’s not.” He had taken to pounding his chest now as if to enact Scarlet’s image of an angry chimp.
“Gary, for me, please, just wait. I promise I won’t see him again.” She slumped against the chair, knowing she would never keep her promise. She
talk to him. She just wouldn’t let Gary find out. “After all, it may not be his fault, I might have inadvertently led him on.”
Gary hugged her and then fingered the bandage carefully. “No matter what you did, Scarlet, no man has the right to force himself on you. What if you hadn’t gotten away?”
The question of the moment.
“I did get away.”
“Why don’t you go up and take a shower and hop into bed? I’ll come up later to check on you.” Gary helped her toward the stairs.
“I’ll be okay. It’s just a few scratches.”
“I love you, Scarlet, and you know it hurts me to see you like this.”
She squeezed his arm, thinking how Sebastian’s moderately shaped muscles were nothing compared to Gary’s.
He had been so strong…
“I love you, too, Gary, but don’t worry. My head has already stopped hurting.”
“I’ll be up in awhile.” He watched as she gingerly stepped up the stairs and then he went back into the kitchen where Vince was repacking the first aid kit.
“I should have stopped him when he told me he was going to ask her out,” Vince chastised himself. “I wanted to, but I didn’t know what to say.” He tucked the medical tape into the box and slashed the tiny scissors through the air. “I like your sister, Gary, and it pisses me off to see her treated like this.”
“I know you do.” Gary draped his arm around Vince’s shoulder and carefully plucked the scissors from his hand. “I wish she’d been out with you tonight instead of him.” He shook his head and ran his fingers across his temples. Sebastian’s name grated across his mind like a dull blade. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on him. “It’s getting late. Are you going to the mansion tomorrow?”
“Yeah, the construction crew has started reinforcing the stairs. They said it shouldn’t take too long.”
“I’ll stop by on the way to the studio. I want to get things started, maybe even lay down a few tracks. Then maybe we can pay a visit to Mr. DelaCourte.”
He was thinking of her. His
His angel from heaven.
Or had she come from hell?
She had come into his life on the eve of his nineteenth birthday. He had been enchanted by her beauty and her exotic ways.
Her eyes, the color of the Queen’s emeralds, had glittered with curious mystery. And when her thick lashes had fluttered, they betrayed her knowledge. He had asked her to dance, yet when they began, her hand clutching tightly at his, she'd become confused as to the steps and had laughed at herself, capturing his heart with her bold innocence.
She'd stayed with him for a short time. Too short. But her soul had permeated his and he had fallen deeply and hopelessly in love. She had not followed the ways dictated by society. In fact, at times she had seemed oblivious to the way that things should be. He still wondered what had happened. Where had she gone?
The vampire stirred in his chair, settling his head against the blue velvet cushions and looking up at the ceiling, envisioning the faces of his past.
Something so familiar.
Impossible. He had loved her, kissed her, and made love with her. No, he knew she wasn’t the same woman.
But it had been a long time.
“I’ve not since felt the love that I once knew for those precious few days,” he ruminated aloud while swirling the contents of his glass about the sparkling crystal. “And I have lived so long.”
She had disappeared into thin air. Right before his eyes. But not before changing his life forever.
He had rushed home from the city that night after an afternoon vigil at the bed of a sick friend. She awaited him, appearing distraught and sad, as if she were in trouble. They had both known that she had to leave and both wished that she didn’t have to.
The vampire sighed at his memories, blurred in spots by time, and by the will to forget all that meant so much to him. They had made love, sweet and vigorous. But then, without warning, she had taken his head in her hands, She had been in tears and he'd thought she was going to give him an answer to his marriage proposal.
All she said was: Some day you’ll understand, Sebastian. I love you.
And before he could protest, her fangs descended between her rosebud lips and dripped the deadly poison of her soul onto his cheek, a long tear of blood that had changed his life forever.
Sebastian rose and walked to the mantel. He lit a candle, played with the flame, and leaned reflectively against the cool marble.
“I’ve found her match.” Possibilities gleamed within in his mind. “So much you resemble my creator, Scarlet. I should almost think you her if I didn’t know that you are not a vampire.”
He stared through the candle flame. Yes, he would certainly know if she was a vampire. All vampires knew one another upon touch. It was called the shimmer, and indeed, shimmered a sensation across one's skin.
How strange that fate was playing this wicked game of double identities with him.
Yet how sweet.
“Scarlet Rose.” He sighed, letting the glass slide through his fingers to land with a crisp clink on the mantel. “Damn.”
Remembering his actions the previous night sent a chill down his neck. She would never invite another chance with him. He had surely scared her away.
Sebastian wrung his hands together as if to squeeze the violent feelings from the pores of his skin.
“No!” He threw the glass into the barren fireplace, sending wine-colored splinters flying across the carpet. He raged across the living room. “I want to make her mine!” He clenched his hand over his thudding heart. “Until eternity writes an ending to both of our lives. She is my match. My soul mate. I need her. And I will make her mine.”
The next afternoon Scarlet received a bouquet of ruffled white roses, full and lacy, like a handmade treasure. Two dozen fully opened blossoms suffused her senses with their delicious scent. The label tucked inside the vase explained that they were Angelique’s Pride, a rare breed first bred in the mid-eighteenth century.
Her heart pounded as she pulled the card out of the envelope and read the flowery script; they were from Sebastian. He sent his regrets, apologies, and promises to make things better. Though he wrote not a word as to what might have been wrong.
Scarlet sighed. There had to be a reasonable explanation. He was too much of a gentleman to have it any other way.
Luckily, Gary had left and so had Vince. She set the vase on the kitchen table and straightened the flowers into a pleasing arrangement.
I guess he deserves another chance. Maybe I should call him, see exactly what was wrong
She felt at the sore flesh above her hipbone. Sure enough, there was a bruise there. He had been an animal.
So why don’t I feel more contempt toward him
? She fingered a velvety white rose petal.
The cell phone sat quietly on the counter top. Scarlet touched it, sliding her nails across the shiny black plastic.
She pulled back
. I’ll wait for him to call.