He sat upright on the divan before the warming fire. Mina's head lay on his left thigh in an easy manner, her face turned away from him toward the flickering firelight. She lay on her right side, legs bent, left arm resting on the curve of her hip and right hand out, palm up, fingers grazing his left knee. He idly stroked her hair as he gazed past the flames.
Upon her arrival at Carfax some hours before, freshly cleaned and laundered, he had felt a rush of swelling joy at her presence. And desire for her surging through his body. Though she did not make mention, it was clear she was exhausted. After she insisted on checking in with her patient Renfield, he had suggested they take relaxation in the parlor. She sweetly voiced her appreciation for the consideration of quiet repose. She had fallen asleep thusly after some quiet discussion regarding her day at hospital. And now he sat tranquil, quite content at having her so near, so peaceful. So alive.
During the early evening, before her arrival, he had hunted in the low places of city. Loathe to feel the foul hunger pull at his core while Mina resided in his presence, he had sought out his own gruesome form of sustenance. Spotting a callous pimp savagely beating his bedraggled whore, he had fed on the vile man after dragging him away from the crumpled, bleeding woman. He held no illusions that his selection of victim made his deed any less heinous. But at least his hunger was satiated. And that particular woman would never be misused by that particular man again.
Mina stirred, turning onto her back. He watched her graceful movements, fascinated and hypnotized. Her modest pale blue and white bodice rising and falling gently with her restful breaths. Her legs moved under the deep blue full length skirt, shifting her knees to rest against the back of the settee.
Slowly she opened her eyes and gazed up at him. He smiled down at her and stroked her forehead lightly. Drowsily smiling back, she reached up, and caressed his cheek with her fingertips.
Then she grew solemn.
His fingers continued to absently meander through the dark waves of her hair.
She hesitated for a moment. Then she spoke, lowering her hand to rest on her slender middle.
"These . . . monsters. When they came and . . . burned Ilona . . . what did they do to you? Surely they wouldn't just let you go after committing such horrible atrocities upon your family."
He sighed deeply. He had known from the first time he had looked into her bright, intelligent eyes that she would eventually ask the question. And he had known that he must answer her when she did.
And so he began to speak slowly. Quietly. Regretfully. Honestly.
"They chained me up. Beat me. Then they punished me in the worst possible way."
She sat up and faced him. Focused entirely upon him and the words he was going to say.
"They judged me guilty of heresy. Excommunicated me from the church and God. Cursed me."
That night, that most horrible night. It would track him all the days of his life. He had fought so hard against them though he knew it was futile. Such was his nature. Never give up. Never surrender. To make them pay.
The stench of Ilona's burning flesh hanging in the air, her excruciating screams echoing still in his ears. Believing nothing could be worse than this, praying for release or death. For a way to escape the pain, be reunited with her again in the afterlife.
"They performed a profane ritual. Held me fast. Forced cursed blood into my mouth, into my body. "
The taste, the horrid taste of that blood. He itched for a drink from the crystal container on the table. Anything to chase away the lingering taste of that blood. He swallowed thickly.
"And then as I choked upon it . . . they slit my throat. Like a stuck pig."
Mina's eyes widen further still, unconsciously flitting to his smooth neckline, then up again into his eyes. Searching for truth, searching for madness?
"I saw a vision of Ilona before me in clothed in a white dress. She was unburnt. She was beautiful, smiling. She had her hand stretched out to me in invitation. I . . . crawled toward her, reaching out . . . calling her name . . . and then she . . . she . . . disappeared."
Tears shimmered in Mina's eyes, reflecting the ones that haunted his own. After four centuries, the razor sharp edge of that emotion, of that anguish had not dulled. Not one bit.
"I thought I would die then. But I had betrayed them badly, you see. Because I thought it was the right thing to do. They would neither allow me the continued privilege of humanity nor the peace of death. They denied it to me."
Darkness. Hanging in the darkness. His body feeling different, though at the time, he could not explain how or why.
"When I came to, the sunlight burned me. My body was stronger. And I craved . . . something different."
Mina carefully touched his hand, disbelief and confusion coloring her voice as she spoke in hushed tones.
"Alexander, what are you saying? I have seen you in the sunlight. We walked together."
He smiled grimly.
"A scientific solar vaccine created recently by your Professor van Helsing. It is sadly . . . temporary in its effects."
Her brow furrowed as she remained quiet and still, staring at him. Struggling to comprehend the horrible meaning of his words.
"I threw my rage and pain upon the countryside for near three hundred years."
Mina's breathing shallowed, a frightful realization climbing up from the depths of her soul. But she could not accept such implications just yet. This beautiful, magnetic, intoxicating man was either mad . . . or a monster. But could it really be true? Such things were dark fantasy, not modern reality.
"Eventually, I was trapped. Entombed for over a century, hungry and alone, inside a metal box. van Helsing sought me out, unearthed me for his own devices. He needed me to take revenge on the men that destroyed his loved ones . . . and mine."
He dropped his eyes away from her and down to his own hands. Those hands so sullied with death and blood even now though none could be seen. Never to be washed away. Forever tainted.
"But, Alexander. What you speak of . . . is not real. It is a story told to frighten bad children."
He did not wish to do it. But there was only way left to prove the truth of his tale to her. And so he willed his vampire teeth to reveal themselves, slowly, within the bitter grimace of his mouth. Then he pricked his thumb lightly for her to see. She gasped, her face paling further as she watched a drop of blood well up from his skin.
"Alexander?" she whispered in horror.
He spoke through his fangs. Spoke in his true voice.
"My rightful name is Vlad. They made me what I am, Mina. And I have been this way for over four hundred years."
She drew back slowly, as if moving in a dream. He remained still, for he did not wish to see fear of an attack upon her face. Without taking her eyes off him, she stood without words, without breath. Then she turned and fled.
He let her go.
When she was gone, he rose, withdrew his long eyeteeth, and stood alone for a time. Distastefully wiped the drop of blood from his flesh. Poured a drought of amber liquid from the crystal container. Swallowed it down in a single gulp. And turning swiftly, viciously flung the glass into the fire where it shattered into the flames.
Then he went to attend to his one remaining constant, Renfield. And his shattered heart remained in pieces upon the parlor's cold parquet floor.
Mina ran out of the manor. Past the waiting carriage, past the men offering her assistance. Away from Carfax and Alexander Grayson. She ran. She knew not where she was running, only that she must make haste away.
She ran through the darkened streets, heedless of the shapes around her. As she ran, her body excreted a moisture mostly commonly known as perspiration. This smell was very faint, virtually nondescript to mere mortals.
Those with a stronger sense of smell however, caught her alluring aroma and followed her through the night. They were hungry and she smelled delicious. The fear and misery seeping from her pores only heighted their need, their lust.
As two of them drew closer to her, hissing softly in anticipation of partaking of her flesh, another figure appeared from the shadows. In a previous life, it had been a woman. Now it was a monster. Like them. This new creature was weaker than they, having been newly turned only days before. But she intercepted their advances with vengeance born of unrequited love and denied absolution.
They withdrew back for the time being and hunted for others not quite so protected.
And this female creature watched Mina Murray from a distance with its hungry green eyes.