I sat stock still, rigid as a statue.
There was a faint rustle of cloth as Andrew placed his hands on my shoulders and drew me close. “I am so sorry, I never realized….”
I sniffed back tears and gazed into the depths of his brown eyes, so like Miklos.’ “What you see before you is only a shadow of the woman I once was, and all that is left is this…this thing which you have caressed so tenderly in love. Make no mistake: I have killed and will kill again, and nothing can ever change that.”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. What you did and have done you did for completely selfless reasons.”
“Did I?” Bitterness laced my words.
“No matter what you believe you are not a monster. I’ve seen too much to the contrary to believe that.”
“I lied to you, kept things from you—”
“Which you did to protect me.” His hand traced the curve of my arm and came to rest just above my elbow. His skin was warm, so full of life. I squeezed my eyes shut but did not say anything to shatter this tender, yet all-too fleeting moment.
“Kat, I love you for who you are, not what you are. The way that you make me feel, the way that you’ve brought meaning to my life—no monster could do that.” He shifted and I felt his hands cup my face as they turned me to face him. A single tear slid down my cheek and I braced myself for what was coming next. He leaned closer, the space between us crackling with energy. “I’ll never leave you. We’re connected somehow; I can’t explain how I know this only that I do. Surely you feel it too.”
I nodded. I did feel it, felt it so keenly it was as if the other half of my soul resided within him, as if he completed me. “Yes. Deep down I’ve always felt that way about you even from the first moment we met. There is a connection between us—something powerful yet dangerous—that I can’t deny. I can no more deny it than I can change what I am and must do to survive. I love you.”
Andrew leaned forward and kissed me softly, yet I was shocked by the intensity of it. Yes, there was an undeniable connection between us, a connection that would have to be severed no matter how painful if only to keep him alive and out of danger.
My hands had been gripping the hem of my tank top and had shredded it in my agitation, and I forced myself to relax them. This was going to be hard, the hardest thing that I had ever had to do during my long life.
I smiled sadly and steeled myself for the inevitable. I was going to have to leave the city and distance myself as much as possible from Andrew for fear that the others would come after him. I had never run from a fight before as it were, but this was the first time that I actually stood to lose someone close to me. As cowardly as it may seem, this was an unprecedented situation.
I kissed him back gently, my lips barely brushing his. “I’m leaving here as soon as possible.”
His face registered confusion. “Leave? But my family, our business....”
I raised his hands and placed them above my heart. Such sweet innocence. Best to leave now before he lost that along with his life.
He looked at me and with this silent communication it was as if the pieces finally clicked into place. “You mean leave without me.” The words had a curiously flat sound to them.
“It’s for the best.” It was unbearable to see the anguish and the anger flash in and out of his expression.
He snatched his hands away abruptly, hard enough to bruise mortal flesh. “Best for who? I have as much at stake in this relationship as you do, if not more!”
“No, it’s not for the best! You have the rest of eternity to find peace, to learn to love and really live again—I don’t. I have one lifetime. One. Before you I was engaged. Did you know that? For two years Lori and I dated before finally deciding to get married. I truly believed that she was the one. And do you know what she did? Four months before the wedding she calls it off on account of ‘needing more time.’ So I gave her time. I gave her space, gave her everything finally when you get right down to it, and then I learned that she was cheating on me with another man. She had been for months, and I—being so completely in love with her—didn’t even notice all the warning signs when they were right there in front of me. Her betrayal broke me and even when I confronted her she was unapologetic and I found myself wondering if she had ever loved me. I was convinced then and there that I would never trust or love anyone again, and then I met you. I know that I’m young and have my whole life before me, but I’ve only got so many years left to give my life any meaning. These past few days have seen such a reversal in my outlook on life that I can scarcely believe I’m the same person I was before you walked into the store that day. Please don’t walk away from what we have, from what we can continue to have. Please.”
Echo of my own heartfelt entreaties hours ago, the same impossible situation. “Do you truly know what you are asking? If you stay with me you’ll continue to grow old. I will not. Given enough time the resentment you’ll feel towards me or the pain I’ll feel over your inevitable death will drive us apart. It’s unavoidable.”
He looked miserable, defeated. “But isn’t there some way to avoid all that? Surely—”
“No.” Even considering it repelled me. “I swore that I would never make another of my kind no matter what the circumstances. I won’t—I can’t—do that to you. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive the ordeal.”
“That’s not what I was asking. Becoming what you are…it terrifies me. I can’t see myself leaving my family and disappearing, of having to one day fake my own death. It would destroy them. I just don’t see why you have to leave. Isn’t there some way that I could help protect you against those monsters?”
I smiled sadly even though my heart was breaking. “You’re only human, Andrew. No matter how much you want to protect me you’d be no match against their strength. Their maker would have been sure to give them the full draught when they were created and they’d kill you without hesitation, especially if they suspect how much you mean to me.”
“But isn’t there some way to share only a part of your strength with me without turning me? I’m not afraid to attempt it if it means that you’ll stay here with me. I love you enough to take that risk, Kat.”
I pondered his words. There was a way to do just what he was proposing, but I had only heard of it in stories, in half-whispered rumors among the very old ones. According to them, there was a way that the life force of two individuals could be shared, combined somehow. All we had to do was share a small amount of one others’ blood. This would allow our auras and our life force to mingle together. We would share in one others’ essence to the extent that we would always know where the other one was, what they were feeling and what they were thinking. In this alchemical process our two souls would become one, and it was often a transitory step that many Fonts undertook prior to fully bringing over a human whom they had chosen to be their eternal companion. In this manner they would be certain that the individual was not only worthy of receiving the gift of immortality, but was trustworthy and not likely to betray them or seek to steal their power.
The process was a tantalizing and terrifying prospect, but I was willing to try anything if it meant putting Andrew’s fears to rest.
“There is a way.” I padded over to the kitchen table where my sheath lay. I removed the knife and held it up to the light. The blade gleamed dully and I heard Andrew’s sharp intake of breath. I turned to face him. “Do you trust me?”
“With my life.”
I smiled sadly. “If we do this—and I’m not saying that it will work—you will be entrusting me with not only your life, but your mind and your very soul. Once we allow our life forces to mingle there is no undoing the process and we’ll always know where the other one is, what they are thinking, feeling....”
“Yes.” Such conviction, such bravery.
Resigned, I motioned to the linoleum floor of the tiny kitchen. “Sit.”
I joined him a moment later. Sitting cross-legged, I leaned over and took hold of the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. His powerful chest was heaving slightly but I could see the resolve in his eyes. He wanted to explore this opportunity as much as I did, never mind the risk involved. I raised the knife to my lips and kissed the cold steel. “Just a small wound—only a little blood is needed.” He nodded and I quickly drew the tip of the blade across his flesh, just below the collarbone. He winced but was otherwise silent as I drew the knife cleanly across his skin and then set it on the floor. The blood welled up thick and crimson from the tiny wound and I felt the hunger inside me seethe and writhe, demanding to be set free.
I leaned closer, the hunger pulling me forward of its own volition. My voice caressed the bare skin of his throat as I leaned closer still, some silent secret part of myself aroused at his sharp intake of breath. I inhaled deeply and felt his scent infuse my body, tickling my senses. The sheer intensity of it was magnified by his accelerated heart rate and sudden spike of adrenaline, and the hunger grew sharper, more insistent. I felt my pupils dilate in unadulterated anticipation of tasting him in a way few could imagine and a soft groan escaped my slightly-parted lips. A muscle in Andrew’s jaw twitched and I watched fascinated as goose bumps rose all over his body. “Don’t be afraid. No matter what happens, I promise you that I will not lose control. I won’t hurt you.”
I closed the final distance between us and planted feather-light kisses on his neck, chest, his abdomen, below his navel. His breathing quickened but I allowed the moment to stretch out, to prolong our mutual desire. The hunger clawed frantically at the edges of my awareness, but I forced it down and away. His blood glistened darkly as it seeped steadily from the tiny wound and when I could stand it no longer I flicked my tongue out, tasting him. Instantly my senses flamed to life, quickened by the purity and intensity of his life flowing into me. My tongue traced the path that the blood had left from the exposed wound and he groaned, his arms tightening around me. I could sense his desire, the slight trace of lingering fear and the almost primal way in which he longed to take me in a similar manner, to taste me in all possible ways.
With this knowledge came the first hints of shared sensations and a sensuous pressure began to blossom low in my body. The moans that welled up out of me were desperate and bestial, and before I could stop myself I pressed my lips to the torn flesh and pulled hard. He cried out and his back arched as his head was thrown back, so intense was the sensation of being fed on. I nuzzled against him, my arms locked around him in an inescapable embrace. My name whispered past his lips like a litany as my tongue continued to probe and lick around the wound, his taste and smell overwhelming my senses. I was consciously aware that our breathing and heart rate had become synchronized and the pressure building up inside me suddenly and unexpectedly reached a heart-stopping crescendo.
With a strangled cry I climaxed and my nails raked the smooth flesh of his back, causing him to call my name. I momentarily sagged against him as a bevy of warm tingly sensations began to blossom throughout my limbs, as the aftershocks of such a powerful orgasm left me dizzy. When I could finally open my eyes I saw that Andrew’s were squeezed shut as he struggled to remain upright, so potent were the sensations that my actions created. A faint luminescence was emanating from his chest and was steadily edging its way around my torso. Goose bumps raced up and down my arms as I continued to draw more and more of his life force towards me, inside of me, so desperate was I to recreate what we had just experienced. His breathing soon began to grow ragged and a light sheen of sweat beaded his forehead. I knew that if I took any more that I would hurt him so I forced myself to pull away.
Andrew groaned and clutched at me weakly, beseechingly. “Don’t stop.”
“I have to. If I take any more then it will be too much. I won’t be able to stop.”
He nodded sluggishly.
I picked the knife up from where it had lain forgotten on the floor and pressed it into his hand. It took him a moment to fully register what I was about to ask him to do, but then understanding came over him.
“But what if I hurt you?”
“You won’t. I promise.” I pushed down the left strap of my tank top past my shoulder. “Here.” I indicated a spot just underneath my collarbone. Silently, with his eyes never leaving my face, he sliced cleanly through my flesh and I felt the blood begin to flow.
He stared at the blood and then back up at my face. What did he see reflected in my eyes at that moment? What did I see reflected in his own?
Uncertainty and then: “I can’t.”
“You can.” I scooted forward and then climbed into his lap before he could protest. The heat between our bodies was a palpable and living force, and the tingling in my abdomen intensified. I took his face in my hands and whispered. “You must—it’s the only way.”
He paused, and then the strangest look crossed his face and filled his dark eyes: Hunger. Desire steeped in the furthest recesses of the human mind, beyond mere words.
He inclined his head as if to whisper into my own ear, and then so swiftly that I nearly missed it, he made a predatory swipe downwards. His lips molded themselves tightly to my wound and the sensation plunged deep into my core, inflaming me all over again. The act wrenched a desperate scream from me and I sagged forward heavily, my limbs leaden. It was if I had no more body, no substance. I was breath and blood pumping furiously through a fiery network of desire, my will locked to the ceaseless suckling rhythm concentrated just above my heart. Andrew’s hands pressed into my back holding me fast to him as he continued to taste me, each swallow coaxing a shuddering moan from me. The pressure began to build once again—achingly slow yet tantalizingly within reach—and I was consciously aware of my hips moving against him, stoking his own growing passion. With a feral growl he lunged into me, jerking my body back with the intensity of his feeding.
I was momentarily breathless and unable to do anything but stare dully up at the ceiling, my head thrown back as his teeth worried the tiny wound, drawing more of my life force into him.
“More,” I managed to rasp. I was gasping, my voice hoarse and strained. His own hips pumped against me, the thin fabric of my shorts a feeble and infuriating barrier between our mutual desires. I arched up to meet his thrusts and in answer he fastened harder on me, his lips, teeth, and tongue driving me—us—to exquisite madness, and we screamed together as we came simultaneously. As the tremors slowed to a dull throbbing I felt my essence emanating from me, seeking to unite with his. Andrew’s breathing soon mirrored my own and within moments we were both panting furiously, locked tightly to one another as we stared in wonder at our twin essences co-mingling around us. Tiny luminescent orbs flashed in and out of the swirling miasma like two lovers seeking to embrace, the twin colors caressing and passing in and out of one another. I could feel his thoughts and all the tiny nuances of his human body passing through me like fine silken threads, and I knew that he felt the same. The heat in his gaze as his eyes sought out my wound once more seemed utterly alien and slightly frightening to me. This was a side of Andrew that I had not known even existed, and in those moments I was left wondering what exactly I had awakened in him by allowing this experiment to happen.
His lips found me once again and a low snarl of frustration emanated from him as he discovered that the flow of blood had ebbed and stopped. His teeth tore at my flesh, and startled at the sudden pain I put my hands against his chest and pushed him back.
“Enough. It’s enough.”
He released me roughly and despite this, I nearly sobbed at the loss of such consummate pleasure. My blood stained his slightly-parted lips and his eyes were wide in a mixture of shock and amazement at what he had just done, at what he had been about to do. Before either of us could say anything we were kissing furiously, savoring the taste of each other’s blood on our lips. I was dimly aware that his hands were pushing at the waistband of my shorts, his fingers gathering up the material and effortlessly ripping them away from me. My own hands were grasping madly at the button of his jeans, my fingers deftly pushing them down past his knees. I raised my arms so that he could slip my tank top off of me and within moments we were both free of all our garments and they lay in a tangled heap nearby. The kiss deepened, becoming almost possessive as his teeth nipped at my bottom lip and then sucked at the tender flesh. I lay back and allowed him these liberties, completely helpless as his lips traced a fiery path down towards my neck, the space between my breasts, my navel, and then lower still. My body quickened and my mouth opened in a silent scream as his tongue began to trace the path towards the core of my desire, and then finding it, began to torment me until I writhed uncontrollably. His hands were firm on my abdomen as he forced me to endure this sweet torture, to realize the visions and the desire I had sensed from him only minutes before.
The knowledge that he had tasted me in every possible way this night ignited something deep inside of me and I cried out loudly, my body wracked by powerful and overwhelming spasms. It was in these moments that I was dimly aware that our intermingled life forces, which had been swirling sinuously above and around us, were steadily coalescing and gathering together in a dense configuration. Andrew raised his eyes to the spot that I was staring at and before he could utter a single syllable, the force of this mass slamming back into us drove the air from our lungs. We pitched forward, our arms and legs useless as we slumped to the floor, our wide staring eyes seemingly blind to everything.
There was no doubt that we had succeeded in our alchemical and spiritual union. Slowly, as awareness returned to me, I caught memories and feelings from Andrew’s short life in bursts and flashes: his tenth birthday party, a favorite pet that he’d had as a child, his first love at age sixteen. Other memories that were less fond yet no less vivid flashed before my eyes as well: his grandmother’s funeral at age three—the first time that he learned what death was—the day he met his ex-fiancé, the day he learned of her betrayal. All of it was mine for the taking, but not without cost. Andrew appeared in distress, his chest heaving violently as he moaned and thrashed on the floor, undoubtedly reliving some of my more violent and unpleasant memories.
I crawled over to him and took him into my arms. He thrashed wildly as I shushed him and smoothed the hair away from his face. “Shhh, it’s alright. They’re only memories and they can’t hurt you.”
He was weeping as his struggling began to slow and he looked at me with haunted eyes. “I saw it all...I understand. God help me, I understand.”
I kissed his tears, the tender flesh of his eyelids, and finally his lips. Without being consciously aware of it, I gently pushed him onto his back and slowly guided him inside of me until we were both panting furiously with anticipation. His hands on either side of my hips held me firm against him as I pushed down and took him in deeper, desperate to be as close as possible. Thought and feeling instantly intermingled in a chaotic swirl of images and half-whispered promises as we began to move together—slowly and feverishly at first—and then faster, more demanding. Every sensation was magnified through our new-found alchemical connection, as I was as attuned to his body as he was to mine. Within moments we were gasping and panting each other’s name, and as the first wave of passion began to wash over us I felt my vision dim, my equilibrium struggling to compensate for the sensory overload.
Just as I felt myself spilling over the edge Andrew rolled us over together and plunged hard into me, his hips driving relentlessly against my own. I screamed as he pushed me over the edge and then drew me back sharply before sending me hurtling over it once again. I reached up and delicately licked the salt from the hollow of his neck and the action caused him to growl in pleasure. His mouth found the spot where my wound had healed and he began to nibble, his teeth teasing me as they hinted at a barely-restrained hunger of his own, of a desire to tear, to bite. I arched up to meet him thrust for thrust, crying out as he touched that place deep inside of me as my limbs trembled and my body went limp as I attained ecstasy once again.
In those moments I surrendered completely to his body with all of its youthful strength, his skill and stamina seemingly heightened by the exchange of our life force. Time had no relevance as we continued to explore the mysteries of one another, as each stage of our union further validated that we were now one—spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Each sigh and whispered plea were steeped in the utmost tenderness as we could no more hurt one another without suffering the same consequences. No thoughts of what the future would or would not bring intruded on this shared journey, and things progressed in this manner for hours until weak and with muscles trembling from fatigue, we laid in each other’s arms on the floor, drenched in sweat, utterly spent.
Sleep called to me, urging me to rest, to restore my strength. I felt my eyelids grow heavy as we laid there, each of us silently stunned by the powerful thoughts and sensations that we had evoked in one another. I snuggled against Andrew’s warmth, reveling in the fact that such a simple act—a purely human gesture—was now mine without reservation. Andrew knew what I was yet his feelings for me had never wavered. The specter of truth no longer hung over us accompanied by guilt and shame over what I was.
I was free.
My eyes closed as I finally allowed sleep to claim me. From somewhere seemingly far away I felt Andrew take me into his arms, of being momentarily weightless as he carried me down the hall before setting me down in my bed. A soft comforter was drawn over my bare shoulders and his voice whispered in my ear before consciousness eluded me:
“Sleep. I promise I’ll be here when you wake.”