Chapter 21: Blood of The Enemy
Eleanor was more than a little nervous as she entered Blush. Taking a seat at the bar, she ordered a glass of Lust to help soothe her nerves. She frequented the club so often that she was on a first name basis with almost all of Adrian’s staff and even some of the patrons that visited. Usually it would’ve been nice walking into the club’s welcoming arms in the dead of night but on this particular occasion, she had a mission to complete.
While she had volunteered for the job, she couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about tricking Adrian. She shook her head trying to dispel the preposterous thought from her mind. After all, there was a chance that Adrian was hiding a dark secret at his rehabilitation center.
“Here you are,” Jose the bartender said in his cheery voice. He hung around for a bit after setting the glass down, busying himself with cleaning the counter.
“Jose,” Eleanor began, “how long have you been working here?”
She picked up her drink to take a sip while she awaited his answer. It amazed her that Adrian even employed humans at his club. There was no way they didn’t have suspicions about their boss.
“I’ve been here for about two years,” Jose answered. “Adrian pays us pretty well so I haven’t found a reason to leave yet.”
“Ah,” Eleanor mumbled into her wine glass before setting it back down on the counter. “So it’s the money that keeps you here.”
“Yes and no,” he said as he slung the rag over his shoulder. “The atmosphere is great. I get to talk to very interesting people all night long. Adrian seems invested in us.”
“How so?” Eleanor asked, curious.
“Well…” Jose trailed off. “I probably shouldn’t say anything.”
“Oh, come on. We’re all friends here,” Eleanor cooed.
Jose flashed a brilliant smile. “I can’t speak for everyone but I know that Adrian cares. My mother has been sick for a while and Adrian takes care of all her medical expenses.”
“Really? Why? I mean…nothing wrong with that, obviously. I’m just being nosy,” Eleanor rushed to say.
“No, no,” he laughed. “I know you don’t mean anything by it. Adrian just honestly wanted to help me. He hasn’t asked me for anything in return which of course made me skeptical at first. But when I realized he wasn’t kidding about it, I just felt so relieved. Everyone wants something from you in this town. Adrian just wanted me to keep doing what I enjoy which is manage this bar without feeling…”
“Feeling what?” Eleanor prompted.
“This might sound bad. I love my mother, I really do, but her sickness is hard for me to handle,” he admitted as he leaned over the counter with his elbows.
“What does she have, if you don’t mind my asking?” Eleanor responded.
Jose blew out a long sigh. “She’s losing her mind. She has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. At first it was little things like forgetting her grocery list at home, or where she laid down the remote. You know, nothing huge. I mean everyone forgets things like that, but then she started forgetting birthdays, doctor’s appointments, and then one day she looked at me and couldn’t remember my name. That’s when I knew something was really wrong with her.”
“I’m really sorry, Jose. I know that is a very hard disease for both your mother and you,” Eleanor said.
He nodded. “Adrian made it easier for me to deal with. He pays for all her treatments, her room and board at the nursing facility, just everything. I couldn’t afford any of that. No one was expecting her mind to go at this age. Without Adrian, I wouldn’t even have a life anymore.”
“He sounds like a really good boss,” Eleanor commented.
“He’s a good man,” Jose corrected. “He’s just a good person in general. Someone who doesn’t care too much about the money. It’s about this city for him.”
“So you know about Adrian’s other businesses?” Eleanor asked, surprised.
“Of course,” Jose said. “Adrian’s family has been in this town for years. I think Adrian is like sixth generation or something. I didn’t know his father, but apparently like father like son around here. He’s put so much back into this community. That rehabilitation project of his is really something else.”
Eleanor thought for a moment as she took another sip of her wine. Adrian was making it look like he had a family business. Her guess was, he would disappear from public view for twenty years or so and emerge as the son of the man that everyone used to know, if they were still around. It was a smart move for a vampire so people wouldn’t get suspicious of his age. She wondered how long Adrian had been back since returning.
“Thanks, Jose. Do you know if Adrian is around tonight by any chance?” Eleanor inquired.
“Why don’t you ask me that yourself?” the voice behind her said as she watched Jose smile before walking off to attend others.
Eleanor spun around in her chair to face Adrian. He took a step closer and placed his hands on the bar on either side of her as she leaned back, the edge of the bar pressing into her back.
“No little black dress tonight, I see,” he said as his eyes traveled the length of her body noticing her black skinny jeans and open backed silk blouse.
Eleanor swallowed her tongue as he leaned into her neck to smell her perfume. Arousal bloomed within her as she allowed herself to feel the closeness of his body near hers. It was a distraction she couldn’t afford at the moment. Hopping off the stool, she caught him off guard as he backed away, allowing her to stand up.
“How about you and I go up to your office?” she asked sweetly.
Adrian’s eyes narrowed as he studied her face. “I have a better idea.”
Adrian walked around Eleanor and called Jose over. Leaning over the bar he said, “Have Bo bring my car around to the front.”
“Right away, sir,” Jose said as he sat a drink order down on a tray for a waitress to carry off towards the lounge area.
“Adrian, what are you doing?” Eleanor asked, a sly smile spreading across his face as he leaned his elbow on the counter beside her.
“It’s a surprise,” he teased.
“I’m not really one for surprises,” she stated. She didn’t exactly have time to waste here.
Adrian leaned his back against the counter. “Don’t be such a vampire.”
Before she could retaliate, he took her by the hand and led her towards the club entrance and out the door where Bo, the valet had pulled around his car. It was a sleek black Ferrari. Bo opened the doors for both of them as they took a seat in the car. Closing Eleanor’s door, Adrian took off into the night down the streets of New Orleans.
“So you thought showing me your fancy car would impress me?” Eleanor asked.
Adrian smirked. “Women like you aren’t impressed with things like this. The things that impress you aren’t material.”
“Are you pretending to know me now?” Eleanor inquired.
“Not at all, but I would like to,” Adrian said, glancing over at Eleanor in the passenger seat. He was starting to confuse her more and more.
“Why? You’re not one to enjoy a purely physical relationship?” Her mission would’ve been much easier if he had just taken her up to his office and had some rough sex that drew a little blood. That was her original plan anyway.
He chuckled under his breath. “You must think me such a simple creature. I prefer a little substance when I’m dating someone.”
“Dating? We’re not dating,” Eleanor replied.
Adrian raised an eyebrow as the car slowed in front of a high end French restaurant. A valet opened her door and Eleanor stepped out of the vehicle as she walked around the front of the car. Adrian threw his keys to the man and escorted Eleanor up the carpet steps through a revolving door.
She stopped short of the hostess station glancing around at the exquisite interior. A waterfall covered one wall and she could see the white clothed tables and elegance of the dining rooms through French doors by the hostess. “Adrian, I’m dressed for a club. Not a restaurant like this.”
Adrian smiled as he pressed his hand to the small of her back. Leaning down to her ear, he whispered, “Don’t worry. You’re with me.”
He pushed her forward slightly as they moved closer to the desk. The hostess smiled at the two of them. “Hello, Mr. Clemente. We’ve been expecting you. Right this way.”
The hostess led them through the restaurant, around tables and chairs towards the back to a private seating area. The room was spacious with red drapes lining the walls over famous French portraits and landscapes. A crystal chandelier hung over the clothed table that had fine dining ware set for two.
A waiter led Eleanor over to her seat, pulling it out for her before pushing it underneath her as she sat down. Another waiter did the same for Adrian.
“Would you like to try our selection of wines tonight, sir?” one of the waiter’s asked as the other stood by the doorway of the room.
“Yes, your choice,” Adrian said with a smile.
“Of course, sir,” the waiter said before hurrying towards the main dining room.
“Adrian, what is this?” Eleanor asked. “I’m not dating you.”
Adrian peered at her over the candles on the table. “Then don’t think of it as a date. We’re simply two people trying to get to know each other a little better. Besides, it would be best for me to know the person that’s investigating me.”
“I suppose that’s fair…” Eleanor admitted. “How do I know you’re not trying to hide things from me about your center?”
“I have nothing to hide, Eleanor,” he replied as he sat back in his chair. “If I did, I wouldn’t have allowed you access into any of my establishments. What is it going to take to get you to trust me?”
“Why do you care so much?” Eleanor asked.
Adrian sighed. “I would’ve thought that a little obvious at this point.”
“I’m not here to play games with you, Adrian—”
“There’s something different about you,” Adrian interjected. “I don’t know what it is. I’ve been reading books, observing people, trying to decipher any logical reason behind what this is.”
“I don’t know how to help you,” Eleanor said.
The waiter re-entered the room with a bottle of red wine and poured it for them in the glasses upon the table. He left without taking their order, a sign that Adrian had been to the location many times before.
“Do you take all your women here?” Eleanor asked sarcastically.
“Not at all,” Adrian answered. “I come here alone, usually to think.”
Eleanor softened at his words. “Oh.”
“I’m not very good at this,” Adrian admitted. “The way I feel when I’m around you…it makes me feel alive. Almost like I’m human again. No matter how hard I try to redeem myself for my past, it never felt like it mattered until the day I met you.”
“I don’t know if I can trust you…” she whispered.
“I know,” he stated. “I fully understand that. My tactics haven’t always been the best. I didn’t necessarily welcome your family with open arms when you first came to this town and for that I apologize.”
Eleanor touched Adrian’s hand softly feeling his sincerity. “Thank you, Adrian. That means a lot to me.”
He nodded as he held up his wine glass. She took hers in her hand and clinked it to his before taking a sip and setting it back down.
“I know this may seem a little old fashioned of me but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind me calling on you from time to time, Ms. Eleanor Elderidge,” he said with a smile.
“A gentleman caller,” Eleanor smirked. “I haven’t had one of those in over two hundred years.”
He laughed. “That’s about as long as it’s been for me since I’ve called on a lady. Of course, if that’s alright with you.”
Eleanor nodded. “It all sounds so foreign now. The years pass and everything seems to change, especially how dating works.”
“Well, I could just text you for nudes,” Adrian commented.
Eleanor snorted into her wine glass before covering her mouth. “Stop. Just stop.”
“You and I both know that’s how it’s done now,” Adrian snickered. “I ask, you send. It’s a genius method really.”
Eleanor couldn’t control her giggles as Adrian continued to mock the new generation of humans. As an owner of a club, he was very in tune with the changes in culture around him and was quick to adapt with the times. It was a trait her family had not succeeded in as much.
They talked over wine for what seemed like hours as the people in the restaurant slowly began to dwindle until they were the only ones left.
“Shouldn’t we be heading out soon?” Eleanor laughed. “I think they’re trying to close.”
“It’s fine,” Adrian said as he finished off another glass of wine.
“But these people want go home,” Eleanor smiled.
“They can go,” Adrian said. “I can lock it up for them.”
“What?” Eleanor said. “You own this place too?”
Adrian nodded with a smile. “My home is right above the restaurant. Would you care to join me there?”
Eleanor sucked in a breath of air. She had never though she would be visiting Adrian’s home. To live above a restaurant must have been a dream. She could only imagine waking up to the smells of an authentic French breakfast in the morning.
Adrian stood from his seat and extended his hand for Eleanor to take. She rose from her seat and took it without a second thought. As they made their way around the maze of tables in the dining hall and through the kitchen, Eleanor started to have second thoughts.
“Adrian, wait,” she said as they stood in the kitchen. “I can’t.”
He paused and turned to face her. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s…hard to explain,” she started.
“Simplify it for me,” he said, a puzzled expression flashing across his face.
Eleanor sighed. All her plans to be as discreet as possible when it came to collecting his blood had been thrown out the window with the rest of the night. She was still on the fence about trusting him and maybe it was right for her to feel that way, but she needed an ally right now. Someone she could talk to who wouldn’t judge her. Someone who genuinely cared for her.
She sighed long and hard, eyeing the knife on the counter near them. “Adrian, can I trust you?”
Adrian took a step forward, his eyes floating down to rest on her face. He held a hand up to her cheek which she grabbed. His touch was warm and gentle. It was a tenderness that left her wanting more.
“Whatever you need from me,” he whispered.
Eleanor was silent before taking his hand away from her face and holding it absentmindedly in hers. “I need your blood.”
Adrian swallowed hard before grabbing the knife from the kitchen counter and slicing into the palm of his hand. He opened the cabinet above the counter and placed a small glass jar used for parfaits under his bleeding hand. The wound healed itself as he wiped his hand on a rag by the sink.
“Here,” Adrian said as he handed the jar to Eleanor.
“Don’t you want to know why?” she asked as she took the sealed jar from him.
“No,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you need my blood for. Whatever it is, I know it’s for a good purpose.”
“Because,” he continued, “you’re a good person.”
Adrian walked away from her leaving her in the kitchen. Although his words were noble, she had sensed the betrayal he felt from the slight brush of their fingertips when he handed her the jar. She knew what he was thinking and it broke her heart to know that his feelings had suddenly changed towards her. Although she may be able to trust him, he wasn’t sure if he could trust her now.
Turning away, she made her way to the front of the restaurant where a cab was waiting to take her home. Adrian had called it for her.
She got into the back seat and covered her eyes with her hand as she cried silently on the drive back towards the estate.