I hesitated by the door.
Should I open it? Should I not? Should I leave her waiting? Or should I face my fears? Should I see what color eyes were hidden behind the curtain of black? Should I reach for the knob and open a door I knew I could never close again?
It wasn’t like I was scared of the girl herself; no, she seemed like a very...interesting girl. It was only the images that constantly flashed through my mind that held me back. The images of a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty that haunted me constantly; day in and day out. The images of a woman I had been ready to call mine, a mistake I didn’t want to make again.
I hoped I hadn’t overstepped my boundaries when I taped the note to her desk. I didn’t know what women these days liked, so I just decided to give her everything. I didn’t know if she liked purple, or reading, or nightgowns. In fact, I knew nothing about the girl behind the door.
So, why did that scare me so much?
Was it the secrecy to her? Was it the simple fact that I knew absolutely nothing about her? Was that it? Or was I thinking too hard; was this simply a meeting between acquaintances, acquaintances that would hopefully turn into something more.
When I hadn’t been thinking about Mohini, all I had been thinking about was her. Was of the raven-haired beauty that had captured my eyes and possibly my heart, although it was too soon to tell.
I swallowed thickly, feeling my muscles contract and my throat bob. This was only a human girl, I kept consoling myself. There was nothing happening, not yet. We were only going to introduce ourselves; nothing more, nothing less.
Despite my constant assurance to my soul that we were going to do nothing but speak to each other, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like; what it would be like to feel her under me; to feel the pads of my fingertips stroke against her soft skin, whatever color her eyes were gazing into mine.
I shook my head. It was now or never, and I had only one chance to not fuck this up. Dusk had been falling on the castle already; on the bleak landscape in the place I once proudly called home. I reached for the shiny knob, anxiety coiling in my gut as I twisted the metal.
Using some of my magic quietly, I snubbed all of the lights out in her room, drawing her curtains to a close. I could hear her gasp, her voice soft and delicate, yet holding a strong undercurrent of curiosity and power.
In the darkness that had drenched the room, I could see her body stiffen on the bed, the ripples of her wavy, damp hair dribbling down her slim, curvy back. The nightgown I had chosen for her fit perfectly along her slim body, the fabric gentle against the slight dips and curves of her frame.
I licked my lips, fixing my hood, and padding into the room. I flexed my fingers in my gloves, careful to make sure they didn’t slip off. I didn’t want to hurt her; I didn’t want my sharp claws to sink into her skin; my magic burning her body to ash.
I could hear her breathing rise as I neared her, her back turned to me. She was kneeling on the bed, her back stiff, her eyes alert and fixated on the headboard to her bed.
A chuckle escaped my lips and I pushed some of my hair behind my ear, the strands tickling my eyelids. “I can see you, you know?”
Not the best thing to say, in my opinion, to get a conversation started, but it certainly worked. The girl squeaked, and red crept up her neck. She fumbled for a reply under her breath, moving around on the bed until she was facing me.
“I can’t see you, though,” she replied, her fingers clenching each other.
I sighed, my body feeling relaxed now that she was talking to me. I sat carefully on the bed, my side dipping due to my considerably heavy weight. “I know. I do not want you to see me, at least, not right now.”
“Why?” She asked. “Why can’t I see you? Is it because you’re a Demon?” She quickly covered her mouth, as if she had said something wrong, but a soft laugh slipped my mouth and I shook my head, even though she couldn’t see it.
“Damien can’t keep a secret, can he?” I teased.
The girl trembled slightly. “I-It’s not his fault...I was asking questions I knew were flustering him...”
“Damien gets easily flustered; it’s nothing to worry about. I am not upset at him,” I assured, a spark of jealousy rising in me at how much she had already connected with Damien.
“Oh.” She mumbled. In the dark, I could see her reach a hand out, seemingly towards me. Smiling, I accepted her hand, curling my gloved fingers around her own limbs.
Again, she gasped. “You’re hands are like touching velvet.”
“Those aren’t my hands, my dear,” I rumbled, testing the nickname on my lips. “They are gloves. I wear them to protect you...to keep you safe...”
“Safe from what?”
I paused, thinking over my answer. “A few things,” I decided. I brought her hand up to my lips, pressing my mouth against her soft skin. A sound fell through her lips, a sweet, delicate sound that I found myself wanting to hear more of; a sound Mohini never made.
“I am sorry, but I do not know your name,” I said smoothly, still holding her hand.
“My name is Radha,” she said, edging closer to me. “What about you? What’s your name? All I know you as is Master, according to Damien.”
Heat shot through my stomach, and I resisted the urge to lick her palm, a gesture of marking for my kind. “Master is only a name those below me refer to me as. You are my equal, Radha, if you so chose to be. To you, I am simply...whatever you would like to call me.”
“What do you mean?” Radha asked. “You don’t have a name?”
I laughed again. “I do, but I would prefer to keep that private for now; I-I will tell you in due time, I promise you. Just...now, I am still...”
“I understand,” Radha interjected before I could finish. “This is just as new to me as it is to you. I’m not afraid of you; you saved me from a much worse fate, I assume?”
“Yes,” I replied immediately. “I do not intend for you to be my toy, or my maid. As I said, you are to be my equal, if you so chose to be.”
“If I so chose to be?” Radha repeated. “What is that supposed to mean? I have a choice?”
I bit my lip. “Radha, I brought you here because...my type of demon have a certain, um, test per se. Any woman they want to court has to pass that test to become their wife.” I hadn’t said that word in a long time, not since Mohini, and although I promised myself that I never would, something about Radha made me change my mind. Maybe it was her confidence in our meeting, or maybe it was the dark orbs that followed my voice blindly as I spoke.
Instead of getting upset, Radha bobbed her head to my vague explanation. “I understand, and I am willing to get to know you more.” She looked away, and I began to rub the pad of my covered thumb against her knuckle. “I have been alone for a long time; it’s been my dream for a new adventure...and maybe a new love...if you’ll excuse my excitement.”
“No, no! This is exactly what I have wanted as well!” I answered quickly. I cupped her cheek with my other hand and she stiffened, but soon relaxed against my palm, my thumb smoothing along her lips and cheekbone. “I too have been alone for centuries. My friends have been pestering me for a while to find a mate in life, a wife. I went to the auction assuming I would find no woman to suit my taste, but then...” I leaned closer to her, despite my mind screaming with me to wretch away. “...then, I saw you, and I wanted you, badly.”
“Badly,” she repeated breathlessly, our faces inches away from each other. Her lips were plump, tantalizing, damp.
The urge to kiss her became sudden; like a violent tsunami forcing me against her; for my claws to shred against her clothes, to comb her hair, to feel those lips crying my name.
I shook my head, leaning away, my face hot and surely flushed. This...This wasn’t supposed to happen, not yet, not now. I kept my grip strong on her cheek, even though I had moved away from her, the air cold around me.
“Yes,” I murmured. “But I’m willing to take it slow, if you are. I-I have not had very good encounters with women in my previous years, apart from you...” I winced, looking away from her, thankful she couldn’t see me in the dark.
I felt her fingers wrap around my gloved wrist, the skin warm and seeping through the fabric. I shivered.
“I understand,” she said softly. “I too, would like to know you...all of you.” She whispered the last bit, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what she was referencing.
Fuck, I forgot how hard it is to court a woman, I cursed in my mind, rubbing my thumb against her skin. I could feel her eyes shifting on me, unable to see me, apart from my large silhouette.
“So, you are a demon, right?” She asked, laughing nervously. “Cause, I starting to think that I’m dreaming...?”
“Yes, yes, I am a demon, Radha,” I assured. “And I will not hurt you, nobody in this palace will. Should they even bruise an inch of your skin, you tell me immediately, understand?” Not even a night, and I was already feeling protective of her, as if something had clicked when we first met. She was independent, I could tell, but it was a natural instinct for me.
But I didn’t feel that for Mohini, I thought briefly, but Radha speaking brushed any of my thoughts of my ex away.
“O-Okay, I’ll make sure to tell you,” she agreed. For the first time that night, when her eyes had at first been shifting everywhere in the room, she looked up, her dark orbs catching my eyes, although she may not have known it.
A gasp nearly left my mouth, and I had to bit my lip to keep from letting the breath of air slip my throat. Had I seen those eyes before? Had I seen those beautiful, sharp eyes gazing into my soul before, piercing the ghost residing there? Maybe it was the dark purple smile of the moon, but in the damp darkness, Radha’s eyes didn’t look brown.
No, they were violet.
I blinked, shaking my head. No, that was just a trick of the light, I thought rather glumly. Her eyes were brown, brown, and only brown.
Radha squeezed my hand. “Are you alright? You suddenly went quiet. Did I say something wrong?”
“No!” I rebutted, a bit too quickly for my liking. My heart burned; my body conflicting with each other. My mind begged me to leave, to forget her, and cast her away; for Mohini still plagued my thoughts.
However, my heart fought back, beating faster than it had ever beaten, even faster than when I was with Mohini. It begged me to stay, to learn more about Radha...to kiss her.
I swallowed thickly. “I am alright. I was only thinking of... a few things.”
Radha nodded. “Okay, um, will I see you again? Tomorrow?”
“At night, definitely. I shall not leave you alone then,” I said. “Although, I have work during the day, I will find someone to be with you. Perhaps, Saira, whom I’m sure Damien has already told you about?”
“Not much,” Radha admitted. “I just know she works here and...has a daughter?”
“Yes,” I affirmed. “She does, and she’s a very nice woman. I apologize that I will be unable to be with you during the day...I-!”
“It’s alright,” Radha interrupted, giggling. “You have your work to do; I can understand that...” Hot warmth emanated from her, spiking something in me. “I’m just glad I get to see you at night...I like your company.”
I smiled, the urge to kiss her becoming so hard to ignore that I just couldn’t hold it anymore. Leaning closer to her, my cloak brushing against her arm, I pressed my lips against her forehead, despite wanting to press them to her own lips.
Her skin was smooth and warm, unlike Mohini’s cold and slightly bumpy skin. I was careful to keep my fangs in my mouth, keeping the gesture for only a few seconds before I pulled away, unable to speak.
“Damn...” Radha murmured. She pressed her hand against her forehead, smiling.
“Was that too forward of me?” I questioned, although, based on the look on her face, I knew she enjoyed it.
“No! Not at all! I, um, I liked it,” she admitted, mumbling the rest of her sentence.
A laugh rumbled from my chest. “Then I’ll be sure to give my affections to you more often,” I proclaimed smoothly, tipping her chin upwards to face me. Again, her eyes flashed, but I ignored it. It was just the moon, I knew that now.
“I still don’t know what to call you...” Radha murmured, her tongue running over her dry lips.
I groaned softly, calming myself down before I answered. “As I said, whatever you think would suit me. I can be anything you want, Radha. I can do anything you want, give you anything you want. Anything at all, and it’s yours.”
Radha didn’t answer me, but I could see the gears turning in her head. She thought about what I had said for a couple of moments, then smiled, nodding.
“Okay, Raja,” she said.
I raised my eyebrow. “Raja? King?”
She nodded. “Yes, because you’re a king, aren’t you?”
I flinched. “I was...”
The bed squeaked, and when I looked back at her, she was on her knees, her eyes nearly eye-level with mine. “Well, you talk like a King and you are definitely as large as one, so you’re a King to me.”
I chuckled. “Well, if that’s what you want to call me, then I’ll gladly be your King.”
She smiled. “You are a King, and when you’re ready, I’ll learn your real name, Raja.”
That stirred something inside me. Mohini had always been quick with our relationship; she didn’t ever want to take it slow. At first, I had just assumed it was because she was only staying for a certain amount of time, and to this day, I’ll never know the real reason why. She wasn’t like Radha, that’s for sure. Radha was letting me go at my own pace, and she was going at her own pace; we were both making sure we were comfortable with each other.
“In due time, I will tell you everything, Radha,” I said again. “I promise you...I-I had made a mistake in the past, and I don’t want to make it again...that is why I am so...”
Radha squeezed my hand again. “You don’t have to explain yourself, Raja. We’re both new at this in our own way; Take your time, and I’ll take mine.”
I groaned. “What did I do to deserve you? It’s only been one night, but you have been reviving thoughts that have been locked away for so long...how...?” The question was meant to be one for myself, one to ask myself if I ever even loved Mohini, if she would ever be able to completely leave my mind and let me live in peace with this new girl, the girl that turned my heart on again.
Radha shrugged. “I guess I’m just a specimen,” she teased, her eyes crinkling at her own joke. “Or I could be an alien, your pick.”
I laughed out loud, my thumb pausing on her knuckle. “You sure are a specimen. I’ve never met a woman with a sense of humor like yours. All of the ones I’ve seen have been, well, reclusive and rule-abiding. You, however, you don’t seem afraid of that.”
Radha’s shoulders rose and fell nonchalantly. “It’s my life, and I only get one, right? Might as well enjoy it. And I do follow the rules, except when they’re stupid, then I don’t.”
“Like the auction rules?” I asked playfully, feeling at ease around her in the short amount of time we had spent together.
“Yeah, they were bullshit rules. I’m not about to beg and plead for my life. If you want to sell me, then I’ll fight nickel and penny before you can,” she said fiercely. She glanced at her arm, and for the first time, I noticed a purple bruise on her brown colored skin.
“What is that? Did you get hurt while coming here?” I asked suddenly, unable to hide the worry and slight anger in my voice. That only agitated me more, but I couldn’t help it. Mohini was a warrior, she was trained to be one. Radha wasn’t. I had instructed Damien to keep her safe, something I was never worried about when it came to Mohini.
“I think it was when I was sedated,” Radha replied. “It wasn’t Damien’s fault; he did a wonderful job protecting me...” she blushed. “I told you I put up a fight when the rules are bullshit to me.”
I smiled, leaning closer to her. “I can see that. You are...unlike any woman I have met before, but that is what I like about you. You are not like-!” I paused, catching myself, her name on the tip of my tongue. “You are not like a woman I once knew...nothing like her.” I didn’t want to reveal more about Mohini, and I think Radha understood that, based on the way her eyes traveled around my slumped frame.
“I’m glad. You’re unlike any man I’ve met, too,” she said. “I...forgive me if it is too soon to say so, but I like you already. I think you’re interesting, and I want to get to know you more.”
“I do too, Radha,” I said. By now, my arms had encircled, her, the proximity between us closing slowly and slowly, each of us nearing each other. “I...will try to see you tomorrow, perhaps earlier than intended, though I can’t be sure.”
“That’s okay if you can’t,” she said. “Seeing you at night is enough.”
I smiled in the dark, wishing that she could see how happy she was making me. We ended up talking for nearly an hour after, and by then, it became midnight, way past the time I was supposed to stay with her.
Bidding her goodnight (although wishing I could have tucked her in), I left her room, feeling giddy and uplifted, much happier than I had been in years. I had a chance, now. I had a chance to open my heart again to a new romance, a new woman, a new life.
I had a chance to have someone see past my cloak and mask; to see me for who I really was. I had a chance to have my curse broken, to start a new life, a new family.
Radha had only seen my silhouette; she had yet to see all of me, despite the black and shadows that I daily dressed in. She wasn’t scared of me, but that was because she hadn’t seen me. She hadn’t seen the beast I was; the monster I was labeled.
She hadn’t seen the real me.
So, how could she fall in love with the real me?