When I woke up again, the clock on my nightstand showed two in the afternoon. Groggy and completely worn out, I got up, stripping the funeral dress and stepping into the shower. I took the bandages from my neck and hand and winced as the hot water poured over them. When I made sure I removed every trace of yesterday’s escapades from my body, I wrapped myself into one of my old towers and returned to my room. I grabbed my traveling back from where I left it by the door, slipping into shorts and a t-shirt. I was going to comb over every room as quickly as possible and get over with this today. No need to linger here any longer than I have to. I wanted to get away from that thing from yesterday, whatever it was.
I strode down the staircase, careful not to fall again. There was dried blood on one of the stairs - probably from my fall last night. I put a mental note to clean it later.
When I entered the kitchen, the realization that yesterday’s mess was still waiting for me, hit me harder than those steps. I put a second mental note with an exclamation point next to it to do that first. But after coffee.
I ravaged through the drawers to find the coffee stash my father always hid since he did not approve of me drinking coffee. As expected, I did it in spite of him. I found the box in one overhanging cupboard, just out of reach. I rose to my toes and reached out, but the damn thing just laughed at me.
“Do you need help with that?”
Apparently, neither the laughter nor the voice came from the coffee box. I turned around and almost dropped to the ground as I saw him standing at the threshold of the kitchen, casually leaning on the doorframe. He was still wearing the same dark clothes as last night, but he looked very different in the bright light. The features that looked almost animalistic now seemed replaced with fine lines and a straight nose. He was handsome, alright, and judging by the bulging muscles on his crossed arms, the time spent in that box didn’t spoil his figure.
I caught him looking at my ass, eyes moving to meet mine just as I turned. There was a smile on his face like he was enjoying the shock and the heart attack he just gave me.
“How are you here?” I breathed out as I tried to remind myself he had tried to kill me last night and stop drooling. “I told you to go away. You have to do what I say.”
“Well, sweetheart…” he said, crossing the kitchen.
“Don’t call me sweetheart.” I snapped and he paused for a moment, his smile dripping with mockery.
“Fine. Well, darling,” he said, stressing on the denominative.
“I promise you, I know more words than you can imagine and some of them are going to make you very uncomfortable.” He interjected before I could finish. I grit my teeth and he resumed his walk to where I was. I took a step away, but he didn’t follow, just reached up and casually took the coffee box from its place on the shelf, offering it to me. “As I was saying, you have no idea what this bond means and how to use it. For example, you don’t know you can’t send me away and you can’t order me to leave. And I, on the other side, can’t be away from your side for long or else I die. So do us both a favor and release me from my bond.”
“So you can kill me?” I asked, snatching the coffee box from his hand. “Move.” I said, but he remained as he was. “What, do I have to say the words ‘I order you’ for this to work? It didn’t seem necessary last night.”
A devilish smile spread through his face, making him even more enticing.
“Last night you were scared and you wanted the monster as far away from you as possible.” He said, still not moving. “Now you probably think, I may not be a monster after all,” his eyes traveled down my bare legs and I quickly regretted not putting my jeans, “and I can sense you had a change of heart. In fact, I don’t think you really want me to move at all.”
“Please,” I snorted, pushing him out of the way to reach the coffee machine. “I’d rather go to hell.”
“I’ve been there. Not as cozy as you think.” He murmured, holding my gaze with infuriating intensity. The sounds of the coffee machine came to a stop and I reached out to get my cup. He was faster, taking it out of the machine and handing it to me. I hesitated before taking it, my fingers briefly touching his.
“Stop this,” I told him, turning back on him and heading towards the living room.
“Stop what?” He asked and by the way the sound carried, he had followed me.
“Whatever this is. It’s not going to work, you’re not my type.” I murmured, taking a sip out of my coffee. I froze in the hallway, turning to look at the door. The window was broken and the lock seemed busted from inside. Gritting my teeth, I turned to glare at him.
“Don’t make me angry next time.” He said without a shred of remorse. I flopped on the couch, making sure to take all the space in case he decided to join me. “So what is your type? A big lawyer or fancy doctor with a house with a white fence?”
“Girls,” I said the first thing that came to mind. He raised an eyebrow as he gracefully sat down on the sofa opposite from me.
“Really,” I said, taking another long sip out of my coffee. It was too hot and I burnt my tongue, but I grit my teeth, keeping my eyes on the black liquid.
“Liar.” He laughed, leaning his elbows to his knees. His eyes were fixated on mine and I shifted uncontrollably under them. “You’re very much into this body, I can sense it even now. And last night, part of you wanted me to keep my hand on your mouth and proceed with what you ordered me to do. Because, darling, that was an order I could not disobey.”
“Don’t call me darling.” I snapped. The smirk returned.
“What shall you call you then?”
I hesitated as he studied my face. I was not sure if telling him my name was smart, but he was bound to find it out - if he didn’t know it already.
“Nora,” I said, taking another sip.
“Nora.” He repeated, letting the name roll off his tongue. I shuddered despite myself, and I swear he noticed that. “Well, Nora, the ball is in your court now. Do you want to play or are you going to surrender and give me what I want?”
My breathing quickened, but I forced myself to keep my expression blank. His eyes remained on my face, but I sensed him tensing in his seat. I got up slowly and his eyes followed.
“I release you…” I started and his body straightened up in anticipation, “from your indolence and order you to do all the dishes.” His momentary surprise was replaced by the brightest smile and he threw his head back, laughing. I raised an eyebrow, crossing my hands until he got up. It took him two long strides to reach me, and I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat as he leaned over me. His cheek brushed against mine, the smell of musk and damp earth engulfing me for a moment, and he whispered in my ear.
“Let’s play then, Nora.”
His warm hand wrapped around mine, releasing the cup from my grip and he disappeared into the kitchen, leaving me to stare behind him.
* * * * *
I stepped back from the shelves, giving them one last appraising look before nodding. An hour ago the books were scattered on the desk and the floor, the shelf door gaping towards the dark corridor. After I was done remembering the horror that followed the most bizarre moments of my life, I had pushed the door closed. I now knew how to get it open so once I figured how to put my new shadow back where he came from, I was going to walk that corridor again. Or maybe use a less conspicuous place to hide his body.
“Stop it,” I said with a sigh. I didn’t have to turn to sense his eyes on me anymore, it was making my whole body shiver.
“You sense me when I’m near now.” He noted with a note of satisfaction. “Soon you’ll be able to read my mind.”
I turned abruptly, my heart beating fast. Now that would be useful. Although I was not sure if I would be using it to predict his moves or he was going to use it to torment me. As if something over the same lines passed through his mind because his expression changed.
“I was joking. You can’t read my mind. But I am happy to tell you,” his eyes moved down my body again. He was acquiring the frustrating habit of making me feel like I was completely naked in front of him. That unhinged me very much. “Every. Single. Detail.”
“Stop imagining me naked.” I murmured, moving to the desk to get the contents out of the drawers.
“That didn’t sound very convincing.” He teased. “Would you like to try it again, Nora? With more feeling this time. Go on, I’ll wait.”
Silence filled the room as I tried to ignore him and focus on the paper I was pretending to read. He chuckled but said nothing. The sound of steps told me he had walked away, and I let out a quiet sigh before returning to the papers for the house that I had brought from the other room. There were twelve pages of them that I had to read and sign, and I was very close to skipping the reading part. But the moment those papers were signed, it was done. The house was out of my hair and everything in it for all I cared.
A plate was placed on top of the papers and I jumped in surprise. I hadn’t heard him come in, and I most definitely didn’t feel him move behind the desk.
“What is this?” I asked, glancing at yesterday’s casserole.
“Food.” He said. “You require food to live. I require you to live. So eat.”
“I’m not hungry.” I frowned, moving the plate aside. It left oiled traces on the paper, which I tried to clear with my hand without success.
“You’re selling the house?” He asked with surprise I didn’t expect. What did he care if I sold the house or not? He had been held in a box in that same house. If I were him, I would be burning it down to the ground.
“I don’t need anything from here. Once I put you back in the box I’m out of here.”
He was silent for a moment, and despite my better judgment, I looked at him. I didn’t mean to say it out loud, but it was good to know where we stood so he could stop with the pretense.
“You can’t put me back.” He said with a firm tone. No pleading, no threatening, just statement of facts. This made me almost as angry as when my father told me again and again the things I could or couldn’t do.
You can’t make friends, Nora, they will betray you. You can’t go out after dark, Nora, it is not safe. You can’t go into my study, Nora, ever.
“Watch me,” I said through gritted teeth. He just raised an eyebrow.
“You’re really new to this, aren’t you?” I continued. “You physically can’t. You need a powerful witch to do the spell and you need a talisman to keep the spell active no matter what happens to the witch.”
I leaned back in the armchair, crossing my hands.
“Why are you telling me what I need to know to put you back?” I asked. It didn’t seem right. Why would he reveal something that would put him back in a box, and willingly at that? I didn’t even order him to tell me.
“Simple. Because the last such talisman in existence was used for the confinement you set me free from. Without a talisman, you’re stuck with me, with or without this house. Unless, of course, you release me from my bond to you.”
“You’re positively not coming with me back to Los Angeles.” I said, shaking my head. His daring smile returned and he crouched next to my chair, leaning on the armrest.
“And how do you plan to stop me, Nora?”
“I’m very resourceful, I’ll find a way,” I replied with what I thought should be a threatening grimace. I didn’t think it worked since he seemed more amused than scared.
“Do you know what I am, Nora?” He asked, leaning closer. I found myself sinking in the armchair.
“Apart from persistently annoying?” I said, trying to look away from his eyes but failing. What I thought was black before now I realized was brown, like melted chocolate that was suddenly put in the freezer.
“A creature born of darkness and magic, stronger than any man, faster than any predator…” his words moved through me, sending a chill of exaltation and fear through my body. “A creature that feeds on blood and desire. A creature that can kill without mercy and morals, that cause pleasure,” his hand slid slowly from my knee up the inside of my thigh while his eyes remained on mine, “and pain,” the gentle touch that made my body flare grew stronger until his grip was almost painful. I was just opening my mouth to tell him to stop when he loosened the grip and smiled, “in equal measure.” he finished with a whisper.
“A vampire.” I breathed out. To my surprise, he sneered.
“You really know nothing of the world your father hid from you, Nora.” He said quietly, getting up to his feet. “And once you sell this house, you never will.” He left my father’s desk, heading towards the door. My voice stopped him just as he was about to leave.
“What is your name?”
He paused, taking his time before turning to look at me.
“My name is Samael.”