The room was brightly lit by chandeliers and smelled of perfume and flowers. It also smelled a little of tobacco and expectations.
Hector studied the place. It was more sophisticated than he was used to. He raised the glass to his lips. The undiluted whisky warmed all the way down his throat and stomach. He looked worn, he knew, but he had bathed before coming here. In one end of the room, a man was playing a quiet tune on a piano. There was a handful of men here and a larger number of women. An elderly gentleman was sitting in a soft couch with his arm on the backrest as if he expected someone to sit down next to him so he could put his arm around her. It was a likely scenario. A young man in colourful clothes was smoking and talking to a lady who was probably ten years his senior and giving him encouraging winks and smiles.
Three young women were standing by the bar. They were talking quietly. Hector’s gaze stopped its sweeping motion. Two of them appealed very much to him. They both had nice curves accentuated by their dresses and corsets. He was taking another mouthful of whisky when one of them turned and looked right at him. She smiled. That was her job, of course. Still, Hector smiled back at her and made an inviting gesture with his glass. The woman said something to the others and then approached him. Her blond hair was elaborately styled, and the moment her stunning grey eyes met his, Hector forgot everyone else in the room.
“Good evening, hunter,” she greeted him.
Hector stood up and made a small bow. He was brought up with manners, after all. She held out her hand to him, and he gently kissed it. It was so incredibly soft that he almost feared his stubble would scratch it. “Good evening.” He cleared his throat. “What happens now, then?”
“Now we’ll take a good look at each other, hunter, and decide if we want this,” she replied. Was that laughter bubbling just under the surface?
“I would not have waved you over here if I didn’t,” Hector said.
“And I had not come to you if I didn’t,” the woman said.
Hector smiled. Good. She was exactly as decisive as he had hoped.
“Come with me,” she said and motioned for him to follow her up the broad staircase. She hitched up her skirt with one hand and rested the other lightly on the banister. The high heels of her shoes sank soundlessly into the carpet. Upstairs the music and the voices were only a vague buzz. The woman led Hector through a corridor to a door. Inside was a bedroom or a boudoir.
“Would you like another drink? Or would you rather just ..?” She let the question hang in the air.
“I would like another drink, please,” Hector replied and sat down in the chair she offered him. It looked more like a painting of a room than an actual room where someone lived. But she probably didn’t. It was her workplace.
“Yes. Thank you.” So she had noticed what he was drinking. Professional. He studied her as she poured him a glass and then one for herself. She sat down on the bed with as straight a back as she probably had to in the corset. She appeared to be studying him as well. She looked a bit younger than him, but she was old enough to exhibit confidence and experience. “What may I call you?” he asked.
“Sera,” she replied. Hector doubted it was her given name. “And you, hunter?”
“My name is Hector.”
“Hector …” She savoured the word and then smiled. “Are you here alone, Hector? Not in here, I mean, but in Darmstadt.”
He nodded. “I am.”
Sera crossed her legs and looked at him over the glass. “That’s a little odd, isn’t it? Don’t you usually travel in pairs?”
“You know other hunters, then?” he asked, a little too pointedly. “I’m sorry. That is none of my business. I usually hunt alone.”
“Is it the first time you visit someone like me, Hector?” Sera asked.
“No.” He smiled and shook his head. But it was the first time he was in a place as luxurious as this.
“Well then,” Sera said and let her gaze wander up and down his body. It was a strange relief to see approval in her smile. “What do you want, hunter?”
“I want you. And then … How long time do we have?”
“As long as you are willing to pay for.”
Money was not an issue. Of course he shouldn’t squander it on brothels, but he was not in the habit of that. He needed to relax once in a while, and this ought to be one way of doing it. If he shouldn’t be allowed to unwind between missions, then who should?
Sera smiled at him. She was glad the hunter was her client tonight. She always had a choice, they all did, but unless a client was repulsive or seemed abusive, they didn’t make a habit of saying no. Sera had been with a hunter before. Just like men from every other walk of life, they came here occasionally. Last year there had been a young hunter and his master. She had ended up with the one who was old enough to be her father. He was missing two fingers on one hand and had more scars than she could count, but despite his age and handicaps, he had been very enthusiastic in bed. He hadn’t seemed to care much about whether she enjoyed it or not. And granted, Sera was not paid to enjoy anything, but it was a fact that she was willing to do a bit more if she did. They had standards here, and she liked a good roll in the proverbial hay as well as anyone.
And now this Hector … Was he a good roll in the hay? He certainly wasn’t unattractive. He was well-built, muscular and very clean despite his worn coat and horrible hat. He had all his limbs intact, too. Sera unbuttoned his shirt, and only years of experience with seeing strange and private bits of the human body kept her from frowning at the number of scars and bruises. So not all that intact, after all. Most of the scars were faded and old, but two of them ran down his collarbone from the shoulder, and they were still red. Meanwhile, the hunter solemnly repaid the favour of relieving her of some of her clothes. When he got to the corset, he turned out to be surprisingly good at the unlacing process.
She reached up to kiss him. His lips were dry, but not hard. He still hadn’t told her what he wanted. Was he shy? Or did he have a problem down there? His gaze met hers steadily. Perhaps he was just a little unimaginative. Sera kept from smiling at the thought. She could do that later with the other girls. They hadn’t taken a vow of silence. She knew that Isabel preferred men under twenty-five although she had turned thirty for the past seven years, that Tatjana had visited a married couple in their house last week, and she knew what policeman Alice hid her handcuffs from because they had mysteriously disappeared from his pocket after he had spent a night in her bed. Well, hopefully Sera would be able to tell an exciting tale of the hunter.
Whatever she had expected from him, she was surprised. He was very attentive. It was almost adorable. A big, strong hunter like him. She would not have been shocked to see roughness or a certain degree of sophistication from that kind, but there was none of that.
Afterwards, they were lying naked on the bed next to each other. The hunter’s chest was heaving. He was sweating a bit, and the room smelled of sex. His eyes were closed now, but he wasn’t asleep. What was going on in his head?
Sera rolled over and put one leg across the hunter’s. He started, but then he smiled. Sera let a hand slide across his chest. All of a sudden, he grew tense. “What? Oh. I’m sorry.” She had been stroking the bruise on his chest without realising.
“No harm done,” he replied. His voice was sleepy.
“Was it a werewolf?”
He wasn’t very informative. Sera considered her next move. He didn’t seem to be about to leave. She let her hand wander down his torso and began to caress him. Was he getting ready for another round? She could give him a hand.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
Sera stopped and frowned. Oh, yes she was. But she hadn’t expected him to say it while she was giving him this sort of attention. “Thank you. You’re not so bad, yourself,” she returned.
The hunter looked at her with an almost humble expression while he removed her hand.
Sera hid a smile. He was one of those, wasn’t he? “Would you like to stay and sleep here?” she enquired.
“Is it acceptable?” he asked. “Or do you have others to attend to?”
“Everything is acceptable if you pay for it. Almost anything at least.” She kissed his scruffy cheek. “You are welcome to spend the night in my bed, hunter.”
She studied him for a while. Most of them only came for the sex. And the rest wanted to talk. About themselves, their sad childhood, their unsympathetic wives ... “Won’t you tell me a bit about yourself?” she tried.
The hunter frowned a little. “What do you want to know?”
“You must have an eventful life. I imagine you travel a lot.”
Sera sighed. He really did not talk much. He was so stoic that the roof could cave in right now and he would probably just shrug and walk through the debris. “And you’re here because of your work, I assume. Are you from Frankfurt? Is your wife waiting for you back home?”
Hector’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, Frankfurt,” he said after a moment. “I just finished my work here. I’m returning tomorrow, but not to a wife.”
Sera nodded. She hadn’t expected it. When they did have a wife at home, they always wanted to play games that the wife wouldn’t let them. Besides, he seemed strangely lonely. Not sad, not really. Perhaps a better word than lonely was merely alone. “And you don’t have a partner. Another hunter, I mean.”
“No,” he said, a little too definitely, “I don’t.”
The next morning, Sera watched the hunter dress and get ready to leave. She went downstairs with him to say goodbye, past the almost empty bar, the boy who was sweeping the floor, and the nosy barman who was pretending to be wiping glasses although he was clearly busy scrutinising the hunter.
“Thank you for your visit, hunter,” Sera said and reached up to kiss him.
“The pleasure was mine,” Hector replied and returned her kiss.
“When do you expect to find yourself in Darmstadt again?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. In a month or two probably. I go where my assignments take me.”
Sera sent him one of her best smiles. “I hope to see you then.”
The hunter grinned. It was the first such expression she saw on his face. He took her hand and kissed it lightly. “Thank you. I will be looking forward to it.”
“Good hunt, Hector.”
“Thank you. Goodbye.”
Sera leaned against the door frame as he went. He put on his hat and adjusted the straps on his bag as he began to walk. He never looked back over his shoulder. Not once. She would have blown him a kiss if he did. She shook her head and closed the door. Hopefully he would be back. She had made it pretty clear that she wanted to see him again. It would be interesting to explore his potential a little, perhaps teach him something new. It had been a while since any client had made her feel like this.
She wasn’t in love. She was not romantic enough to think that for one moment. It was fascination and a sensation of desire, and the physical part didn’t weigh heavily. He was unexpectedly … She searched for a suitable word. Innocent was a strange one to use, but it was the closest that she could get. And he was a hunter. Not that many of them around, especially not the attractive ones. She desired the privilege, the prestige of having a certified werewolf hunter visit her bed.
Well, he would be back. He had enjoyed her, and he wanted what she could give him. Perhaps even needed it. Not just the sex. When and if he came back, it would be for the casual intimacy.