Two nights later, Claire was sitting alone in the room of the inn next to Haven and his mistresses’ room. She glanced up from the dress she was trying to force herself to return to making, as a way of having some part of her life still be the same as it was when she truly had life. She scowled and looked at the door to the room, noting that this was the third night in a row that Sean had disappeared to the pub, when he had not even been all that interested in the consumption of alcohol back when he had been able to ingest it at all.
She then had another thought occur to her, and it was a bit more unsettling. If he had no use for alcohol, what other interest could a pub and brothel now hold for him? She tried to talk herself down from that new worry, and not think about the fact that she and Sean had not actually made love once since her embrace. She spent these months believing that their lack of sexual intimacy was simply because the Kiss satisfied them in the same sort of way, but now that he had disappeared three nights in a row, her brain was making up all sorts of things to fill in those blanks with.
Claire then closed her eyes as if to blink away those thoughts, and tried to logically reason that he was probably only wandering away from her side to feed. After all, it was obvious that his constantly feeding on Ana was bothering her. Not to mention how exhausted Ana and Chan had both seemed of late, especially with the constant blood loss on top of their lack of actual rest. Claire sighed again, convincing herself that Sean’s disappearances had to have been in order to attain sustenance. Though, somehow, that thought wasn’t extremely comforting either, despite knowing it was something that she would have to accept for the rest of their lives, or rather, for the rest of time, itself.
Her dark thoughts were soon interrupted though, once Sean did return to her room that night. Only, he was not alone. He looked a little more than uneasy as he moved thru the door, and continued to hold it open as a young blonde woman entered looking quite eager, and then quite startled as her eyes fell upon where Claire sat in the chair near to their bed.
“Oh, hi.” the woman, who barely looked much older than nineteen or twenty, swallowed hard as her eyes nervously moved over Claire, who looked just as shocked at the other woman’s presence.
“Claire, this is Baila.” Sean introduced them warily as he closed the door behind him.
“Baila?” Claire swallowed as she nervously set aside the dress, her movements stiff as she looked over the young woman who was dressed in the highly promiscuous style of all the ladies of the evening she had caught brief glimpses of during their travels. Baila’s dress was slit down the front, high enough to expose the nearly translucent undergarment, and she wore a corset that was brightly colored and obviously too small to even completely cover her nipples if she were only to lean slightly forward.
“She’s going to be our servant.” Sean spoke just as nervously as the two women looked between each other.
“Servant?” Claire repeated more loudly than she had meant to.
“To watch over us during the day: The way Chan and Ana do with Haven.” he added, trying to force confidence into his voice, despite how worried he was about Claire’s response to such a major change.
“Sean, she’s a complete stranger!” Claire told him furtively as she stood, noting that Baila said nothing, simply looking downwards, quite unsure of the whole situation, herself, still, but somehow not voicing any concerns or dissent.
Sean swallowed again as he took a slight step towards Claire, leaving Baila standing quietly inside the door to their room, “Haven showed me how to bind her, the way Ana and Chan are bound to him. She will protect me with her life, meaning, she’ll protect you with her life.” he attempted to assure.
Claire didn’t look any less uneasy as she looked around him at where the girl stood quietly, almost as though waiting on her instructions, “She’s bound to you?” Claire repeated in the same whisper.
“That’s what I’ve been doing these last three nights. It takes three drinks.” he added more quietly.
“So,” she swallowed again, her eyes not moving from Baila, “she feels about you, the way they feel about him?” she asked, still speaking in the same slow monotone.
“That’s what the bond does.” he nodded slowly.
“She thinks she loves you then.” Claire returned, the words barely escaping.
“And you can give her your blood too. She’ll feel that way about both of us.” he told her, trying to sound assuring, though it was difficult with the way her emerald eyes snapped up at the sound of his words, “But that just serves to assure us that she’ll never hurt either of us, or let anyone else do so.” he pointed out again.
“I wouldn’t, ma’am.” Baila attempted to assure her as well, as it was obvious that was what Sean wanted to do, and whatever Sean wanted, she was sure, was exactly what she wanted now, with all her heart.
Claire just shook her head and turned away from the girl, “And I thought being what we now are, that that was unbelievable.” she scoffed, “Not as unbelievable as having you bring home another woman who loves you. I never saw that coming. That’s for sure.” she whispered.
“Claire,” Sean began, attempting to move to comfort her, “you know it’s not like that. Yes, she thinks she loves me, but the bond makes that feeling unavoidable. But you know, and know well, that way before any bond could even exist, you are the only woman that I have ever loved. The only one I will ever love, love for real. No bond will ever change that.” he promised her as he wrapped his arms around her from behind, gently kissing the back of her head, and not even looking back to see the way his words or actions may have hurt Baila to hear or see them.
Though, despite that pain, Baila did not move. She could not move. As she now no longer could even bear the thought to be away from this man, who had been nothing but a complete stranger to her, only a mere three nights earlier, before she had been brought into this dark new world: This dark new addiction.
Sean gave Claire another gentle squeeze from behind before finally releasing her from his grip and turning back toward their newly acquired companion, “Go ahead and find yourself some supper, or introduce yourself to the other servants, just be sure to return before dawn.” he instructed her with brevity, but gentleness as well.
“Yes, Sean.” she offered him a slight smile and bow before heading from the room once more without question.
“Claire.” he began softly as he turned back to where she still faced away from him, simply staring blankly at the wall of their room, “You have to know, honestly know, that this is not in any way a desire to have another woman in my life. It’s the opposite, really. We need her so we will be safe, and so we can be together forever, just like the plan was. You have to know that.” he repeated.
She sighed as well, “Yes I know that, but I also know that the servants have needs, needs that are way beyond a normal person’s.” she stated, sounding somehow more worried than angry.
“Haven warned you about that, then?” Sean returned in the same quiet tone.
“No, Chan and Ana did though.” another sigh.
“As long as you and I give her a drink often enough, she should be ok.” Sean hoped aloud, “And still, if that’s not enough, we can get another servant. We should probably have two anyway, when you think about it.”
Claire just shook her head, “What if she hates me, just because I’m with you? What then?” she asked even more quietly.
“From what I understand, she can’t possibly harm anyone I love, and even if she does have some kind of jealousy, she will keep it in check. The bond makes it so, from everything Haven has told me.”
Claire shook her head once more, “I just hope you’re right, Sean.” she gave into his argument, though the question remained; did she give in because she wanted to, or because her own bond to Sean ‘made it so.’
It took until the following month for their party, now a party of six, to make it to Ohio. In that time, Baila had remained the only servant that Sean and Claire now shared with one another. Though in that time, there were hardly any interactions at all between the two women who now shared Sean’s sleeping quarters on a regular basis. The two simply regarded each other silently, both seeming intimidated by the other, somehow. However, in regards to the sleeping arrangements, Baila usually was asleep at night whilst Sean and Claire still spent time with each other or the other members of their party who were awake from one night to the next.
The fact of this sort of separation, depending on the time of day, did help ever so slightly, but during the ‘crossover’ hours, when they were all awake, usually packing or unpacking their belongings into or out of carriages or nightly shelters, there was still a bit of tension.
On this particular night, those hours were spent as the carriage approached a small farmhouse set off from the road. Haven’s eyes moved from his place at the reins next to Claire and Sean while the halting of the carriage slowly woke the sleeping servants inside the carriage. He scanned the cabin and then turned his eyes back toward them.
“It’s abandoned.” he offered after surveying the area around the place.
“No inn tonight?” Claire responded quietly.
“We’re on one of the long stretches between towns, according to the map, so this will have to do.” Haven responded, causing a slightly worried sigh from his two companions who had grown accustomed to the security that an inn at least seemed to imply, when in actuality, the less humans they were surrounded by during the day, the safer they would actually be likely to be, “Which is another reason why I wanted you to get at least one of your servants before we got to these parts of the trip.” he reminded the two of them pointedly, causing Claire to look down once more, still not quite comfortable with Baila’s addition to their group.
“I guess I’ll start helping them take stuff inside.” Sean offered an interruption to the awkward silence as they neared the abandoned home.
Haven simply nodded in response as Claire averted her eyes, feeling like she should offer to help as well, but still not wanting to prolong any contact with Baila when she could help it. She knew Sean claimed to have no real feelings for the girl, but it still was hard for her to see the way Baila’s eyes always were glued to him, adoringly, lovingly, constantly.
Haven glanced over as he watched Claire’s eyes unable to move away from Baila anyway, as the women and Sean began taking items into the cabin which they easily gained access to, considering, “Let’s check to see if there’s any wood around for a fire.” he offered Claire as a slight reprieve from watching the blonde girl’s lust filled gaze on Sean while they moved to and from the carriage.
Haven just smiled slightly before moving down from the carriage and offering his hand to help her step down as well, “Though they won’t get sick from the cold, I doubt the servants would really enjoy shivering the rest of the night and all day.” he returned with another smile as she stepped down into the coating of snow upon the ground.
Claire then regarded him closely as he moved about, seeing first if the former owners had left any fire wood behind. Then she finally had to speak up as he began gathering some kindling, “You actually do care about them, don’t you?” she asked, swallowing hard thru the question.
“Them?” he returned as he located a rusty hatchet stuck into a nearby stump, feigning innocence of her meaning.
“Your servants.” she returned, doubting that he needed the clarification, despite his response.
“They’ve been with me for a long time.” was his only response as he moved about, assuming she would follow, as she did.
“I’ve gotta ask you something, then.” she finally continued bravely after a few moments of him handing her a few smaller pieces of wood to get the fire started before dawn was upon them once more.
“Ask away, my dear.” he responded, still not looking back from his tasks, though wearing a half-smile, not so much inspired by the fact of whatever her question was to be, but more by the fact that she was at least attempting to interact at all.
She steeled herself before finally finding the words to start with, then decided to hide behind a simile after all, “I suppose it’s sort of a chicken or egg question.” she attempted.
“Care to elaborate?” he smiled again, only looking back at her briefly before moving off toward another nearby tree which had a few low-hanging limbs.
She finally forced herself to finally put the thought into words, “Do you care about them because they’re your lovers, or are they your lovers, because you care about them?”
Haven then looked back at her once more, somehow not quite expecting that question, and narrowing his eyes a bit to dissect such a question, before offering any kind of response.
“Things are different with them and me. They’re more family than servants.” he returned, his words coming so close to echoing those that Chantarell had shared with Sean all those years ago.
“Different than what?” Claire returned, hoping upon hope he was comparing his relationship with them to the one that Sean may eventually have with Baila, but needing it clearer.
“Different than most of my other servants.” he stated simply as he piled up a few more small pieces of wood near his feet before continuing, “I care about the well-being of all my servants, but Ana she came to me, desperate for some kind of acceptance and love, thanks to what had happened to her because of one of my former servants. And Chan, she was born in my home, it’s the only one she’s ever known. So yes, things are very different with the two of them than they had been with my previous servants.” another slight glance back at her, “Does that help?” he finally added, honestly having an idea of why she asked, even without stating it.
“So, they’re your lovers because you care about them, then?” she rephrased.
“I suppose that would be the answer, wouldn’t it?” Haven smiled slightly, seeming to just realize it himself.
Then Claire bravely asked him for even more clarity, for the simple sake of her own piece of mind, “So, you didn’t make love with the servants you had before them?” she asked, her voice breaking a bit as she spoke.
Haven simply looked away once more, not really answering her question, verbally, anyway. Though his answer was obvious, which only served to cause her to look down quickly as well, a fear passing thru her eyes again.
“I never had anyone else to love, not the way you and Sean have each other.” he spoke quietly a moment later, finally attempting to give her that assurance she had been asking for all along.
Claire sighed once more, trying again to find her voice, “So, you don’t think he’ll sleep with her then?”
Haven sighed in return, not really wanting to have to try and answer that question, as his psychic abilities only went so far, after all. Instead, he gave her the most truthful answer he honestly could, “Even if that ever happened, it wouldn’t change the way he feels for you. Not even death could, and I’m pretty sure nothing or no one else ever would, either.”