Though Ash most often appeared to be a man who had no emotions, including any kind of apparent weakness known to most as sadness, Baila’s words managed to cut him, due mainly to the feelings forced upon him through Claire’s blood.
“What do you know of love?” he returned to her coolly, “You have spent your life pretending at love in the pursuit of wealth, when you must know that the two have nothing to do with one another.” he added pointedly.
Baila’s eyes turned downwards again as she took a long, broken breath, she finally responded, “It is true that I have sold my affections to the highest bidder, as it was the only way I knew to survive.” another breathy pause, “But that does not mean I know nothing of love. I have loved. I do love.” she whispered.
“Then where is this love of yours if he is not here with you? Or do you truly only mean the man lying before us?” he asked as his eyes moved briefly over to where Sean and Claire still slept, mere feet away.
“No, I am not only referring to Sean.” she admitted, “There is another that I do love with all my heart.” she told him softly.
“Then why is he not with you? Why does he allow you to live here as the mistress of another man?” Ash continued, almost seeming desperate to finally understand those around him, as his confusion about all the facts of this new life were beginning to wear on him more and more with each day that he spent among them.
“I’m not talking about a lover of mine, Ash.” she admitted as tears welled up in her eyes.
Baila took a deep breath before looking back towards where their companions still slept soundly through the day, before forcing an answer, “I am talking about my child. The child who was taken from me to be raised by a complete family, by a fit mother: A mother who his father believed would know how to love him better than his own. After all, I was what I was…and that is not anything that a mother should be, in his opinion, anyway.” she choked a bit on the words, “To him, I was only fit to satisfy his lust, not to raise his son. But I do love my child, and I do know what love is, I just don’t know how to prove that to my little boy’s father. So, I continued with the only life I knew. Until now, now Sean could possibly give me a better life, a life where I might someday be seen as being fit to raise my own child. So yes, I love Sean for that chance, and I love my son, and only wish I could show either of them, someday.” she managed in a whisper as she wiped at her eyes with another broken breath.
Ash was quiet a long time, trying to take in her lengthy response and sift through all of her words, before finally speaking, “And you believe being his mistress will make you more respectable to your child’s father?” was all he asked.
Baila sighed quietly before replying, “Sean doesn’t call me his mistress. He calls me his servant. And being a wealthy family’s servant, or even one man’s mistress, is still better than being every man’s whore, isn’t it?” she asked quietly, though still did not look back at Ash as she spoke.
Then it was Ash’s turn to sigh as he looked down in thought, “And that is why you are here? To someday get your child back? Not simply to be this man’s whore?” he asked contemplatively.
“I greatly desire Sean’s love, but I will survive with his respect, especially if it means gaining any of my own at all, someday.” she admitted as she looked back at Sean lovingly once more.
There was another long silence as Baila reclaimed her seat though remained staring somberly down at the floor before her. At last, Ash chose to give in to sharing more words with her, “They give you their blood as well, as they do with me, and the way Haven does with the other two women, correct?”
“Yes. Sean told me it was to share their strength with us, so we could protect them at these daylight hours, when they are unable protect themselves.” she responded, allowing herself to glance back at Ash from the corner of her sad blue eyes.
“And their blood, it strengthens our bodies as well as our hungers and our desires. That is true for all of us?” he asked as he glanced toward the wall where, on the opposite side, Ana and Chantarell guarded Haven throughout the day.
“Yes, I believe so. Why do you ask?” Baila questioned, furrowing her brow as she finally glanced more directly at him.
“To know that it was not only I who felt these things, this strongly. To know how to slow those desires if, if Claire will truly not help me to fill them, herself.”
It was now the night of the spring solstice when Claire, Chantarell and Ana had made their way out to the field behind their current home to prepare for their celebration of the holiday. Inside the living area of the home, Baila sat in a chair near the sofa, attempting to repair a rip in a set of drapes. Haven lounged upon the sofa trailing his finger around the rim of a glass of thick red liquid, which was a donation left over from the ham that the servants had dined on earlier. In one corner of the room, Ash sat attempting to clean the saddles that his housemates used while riding their horses through the surrounding countryside on occasional evenings. In the other corner, Sean sat making a quiet attempt at his writing once more.
Haven finally spoke up to Sean to interrupt the silence of the room, despite the others present, “So how have things been, Sean?” he asked him in his usual quiet, thoughtful tone.
“Things?” Sean asked as he took a moment to glance at where Ash quickly moved his eyes to the window as Sean’s fell upon him, before Sean redirected his gaze to Haven again.
“With Claire.” Haven stated simply, as both Ash and Baila averted their eyes further while Sean’s gaze cooled considerably.
“You live here too. So why ask about what should be made obvious just by your mere nearness to the situation at all?” Sean told him in a hushed monotone.
“I ask because the truth is not always as obvious as one would think it to be.” Haven returned.
“Isn’t the truth always obvious to you?” Sean shot back pointedly.
“You cannot be surprised by me feeling that you are angry, Sean. That is obvious in every word you speak, and even more obvious in those you choose not to speak.” Haven told him simply as he took another sip.
Sean simply glared back at his statement, then redirected his attention to Baila, “It’s late, Baila. You should get your rest before morning.” he told her plainly, causing her to simply nod, set aside the drapes, and hurry to ascend the stairs without questioning his words at all. That was when Haven simply watched Sean’s reaction as he turned his eyes in the direction of his wife’s servant as well, “I think the saddles are clean enough, Ash. I’m sure you can find another way to pass your time tonight.” he told the dark-skinned man just as plainly.
Ash’s eyes at first darkened at having a white man speak to him as though he were nothing more than a servant, despite the truth of those roles, but due to his belief in Claire's true nature, as well as that of the two men, he still spoke evenly, “The other women, they are outside celebrating the coming spring, tonight?” he asked as he set aside the saddle.
“Yes, they always celebrate the solstices.” Sean returned, keeping his own tone even as he still held Haven in the corner of his eyesight.
“I shall go and join them, then. For my people also celebrate such occasions.” he replied in an equally quiet tone before moving from the room as well.
“Did that make you feel better?” Haven finally asked Sean as Ash departed.
“Why do you do that?” Sean asked Haven, his eyes still narrowed in obvious irritation.
“Do what?” Haven asked with an innocent shrug and another sip, “Ask about the well-being of my childe?”
“Ask about how Claire is feeling, especially in the presence of the two main reasons for the way she is feeling.” Sean pointed out, despite having every assurance that Haven had known exactly what he meant.
Haven simply sighed before answering, “I suppose I am still hoping that someday you two will finally be able to move past this, to move on together, the way you had been for the twelve long years before now.”
“I honestly don’t even know if…” Sean began, then just shook his head with a sigh of defeat before changing gears, slightly, “Why do you keep asking the same questions, Haven? Do you honestly think there will ever be a different answer?”
Haven sighed once more before responding, “There is a difference between thinking there will be a different answer, and hoping there will be.”
Sean just shook his head, and barely lifted his voice to return, “Why does it even matter to you?”
“Because, Sean, I’ve been communicating with my own sire in recent nights.”
“How? I thought he was living thousands of miles west of here.” Sean returned in confusion.
“He is my sire. He is even more powerful than I am. We do not need to be in the same place to speak our thoughts to one another, or hear one another’s thoughts. It’s something you and Claire could also learn, someday.” he informed, though his voice dropped a bit as he finished the sentence.
Sean just shook his head before speaking again, “What does your sire have to do with Claire and I, again?”
“Because, he would like me to be our clan’s Primogen.” Haven returned, though briefly.
“You have already told me that, though, Haven.”
“Taking this position means going there, to the west, to set up a new life for myself and my servants, there.” Haven further informed.
“I already knew that too, wasn’t that what we were basing this entire trip upon?” Sean returned as his brow furrowed once more.
“Yes, Sean, but you know how difficult it is to keep all three of us hidden from the human world during our journey. Hiding only one of our kind is far easier than three.”
“You’re saying you don’t want me and Claire to come with you, after all?” he asked Haven with a bit of worry obvious in his tone.
“It is not so much about not wanting you to come, as it is about knowing that you two need time, time to come to terms with all of this: With this whole new life you now have, before I can ever hope that you will both have your wits about you enough to safely journey so far together, all of us depending on each other’s strength and intelligence to keep us all hidden from the world. You need to both find a way of accepting all the things about your new lives before you can ever expect to value and care about those lives enough to keep yourselves, and all of us, safe, Sean.”
Sean looked down in hurt silence for a long moment before having to get a clearer picture of Haven’s true worries, “You think she and I will endanger you, then?”
“Your hearts are hurting so badly, that it isn’t allowing any time for your minds to be clear enough to plot and plan and those are skills you will need, desperately, to ever survive eternity. The fact that I have never had someone live in my heart, as you two live in each other’s, means that I never had to deal with the kind of pain that you two are feeling right now. And until you find some way past this pain, some way to accept a new sort of life, neither of you will ever be able to think clearly enough to survive at all. And you need to learn that, together, without me to hide behind. It’s time to move forward in your own lives, rather than just merely being the ones who stand behind me, moving through mine with me, and looking to me for the solutions that only the two of you could ever truly find on your own. You know I’m right about this, Sean. It’s not a rejection; it’s letting my childe, and his childe, finally find their own way. Finding that way will be the only key to surviving this new life and gaining the strength you will need to survive eternity, at all.”
Upon stepping outside and reaching the field behind the house, Ash’s dark eyes immediately moved to the fire the three women had built. The three now moved around the flames in barely more than their undergarments as they praised the sky above for bringing them yet another season of rebirth and beauty for the world around them. Ash swallowed a bit as he slowly approached, taking in their celebration in awe of the fact that there before him, three white women, be they spirits or mortals, celebrated in a manner so similar to that of his own people.
Claire’s heightened senses were the first to make her aware of his presence, as she averted her eyes, trying to appear innocent of his own gaze on her as they continued the celebration. Though, when Chantarell spied his approach, her own nature, as well as her desire to see honest happiness around her once more, caused her to leave the circle to move to where he watched them from the edge of the field.
“Come celebrate the mother with us, Ash.” she told him with a smile as she reached for his hand and pulled him into their circle as well.
Despite his remaining wariness of all of the members of their race, seeing that their beliefs seemed to so closely mirror his own people’s, as well as the fact of how drawn he was to Claire, already, Ash did let Chantarell pull him into their celebration without argument.
As they danced late into the fire lit night, Ana and Chantarell took it upon themselves to pull away Ash’s extra clothing as all four danced around each other, now all dressed in the bare minimum as they weaved in and out of each other’s arms throughout the dance. The entire time, Claire attempted to appear unruffled by them bringing him into the circle with them, though she still could not help tensing each and every time their fingers, hands or arms came into contact with one another throughout the dance.
It was during one of those many moments of the dance bringing them together, that Ash’s desire for her caused him to give in further to those heightened urges her blood had now cursed him with. As they joined each other in the fire light once more, he changed the step slightly, and pulled her in close to his body. One hand gently gripped her wrist, while the other moved to the small of her back, where her remaining corset barely hid her breasts from his sight. Now, only the loin cloth he had worn over his pants, and her thin undergarment separated their hips as he pressed himself against her throughout the dance in an obvious imitation of the true desires he held for her body that night.
Giving into his longing for her further, Ash’s lips trailed several kisses over her neck as the two got lost in their own dance, rather than the group dance they had been part of only moments earlier. Easily noting the change in the interaction between Ash and Claire, who somehow did not fight his passionate reworking of the dance, Ana and Chantarell simply smiled to one another and moved away from the fire to allow the two to continue their dance in private.
By the time Claire even managed to notice the departure of the other two women, Ash further intensified their encounter again. He moved his lips from where he had been placing kisses upon her neck to now spread those kisses downward over where her chest swelled over the top of the corset. The hand on the small of her back pulled her even more tightly against his body as the hand at her wrist moved to her chest. He continued the kisses over the swell of her breasts as his hand then found the top of the corset, urgently yanking the stiffened material away from her snow colored flesh to easily expose her nipple, taking it into his mouth as she let out a tiny gasp but found herself not able to pull away from where he continued tasting her skin, hardening further against where he still held her tight to his hips.
Only a few brief, intense moments passed before Claire found herself being pulled to the ground with him, their bodies still illuminated by the fire light as they reached the recently thawed earth. Claire having yet to find the strength to push him away, Ash needed no further encouragement to reach down to where she now lay upon the ground below him and move his hands to pull her undergarment down her legs to expose her even more fully to his dark, lust filled eyes.
Still suffering the shock of seeing the true urgency in his advances, Claire’s voice was still lost to her as she simply looked up at him in the fire light. He only looked silently back down on her with some volatile combination of passionate longing and pure lust before leaning downwards. His long locks teased her thighs as he easily spread them below him and began moving his kisses to the place that had previously only been known to one man in all of the previous thirty years of her life. She let her head fall back and her emerald eyes tightly close against the combination of fire light and moonlight as Ash slid his tongue inside her. Her body immediately heated to his touch, and her powerful, addictive blood rushed forth to wake all of those nerves of hers, allowing Ash to instead fulfill the one desire that was even stronger in him than the need that had originally driven him to touch her in such a passionate way as this, at all.