When Aidan did return to Haven’s home that night, he found Erica sitting outside looking rather sullen “did you grow bored eavesdropping already?” he smiled in greeting, his voice startling her into sitting up quickly, wiping away any remnants of tears that may have still been gracing her cheeks.
She took a breath before finding her voice “all they ever talk about is the bad vampires who…who have been attacking settlers” Erica offered as she looked down again.
Aidan then looked around warily for a moment before speaking again as he made his way toward where she sat on the ground, her back against the outer wall next to Haven’s front door “if there are bad vampires about, perhaps you shouldn’t be outside alone dear heart” he stated quietly as he reached her.
“I’m not alone now” she said softly, looking down as she blushed once more, which did cause another smile from Aidan.
“I suppose you are not” he agreed as he took a seat next to her and couldn’t help moving his eyes to the stars and moon above, as he was still a Toreador after all.
Taking a moment to catch her breath as he sat close enough that they were nearly touching, she finally spoke up again “I just didn’t want to be in there with her anymore” she whispered.
“Her?” he asked as he looked over at her with a raised brow.
“Sorry” she whispered, looking down again.
“What on earth for?” he returned.
“I know you’re….” she just shook her head, not able to put that thought into words just yet.
“You know I’m what?” he pressed, though gently.
“I know you’re courting her and I shouldn’t say…”
“Wait, who am I courting now? I would rather like to know a thing like that” he smiled back at her.
“Aren’t you with…? I mean aren’t you and Awsha… aren’t you courting her?” Erica stammered, trying to force her eyes back to his face.
Aidan couldn’t help the laugh that passed his lips “Who on earth told you that?” he grinned as he watched for her response.
“Well I just thought…” she simply looked away with a brighter blush.
“Did Awsha somehow give you that impression?” he had to ask, not quite able to imagine Awsha discussing boys she liked with the human girl who she had simply seen as a pawn to be manipulated into waking her from her recently indisposed state.
“She just said that... Never mind” she added more quietly.
“Please I would love to know what she said” he returned curiously.
“She sort of insinuated that you and she…” she shook her head again “were together. I mean not ‘together’ but that you had been together” she finished in a nearly inaudible tone.
“Oh” he glanced up at the sky again with another more awkward smile “you mean as in intimately?” he clarified, which simply caused Erica to blush again.
“Sorry it is really not any of my business. I shouldn’t have said anything” Erica apologized with further embarrassment.
“You do realize that I knew Awsha clean back in 1672, before she was even Kindred, right?” he informed, though with the same gentleness.
“You mean that’s when you were with her?” she asked with slight hopefulness as she dared to cast the tiniest glance back toward him.
“Well yes, then too but…” then it was he who took the moment to finish his sentence “I am 134 years old. I may have acquired intimate knowledge of one or two ladies in that vast amount of time” he informed as eloquently as possible.
“Well of course I didn’t think you were…” Erica shook her head “and I know you were with Claire. Although I don’t quite understand the story behind that, since she’s been with Sean since…forever” she decided on “but at least I could understand why you would have liked Claire, that way” she cleared her throat “but Awsha is…so different than Claire” she decided on.
Aidan was a bit caught by her knowledge of he and Claire’s relations, but he attempted to move on from that “not to try and sound condescending or anything, because that is not my intention” he assured “but when you’ve been alive for well over a century, you tend to have slightly different views about intimacy than most mortals do” he stated slowly.
“So… you don’t really like Awsha… like that?” she asked with her own mix of wariness and hopefulness.
“Awsha has certain appealing qualities” a pause “but I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m smitten with her or anything” he assured.
“She’s an evil, horrible, terrible, bad person” Erica returned forcefully, not able to hold the words back any longer.
“Or that” Aidan agreed with another awkward smile.
“They didn’t tell you what Awsha did to Claire, or me, did they?” Erica replied, hoping that he couldn’t possibly have known of all of Awsha’s misdeeds and still somehow wanted her.
“Not much of it” he admitted as he turned back to her “Awsha said she somehow convinced you to get her out of the box they put her in for nearly a decade. And that was about all I heard about it” he added softly.
Erica then took another breath and looked back at the house behind them, where Awsha was indeed inside “I can tell you the rest. But I don’t want to, here” she added more quietly.
“All right sweet girl, where do you wanna go?” he asked as he stood and offered her his hand.
“Anywhere away from her” Erica answered as she stood and shakily took his hand.
The two of them eventually made their way to a beautiful secluded cove nearly half a mile down the beach from Haven’s home “well, this is quite gorgeous” Aidan stated as Erica led him into the cove, though his eyes did move to his companion for a moment as he made the observation.
“Yes, I found it a few weeks ago. No one can even see you in here until they get to the opening” she smiled as she moved to a blanket that she had left there upon her last visit.
“Good to know” he couldn’t help a small smile as he moved to take a seat next to her on the blanket “so you were about to tell me about all of Awsha’s crimes against humanity and Kindred alike?” he prodded, honestly curious to hear a different version of the story than the picture Awsha had painted to obviously color herself as the sole victim in the scenario.
Erica just shook her head sadly “I know they all say that this blood bond or whatever will keep her from hurting anyone again. But I’ll never trust her” she admitted.
“What exactly did she do to you?” he had to know, becoming more concerned by this young girl’s obvious trauma.
“I mean, it wasn’t just me. This all started when she used her powers on Sean or something, and he and Claire lost their business because of it, I think” she shrugged.
“Yes that would be about the only part of the story that I already know, considering I was there on that particular night” he agreed.
“Then I guess she kept trying to get Sean to… be with her again” she decided on, “and when he rejected her…”
“Yes?” he encouraged.
“She tried to kill Claire, Aidan” she looked up at him sadly, seeing that he did indeed appear to have not been aware of that fact, “she actually put a stake clean through Claire’s heart; just because Sean loved Claire instead of her” she shook her head again, her breath shaky at this point.
“That does seem to be a bit of an extreme reaction” he agreed, eyes down, voice low.
“And that was just the beginning” Erica informed as she took another deep breath “when Sean came in, he thought that she had killed Claire. He totally lost control.”
“Frenzied” Aidan supplied the word for her, but in a whisper as he remembered he could have very nearly caused that same reaction in Sean on the night of his own rebirth, had he just taken a little more blood from Claire.
“Sean attacked her, and it put her into some kind of coma or something. Haven stopped Sean before he could kill her though, because he didn’t want Sean to become a murderer” she added with another shaky breath.
“And that’s where the ‘locked in a coffin’ bit came in?” Aidan questioned.
“Yes, she was locked away like that for eight years and…” she sniffled a bit.
“And there’s more than that?” he asked with a raised brow.
“While she was like that, she was still able to speak, like mentally speak, with the weakest one here” she stifled a small sob.
“You?” he easily followed her statement.
“I was only a seven year old little girl then, and she would force herself into my mind every single night for eight long years, Aidan” she choked out the words as she wiped at escaped tears “she would just go on and on about how Claire didn’t deserve Sean and they both needed to be punished for what they did to her, and how she’d get even, and just endless nights of that” another breath “I thought I was losing my mind… for eight years” she repeated.
Aidan moved to place an arm around her as he gently kissed those dark curls, not sure what words he could even come up with right then.
“And the worst part…” she shook her head again.
“It gets worse?” he asked in disbelief. He then remembered the only part of that portion of the story that Awsha had actually admitted to “you mean when she made you let her out?” he offered.
“She broke me, Aidan. She got me to the point where I would do anything just to get her to stop tormenting me. So I did what she wanted, said what she wanted, went down into that cellar and cut open my wrist to wake her back up… And then when she did wake up, she attacked me. I nearly died, lying there unconscious and bleeding on that dirty floor, just because I wanted it to stop” she attempted to force back another sob.
“Oh dear girl” he whispered as he placed another gentle kiss upon her forehead.
“And even that wasn’t the worst part” she managed after another moment.
“Do I even want to hear worse?” he asked softly, attempting to brace himself.
Erica took another deep breath before forcing her words out “the one thing Awsha always wanted was to take Sean away from Claire. And she couldn’t do that herself when she was in that coffin. So she tried to use me to do it instead. I let her make me… try to get Sean to be with me” she choked on the words “he’s raised me for the last ten years as his daughter, and she tried to get me to seduce him. And as sick as it was, I gave in, and I tried, just because I couldn’t take her in my head anymore” she added with another sob wracking her body.
Aidan pulled her into a tighter embrace then as he shook his head, getting a much, much clearer picture of why they had forced the blood bond on Awsha after all. There was truly no other choice she had left them at that point “I can only assume that…Sean didn’t…”
‘No god no” she answered quickly “he figured out right away that Awsha was the one making me do it. But still, he could barely look at me again after that. I could barely look at me” she added as she wiped away more tears.
“I think I’m getting a clearer picture of why you were so appalled by my intimacy with her, now” Aidan admitted, his own volume dropping a bit on the words.
She sniffled again as she tried to find more words “that’s not the only reason I didn’t want you to be with her” she confessed as she looked up at him, the other reasons clear in eyes that were just as dark as his.
Aidan couldn’t help smiling down at her “you do know that I’m 119 years older than you, and Sean and Claire do consider that a bit of a large age gap” he reminded her, though gently.
“Well do you think that too?” she asked with another shuddering breath as she leaned closer to him, their lips so close he could feel her warm breath on his cool skin.
“Thinking is a bit difficult right now” he admitted with another small smile.
“So, you could want me too?” she asked with every bit of bravery she could muster.
“Whether I do want you and whether I should want you are two different things” he whispered as she held his gaze.
“Well you’re the first person I’ve ever wanted like this. And I can’t see myself wanting anyone else” she confessed.
“And how many others have you considered, really?” he couldn’t help teasing her, if for no other reason than to buy himself more time to make the proper decision in regards to this very beautiful, and very young girl who was now in his arms.
“Please, at least kiss me. I don’t think I could bear not knowing what it’s like to feel your lips on mine just once” she pleaded.
“I suppose that just a kiss…” but before he could finish, the last bit of boldness Erica had left in her forced her to move to kiss him instead of waiting for him to fulfill her request on his own. Considering he did indeed find her desirable, Aidan easily gave into what was an even longer kiss than either of them had planned or dreamed of.