by Frances Tate
“Evidently.” She picked an embroidered handkerchief from the dressing table and passed it to him over her shoulder.
“How is it possible?” He rubbed the savage evidence of his recent meal from his mouth and pushed the spoiled handkerchief, the lady’s favour, into his intact coat pocket.
“Because you are there to be seen and felt,” she said, gesturing to the hairbrush.
Obediently, his hand holding the brush rose, descended and repeated.
“Will you tell me your name, My Lady?”
Her reply brought an upward curve to his lips. “Surely not,” he murmured as the brush continued to move, binding them.
“I am my father’s daughter and my mother’s future… or bane, depending upon her mood.”
“And cursed with as much understanding as looks?” He dared her vanity, reached out with hollow flattery to ensnare her properly this time.
“Heed my will.”He ordered through his white-eyed reflection.
“Yes,” she said, and yet shook her head in a slow roll of defiance.
Two addresses, two responses.
Richard smiled, and his admiration shook the dust from its feathers.
“You will heed me, and you will do as I bid.”He tapped into the vampire’s replenished resources, burning twice as hot for half as long, risked the vampire’s interest as the interlude unfolded.
She had rejected him – more than once – and, equally impressive, she wasn’t even slightly in awe of him.
“Flattery and flannel,” she accused. “But that is not all. What else are you doing to secure my compliance?” Her fingers traced her temple and her dark eyes pierced more than the mirror. They lanced towards him-
“What are you, My Lady, to remain so calm in the presence of an unchaperoned bloodied stranger in your bedchamber?” He dipped his hand into his undamaged pocket and offered her the handkerchief she’d given him, unsure of his motives. Did he want, need to terrify her?
Stop! Realisation dawned, interceded. The vampire sought to raise her emotions; flavour its food.
“Dreaming,” she replied, unperturbed. “I have been prone to talking and walking in my sleep since I was a child. There are case notes bearing my name in the cabinets of many emanant doctors. Eventually, the diagnosis given, begrudged and not unanimous, was that I have an overabundance of imagination rather than a deficit of sanity. Though clearly I have created an unlikely companion to share my fitful state with this evening.”
“Do you have likely companions?”
“Not that I recall.”
“For no reason I can fathom, you have responded to me as though I were an invited guest, not an unwelcome intruder. Your hospitality shames me. Please allow me to make myself presentable. Even overabundances of imagination should observe some decorum.” He pulled a fine linen handkerchief from his coat pocket while his attention cast around the room.
Something fell from his pocket, slipping through the snapped stitches of the seam as he stepped towards the washstand. It hit the floor and rolled towards Mercy’s feet.
The scent of blood wafted. The vampire emanated anticipation.
“Don’t-” Richard warned as the vampire held him immobile.
“Filthy habit” –Mercy bent, her hand reaching– “smoking cigars.”
Surprise replaced her frown. Surprise and horror.
She fainted. The solid –real– severed finger still clutched in her hand.
What does this mean? Mercy is impervious to Richard’s commands and doesn’t even seem afraid of him. What is she?! Be sure to join us again for Chapter 3, coming August 9th, 2022.