Fire Ch. 04byEnithermon©
Hi all, thanks for waiting, it's been a long month. I have the next chapter well on the way, so it shouldn't take quite as long...theoretically. ^^
I know some of you were happy where it ended last chapter, and who can blame you, so feel free to leave it at that...however, if you want to see how all this ends, stay tuned. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.
Thea woke into a dream. The windowless room was dark, too large to be her room, the tapers had burnt themselves to nothing and the fire had nearly died and smoldered only very gently, casting the faintest of glows into the room. The chairs were outlined by the fires dim light, but the rest of the room, including the bed was lost in shadow.
There was no way to know what time it was in this windowless place, but something told her it was day. The room was cold and dark, but the bed was comfortable, and the sheets still warm from her body. She tucked herself more deeply into them to escape the chill and found her body wasn't the only one warming the sheets. Her hand brushed something smooth and warm. She reached out and followed the length of it. It was an arm. She stiffened. Her fingers found fingers, and she breathed in wonder as they wrapped around hers and contracted. Her heart fluttered, and she fought the fog of sleep that hung over her and felt out the shape of her memories as they came flowing back to her.
"Oh" she whispered softly. She remembered. She remembered all of it.
She pulled away and sat up. She was naked. She covered herself with the blanket and looked down at the body next to her. It was too dark to see his face, but she didn't need to, and she wasn't sure she wanted to. She slid out of the bed and looked for her dress in the darkness. She tiptoed around the bed, not finding it on her side. She tried to be quite, but the cold on her bare skin and the aches of her body, and the call of her memories made her breath hard. To make matters worse she nearly tripped over her clothes once she found them. She bent down to collect them and felt a hand grasp her wrist. She could make out the arm in the darkness as her eyes adjusted, but the mouth that spoke fell into the shadow that her body cast over it.
"Where are you going?"
His voice was a warm whisper. She shivered.
"It's day...I have work..."
She could only whisper back, but she was grateful her voice had not betrayed her by trembling.
"I see." was all he said and his arm returned to the darkness. She saw him lay still, his eyes glinting briefly, then turn away. Thea felt her throat close and an inexplicable sensation run through her. She had to get out of there. She almost dashed to the door her sudden apprehension causing her to forget she was still nude. She pulled the dress over her head quickly and found the handle in the gloom. She cast one last look to the bed and saw nothing to give her fear or comfort.
"sleep well" she whispered softly into the darkness before slipping quickly out the door.
The hall was, to her relief, empty. She pressed her back against the door and heaved a shaking breath. Why was she so afraid? Or was this fear? What was this tightness in her chest? She shook her head to clear it, but to no avail. She felt bleary and light headed. From sleep, or blood loss, or something else, she couldn't tell. She pushed away from the door and walked stiffly to her room, closing it softly behind her.
This room was even colder. She lit the fire and sat frozen in the little chair before it. Her hands began to tremble, and she fought to still them. Her breathing became rapid and the trembling flowed from her hands to the rest of her as she was barraged by a sudden onslaught of thoughts and emotions, none of which were coherent, but which were powerful enough to make her whimper in submission to them.
Had she not gone there thinking that this was what she wanted, that he was what she wanted? Everything had just happened, felt right, felt incredible...but now? Now, again, she wasn't sure how it felt. All she knew was that the moment she let herself think about it she had trouble breathing, it was too much. He was too overwhelming; she could so easily lose herself in him. He would drown her.
She'd started it though, hadn't she, and not him? But, then, he'd certainly finished it. Her hands began trembling again. She still couldn't believe she'd kissed him like that.
It was as though she'd lost all control over herself, the impulse was too great, she had needed to touch him so badly. He had been so kind to say the things he said, and the caring, the pain in his voice when he'd said it had made her fall apart and destroyed her reserve. She'd been like a cup over-filled.
But then the things he'd done to her afterward, said to her, those weren't gentle...the things she'd wanted to do to him, begged him to do...she flushed. What must he think of her? Then again, what had he already thought when he stole into her cottage all those nights before?
She'd never felt so raw, so vulnerable. This unnerved her more than anything else. What would she say to him, what could she say? How could she look him in the eye? It was hard enough already to remain calm, to keep her control. She knew the minute she'd see him she'd fall apart.
"How am I to face him now?" she murmured.
Jairus rose early. He hadn't slept again after she'd left and taken the warmth that had eased his chest with her. Her brief words and quick flight had brought back his previous heaviness, and he'd lain awake feeling the menacing icy fingers wind through him once more. As he dressed he contemplated his circumstances. She had come to him, told him she'd stay, despite what he'd been doing to her, kissed him, let him take her, and he'd promptly turned into a wild bloody animal and scared her off, just like he'd been dreading he would.
Was he trying to test her limits? Did he actually
want her to go?
"You're doing a damn fine job of it then." He growled at himself as he straightened his jerkin and grabbed his cloak. There was something tucked inside. He pulled out the necklace. He'd completely forgotten about it. Should he give it to her? No. If she stayed and he earned her trust, he'd give it to her then. He'd feel like he was trying to buy her if he did now. Or worse, she'd think he was.
He threw his cloak over his arm and made his way to the library. He still couldn't help the small smile that fleeted across his face as he passed her room. Even tainted with fear and regret, last night had still left him feeling a little light headed. She had seemed so willing, so responsive...had he just imagined that? He sighed and settled himself into a chair and stared off at the far wall. He heard a skirt rustle behind him and his gut lurched a little before he sensed it was May.
"'How're you today master?" He could never get her to get rid of that 'master' habit.
"Just Jairus, May." That didn't mean he wouldn't stop trying. 'Master' made his skin creep, it's what slaves called those who whipped them.
"As you say Master" He heard the smile in her voice and rolled his eyes. She was still lurking behind him.
"Is there something you needed?"
"Not at all just, checking to see if our young lady came back yet. She left a while ago and we haven't seen hide nor hair of her since. I thought she'd want something to eat since she skipped her other meals. She doesn't eat nearly enough."
His gut did clench then, and he resisted the urge to jump from his chair. Gone? So soon? He closed his eyes and calmed himself. What did he expect? He swallowed.
"Did she say where she was going?"
"No didn't say anything. Nothing's wrong, is it?"
He turned to look at her over his shoulder and she gave him one of her less than subtle looks.
He'd accuse her of being nosy, but then they hadn't been all that quiet last night. He almost smiled again, but the urge was quickly quashed by the fact that she'd left and hadn't returned, and there was still another hour before it was reasonable for him to leave. Even at twilight he was pushing it, but she had half a day's head start, and who knows which direction she could have gone. There were at least three villages she could get to on foot not including her own. He turned away.
"When did she leave?" He asked, forgetting her question.
"Not more than three hours ago I think."
"Thank you May."
"Certainly." He heard her shuffle about a bit more before returning to the kitchen.
His fingers bit into the arms of the chair. three hours. He could certainly find her tonight then, she couldn't have gotten too far, and she wouldn't be that hard to track, he knew her scent. He would find her. He would apologize, and if he had to he would get on his knees and beg. He may have been able to let her walk away last night...maybe, but not anymore.
Now he'd had her, all of her, and the having only fueled his desire. There was no way he could go back now, and he had absolutely no intentions of being reasonable about it. She would just have to accept his apology and come home or....well he hadn't gotten that far, but he had at least an hour to come up with something.
She'd been walking the woods for hours, but her head still didn't feel any clearer. Thea sighed for the fiftieth time and kicked at an acorn with the toe of her boot. It was hopeless. She'd managed to calm herself down since the morning, but she still couldn't shake her apprehension.
Hadn't she already had this conversation with herself? That was why she went to him in the first place...of course she hadn't expected everything that happened last night, well everything after she'd kissed him that is. All that had been...well, there wasn't really a word that came close to describing it. Even the pain had been...well there wasn't a word for that either. What blurred memory she had was a warmth in her body, she'd been contented even, so why all this angst now?
"You are the single most foolish creature I have ever known Thea." She muttered to herself kicking another acorn.
It wasn't so much what had happened so much as what happened next, this much she had figured out. What happened when she became so attached that she couldn't tear herself from him, and what happened after that when he finally grew bored with her. He was a vampire after all. He'd told her he was old, and yet he retained his youth. She would not, and he would no doubt find someone else to amuse himself with. This was a thought she could not bear. If she let herself become too attached...which she would if she kept this up, and if he pushed her aside, then it would have been better if he had never cut her from that post in the first place.
She kicked another acorn despondently. This one made a funny sound and she looked up enough to see why, then looked down again with a blush.
"Ah, um, good evening" she said to the boot that had stopped her acorn.
His voice was barely more than a whisper. It flowed under her skin and made her warm from the inside out. 'See!' Cried the little voice, 'see what he does to you.' She cleared her throat.
"I'm just heading in." She ventured to raise her eyes, though only to his chest. "Are...are you headed out for the evening?"
She nodded. "Then I'll leave you too it." She took a breath and walked past him, forcing herself to not veer too far around, lest she appeared as nervous as she was. She made it past without breaking down and was relived until she felt a hand grip her arm.
She forced herself to turn, to look him in the eye. They were dark and inscrutable. She looked away again.
"I said I would" She almost added 'last night' but was afraid for her self-control if she conjured those images in his presence. His fingers were warm through her sleeve. He didn't let go, and she didn't pull away. He looked so normal again, so calm and reserved. Perhaps it wouldn't be so hard to keep her head around him she considered. He took a step toward her, standing over her, his body leaning into her. Then again, perhaps not.
"There's no need to be afraid of me Thea"
"Your shaking ."
"Thea..." he warned.
She blushed at her stupid lie, it was the warmest evening they'd had in a week.
"I'm not afraid."
'of you' she qualified silently.
"Then why do you tremble? Why won't you look me
in the eye?"
She reluctantly met his gaze again. Oh god he had amazing eyes, the deep brown centers practically glowed with intensity. She tried to keep her breath from quickening, but did a poor job of it.
"Thea...last night, if I hurt you, frightened you, I'm sorry." It was his turn to break his eyes away. "My...enthusiasm got the better of me."
"I...I'm fine. It's fine." she said feebly. He gazed down at her, his eyes searching hers once more. She wanted to tear her eyes from his, to hide, to curl up in a little ball. She couldn't bear the thought of him seeing her desperate desire, her pathetic need, written in her eyes.
So she did the only reasonable thing and straightened her back, tipped her chin up and met his gaze as calmly and coldly as she could, doing her damnedest to shield her heart from his eyes.
He held her a moment longer than dropped his hands and stepped away, creating a gap between them that Thea tried not to feel too deeply. He took another step back and also straightened himself, his own eyes turning cool to match hers.
The warmth of his touch, his gaze, fled and she was more than half tempted to run after it, to throw herself into his arms and lose herself in him like she had last night.
She remained rooted to the spot and watched in silence as he nodded to her and slipped off once more into the night. She thought, for a moment, that she read an emotion in his features, a pain, or sadness perhaps. But she might just have wanted to see it, to convince herself he had not walked away from her quite so easily as he seemed to.
Jairus watched her from the shadow of an ancient leaning oak as she slowly turned away and made her way back. He'd been stunned and more than pleased to find she had not left. So stunned he'd said nothing until she had already moved past him.
His 'apology' had been less than satisfactory. He had thought of much better things to say as he'd waited for twilight to darken, but those thoughts fled when he'd felt her shaking with fear in his hands. How could she fear him that much? Had he hurt her so badly? And the way she'd looked at him, suddenly reserved and detached, had made his chest ache. She did not forgive him. But she was not leaving. He leaned against a tree and stared off into the space where she had once stood. It might be enough that she would stay he assured himself, it was hope. Even if it meant he would have to stay away from her then he would do it. Maybe she just needed time. Maybe he could still make her love him.
Love him? He wondered where that thought had come from. He whispered it aloud. It sounded strange on his lips.
The last time he'd used that word he'd said it to the woman who'd turned him, and that was over two centuries ago. He'd said it before then, but he'd never believed he meant it. He smiled wryly at the memory. 'But, I love you' he'd said as he'd begged her to stay. It was less than a year before she'd had her fill of him and had turned her thoughts to others. He'd found her with one of them. He'd chased him off, and she'd gotten angry with him for spoiling her fun and had left. When he told her he loved her, she'd only laughed. 'Jairus,' she'd murmured in her deep honeyed voice, 'love is such a dirty word.' Her laughter had rung in his ears for years afterward, but soon enough he found he was laughing along.
This didn't seem quite so funny. Did he love this proud young thing? He no longer believed he had ever loved his sire, just lusted after her, held in thrall as very young men some times are by incredible beauty and voracious sensuality. She had been, and still was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but her effect on his body was the only thing she held in common with Thea.
Sweet, earnest Thea, whose incredible sensuality was a blessing not a weapon.
It was more than possible, he admitted after a long moment.
Thea was used to seeing Jairus for no more than an hour or so each night, with the occasional rare exception when he didn't go out at all, but it had been five nights since their brief encounter in the woods and there hadn't been a single sign of him.
She'd been glad of it at first, not willing to face him again until she'd gotten her emotions under better control, but by the third day the desire to be near him was quickly out weighing the discomfort her attraction to him wrought, and her emotions were no more under control than they had been two days before. Today she'd done nothing but put herself into a tizzy thinking about him, wondering if he had already tired of her and her foolish behavior. It wouldn't surprise her. She was certainly tired of it. It was beginning to show.
May, who had taken to being something of a mother hen, seemed to be doing her best not to pester Thea, though she did give her some rather pointed looks. It wasn't until Thea dropped the kettle for the third time, this time on her foot, that May had asked her what was wrong. Thea of course brushed it off as a bad day, but she'd felt them all watching her the rest of the day...or at least she imagined she did. She wondered how much they knew, and that uncertainty made her avoid all company, all save the one person who didn't seem to be around.
Now she stood at the end of the downstairs hall watching as the main door clicked shut, and watching Tim as he looked up at her, holding her eyes a moment and nodding towards the door before going in for dinner. She waited until he'd gone then half ran down the hall, slipping through the still unlocked door. She had thought she heard his voice and came down to try to catch sight of him, only to find him already gone.
The weather had turned cold again, and she hugged her arms as she walked out into the crisp evening, the curled dry leaves crunching noisily beneath her feet. The moon was high and bright, but he was nowhere to be seen. Of course she knew from experience that he could still be close, he seemed to meld into shadows even under the brightest moons.
"Jairus, are you there?" She called softly, hesitantly. She waited. There was no answer. Even the night itself was silent, as if it too was listening for an answer.
She sighed and turned back. It was no use, clearly he did not want to speak to her. She wondered suddenly if he'd been feeding elsewhere since he hadn't come to her. The thought annoyed her. She pushed it out of her mind. She had no reason to be annoyed. It was none of her business, and besides, it wasn't his fault she could make up her mind.
Thea decided to skip dinner and shut herself into the library instead and curled up in one of the larger chairs with a random book she pulled off the shelf. She opened it and let her eyes trip over the neatly printed black letters as her mind wandered elsewhere.
He gauged it was at least two when he returned, having done little more than prowl his territory aimlessly. He was between jobs, and wasn't in the mood to go looking for blood, even though he could feel the cravings begin to itch at the corners of his mind. He didn't want to bother Thea, but he couldn't bring himself to go elsewhere either.
Jairus opened the study door and knew she was there the moment he entered. His hunger rose at the scent of her. He suppressed it and looked around the back of a chair to find her asleep, her arms and legs pulled against her body so that she was curled in on herself. It didn't look very comfortable. He leaned in and gingerly slipped his arms beneath her, lifting her and pulling her against his chest.