Nicoletta Ch. 08byjesstoyou©
The vodka Alessandro and I had shared moments before seemed to be working its magic on me as we descended the stairs to the boisterous common areas of the exquisite palazzo. Though I was still tense to the point of fear about meeting the rest of the family, I felt that certain bravado only alcohol can lend a timorous soul that is until I thought about Azazel. Each time I involuntarily remembered aspects of the grizzly story of Azazel and Genève a chill dragged itself up my spine and back down again as if thoughts of what he had done to her were materialized into a cruel jagged edged zipper designed to rip my mind apart over and over again.
"Azazel! Mon cher, comme bel il est de vous voir! Il C'a été la si longue heure!" Paola's voice rang out over the din of other guests. "Please, please come in, have a drink, sit! We have so much to discuss!" She said making a bee line for the door where the most beautiful man I had ever seen stood pulling off his black leather gloves to hand them to the doorman. As his eyes scanned the room mine studied him alone until we locked gazes for the briefest of moments before I tried to duck behind Alessandro's back from the piercing gazes of the gathering.
"Oh no, Love ... my wife hides from no man ..." Alessandro whispered into my ear as his arm wrapped around my waist pulling me to him before I could make my escape.
"I am not you wife Alessandro!" I seethed on a whisper through clenched teeth as he maneuvered me closer to where Azazel stood.
"Not yet Amore, but soon, and until then, Azazel beckons, and we shall oblige him with a greeting, together." He whispered in response as he tugged at my waist while I tried in vain to dig my heels into the polished marble of the floor.
"No Alessandro! I d-don't want to ..." I protested, but my argument was cut short as Alessandro greeted us with the warmest of smiles.
"Azazel, my friend ... it has been too long." Alessandro purred holding me almost too tight. Azazel made no indication that he had even heard Alessandro speak as he studied me. As his dark eyes traveled from the top of my head down to my glittering chocolate and gold pumps I wriggled beneath Alessandro's snug hold as claustrophobia threatened to overtake me. Azazel stepped closer to us closing the already small gap and I shrank more into Alessandro hoping that he would get the hint and allow me to make my way to the nearest exit.
"And who is this, a new prize Alessandro?" Azazel's eyes never left my face as he questioned Alessandro.
"My wife ..." he replied with fire and ice shimmering and dancing on his very breath.
"No I am not!" I snapped finding some courage where just seconds before I could find none. "I am not now, nor have I ever been married ..." I breathed as my adrenaline levels surged again as I tried to shove Alessandro's arm from around my waist. With no immediate response to my outburst Azazel slipped two fingers beneath my chin raising my head so that our eyes met again.
"My but you are stunning dove. Yes, the most delicate of birds ..." he said with a raise of a perfectly trimmed eyebrow. "A bird that possesses the fire of a dragon..." He chimed. "Alessandro, wherever did you find her?"
"My name is Nicolette!" I seethed snatching my face away from his fingers. "I am not your Dove, and if you must know where he 'found' me, your buddy here took me! Like a thief in the night he kidnapped me right out of my house!" I fumed with a quick blazing glare over my shoulder at Alessandro.
"Enough Nicolette!" Paola bit out staring daggers in my direction.
"I see." Azazel whispered taking a step back. "I dare say, I would have been compelled to steal you away myself. How could any man, immortal or not, resist the temptation of possessing a trophy as spectacular as you sweet, Nicolette?" He asked as if it were a perfectly valid and logical question. "I am Azazel Sartre ..." he said with a slight bow never breaking gazes with me. "Enchanté Mon Amie ..." he said extending his hand with a certain casual grace.
When I did not offer my hand in response he reached down and took it planting a kiss on my palm that threatened to bring me to my knees. It was as if he was taking ownership of a piece of my soul right there. Afraid of Paola's wrath, I took back my trembling hand saying nothing. Though repulsed by Azazel, a part of me was taken aback by him already. He did not look like the monster Alessandro had painted him to be.
His hair, tied with a silver ribbon at the nape of his neck cascaded over his shoulder like coal black silk. He had an easy smile reaching somehow beyond his eyes. And what eyes they were! It was as if painter William Payne had been gazing into Azazel's strange yet mesmerizing eyes when he created Payne's grey. And as his eyes glittered in the soft light of the room I noticed that like Alessandro, Azazel's eyes were streaked with obsidian shards as well. As we gazed at each other I felt as if I were floating. It was as if Azazel were working some sort of magic on me. However, his spell was short lived when Alessandro moved to stand in front of me taking a possessive stance. Understanding his reservation, Azazel tilted his head in acquiescence and dropped back a step or two, but still, his eyes never left mine.
"You are a lucky man Alessandro Rossi; I should only hope to be so fortunate as to captivate a woman as beautiful as your Nicolette, perhaps under better circumstances?" Azazel said with a malevolently facetious air..
"Indeed ..." Alessandro retorted with an obvious chill in his voice. "Shall we assemble in the library? My father and brother are anxious to discuss your plans for our Donata." Alessandro extended his long arm in the direction of the room where the men of the family and Azazel would haggle over the terms of Donata's betrothal. Azazel reluctantly pulled his gaze from mine as he turned to saunter down the dimly lit corridor. "I trust we will meet again before the night is finished, Nicolette?" He said on a breath turning to look at me as my name seemed to float from his lips.
"U-Uhmm ... I don't ..." I stuttered ...
"We will all sit down to dinner together later in the evening, when your business is finished Azazel ..." Paola spoke up with a slight edge to her words. Son, why don't I take Nicolette in to the parlor for an aperitif, she does look a bit peaky after all." She intoned attempting to wrench my hand from Alessandro's protective grip.
"Will you be alright?" he whispered not letting me go. I could not speak. My eyes were rimmed with tears threatening to cascade down my hot cheeks at any second. In a little over a week I had been kidnapped, taken from my home country, raped, spanked, threatened, and bitten. And now at what was to be my engagement party I was faced with a 6ft 7in vampire inquiring if I would be alright if he left me alone in a house full of still more vampires as he sold his sister to the most notorious vampire of all time. My mind was leaving me, I could feel it slipping away as I stood there in the finest gown I had ever set eyes on, in the midst of the most lavish party I had only dreamt of attending during my hum-drum life. And this vampire, a man who would be my husband asked me if I would be alright ...
"N-no I don't think ... I mean, I am so not alright Alessandro." I said raising my eyes to his as the river of tears began to rain down my cheeks.
"Nonsense ..." Paola sang gripping my hand with more force as she successfully broke me from Alessandro's hold. "My dear, we will go have a few drinks, and an appetizer, and you will be just fine." She said wrapping her cold arms around my shoulders as she turned me away from her son. "Go, have your meeting ... she will be fine." Paola said over her shoulder to Alessandro. I could feel his eyes on me as Paola walked me into the other room. The place was alive with the cacophonous din of late evening revelers. Laughter rang from what seemed like every nook and cranny of the house. The music was electric sailing into my head allowing me to transcend my predicament even if just for a moment. And what a short moment is was as Paola's bony hand squeezed my shoulder. She had been speaking. As far as I could tell she was regaling me with tales of who's who at her little soiree.
"You don't have to babysit me ..." I muttered shaking her arm off of my shoulder. I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand silently thanking Donata for buying me water proofed make up for the party. "There will be tears tonight I think" She had prophesied while making me up.
"You know my dear, if you would give us half a chance, I think you will find being a part of this family is not without reward." Paola took two glasses of champagne from a passing waitress as she chastised me.
"Do you have anything stronger?" I asked the girl, ignoring Paola, but taking the wing from her.
"Yes, like vodka ... Grey Goose? Do you have any?"
"Ah, si si Signora Rossi, grey Goose! You like?" the girl replied happy she understood what I wanted.
"Si, prego un doppio colpo di vodka ..." I confirmed tossing back the champagne as she went to make my drink. Paola stood by watching me as I began to drown my sorrows. As the sweet poison bubbled down my parched throat I found myself wishing for the bottle.
"A double vodka huh?" She chided pulling one of her signature scarlet red cigarettes from a dainty pouch dangling from her wrist. "Alessandro will not be happy if you are drunk when he is done in there you know ..."
By the time she finished speaking the waitress was back with my drink. I took it from the tray thanking her, and before she was gone I had drained half the glass much to Paola's chagrin.
"I guess then, he should have left me where he found me. Tonight Paola Rossi, mother to all that is unholy, I plan on getting sloppy drunk!" I snapped raising my glass to her before finishing my drink and grabbing another glass of champagne from a passing tray. "Like I said Paola, I do not need a babysitter."
A double vodka and two more champagnes later, I found myself slightly inebriated as I meandered through a garden I had not noticed before. It was a lush seaside oasis full of orchids, roses, and lilies of all colors and families. Also, there was the sweetest smelling flower I had never seen before. At the risk of toppling over in my drunkenness I bent to get a closer look at striking petals so white that they seemed to glow in the dark. The flowers shimmied on the breeze as if they wanted to break loose from their stems to dance. And out of nowhere I found myself reaching down to pick one.
"The cereus flower ..." A soft voice chimed over the music flowing from the house. Thinking I had been alone I pulled myself up too fast stumbling over to a stone bench where I plopped down as I tried to catch my breath.
"W-what?" I breathed heavily.
"Please, forgive me. I did not mean to startle you." She said stepping from the shadows into a beam of light cascaded by lighting form the house. "The flower there, the one you were going to pick? It is called a cereus. It would be a shame if you were to pick it now." She said passing me a glass. "You are drinking vodka, right?"
"You did not scare me ..." I slurred in defiance.
"So, do you always almost stumble over stone benches while stopping to smell the roses?"
"I- I was, I mean ... Well you shouldn't skulk around in the shadows!" I cried acidly.
"Do you want this drink or not?" She asked with a small giggle. Hesitantly I took the drink taking a sip while watching her. I had not seen her before. She did not look like she belonged to the Rossi line, but she was just as stunning, from the top of her raven head to the tips of her crimson toes she was just perfect. Even in my inebriated state, I had the good sense to be jealous.
"Why would it be a shame?"
"Hum?" she crooned while taking a long sip from her own glass.
"The flower? You said it would be a shame if I picked it, now ... why now?" I asked as she clicked her tongue at two passing peacocks.
"Oh yes, the cereus ..." She said fixing me in her mesmerizing sapphire gaze. "In legends she is the princess of the night. You see, the flower blooms only at night. Once the sun rises, it dies. You would essentially be picking it in its infancy if you plucked it now."
"Great, not only am I surrounded by vampires, but also their vampire horticulture as well! My night just keeps getting better and better. How's yours going ...? I paused looking expectantly at her realizing that I had no idea who I was speaking with.
"My name is Genie..." She said smiling the same dangerous smile that afflicted the Rossi clan. "And you little one are my Alessandro's sweet Nicolette."
"Y-you are a vampire too?" I stuttered as I nervously sloshed back a bit more of my drink.
"Guilty I am afraid." She said opening her arms slightly in surrender. "Alas, I am such not by choice, but I am a vampire all the same." She breathed on a teasing whisper. I had not realized that I scooted back on the bench putting as much distance between us as I could without toppling from my perch. Genie watched me with amusement as I fidgeted under her gaze.
"You have nothing to fear from me Nicolette, truly." Her voice held me captive as I decided whether or not to trust her long enough to continue our conversation.
"How do you know my name? I asked timidly. She giggled. It was as if the breeze had disturbed golden wind chimes. Though she was the same monster the Rossi's were I found myself wanting to be near to Genie. She did not seem so cold; her manner did not seem as treacherous as the others. She was sweet, almost innocent. Genie had no ulterior motives for me, none that I could sense anyways.
"My dear, you are engaged to one of the most powerful men in the entire world! Yours is the name on everyone's lips right now. The impending marriage of Alessandro Rossi and Nicolette Landry is the hot topic coast to coast worldwide. Where have you been? She asked excitedly.
"Locked away in his room actually ..." I muttered a bit louder than I had intended.
"What? Why would he keep you locked in his ..." Her voice trailed off as she realized that I had been there against my will. She took another long sip of her drink as her face drained of all its cheerfulness in the moonlight. Suddenly she seemed to be miles away lost in thought. There was nothing for me to do but take another sip of my own drink as I contemplated my predicament.
"You said he was your Alessandro ... where you two an item? I asked changing the subject. She choked a bit on the last sip of her drink before answering.
"Ha, no no Nicolette, he has always been a brother to me. The Rossi's sort of adopted me long ago when my own family ..." She stopped speaking and gave her head a slight shake as if her mind were an etch-a-sketch toy and a small shake would wipe it clean. "He saved my life once ..." she squeaked out. When the light from the full moon hit her face I caught the twinkle of a silver tear that threatened to slide over the edge of her eye, but it never got the chance.
"He loves you ..." She said taking a deep breath.
"He is obsessed with me ..." I corrected.
"Yes, he is, very much so, but he does love you ..."
"Why do you care? Why are you out here?" I asked beginning to feel cornered. Perhaps she did have her motives.
"I am out here because you looked like you could use a friend, one who is not a Rossi? I mean no harm Nicolette. I do not know the circumstances as to how you came to be here, but from the sound of it Alessandro has not played by the rules, I know what that feels like ... but I also know him." Her voice sounded like part of her was furious with Alessandro, and the other part needed to defend his actions. But I did not want to talk anymore about him or his supposed love for me.
"Alessandro never mentioned another sister. I thought there was just Donata." I said standing. I walked back to the cereus flower bending to take in its sweet scent. Only this time I was careful not to disturb it.
"Ahh the fair lonely Donata Rossi, you should watch that one. She is as sweet as honey when it benefits her; she will turn on you like a rapacious pit bull if given half a chance. I am still curious as to why she was so insistent that I be here tonight." I found myself glad that I had not bought into Donata's overly 'friendly' attitude. I too had sensed that she could not be trusted. "Where is the little princess anyways? I had expected her to ingratiate herself to me before I even stepped through the door." Genie asked giving the garden a quick scan.
"I don't know where she is. I have not seen her all night actually ..." I said as my buzz began to wane. "Oh yeah, she may be in the library with her brothers and Aza ..." Before I could finish saying his name I heard his sultry voice cut through the night like a knife through butter.
"Donata was with me and her father, we had to discuss our possible betrothal but seeing the two of you together compels me to rethink taking vows." Azazel said coolly from the door opposite door from which Genie and I came out He slipped his hands into his pockets as he leaned against a stone pillar. "Hello Genève, mi amore, it has been ... too long. His words dripped from his mouth like poisoned honey as he spoke to Genie. It made my skin crawl the way he looked at her.
"That little bitch!" Genie spat. Her relaxed jovial manner changed instantly to one of tension and fury. "She knew he would be here!" the fear in Genie's voice was palpable. Where Azazel made me increasingly uncomfortable, he seemed to strike terror down to Genie's bones. She grabbed my hand in a painful vice grip as she stood drawing me closer to her. "We have to go ... now. Do you know where Alessandro is?" She growled dragging me up only to tug me down the stony path back into the house.
"N-no, I have no idea where he is .. I mean I thought he was in the library with his father and Luca. Genie, wait, what is wrong? W-Where are we going?" I begged confused. I stole a look over my shoulder as she pulled me through the garden towards the house. Azazel stood stark still staring after us with a crooked grin decorating his beautiful face. His expression, a cross between virgin amusement and wanton depravity would stick in my mind for years to come.
We shoved through party goers, and even deposed a poor waiter's tray of champagne in our flight from the party. Before I knew it Genie had me back at Alessandro's bedroom door. She wasted no time shoving me inside and quickly following after me. She slammed the door shut behind us so hard the windows in the room shook in their panes. After she bolted it Genie slid her backside down it dissolving into a torrent of shoulder wracking sobs.
"Genie ... Genie please look at me." I whispered. She was an emotional wreck. When she looked at me it was as if she did not even see me. "Genie, what's wrong?" I begged. Though we had only just met my heart broke as I sat down to take her in my arms. Seeing her so shattered, I almost forget she was a vampire. She did not answer me, so I did not press her again. We just sat together until her tears began to subside and she seemed to calm down.
"Why is he here? Why did no one tell me that he would be here?" Genie whispered.
"Who? Azazel?" I asked stupidly. Of course she meant Azazel. She had been fine before she heard his voice.
"Donata knew!" She screeched. I realized that she was not speaking to me. Genie tried desperately to figure out with herself what mischief Donata had gotten up to. She dislodged herself from my hold to stand and cross the room. As she continued her dialogue with herself Genie's discourse quickly turned into a rant. "She knew Azazel was her last chance. She knew her father would not give her a choice!"
"Genie. I-I don't understand ..."