Fight or Flight Ch. 02byMadtownpoet©
Hello, all! I apologize that the first chapter was so short. As I said, that was my first submission and I've learned my lesson. I wanted to go back and add more but the uploader won't let me. >_> Again, I'm learning as I go along, so your patience would be appreciated. To make up for the first (extremely brief) chapter, this one will be much longer. Thanks for reading!
Nathaniel Shepherd would have had a headache, if it were physically possible. As it was, he felt the prick of hunger along the edge of his senses. It was a dull ache, a buzzing in the back of his mind as he went about his day.
"Shep? You still here, man?"
Nathan shook his head. "Yes, Theron. Continue, please." He dipped his head apologetically, willing his subordinate to go on.
A group of around ten corporate administrators had met in the conference room to discuss business trends. Nathan had been called there as well at the behest of the company's owner, Charles Witfield. As usual, Theron Goldwell and David Moran were in attendance as well. Theron was the youngest, but he had a sharp wit and a sense for numbers, which made him particularly skillful in finance. Moran was the head of human resources (a title which made Nathan grin every time it was spoken) and was nearly obsessed with the company's rules and regulations.
"As I was saying, revenue has been dropping steadily over the past few quarters. It hasn't been a lot, only a few percent, but that's going to hurt over time. We need to fix the problem sooner rather than later." Theron sat back as he finished, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I agree, and we cannot let this continue, but what solution to you suggest?" Moran had frowned and looked up at the chart projected upon the wall.
"The economy is taking its toll on every business, and we must pay the price as well. As I see it, we have few options: we could scale back the company until the market improves, or we can find some magical way to make up for our losses." Nathan sat back, challenging his peers to come up with a viable answer.
"I vote we cut our losses. Hoping for a magical cure isn't going to get us anywhere." A few of the men around the table nodded in agreement with Moran.
"Isn't that a bit hasty?" Theron frowned.
"I don't care to sit here all day discussing this. I'm hungry and it's getting late."
"Nathan, if you need to leave, then go. We can handle the rest ourselves. Thank you for your input." Theron clasped his hand as Nathan stood, nodding with respect.
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Nathan smiled.
"Not at all, but I know how grumpy you get when you haven't eaten. Go take care of that. We can talk later." Theron smiled back at him and looked back to the group still seated at the table. "Gentleman, back to the drawing board. Any ideas?"
"Just a beer please. Whatever lager you've got on tap."
If the bartender was surprised to see a woman alone at the bar, let a lone ordering a beer, he didn't show it. Elizabeth was still full of adrenaline and nervous energy from breaking into her boss's office, so she figured a trip to the local pub was in order. She paid for her drink and sipped it once he set it down in front of her. The bar was surprisingly empty, but she supposed she was glad for the quiet.
Maybe not so quiet. The stranger sat down on the stool beside her and ordered a glass of whiskey, neat.
"Sort of. Why do you ask?"
Shrugging off his coat, he turned to face her. "It's not too often that you see a woman drinking alone at a pub, let alone on a Thursday night. Either something very good has happened, or something very bad. What can I say, I'm an optimist." He smiled and her heart skipped a beat.
He was damned good-looking. He had dark curly hair, short but a bit longer in the middle than it was on the sides. Thick lashes framed his eyes, green like a forest after the rain. He had a sculpted jaw, high cheekbones and an aquiline nose reminiscent of Roman royalty.
She blinked and took a moment to compose herself. "Um... yes, I suppose I am celebrating."
"I wish I had such an excuse. Mind if I celebrate with you?" He smiled again, and raised his glass.
She laughed and clinked her glass against his before taking another sip.
"What perfume is that you're wearing?" He asked the question softly, leaning in and brushing his nose against her long hair. He breathed deeply, and she shuddered.
He pulled away so quickly she almost thought she had offended him. "I- I'm sorry. That was inappropriate."
"I'm not wearing any perfume." She brought some of her hair up to her nose to find out what he might have smelled, but she didn't notice anything. Maybe it was one of the other women in the bar.
"Ah, my mistake." He turned back to face the bar and ordered another drink.
When did he finish the first glass? If he continued to drink that quickly, she thought he would make himself sick. "My name is Elizabeth, by the way."
"Pleased to meet you, Elizabeth." The way he said it made her name sound timeless and beautiful. She would have laughed at herself for thinking such a thing, if she was alone. "I am Nathan."
"Pleased to meet you as well." She turned back to the bar and focused on her drink.
Nathan ground his teeth together, trying to focus on anything but the smell of the woman sitting next to him. When he had entered the pub, the only thing on his mind was finding a suitable meal to slake his hunger. This woman had taken him by surprise.
She had been sitting at the bar alone, looking pensive as the bartender filled a glass for her. She wore a red button-down shirt and black slacks, but her honeyed brown hair lay in loose waves past her shoulders. She had lips like a cupid's bow, and they looked soft and pink as rose petals.
As he stepped toward her, the delicate smell of vanilla and honeysuckle grew stronger until he was nearly overwhelmed. As they spoke, it nearly overwhelmed him. Her scent enticed him to the point that if he did not get closer, he thought he would lose control. Her surprise sobered him, but his hunger still grew.
When she turned away, he let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He shouldn't have breathed in again- the smell nearly overtook him. He cleared his throat and attempted to clear his mind before he spoke again.
"So, Miss Elizabeth, what are we celebrating?"
She was clearly lost in thought, and given her startle he must have brought her out of her reverie.
"Oh, um, I've asked for a promotion. It's kind of a big deal for me."
He smiled, grateful for the distraction of conversation. "Good luck then, I hope your efforts are duly recognized."
She laughed, and unlike the other women he'd known, it was full and true. She laughed with her heart, and the sound was alluring. "Thank you. I hope so too." She raised her glass and took another sip. When she set it back down, a bit of foam lay on her lip and he had to fight himself to keep from leaning forward to brush it away.
"Let me buy you a drink." He surprised himself with the question.
"Yeah, okay." She surprised him with her answer, and it brought another smile to his face.
The blush that rose to her cheeks was so refreshing in a world without morals that he forgot himself and raised his hand toward her face. The back of his hand brushed her cheek and she gasped.
"Sorry," Nathan said with an apologetic smile. "Cold hands."
"I... I should really go." She grabbed her things and hastened to leave, but his hand on her elbow stopped her.
He steadied her, pulling her to face him, and their eyes met. He held her gaze and focused on willing her to calm.
"Elizabeth," he spoke low. "You will gather your things and come with me."
Something was wrong. Elizabeth felt a strange weight against her mind, but it was comfortable like a sofa at the end of a hard day. She could feel the temptation to give in, but when she resisted, the force grew stronger. The floor wobbled beneath her and a cold feeling crept up her spine until it threatened to incapacitate her. She had to give in or she would pass out in the middle of the bar and that really wouldn't do, especially not with a stranger holding her by the elbow.
Nathan. That was his name. And he still held on to her arm, supporting her as she swayed from alien pressure in her mind.
"Shhh, sweetheart, let go." Let go? She wasn't holding on to anything but her sanity.
She opened her eyes and found herself in the alley beside the pub. Nathan was beside her, leading her to a brick wall. He leaned into her, dipping his nose against her collarbone and breathing deeply. He sighed, and she wondered if he had anything to do with the feeling that her brain was swimming in her skull. Had he drugged her? Was he going to hurt her? She tried to struggle but her limbs wouldn't move.
When Nathan had backed her up to the wall, he brushed her hair to one side and rested his fingers for a moment on her pulse. He said something in a language she could not recognize, and in a flash his teeth were at her neck.
"OW! What the hell?" She jerked and smacked her head on the brick wall behind them. "Damnit, augh!" Elizabeth must have surprised her attacker because when she pulled away, he did not react. He stood still, his mouth agape and his extended canines gleaming white in the moonlight.
She backed away, watching him intently. "What... what are you?"
His fangs receded and he blinked at her a few times before answering. "I am a monster. Forgive me, Elizabeth."
She reached a hand to her neck and found blood. "Did you do this? Did you bite me?" She couldn't get her mind working right, either. What did he do to her?
"Yes, I apologize."
"Why?" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you some kind of pervert?"
"The worse kind, sweetheart. Do you really want to know what I am? Why I bit you?"
"Don't tell me you're some sort of... vampire." She almost laughed. Almost.
He sighed. "I don't want to discuss this here. I want to find out how you were able to resist my thrall, and you want to know what I am. Where would you like to go?"
Elizabeth ran her hands through her hair, trying to wrap her mind around the events of the evening and why the hell she was still standing casually by the man who attacked her. Curiosity killed the receptionist, she supposed.
"No way in hell I'm taking you to my apartment, not until you explain everything to me."
"How about my place?"
"Don't treat this like a date! You just attacked me."
"How about we discuss this over another drink, then. Back to the bar?"
"Fine. But don't try any of that mumbo jumbo on me again, or I'll scream. You got that?"
"Loud and clear, Miss Elizabeth."
"Oh no, you're not allowed to be formal with me after... whatever this was. Call me Liz."
"As you wish."
She followed him back into the bar, wondering what she had gotten herself into.