by Dustin Evermore and Lisa Hartjes
It was very late and the dark-haired woman was ready to go home. It was only a couple hours before full dawn and a Lakota Indian was faithfully awaiting Fianna in the her car. It was a black BMW that Celeste had 'liberated' from the police vehicle impound and given to her as a gift a couple weeks ago. It was pretty good to be Celeste's friend. Celeste always seemed to enjoy doing these little favors for Fianna, so long as she had an opportunity to show off her powers a little.
Fianna approached the car and her faithful servant. She smiled at him as he opened the rear car door for her. He deferentially averted his eyes, as if he felt unworthy. Or perhaps he was afraid of being overcome by her beauty. He couldn't help his feelings for her and Fianna was acutely aware of it. He was hers, mind and soul now. She had chosen him as the most faithful of all her followers and knew even then that he would have laid down his life to protect her. Now, after tasting the power of her blood, his commitment was complete, and he had power to back it up.
"Thank you Strong Bow," Fianna said. She believed in treating her Bear Warriors well. A willing and well-rewarded servant would never hesitate to come to her aid.
There was a carefully folded piece of paper lying on her seat. Fianna hesitated before she went it. "What is this?" she asked, but not in English. She knew his native tongue well, and she always encouraged her followers to respect their heritage and celebrate it.
"I do not know," he returned in Lakota Sioux. "A young woman came to me as I waited. She asked that you receive it."
Fianna looked at the folded letter. It had been sealed with wax and remained unbroken. "I see." Fianna slid into the car, being careful to keep her long, slinky black dress from brushing the edges of the car and door. The dress, too, was a gift from someone, and it would not do to allow it to snag and tear after wearing it only once. Fianna was unused to such fine clothes; she wanted the experience to last a little while.
Fianna ran a long, unpainted nail across the wax seal, neatly breaking it and unfolded the letter. She started and gasped at the hand-written letters in surprise. The alphabet used was of the Roman style, but the language would have been recognized by only a handful of people alive today. It was written in Old Gaelic, Fianna's native tongue.
"Greetings, sister and kindred spirit," the note began. The handwriting smooth and elegant, unlike anything she had seen in this age, and Fianna almost swore the ink held a hidden luster. "While the blood coursing through our veins came not from the same source, we are far more alike than you know. I invite you to dine with me tomorrow evening. Meet me at the Quad at the University of Michigan main campus in Ann Arbor at 11:30 pm. You may bring the handsome young man who is driving you tonight, but no others. Have no fear, Fianna, for I follow the old ways of hospitality." It was signed simply with an elegant letter "B".
Fianna immediately worried that it could be a Sabbat trap, her nervousness causing a quickening pulse and rapid breathing in a body that needed no air or circulation. She closed her eyes, trying to master the panic.
"Mika?" asked her Bear Warrior, eyes watching her worriedly in the mirror. "Is something wrong?"
Fianna's mind barely noticed the switch of languages from the Old Gaelic in her hands to the Lakota Sioux coming from her trusted servant. "No, I... Everything is fine," she told him. She told herself to get a grip and stop behaving like a flighty bird. She needed to think. The author of the letter was certainly not behaving the way she'd expect the Sabbat to behave. They were not noted as usually being old enough to know Old Gaelic to be as proficient as this author was. Nor did the Sabbat favor intricate plots. If they wanted her and could reach her, the Sabbat would simply attack, even if it was in public. Especially if it was public.
But it was clear that whoever 'B' was, they certainly understood ancient rules of etiquette. In fact, the author offered hospitality in exactly the same way that the Baron von Roden did when she requested his help back in 1152. It might have actually been nearly a thousand years ago, but for Fianna it was only a little over a year ago. He was a Lasombra, but she knew from her experience with her friend, Nuyen van Faulk, that the Tzimisce also respected the ancient rules of hospitality, albeit in a rather twisted fashion.
The letter hinted they were possibly Kindred, but did not say it directly. And the fact that it also invited Strong Bow reassured her a little. She did not believe anyone knew her ghouled Bear Warrior was so devoted to the faith she presented to his people, that he was able to use it almost like a weapon, as some extremely faithful Catholic Priests were able. Such a secret weapon would be important to her survival if this was still some elaborate trap.
Fianna shook her head. The more she hung around Nuyen van Faulk, Scourge of Detroit, the more paranoid she was becoming.
"Let's go home, Strong Bow and rest well. Tomorrow night will be very interesting."
The next Day, 11:25pm.
Fianna walked into the large, open area at the center of the University of Michigan campus. There were only a few students out and about and the openness made it an unlikely place for an ambush. Fianna paused to look at the buildings around there. The map had a small blurb about the University and Strong Bow told her that these were institutions of learning, where young and old alike came together to share knowledge. Judging by how technology alone had advanced since her era, Fianna supposed this was a successful technique.
She was dressed in a sharp red miniskirt and a strapless green top that showed her figure. In her day, women generally went around in a simple, A-cut dress which covered everything down to the ankles. This modern age had much greater variety and tolerance, and Fianna was learning to both enjoy and revel in this fact. The colors would make most vampires look even paler than they normally would, but they went well with her dark complexion and black hair. In her homeland, they called Irish of her coloring, 'Black Irish'.
She tended to attract some attention as she moved, in spite of her somewhat short five-foot-five height. Her finely sculpted body possessed with a lithe grace that tended to turn heads, but Strong Bow was there to stare down any over-ambitious would-be suitor. She walked carefully on tall high-heels. Such footwear was new to her, but she had been practicing getting around on them and liked how they looked on her.
Fianna looked around wide yard, appearing a little lost.
She noticed a very handsome young man, likely not much older than she was before she had been Embraced. He wore his long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, and even with her little experience with modern clothing, she knew that what he was wearing was expensive. His leather pants seemed to be painted onto him and she could see every curve of flesh beneath them.
When she pulled her gaze back to the man's face, Fianna could see a look of amusement, lust, and something else in his eyes. She was startled when he winked audaciously, and then turned to talk to the young woman with him.
The young woman was dressed in designer jeans, cowboy boots and a frothy cavalier-style shirt. Her hair was cut short, and when she laughed at something the blonde man said, Fianna caught a glimpse of her face and realized it wasn't a woman she was looking at, but a child of no more than fifteen or sixteen, barely reaching five feet in height.
Fianna could not hear what they were talking about, but the girl plopped herself on the stone bench and watched as the man approached Fianna and Strong Bow. His every move exuded confidence, almost daring the watcher to take her eyes from him lest she miss something spectacular.
The man stopped about six feet away from Fianna and sketched a very courtly bow. "Mistress Fianna," he said, his tenor voice laden with innuendo. "We are pleased that you accepted the invitation. Our master claims the university as domain, and you are now under our protection for the duration of your stay, as it was in the old days. If you and your companion would come with us, we shall escort you to dinner."
Fianna looked at the man with interest, wondering if he was a vampire or a well-minded servant. If he was something like a mortal mage, it would be very embarrassing to end up getting caught by them just after being warned that one was attempting to make inroads on Tremere territory in this city. Warily, Fianna smiled pleasantly and replied, "Thank you."
Fianna was forced to make a decision. If she brought Strong Bow into this, he may become aware of things she had never discussed with him before. He would never turn on her, of course, but she did not want to risk shaking his faith, either. At the same time, she felt it unwise to leave him alone in the midst of a white-dominated area. Strong Bow, like many in her cult, was an extremist and tended to mistrust or even hate most whites simply out of habit. She settled for a compromise and hoped the man took the hint.
Her gaze flicked from the man to the girl on the bench and spoke just loudly enough that she thought the girl would hear, as well. "Strong Bow isn't familiar with the etiquette and language of our family," she stressed the word 'family' just slightly. "But he is steadfast and loyal. Please, lead away."
Fianna's attention was once again drawn away from the man, however pleasing to the eye he was, back to the mysterious girl. Was she a servant of this 'B', as well? Fianna tried to remember if she had heard of anyone who had domain over this area. Unfortunately, in the past year, she had been away from the Chantry very rarely, with the exception of the past couple months, and the first month that she arrived a year ago. She could not, for the life of her think of anyone. And asking about it might seem strange, since it was known to her 'elders' that she had her own very secure blood supply and she had never shown interest in who claimed what before.
"Very good, mistress," the young man replied, making the address sound more like a lover's name than a title. "Allow me to introduce myself, then. I am Andre de Claritte, your most humble servant. My adorable companion goes by the name of Mina." By the tone in Andre's voice, Fianna could tell that he found Mina far more than merely adorable.
"We will meet you at your car and take you to the place where your host has arranged for dinner to be served. There will be refreshments and recreation suitable for both yourself and your escort."
Fianna looked over at Strong Bow, who was peering at the strange duo with a bemused look. "Thank you Andre," she said turning back to the man.
They left for their car and by the time they got there, Andre and Mina were waiting on a motorcycle. The strange two-wheeled device had always fascinated her. How did they not simply fall over? She wondered if it took a great deal of practice and teamwork. It certainly seemed a more exciting way to experience the speed in which this world seemed to live.
She didn't need to tell Strong Bow to follow them. He smoothly pulled out of the parking place and moved along behind the motorcycle as they led the way.
Andre led them through the streets of Ann Arbor to a housing complex with exquisitely tended grounds. The complex was next to a gigantic building with all kinds of signs with names on it, and a huge parking lot surrounded it. Fianna saw a sign that said "Briarwood Mall" near one of the parking lot entrances as they arrived.
The motorcycle came to a stop at the rear of the complex, in front of a simple yet elegant two storey home. Andre pulled into the driveway and shut off the motor, while Mina slid off the back with practiced ease. Mina headed directly into the house without a word while Andre waited politely for Fianna and Strong Bow to emerge from the BMW.
"This is but one of our master's holdings," Andre announced. "It is secure from most intrusions and observation. Please, follow me."
Andre led the pair into the house. When he closed the door behind them, he locked it and activated the security system.
"This way," Andre said, leading them through the main floor of the house to a large, elaborate dining room. The entire floor was lit by beeswax candles, the light softening the harshness of the modern construction. The house was simply decorated; the few furnishings there were oversized and luxurious. The dining room was no exception. Dominating the room was a huge oak table, ornately carved, with matching armless chairs. The table was set with four place settings of bone china and crystal, all at one end of the table.
As Fianna got closer to the table, she noticed that the chair at the head of the table, while of the same size as the others, was more feminine in appearance, if such a thing were possible.
"Please, have a seat," Andre said, holding out a chair to the right of the head of the table. "Your host will be with you momentarily. In the meantime, might I offer you a before dinner drink?" As Andre spoke, two young men and two young women entered the room, each carrying an empty crystal goblet. "Michelle and Robert have had white wine, an excellent chardonnay. Alexandra and John have had a pinot noir. For your companion, we can offer the same wines, sherry, or something nonalcoholic."
Thats a problem, she thought. Turning to Strong Bow she spoke Lakota. "[You must go now.]"
"[But, Mahpiya! This place, it worries me. What did he mean?]" He used the title her Tribe had given her.
"[This place is not for you, Strong Bow. Go and wait in the car. I will call if I need you.]"
Fianna stared at Strong Bow. The much larger Native American suddenly looked fearful and backed away from her.
"Strong Bow will not dine with us, Andre." The man in question quickly made for the door, trying to comply with Fiannas wishes with all speed. He appeared to be exercising discipline not to run.
When he had gone, the dark-haired woman turned back to smile pleasantly at Andre and took a seat. She watched the four humans, looking at them carefully and even longingly. She seemed to shiver reflexively, not with cold but perhaps with a poorly concealed thrill. Still, she managed to retain her composure in spite of the longing for the alcohol laces blood of the offered humans. It was fortunate for her that her people kept her well supplied with blood before she came to the city each night.
"Thank you," she told Andre. "But I have had to assume a rather strict diet since I arrived in Detroit and I have not been keeping up with it very well lately." She hoped she it would not insult whoever her host was.
The four young humans suddenly look concerned, perhaps frightened, and they looked Andre for reassurance.
"Certainly you do not think your host would break the covenant of hospitality and attempt to poison or otherwise injure you," Andre said softly, "for that would be both an insult to myself and to your host. You have our word that these vessels are clean of all disease, contain naught but mortal, untainted blood, and are free of all drugs, save for the three glasses of wine they each drank. Enough for you to taste, but not enough for you to become compromised."
"No, no, it is not your generous gift. It is my own failing." She did not feel hungry, yet it seemed she couldn't stop looking at them. Fianna knew she should say no. In fact she had been doing so well this past year. Why did this bother her so now? Ever since the night of the party... What had happened? Then Fianna remembered a special drink someone gave her. It was a drink that hinted of unbound power that had a taste that was so deliciously familiar, yet she couldn't place it at the time.
Now she remembered what that flavor was, and why she lusted for tainted blood any kind of tainted blood just to try to recapture some of that experience. Where had Stazi gotten it? She made a mental note. She would have to corner Stazi next time and get her to tell her where it came from.
She balled her left fist, the skin of her knuckles whitening with the strain. A year. A YEAR! She had tried to forget, drinking nothing but the pure, clean blood of her own faithful followers. ~Stazi, what did you do? Did she know what it did to me? What it could make me become? It couldn't be. She wouldnt try manipulate me like that; she's my friend!~ Doubt ate at the fringes of her mind, and shame colored her cold cheeks.
Fianna wasn't sure what to do. She didn't want to insult her hosts. They didn't know about the Were; no one did except perhaps Roma and Nuyen. How could they know that she had been trying for a year to purify herself in order to break the addictive hunger to taste that power again at nearly any cost? How could she explain this to her hosts without feeling so embarrassed? How could any of it be explained without revealing all the pains of her soul? Without a doubt, such things could be used against her. Apparently, even her friend, Stazi, seemed to feel no compulsions about using it against her.
"I'm sorry Andre. It was wrong of me to bring my past here." It was time to knuckle down. After all, it was only a few drinks. She should barely even notice. "I would like to try... John."
The young man's face beamed in pleasure and delight and he gracefully closed the distance between himself and Fianna. Alexandra disappearedfor a moment into another room and returned with a low, wide and well padded stool. She brought it over to John, who knelt down on it next to Fianna.
"I am honored, m'lady, that you have chosen me," John said. "How do you wish to drink," he asked. "From here," he asked, loosening the collar of his shirt to reveal the solid line of his neck, where Fianna could see the pulsing vein and smell his excitement. "From here," he continued, rolling up the sleeve on his left arm, exposing a well muscled forearm, "or from this goblet." The crystal goblet was empty, but as he finished speak, John withdrew a small bag from his pocket, opened it, and withdrew what looked to be a clear flexible tube, a tourniquet, and a strange looking needle, all sealed inside a clear bag.
Fianna looked at the devices with interest. "The goblet," she told him. "Thank you, John." The man proceeded to give blood, using the needle and surgical tube to fill the goblet. When it was about three quarters full, Alexandra stepped forwards again. She pressed a small pad of sterile gauze against the needle and removed it, applying pressure to the small wound. It was obvious the woman was experienced with the procedure, as she emptied the rest of the blood in the tube into the goblet with a deft twist of the wrist without spilling a drip.
John presented the goblet to Fianna. "I hope I meet with your satisfaction," he said, and Fianna could hear the thrill in his voice.
Out of the corner of her eye, Fianna saw some movement. When she looked up to see the young men and women who had been offered to her quietly retreating from the room, she suddenly noticed that the seat head of the table was no longer empty.
Fianna realized that it was Mina, though she had changed from the jeans and ruffled shirt into an elegant, skin tight black evening dress of silk, the neckline dipping low enough to give a tantalizing hint of one of the signs of the girl's budding womanhood.
Mina was watching Fianna closely, and when their eyes met, Fianna couldn't help but be caught up in their inky depths. Fianna could see the wisdom of ages in those eyes. And power. Oh the power. Fianna could almost taste it on her tongue like an aphrodisiac.
Fianna, surprised, suddenly realized she nearly made a very bad mistake. Mina was not a ghoul. She was a vampire, and for all Fianna knew, she could dominate lesser vampires with a look. Fianna blinked and took care to look no higher than Minas nose.
Taking the seat at the head of the table could only mean that Mina must be her host, or her hosts proxy. "It is refreshing to have such courteous hosts. I apologize for needing to send Strong Bow away, but he believes I am a goddess, a spirit of the night and sky." She smiled. "He doesnt know that I am Kindred and although he could only accept it if he knew the truth, I feel he deserves to keep his hope and his dreams. So I shield him from our society and give him power to shield me from everything else."
"A very useful deception," the woman replied with a knowing smile. "But a very dangerous one. One should not meddle with religion lightly." Her lips twisted slightly into a rather naughty grin. "Meddling with people who profess to be faithful but are corrupt, that's something completely different."
"It can be. But I have a great deal of experience in such matters," Fianna said with a pleased smile. "Do I have the honor of speaking to the author of the invitation?" she asked. Fianna brought the goblet to her lips and tasted its warm essence. She sipped moderately, with her eyes still giving Mina her full attention.
The blood left a warm trail down her throat and into her stomach, the alcohol content of it giving her a pleasant tingle. It was lifeblood given by a human in his prime, and it was just as Andre said it would be -- pure and untainted. She let out an appreciative, "M-mm."
John smiled happily, then silently withdrew from the room.
Mina's voice captured and held Fianna in a caress that was sensual, almost sexual. "You do, ma petite. I am Berengiere de Valcour, your hostess and, I hope, a future friend."
~Ma petite?~ Fianna wondered. It sounded like a kind of Latin and she placed the style as French. Unfortunately, she didnt know the language, but she guessed it must be either a cordial familiar or perhaps possessive type of expression. Certainly the look in Berengieres eyes was indicating nothing but assurances and perhaps attraction. Fianna lowered her eyes, feeling slightly embarrassed without know why.
"I apologize for the deception at the university, but I had some other errands to run before we met, and I wanted to see how you handled yourself in unfamiliar territory." Fianna felt herself hoping that she had managed to hold herself with adequate dignity so far.
At that moment, an elderly black man walked in, wearing traditional (if not sumptuously appointed) Muslim robes, carrying a large silver platter. On the platter was a crystal goblet, identical to the one Fianna drank from, and a small, ornate plate with a salad on it. The man placed the salad in front of Andre, and the goblet before Berengiere. He then left the room as silently as he had entered.
Berengiere reached for her goblet and sipped at its contents, her tongue darting out to catch a stray droplet on her lip. "Have you enjoyed your time in Detroit so far?"
"Occasionally, I have," Fianna answered honestly after some hesitation.
She had withheld her curiosity thus far, but voiced it now. "Lady Valcour, I must confess that I have been in this city for only a year, but I have been called to the Princes court many times. I have never seen you there before. May I ask why?"
"You have not seen me," Berengiere replied softly with a husky laugh, "because I have not been there. Ann Arbor is far enough away from Detroit that it would be outside the influence of any Kindred holding Detroit. I do not travel much, and prefer to keep company with my servants and a few select companions."
Fianna watched Berengiere with large, curious eyes. It wasnt easy to do and still avoid her powerful eyes. Companions? By all signs, they were very close companions. She wondered what it was that this powerful, beautiful creature could possibly see in Fianna that she seemed to want to seduce?
"Besides, Kindred politics bores me to tears. I am content to govern Ann Arbor as I choose, mistress of my domain." Beren shifted slightly in her seat, then dipped her finger in her goblet and proceeded to lick the blood from her skin, her tongue curling sensuously around her finger.
Fiannas eyes widened. The other woman, in spite of her apparent youth, certainly had more varied appetites than one would expect from an elder vampire.
She knew the look that Berengiere had. She couldnt tell if Berengiere was seeking a companion, or seeking a way to convince her to trust the ancient noblewoman. Fianna wondered if she would be just as capable with using her body to seduce a female vampire as she had been in seducing males. If so, then maybe she, too, could benefit from a relationship between herself and Berengiere.
"Tell me," Berengiere purred. "What did you think of my invitation?" The elderly black man reentered the room and silently replaced Andre's empty salad plate with a bowl of soup.
"Im flattered. You knew my native tongue," she paused, involuntarily thinking of the way Berengiere licked the blood from her finder, "as the monks wrote it sixteen hundred years ago when transcribing it with Latin letters. And you called me sister. Why?"
"Because you are, in a way," Berengiere replied. "A woman of power, whose days are long since past. A woman out of her time, so to speak." Fianna gasped with a quick intake of breath, fear flashing in her eyes. But Berengiere continued, "And have no fear for meeting my gaze, Fianna. I have no designs upon controlling you. My desires lie elsewhere."
Fianna wasnt sure she could trust Berengiere enough to make herself vulnerable to a possible attempt at mental domination. She was still afraid of what Berengieres intentions might be, but she didnt have any reason not to believe her. The hostess had been nothing but polite and thoughtful so far. "If you know what I am," Fianna ventured cautiously, "why do you not have plans to control me? What is it you want from me?" Her voice wavered just a little at the last question. She had sent away Strong Bow. Without him, her only weapons of defense would be sheer power, and she was not at all sure she could overcome an elder.
Berengiere's entire demeanor changed from sultry seductress in the blink of an eye. "I am not your enemy, Fianna," she said softly. "I am not like those you have allowed yourself to become bonded to. Take care in your association with them, for they surround themselves in veils of lies, and they will never allow you to have a measure of power so long as you are under their thumb. The Tremere's power comes from blood magic. Never forget that. Never trust any blood they give you, and never, NEVER allow them to have any of your blood. Be careful that they do not turn on you, as they did on the Kindred when they created themselves."
"Why do I not wish to control you? I cannot deny that tasting your power and knowing I could harness it through you is not a very appealing thought. However, I have learned long ago that power controlled through force is nowhere near as strong as power given freely. You are possibly the last of your bloodline. You deserve to be free, not fettered to those... Kindred."
Fianna had remained quiet during Berengiere's speech. Now she shook her head in amazement at how much Berengiere had managed to learn.
"It is not as bad as that. I am not bonded to anyone. They don't need to do that to me." ~Yes,~ she thought bitterly. ~All they need to do is rescind their protection of me and reveal me to my enemies. I'd be dead in a month.~
"I am with them," she continued, "because they have offered to protect me and they have promised me things that no one else has. Not even at the height of my people's power, was I offered such things. And they will give them to me because they cannot begin to understand what it is I do, and can't master the powers to manipulate the raw power of the earth. Not without losing themselves to my way. They can't wrap their carefully trained and ordered minds around the true essence of our philosophy." Fianna was suddenly speaking in the plural, referring to herself and someone or something else.
"The arrangement is simple. I have to serve them or try to survive without a single ally, with a world of creatures that would feel threatened by my mere existence. And they have to protect me, or risk losing a king of magic they can never master forever. I am the last of my kind, and by the grace of the head of the Tremere, the first of a new line that I will be given leave to fashion in my own image."
Fianna brought the goblet to her lips and drank. She stared past the lip of the cup, now daring to meet Berengiere's eyes. The French noble had exposed herself to Fianna, took her into her home, and had shown interest in her current condition. "Berengiere," she said softly, being bold enough to use her host's first name, "you've taken a risk to have me here. I'm truly flattered." Her eyes held only honesty. "I give you my word that what has happened and is happening here will remain only between us."
Berengiere nodded, and a gentle smile curved her lips. "Remember what I told you. Do not trust them. They will never allow you to recreate your clan until they know for certain they can control you and your power." She slid out over her chair and fairly glided over to where Fianna was seated.
Fianna's nose became filled with a tantalizing scent that reminded her of home - fresh, rich earth after a rain, and subtle spices teased her senses.
Beren leaned forward, and whispered voice full of promise. "And no matter what they tell you, you are not alone." The petite vampire placed a gentle kiss on each cheek, then pulled back slightly to look deeply into Fianna's eyes. Fianna could see centuries of loneliness peek out from behind dark, but they disappeared like shadows ahead of the rising sun.
Beren bent her head once more and tenderly kissed Fianna, her tongue light and teasing against the younger vampire's lips.
Fianna's eyes widened. She found herself unexpectedly wanting to go farther, to experiment, but she held back, still worried that she did not understand Berengiere's motivations. Ancient feelings that had lain old and dead like dry leaves for untold centuries began to taste the freshness of life once more. It felt strange and awkward. Berengiere was a woman, and it felt very strange to Fianna that she could evoke this kind of reaction from her. Berengiere wanted more, it was clear, but Fianna didn't feel ready.
Beren pulled back slowly and straightened up. "You'd best be going, before your masters find you missing and wonder what you're up to," she said, with a look of regret on her unlined, perfect, alabaster face.
~My 'masters'?~ Fianna wondered. But it was true; they did hold authority over her, with or without a bond. It was part of the agreement she had made with them. With Meerlinda. "Yes. I don't want to attract attention." She sounded out of breath, which for the walking dead, didn't make a lot of sense.
Fianna slowly stood, acutely aware of Berengiere's closeness, but did not leave. "Do you want to see me again?" Fianna was intrigued and still wanted to know why Berengiere wanted to see her.
"Of course I want to see you again," Berengiere purred, then tilted her head. "The important question is, do you want to see me." The question was husky, ripe with promise and a touch of challenge.
A smile flickered hesitantly across Fianna's face.
"Each morning, I return to my own domain an hour or two before dawn. Ann Arbor is on the way," hinted Fianna.
"It would be a distinct pleasure, ma petite," Berengiere replied. "I will have Andre give Strong Bow directions of how to get here by highway." She took a step forward until their bodies were almost touching, and Fianna felt as if she were being wrapped in a silken veil of Berengiere's scent. The smaller vampire reached up and with a feather-light touch traced Fianna's lips.
"You best go, before I find some excuse to ask you to stay," Berengiere breathed, her eyes a dark well of hunger - but not for food. She raised herself up on her toes and placed a kiss at the corner of Fianna's mouth, and when she withdrew, her lips brushed Fianna's lightly. Beren took a step back.
Fianna stepped away from Berengiere, and then stopped. She found herself not wanting to leave, as if she might have just lost something but didn't know why. Fianna blinked and shook her head, trying to get a hold of what was happening, but she had a feeling that as long as Berengiere and she were standing there like this, she wouldn't be able to clear her mind enough to figure it out.
"I'll stop again tomorrow, at the dark of dawn," she said softly. Fianna curtsied neatly, then turned to leave.
"Have a good evening, Fianna," Berengiere replied. "Don't forget me." Her final words were like a warm whisper in Fianna's ear.
Berengiere watched Fianna's retreating back with a bemused smile, and Andre knew what would be going on behind her eyes.
"She's a delicious one," Andre said as he watched his beloved's face.
"Oui, she will be," Berengiere agreed as she returned to her seat and retrieved her goblet. "But she must be handled delicately. She is like an exquisite piece art in the making. Full of potential and power, but one mistake will ruin her. I must proceed carefully."
"Might I have a taste of her?" he asked.
"Perhaps some day..." Her voice trailed off, then she turned to look at her ghoul. "Is that what this is about? Are you hungry?" Berengiere's face turned from contemplative to knowing.
"How can I not be," Andre replied as he stood, allowing Berengiere to see fully the extent of his desire.
She chuckled deep in her throat and shook her head. "After all these centuries, you're still as lusty as a stallion in a field full of mares in heat."
"I am your devoted servant, my wife," Andre said, stepping forward and scooping Berengiere up out of her seat and proceeded towards the stairs.
Strong Bow drove Fianna down the drive away from the mansion. "May I ask what that was about, Mika?"
"I'm not sure, yet, Strong Bow. But the lady of that house knows what I am. I think she wants something from me, but I have yet to learn what exactly she is offering in return. I would like you to keep this quiet for now. I need time to figure things out. We'll be returning here tomorrow, so expect someone to give you directions tomorrow night."
Fianna and Strong Bow rode in silence for a few minutes. Then, Fianna broke the silence. "How long was I in there?"
"About twenty minutes."
Fianna sighed in relief. It had seemed much longer than that. Now beyond the reach of Berengiere's direct influence, Fianna began to realize that she, the seductress, had been easily manipulated and nearly seduced, herself. She swallowed hard and firmed her resolve. Next time it would not be so easy. Next time, she must gain the upper hand and find out what was on Berengiere's agenda, even if it was as simple as seeking a friend.