A Vampire's Purgatory
~ A Romance in Central City | Novella 8 ~
A Vampire’s Purgatory is coming on September 25, 2017.
Ricard paced the floor behind the red chair he’d placed directly in front of the one where Jessica sat. He paced and rubbed his forehead. Every few laps he stopped with a plan to begin an explanation, face the woman whom the universe had clearly presented in an effort to wreak havoc in his life, but the sight of her made him incapable of speech.
She sat wide-eyed and watching as though he was an acrobat poised on a high wire a hundred feet above the ground. Of course, there was no net to catch him when he crashed.
Reddish brown curls spiraled in long ringlets to her shoulders. Her eyes were the color of smoky topaz, a rich sparkling brown, hinting of gold. Even wearing a pair of blue scrubs from the infirmary did not hide her lovely figure. Of course, the very moment he saw her crouched on the floor in the small apartment’s kitchen he’d memorized each curve.
Ricard turned on his heel and marched toward the wall, returning a few seconds later. He paused again, faced her and opened his mouth to begin.
Jessica leaned forward, her mouth opened an inch or so as if she might help him get the first word out. Her lips curled up a bit and she nodded.
He pivoted and headed back toward the wall.
Normally Ricard was a man who spoke his mind when needed and did not, when not needed. He was never tongue-tied or confused. He certainly was articulate. In fact, he spoke several languages fluently and had never had issue expressing himself.
For some inexplicable reason the sight of the woman made him a mute moron.
He glanced over at her. She remained seated, hands on the armrests, delicate fingers alternately drumming over the ends. She looked around his home, taking in the living room. He noted the way her attention went from the small sitting area beside the indoor waterfall across the room to the couch and chairs surrounding a gas fireplace to the bookshelf filled with science and research references to the paintings adorning each wall.
In spite of her curiosity and the way she appeared to notice the room, she watched him. He could feel it. He felt her attention on him the same way a human felt the attention of a vampire. Heavy. Purposeful. Sexual.
Her very existence was more perplexing than his own. How could a mate truly exist for him? How was this situation possible?
Every cell of her body was made for him, just as he was made for her. He wondered if she recognized the feel of his presence. Could she possibly understand a vampire’s need for his mate?
He was certain she did not. She seemed quite ignorant to the ways of vampires. Ignorance or not, she had to feel the lure just as he felt it. She must feel the way his soul called to hers, the way mates bonded.
The sound of her breath was louder than he suspected it might normally be. She was stuffy from crying. Her eyes were red and puffy. Her nose was pink and raw. Her lips were dry. She licked them repeatedly on every third breath.
“You’re thirsty.” He left the room before she could respond, moving with the speed of a vampire on the hunt to provide for his mate.
In his kitchen he realized he had nothing to offer but water. He hadn’t planned for human guests. Generally, he did keep something like wine and fruity drinks and cheese and crackers for when Lawrie and Reade came by to discuss work or play cards. But with the long hours in the lab they hadn’t come over in quite a while, so there was nothing to serve.
He grabbed some ice and filled a glass with water and headed back to the living room.
He spun on his heel and returned to the kitchen for a paper towel, then remembered Lawrie had warned that tissues were more comfortable than paper towels for nose blowing. He wrapped the towel around the glass and grabbed the little box he’d purchased for guests.
Before she could make another sound or do anything that would send him running for some other creature comfort, Ricard placed the box on the end table beside the chair and pushed the glass into her hand.
“You’re thirsty.” He stood over her with his arms folded over his chest. “And you need a tissue.”
“Oh my God! Do I have snot on my face?” Her empty hand flew to her face while she twisted to place the glass on the table. “That’s so gross. I’m sorry. I’m so embarrassed. All this crying is making my nose run, and I guess I can’t feel it. So gross.” She grabbed a tissue.
“No. You do not have snot, but you are stuffy so I assumed you needed to blow your nose.” Ricard scratched his beard.
A loud honking sound came from behind the tissue, then Jessie coughed. “Sorry. That sounded terrible.”
What was wrong with Ricard? He was fumbling this conversation like a teenage boy trying to ask a girl to prom. “I did not mean to intimate you had snot on your face. That’s not at all what I meant to imply. I was trying to be helpful.”
“I must look a mess.”
“Your curly hair is a wild display of unruliness. Your nose is bright red and you have bags under your eyes. If you’d like to see, I have a mirror in the bathroom.”
She frowned and slowly both hands went to her head where her fingers worked between the curls and patted the hair down.
“That’s not helping. It’s bouncing back. I’m happy to help, if you think it’s necessary, though I don’t see a need.” He quite liked the way her wild curls shot in every direction and would have given his left fang to touch her hair.
Her mouth dropped open. She shook her head and shrank back into the seat.
Disappointed, Ricard nodded. He would not force himself on his mate. He’d seen these situations unfold many times. There was a courting process for some mates. They needed time to warm up to each other, much like humans needed to get to know each other.
Of course, he’d hoped that should he ever find a mate, they’d not need to go through the formalities of courting, but would…bond in an immediate fashion.
This situation, having his mate arrive out of the blue without warning during, what he was certain was, the most stressful time of her life certainly made sense that she’d need some time to acclimate.
“Well, we might as well discuss this. We’re mates, which I’m assuming you probably know. You probably sense the attraction between us.” Ricard’s heart hammered in his chest so hard he paused to consider whether he was having a heart attack.
He clutched his chest and bent forward a bit. Then it occurred to him he might be worrying her. After all, if she were having a heart attack, he’d be out of his mind with worry.
“Don’t be concerned. Even if this is a heart attack, which I’m sure it’s not, it’s probably just some weird vampire bonding thing, but, if it is a heart attack, I’ll be fine by sundown tomorrow.” He held a hand up to motion for her to stay in her seat.
No sense in her getting up and worried.
Several seconds later the pressure in Ricard’s chest minimized and his heart slowed to normal. “Okay. I’m fine. That has passed, and we can get back to our conversation.”
He turned to look at Jessica. She remained seated, hands still stuck in her curls, mouth open. The one thing that was different was that her head moved side to side in slow motion. “No.” It was the only word she said, and she repeated it no less than ten times.
“No? No what?”
“No weird vampire bonding for me.” Her hands dropped to her lap. “I want to go back to the infirmary. I’d rather be with Rafe and his brother and the nurse.”
Ricard’s heart simply stopped beating. Rafe? She wanted to be with Rafe, the vampire who dug through her mind, plucking information? Rafe and his brother, who came from a lineage as vile and reprehensible as Raymond Tyrone? That was who she’d rather be with?
“Rafe?” The woman had no idea what she was saying. Rafe was one of the most twistedly diabolical vampires Ricard knew. Only his brother Gabe could compete in the “let’s think up weird shit to torture people who try to break into our fortress” arena.
She did not want to be his mate? What if this was one-sided? What if she was so marred by the loss of her beloved brother she was unable to recognize the bond as his mate?
What if this was a cruel joke from the universe? The idea was absolutely possible. How often did this sort of thing happen to a vampire? Once in a lifetime, maybe. But twice? Practically never.
“No.” She said the word with such finality Ricard didn’t dare to argue. If his mate did not want him, he would respect her wishes. There was no other option for a vampire but to honor the wishes of his mate, even if her wish would drive him to his death.