Kian barely hesitated. “I care for all those close to me. Who do you mean in particular?”
“I don’t know rightly. Whomever she is, I usually only see her in flashes during the day. Sometimes when I remember past boyfriends or such, or see a good-looking guy cross the street (which in Paris was most of the time), I would see a flash of her looking at you, protecting you, and you protecting her. She is young with deep red hair and a Nordic look to her. Often you would be surrounded by nightmares, but they rarely influenced you. There are some other faces, ones whom I couldn’t make out watching you both. I have a sketch of her if you would like to see it.”
He nodded. “Please.”
She goes through one of her sketchbooks, found in a half-empty box. She proceeds to show an amazing nude drawing of Kian and what could only be Brenna, but before her embrace, floating in a maelstrom of nightmares, clinging to each other like lovers, siblings or close friends. This Brenna is not the china-doll, nor the Nosferatu horror, but a young woman. Other sketches show her in Danish regalia beside a man who looks vaguely like Kian, but only vaguely. “What do you think?”
Kian stared wide-eyed, clearly overtaken with surprise, or perhaps even shock. “That… that is of no living person,” he said in a hoarse voice. Truly, it was the first time he had seen what Brenna had looked like when she was alive. It was also the first likeness he’d ever seen of Dorian.
What does it mean? he wondered. How could she see this? The images were nothing he’d ever before seen. Clearly, Cathleen was tapping into some very deep current of thought or soul that spanned oceans of time, centuries lost.
Kian stared at the picture a long time, but his startled looked had turned to one of fascination. “Do you have more drawings?”
“Sure”, she said. Over the next hour, Kian saw sketches (mostly rough, some detailed) of recent events he recognized, such as battling the Brood, nights with Brenna, kneeling before Aife after his acceptance as her Guardian, nights out with Veronica; event fraught with emotions. Little was seen of Tessa, Trina, other kindred whose connection wasn’t deeply emotional, or as emotional as a kindred could be. In addition there were several drawings of people Kian didn’t recognize. Aiden staring down at something with others standing beyond (POV of person on ground), an embrace (sketchy, could be Brenna & Dorian), a furious battle on a hill silouetted by the moon. What must be werewolves and many kindred fighting one another in an furious melee. Amazingly, most of the sketches of Brenna, to a fault both modern and past are of this Nordic ideal, usually not the China doll except if Brenna isn’t the focus.
Kian pointed out a few things that were familiar to him as well as which were not as familiar. “These, I think, are from real events,” he stated. Point to others he said, “these might be a bit idealized, or at least I don’t remember them quite that way. And this here — I’m not sure what this means because I wasn’t there. Those things look like they might have occurred a thousand years ago or more.”
He pointed out Brenna dressed as a Danish maiden. “I never knew her like this. But she is quite ancient and she’s changed since then. When I first met her, she mistook me for… this guy, I think.” He pointed out Dorian. “She thought I was him, returned to save her. It might be true, but if so that was an entirely different life. It couldn’t have happened any time in the past ten centuries. And I’m very young by our standards,” told her. “Since then we’ve been sometimes close, sometimes distance, and lately close again.” He watched her face, looking to read her reactions.
There was slight disappointment on her face, but only slight as it was obscured with her excitement of showing the images and gaining feedback about them. Kian wasn’t too sure of her feelings, but she seemed above all – honorable. She started talking, “I think I believe in re-incarnation. Always have I guess. People often seem to be together over many lifetimes. Sometimes friends, sometimes lovers, sometimes kin; but always together, if only for a brief time. I feel that I know you Kian, not personally, but emotionally. Maybe we met long ago; I don’t know. I’m smart enough to realize my infatuation with you is somewhat due to what those killers did to me to capture you. But this connection is very real to me. Here I am, looking at you, a vampire right out of some romance novel or horror story in the flesh and I am not afraid.” She paused, “I suppose your girlfriend is a vampire too?”
He nodded. “Brenna is a one of us.” His mind was still on her drawings. “Your connection with me is like nothing else I’ve ever encountered or even heard of before. I’d… like to see where this might go. Do you think you can keep all this secret?”
She smiled, “Of course. Anyway, who would believe me? I have kept more secrets in my short life than you know. Now that I know I’m not insane, but connected to you in a way; well, it is comforting. I’ll be there to help you. Be your sound board, so to speak. As long as none of your enemies learn of my wherabouts (which I certanly hope not), then everything should be fine.”
“Then I’d like to continue to see you. I think I can guarantee no one can follow me here with a small bit of effort. Is there a number I could use to call you so I don’t surprise you?”
“Of course.” She copied it down, “Call the land line, it is safer.” She handed the number to Kian, “While I believe I might be beginning to know you emotionally, I hope to know you better intellectually. I’m full of questions. Although on the flip side, I’m sure my life is not interesting to one such as yourself. On the other hand, isn’t it the mortal who asks too many questions like the curious cat?”
“Normally? Very much so,” he admitted. “But you’ve got me looking out for you on this.” He broke into a grin. A thought went through his head that he’d have to watch himself, or at least be aware that she might observe how he treats people, including and especially his sex life. But he quickly decided that he wouldn’t change his behavior. Rather, he’d just have to hope that she would notice that the way he treats her is quite different than the way he would treat any other person.
“I appreciate that. You have been so kind. Normally this would be the time that you would sweep me off my feet, make love to me, and feed off me. And..I would let you.” She looked a little vulnerable, “But you don’t want to do that do you?”
Kian stepped and suddenly he was very close to her. The movement was supernaturally fast. He slowly inhaled her scent with his eyes half-closed, then breathed, “Oh yes, Cathleen. I want to do that very much.” His eyes widened to reveal the intensity, the true fire of his hunger and desire. “I hold myself back now, at the very knife’s edge, because I sense that in your heart, you aren’t certain yet what you want.
“I will hold back. I will … try,” he struggled to say. “I don’t want to treat you the way I treat other mortal women. I take; whatever I give is just a by-product of my own indulgence. But not this time. I’m going to leave you with the power of choice. I’m not going to take what I want from you and leave.”
He forced himself to take first one step back, then another. He smiled. “It’s going to be a very worthy challenge for me. But I want to wait. I want something… new. If it is to happen, it will only happen if you are ready and if you go into this with both eyes open.
“You know me better than anyone, though we’ve spent almost no time together. Because of that, you can ask me any question you like, even personal ones.”
“The same goes for you Kian,” she said with an honesty Kian wasn’t used to. “I don’t know if I am ready. It’s not that I’m afraid of men. In college I shagged and disposed of enough one-night stands to nearly earn a reputation… nearly.” She leaned back and smiled, “But, I guess should we choose to do so, the best I could be is your friend… with benefits. You have known many women, haven’t you?”
Kian took a moment to savor the what-ifs associated with her “with benefits” description. Then he quirked an eyebrow, which matched the wry smile. “Oh, a few,” he said with a chuckle. “Or more. None that had any great meaning for me, except for Brenna, though.
“But since you offered to answer, I think I do have some questions for you,” he said. “Are you seeing anybody now? Anyone that might notice any changes that have happened due to our bond? And are you close to any family members?”
“Sure, I’ll answer. I’m not seeing anyone right now, though there were a few at the office that tried to get my attention, I wasn’t interested. I guess I want someone who isn’t associated with work.”
She continued, “My father was killed in the Troubles back in’79 shortly before I was born. I never knew him. My mother and I rarely talk. She’s involved in Sinn Fein now and again along with my elder sister Kirstin, who’s an MP in the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Belfast. They both don’t approve of me working even indirectly with the UK MOD, so I’m a kind of a pariah. So other than family gatherings and the rare phone call, we don’t talk much.”
“I see,” Kian said. “And how do you feel about knowing what I am, and about your connection to the world I’m a part of?”
“I’m excited about it. Happy to know it is real instead of dreams or nightmares I’ve envisioned. I’m happy to know you, Kian. I know you wouldn’t let anyone harm me, and I also know you are taking a mighty risk. As I said before, no one will know.”
“How do the dreams and visions come to you?” he asked. “Does it happen only when you are asleep? Or can you see what’s going on through me right here, right now, too?”
“Sometimes I dream about them, but usually it is a echo. Like someone is having a second conversation with you. If I’m busy, on listening intensely or such, I don’t hear or see them. If I concentrate on them, or am distracted from another task, they appear. I can usually ignore them. Actually for awhile I thought I was quite schizoid. Delusional. They thought it was post-traumatic stress. I’m glad they were wrong.” She looked at Kian intently, “I know your thoughts right now. You are thinking…”
Her face glazed briefly with anger, her hand almost rising to a slap; which just as quickly subsided, her hand dropping to her knee, “about my breasts…a lot.” It was obvious to Kian by her knowing and slightly sultry look that she knew more details about what he wanted to DO with her breasts but was holding back. “It’s actually refreshing, I think, that you think just like a regular guy sometimes. I’ll take it as a compliment, after all, the only thing worse than being treated as a sex object is to NOT be treated as one.”
“Aw damn!” Kian said. “I’m really sorry. If I was making my heart beat right now, I’d be really red faced. I sort of have a runaway libido for a dead guy.” He actually fidgeted. “I guess you know that. Damn! You really read my mind, didn’t you? I mean, I thought you were just seeing what I saw through my eyes. I’ve actually got some experience with that one, but this… you were actually [b]in[/b] my head, not just seeing what I saw.”
Physically, he was just fine. Psychologically, he needed to sit back down. Which he did. He slumped back into the nearest chair again. “Oh, I’m so sorry you had to see that. My mind was really in the gutter.”
She smiled, putting a reassuring hand on his knee, “I know. It’s okay. My dreams and visions are often highly erotic. Or highly violent. I’m glad you are thinking about the erotic side as opposed to the other!” she laughed. “You are a player, aren’t you? Were you before you…what do you call the change?”
He chuckled. “Some things about a person never changes.
“I’ve always loved women. I like loving women, spending time with women, sometimes just admiring women. I guess the difference now compared to when I was alive is that it takes conscious effort. Also, it’s harder to really feel emotion like I did. Emotions like love and affection don’t just happen like it does when you are human. Rage, fear, those things are tied to survival and so my guess is that’s why those feelings survive the Embrace. Feelings like friendship, affection… even love seem to be harder to attain. Like the good side of passion is bled from your soul after the Embrace. It’s not gone, it’s just… not as strong or fulfilling as they used to be. ”
He gave her a rueful, sad smile. “When I was alive I never bothered to think twice about stuff like that. I guess you only notice it when it’s gone. So to answer your question, I guess I do try harder to indulge my passions than I did before in a sad little attempt to truly feel like I did before. Yet, each night I feel like the tiniest piece of me is slipping away. I keep looking to tighten my grasp on passion, but…”
He shook his head. “When the day comes that I can’t feel anymore, I hope I sleep and dream of my humanity, but more likely I’ll be tortured by it. The irony is that even as these things slip away, I feel my power growing bit by tiny bit. I suppose that’s the nature of the beast, as they say.”
“Immortality, with a price. I think I understand. It is better to attempt to be human, at least the human experience, to feel, than become an inhuman monster like the ones you fight. I think you are braver and wiser than you think trying to keep the memories and feelings alive. That must be the point. You cherish what we often take for granted and have a unique view on our mundane lives.” She seemed genuinely compassionate with Kian’s plight and listened intently.
“Your Embrace, was it painful? Did you have a choice?”
“A choice as in, was I asked if I wanted to live forever in the night but be only a corpse during the day?” Kian asked. He shook his head. “No. My entire family had been slaughtered by… well actually by vampires who had deliberately turned away from the last remnants of their own humanity, who then killed and slaughtered the living simply because they could. They in turn were destroyed by those of our kind who took exception to that kind of behavior. At the end of it, I was lying on the ground with my guts ripped out, dying. I don’t remember much of what happened at that point. I don’t think it’s usually painful anyway but I don’t know. The body does die, after all. There are nice, quiet ways to die and then there are horribly painful ways to die. Mine was painful but not because of what I was to become.”
“So, you were in a sense saved?”
He nodded. “Yes. But everyone’s Embrace is different, individual. Some few had to serve vampire masters while slavishly addicted to vampiric blood for years before being Embraced. I imagine others might have been found and given the choice. A few may have been Embraced out of malice, an intent to torture someone for a very long time.
“And then the most unpleasant method I can imagine is one in which the Embrace is twisted into a sadistic ritual of pain and sacrifice designed to strip away a person’s humanity. This is what can create true monsters of the sort I fight against on a regular basis.
“Because every Embrace is really unique it’s hard to truly say if choice is involved. In some cases, perhaps. In other cases, no. Even in cases where there was no choice given, ultimately it is still the individual who decides whether they will continue their undead existence or not.”
“Why do you have to drink blood. It doesn’t make much sense to me, other than in an S&M erotic way. Can you drink any blood? If I’m asking too much, let me know. I guess I’m very curious, a little turned on perhaps…a little, but mostly intellectually curious. Also, why hasn’t the truth of vampires gotten out after all this time? You would think an investigative reporter or two would have found things out?”
“Not everything in this world obeys the rules of reason. Maybe we feed on something more than simply blood? I can drink human blood, yes. Weaker vampire may be able to subsist on animals. Others can only find sustenance by the very dangerous practice of feeding on other vampires.
“You also ask why the truth hasn’t gotten out after all this time?” Kian continued. “It’s because we take action to obscure the truth. And sometimes the public simply refuses to believe. Our society has a great deal of influence over the waking world and any person can be discredited, their stories warped or eliminated, nothing is truly beyond our reach. That’s why I’m stressing so very much how important it is that all of what I say, even knowing me, is an incredibly dangerous secret.
“But since you are already in here,” he tapped his temple, “I feel it is far wiser to tell you the what and whys rather than leave you to guess, to bring you into my world figuratively speaking, rather than be cruel.”
“It’s not like I’m in your exact thoughts like sci-fi or such, its just very strong feelings, emotions, and empathy. And… a bit of your primal nature as well. I am unfair though, you were asking about me before I so rudely carried on with my curiosity.”
He smiled. “It’s okay. I do have a question about the drawings you made of people that seem to be from a different time. I think I’ve identified a few of them, but I was wondering where they came from. Were they from dreams?”