Serafina’s, Book 5
Will curiosity kill the witch?
Kind witch Melanie Merrow regards herself as an honourary aunt to the eccentric staff of Serafina’s Psychic Investigations. But Melanie has buried a terrible past that her friends bring unwittingly to the surface during a séance. Plus her insatiable quest for knowledge has fixated on the most elusive and dangerous being on the planet – the ancient, tragic Founder, from whom all vampires are descended.
The Founder, who hides himself in shadows and illusions, even from the scattered vampires over whom he watches from a distance, plans to leave the world of humans forever. He should not be engaging in banter and seduction with the beautiful and intriguing Melanie, let alone buying her chips or involving himself in the chaos that is Serafina’s. But, fighting the human police, the possessive spirit of a dead serial killer, a pack of vengeful wolves, and the anger of the Tuatha de Danann is easy compared to dealing with his own reawakening desires…
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The Founder had always possessed a low opinion of humanity.
Which was, of course, the fatal flaw in his design of the undead. A stupid human would undoubtedly make a stupid vampire. Once, when the world was young, he’d had control over who became immortal, and he had, on the whole, chosen wisely. Now, he had the felicity of observing a moronic vampiress called Margaret demonstrating her power to a recent interloper—in a fashionable Sydney bar stuffed with uneasy and downright terrified humans.
She stood on a tabletop in the centre of the bar, fangs on full display, hissing at her undead enemy like a ham extra in a bad horror film. For his part, the vampire who’d intruded on Margaret’s territory had the grace to look appalled. Every vampire knew from the moment he or she was turned, that the first rule—the only rule—of the undead was discretion.
He stood facing her, tense, but at least with his mouth well shut. He even tried to reason with her.
“There’s room for us both,” he told her telepathically. “I won’t get in your way. I’ll hunt the other side of the city.”
“You’ll hunt another city altogether, or I’ll kill you.”
The new kid in town, whose name was Bruce, bridled at that, and from his corner shadows, the Founder knew, wearily, that things were about to get nasty.
Bruce curled his lip. “You’re no stronger than me.”
“But I break the rules,” Margaret boasted. “And that makes me meaner. And makes this city too hot for you, pom. Go back to London.”
“Too many vampires in London now. It’s why I came to Australia.”
“And now there are too many vampires in Sydney. I’ll kill you after dinner.”
As the vampiress swooped down from the table, faster than human eyes would have been able to see, she grabbed for the girl protecting her beer close by. The imbecile was going to bite her in public, just to convince her interloper how badass she was.
Time, clearly, for the Founder’s own demonstration. Almost resigned, he stepped out of the shadows, watching the action partly through the eyes of Bruce, to whom he seemed to fly from nowhere in a blur, sweeping Margaret away from the human girl and out the door before anyone else could move. At the last moment, the Founder yanked Bruce outside too.
To the humans, the Founder would have been invisible. It probably looked to them as if Bruce had pushed his drunk girlfriend outside, so just in case any of the bar patrons followed from curiosity or compassion, he sped his captives around the corner into the nearest alley and hurled them against the wall.
It took him less than a second to drain Margaret to dust. Gazing through it with his mouth open, Bruce muttered in the Founder’s head, “What the fuck?”
The Founder, shimmering the air to make himself more or less invisible in the darkness, leapt onto the low roof above Bruce’s head.
The Founder slid unnoticed into the vampire’s numbed mind. “So what, pray, is the lesson you take from tonight’s sad events?” he enquired.
Bruce spun around, searching. “You’re…you’re the Founder,” he murmured in amazed awe. “You do exist…”
“Exactly. So don’t piss me off,” the Founder said, already walking away. “Here endeth the lesson.”
He supposed he’d saved the day. The humans would rationalise what they’d seen, and no one would imagine for a moment that either Margaret or Bruce were real vampires. Margaret had been more of a hazard than an asset to vampire kind—which was why the Founder had been keeping a close eye on Sydney. He didn’t mourn Margaret’s loss, because she wasn’t one. He’d solved the problem and should have felt if not triumphant, at least satisfied. Instead, he was conscious of minor irritation. Had he really created vampires just so he could stop them behaving with all the uncontrolled violence and idiocy of humans?
The Founder took himself to Sydney Harbour Bridge and found an invisible seat amid the tangle of metal that supported the massive structure. From there, he gazed down into the calm sea and passed his hand over the stretch of water in his line of focus, until it reflected what he chose to see of the rest of the world.
There was a ripple over Scotland. Nowadays, there was always a ripple over Scotland. The Founder blamed the humans who’d become entangled with the vampire Blair and upset the supernatural balance. It hadn’t been like this before Blair’s human, Serafina, had started flexing her psychic muscles. Or before her friend, the beautiful and overcurious little witch, Melanie, had started poking into the Founder’s past and present, searching out his knowledge and abilities. He’d put the hems on that, of course, which should have pleased him more than it did.
His hand hovered over Scotland, taking in the locations of his vampires, and, inevitably, the witch. She had a vampire with her, and it wasn’t one he knew. One of the new breed who should never have been made.
He had an excuse to check up on her again. His earlier annoyance vanished, swept away by a secret, insidious excitement he tried to ignore. Rising on his narrow ledge, the Founder stood upright and walked off, folding the world in front of him.
It was dark when the doorbell rang. Melanie, who’d been thinking about an early night with a good book—well, a bad book in many eyes—leapt up to answer it. Her day had been dull, and she hadn’t yet given up hope of finding some excitement before bed and the bad book.
As always when she opened her front door, the view took her breath away. Trees at the foot of her garden, the hills beyond, and, sparkling between, the waters of “her” little loch, only a few miles distant from Loch Lomond. She was so lucky to live here. She acknowledged all that in an instant that banished her vague discontent—and that was before she even glanced at her visitor.
He wasn’t tall or threatening, but he stood staring at her without blinking. In the glow of Melanie’s outside light, he looked unhealthily pale, and his skin seemed to sag a little, like a man who’d lost too much weight too quickly. And yet he was a comparatively young man. Certainly no older than forty. He wore a suit, although the jacket didn’t seem to fit properly.
“Hello,” Melanie said.
“Good evening,” the man said politely. “I apologise for calling so late. My name is Richard Wayland. I don’t have an appointment, but I understand you do consultations.” He gave a wan smile. “I’m desperate.”
Melanie was a sucker for a wan smile. And a man prepared to give his name to a witch. She said, “You understand I don’t guarantee to help you. I don’t even guarantee to try until I’ve heard your problem.”
Melanie opened the door wider. “Then please come in.”
Many people would—and did—consider her rash to the point of foolish for allowing strange men into her house at all when she was alone. At night, she hated to imagine the lectures. But Melanie wasn’t afraid of people. Nor was she stupid. She had her own forms of protection, and they covered the whole house.
Leading her visitor across the hall to her consulting room on the right-hand side, she switched on the lights and offered him a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of water. He turned them all down, and she indicated the comfortable chair at the near side of her desk.
She’d dithered about the desk when she’d first designed this room. Her original idea had been an informal sitting room where people would be more comfortable spilling their problems and accepting her help. But in the end, although most of the room remained her original vision, she’d decided to begin each new consultation behind the desk. For some reason, it inspired confidence and set the tone that this was a serious business, not some airy-fairy fairground nonsense.
Richard Wayland moved towards the desk with odd stiffness and lowered himself gingerly into the seat.
“So, how can I help you?” Melanie asked, sitting opposite him and picking up her pen. She gazed at him with an encouraging smile. In the light, his suit was revealed as old and worn and just a little dirty, which sat oddly with his precise, educated speech. The man had a story.
He gazed back at her without blinking. “I expected someone older. You seem very young.”
“I’m forty-two years old,” Melanie replied calmly. “And I’ve been doing this a long time.”
“You look younger.” Her would-be client gazed distractedly at the curtains behind her, as if he could see through them. “I suppose that will be witchcraft?”
“Lots of greens and a pure heart,” Melanie said flippantly.
Her client blinked, possibly with surprise, and refocused his attention on her. “I heard you can help with…medical problems.”
“Sometimes,” Melanie said with caution. “I’ve studied herbal medicine and practiced with some success, but I’m not a faith healer.”
Wayland took off his tie, then grasped his lapel and the shirt beneath and yanked them down from his shoulder. Chunks of flesh seemed to be peeling from his bones, flapping. Although there was blood, it didn’t ooze or leak, just hung around, part of the general mess.
Melanie stood up with a gasp of pity. “God, that looks painful. What happened?”
“I don’t know. It just started about a week ago, and it’s getting worse. I don’t know what to do.”
Melanie came around the desk. “What did your doctor say?” Reaching out, she touched the sound flesh of his throat just beside the rotting flaps. His skin was cold.
Not just the kind of cold that came from being outside too long on an autumn night, but deep-down chill, like stone that never saw the sun.
Slowly, she dropped her hand and raised her eyes to his face. Still, pale features. Unblinking, dead eyes.
He said, “I haven’t seen a doctor. For obvious reasons.”
“You’re a vampire,” Melanie observed.
Her client gave a wry smile. “It doesn’t seem to even surprise you. Not quite Count Dracula, am I?”
“Far from it,” Melanie said. “You talk.”
“Some of us do.”
“Only those of you who were made last year by the magic of the sorcerer Nicholas Smith.”
Wayland frowned. “How do you know so much about vampires?”
“Luck, mainly,” Melanie said wryly. “You’re a banker?” It wasn’t just a guess. The new vampires made with the aid of Nicholas Smith’s magic were nearly all from the financial sector of employment.
“I was. A while after I was turned, I found I couldn’t cope with the stress of working and hiding my nature, so I resigned and moved up here. There are a lot fewer people, of course, but I’m discreet. Sheep blood is okay between occasional humans. I thought I could get by until this happened.”
“Has anything else changed for you?” Melanie asked curiously. She knew a couple of much stronger, more dangerous vampires than this one would ever be, but although she didn’t really fear unprovoked attack, she did wish she kept one of Sera’s neat little pointy sticks in her desk.
The vampire shook his head. “Apart from tiredness—which is odd, because I’m finally getting to sleep when I want—and loss of strength. Almost like I’m ill, only I thought vampires didn’t get ill.”
“Maybe it’s the sheep’s blood,” Melanie reflected. “I never heard of a vampire drinking sheep’s blood.”
The vampire stared at her. “Are you saying I’ve got scrapie or something?”
“No, you wouldn’t get diseases like that… Would you? I just meant, maybe sheep’s blood doesn’t agree with you. Or maybe… I heard someone complaining the other day about an animal he swore was a wolf, killing one of his sheep. Maybe it was a sick dog or something that’s infected other sheep? A species-jumping infection?” She sighed. “Unlikely, I know. The sheep just worry me for some reason. I probably shouldn’t say this, but perhaps you should stick to humans for a while, see if this goes away.”
The vampire gave her another wan smile. “Well, that’s the problem. I don’t think I’ve got a while. I think I’m dying. It feels as if I’m dying.”
It was, Melanie reflected, a bit of a bummer. He was a relatively young man. Left to his own devices, he could have expected to live another forty years or so. Until some arsehole made him immortal.
“Is it as painful as it looks?” she asked.
The vampire nodded. Melanie walked to the big dresser that took up most of the back wall, and took out a bottle.
“This will help with the pain,” she said, coming back to him. “For the rest…I need to do some research. I’ve never come across vampire illness before. Or even vampire injuries that couldn’t be cured by blood.”
“Trust me, blood doesn’t help,” Wayland said mournfully. He took the bottle from her, unscrewed the cap, and took a large slug. “How much of this can I take?” he asked belatedly.
“I wouldn’t glug any more before dawn. How long do you think you have? What’s your best guess?”
He shrugged. “A week, maybe less. If I’m too weak to hunt, I’ll die quicker.”
Melanie hesitated. Her reputation as well as her business depended on discretion. Success and discretion. She suspected taking this case would sacrifice both. Which would be a pity. Word had got around about her in the last year or so. Despite moving out here to the sticks, she had no shortage of clients from all over Scotland, and from down south too. They came for all sorts of reasons—alternative medicine, revenge, financial problems, love problems, and she got a kick as well as a living out of fixing those cases. Was a being who was already dead worth sacrificing all this for?
She knew other beings who’d been dead a lot longer than this one. Sera, who was probably the most important person in Melanie’s life, would grieve horribly if her dead—undead—lover died, as this vampire seemed about to.
Besides, he looked so miserable and helpless that he aroused all her motherly instincts. She could at least make enquiries of Blair, Sera’s lover.
The Founder would know, of course.
Her stomach tightened with the odd thrill of fear and excitement she associated with that particular being, the first vampire, the one from whom all the others, including Blair and the sick one on the other side of her desk, were descended. Reclusive as he was, the Founder would know what was wrong with Richard Wayland and how to cure him.
Or perhaps she was just stupid to place so much faith in a shadow who’d never even spoken to her, except, perhaps, in a dream. “Curiosity killed the witch.”
She’d been well warned—by him and by everyone who knew anything about him. Whatever his knowledge, he wouldn’t share it with her. Even if she knew how to ask him.
She pushed her pen and a piece of paper across the desk to Richard Wayland. “Write down your name and who turned you. And where I can get back in touch with you.”
“I can come here.” Obviously, he still retained some of a vampire’s secretive instincts.
“It’s up to you. But if you weaken further, I might need to come to you. Don’t misunderstand me, I might not be able to help at all, but I’ll try.”
The Founder wasn’t sure what drew him to the witch. He did know that, having warned her away from her apparently insatiable study of him, and having listened to his people discouraging her from the same via their human contacts, it was somewhat counterproductive to enter her home.
Her home soothed him for some reason. Even at night, it gave him a strange impression of brightness, of age and quiet learning. Like the lost library of Timbuktu. Like his early days of study as a youth with the various village doctors he’d visited. In those days, he studied mostly under the stars and the heat of the African sun. It wasn’t Melanie’s building, it was the idea of learning that comforted him still. She wasn’t afraid to learn, although he’d tried to make her so. He was, it seemed, a hypocrite in this. If he’d met her away back at the beginning, in the mists of his half-forgotten first memories, he’d have been enchanted.
He stood inside the front door, letting it close softly, silently behind him, and listened. He could hear her heart beating steadily in sleep.
It wasn’t the first time he’d entered her home. That had been a year ago, when he’d felt her summons. Well, her effort at summons. He doubted there was any being in this world or any other who could summon him against his will. He’d gone to see what she was up to, particularly since she was connected to the human who was hanging around with the vampire Blair.
She’d been reading about him in a book whose existence he’d forgotten about. It came from the days when he’d still been able to read everything that had ever been written down, and he’d been impressed by the lengths of her curiosity. She’d reminded him of his own youth, when he’d still been human.
That had been uncomfortable. He rarely remembered his human days. They were too painful, too long ago, and too few to count in the millennia which had followed. And yet he’d kept his eye on her. He’d helped her save the humans in the Tuatha portal, and he’d added his energy to that of the creature Angel to save Melanie herself when she’d been shot and had, in fact, technically died. Not giving in to death was his speciality. And he’d used the opportunity to visit her unconscious mind and warn her to stay away from him.
And yet here he was in her house, walking into her study and her kitchen, to see what she’d been reading, what spells she’d been casting, and what brews she’d been concocting. This curiosity, it seemed, stretched both ways.
She was reading about vampires again. He frowned with displeasure. One of the undead had entered her house this evening. He could smell the presence in her study. A new one, of the kind Blair looked after in Edinburgh, when he remembered. Something was wrong with this vampire: his thread was too long.
He moved through the cottage and glided into the witch’s bedroom. He’d done such things so often it generally bored him. To watch a human sleep before he drank her, or his, blood. Generally, he did it without waking them. He didn’t need much blood anymore, and he barely had to touch them to extract what he wanted.
Looking at the witch didn’t bore him.
He stood in the shadows by the window and gazed at the sleeping woman in the big bed, watching the rise and fall of the covers as she breathed, appealingly helpless, vulnerable…
Desire gathered low in his belly, insidious, sweet…and dangerous when applied to this woman. Perhaps that was part of her attraction for him. He was old and bored.
A worn, open book lay on the pillow beside her, the corner of the binding pressed against her cheek. Strands of her luxuriant hair spread across the pages like a veil. Her heart beat steadily, pumping hot, sweet blood around her veins and arteries. It smelled like nectar.
She was beautiful. Many human women were, of course. Beauty alone wasn’t enough to pierce his ennui. But something about this beautiful woman did. Perhaps the combination of pale, flawless skin, the perfect shape of her skull beneath the taut flesh, and the rare, dark red shade of the hair spilling around her face as she slept. Her eyes, when open, were green, he remembered, sparkling with fun and compassion and an eternal quest for knowledge—the best of human characteristics, and traits he found only too seldom in anyone.
She breathed deeply in her sleep, her full lips parting temptingly, her body shifting slightly so that the quilt moved and revealed the soft curve of her naked shoulder. His mouth opened in want, and he licked his razor-sharp fangs. His own blood trickled from his tongue.
This was why he came here. To torture himself with a powerful lust he wouldn’t assuage.
Curiosity killed the witch, he’d told her. Despite that, he wouldn’t kill her. He would, however, drink her blood one night. Maybe even this night. His throat grew dry with the force of hunger. It swept down to his stomach and lower, joining with his lust.
He could do it now. Step out of the shadows and cross the room to her bed, sit beside her so that her warmth enfolded him as he bent over her sleeping body, inhaling the scent of her skin, piercing it with his fangs and letting the heady sweetness of her blood rush into his mouth. He could make her enjoy rather than simply endure or fail to notice. After all, there was no real reason for his abstinence where she was concerned—at least not beyond his own absurd fear that he wanted her too much.
He could let the blood kiss arouse her, and then he could take her while he drank, pushing deep inside her hot, wet depths, having all of her, body and blood…
She’d like the dream, when she remembered it in the morning. He already intrigued her, and he’d make it good for her.
Or he could wait, draw out this game he played with himself a little longer, to heighten the anticipation and the joy of eventual fulfilment. A sip from the witch’s veins would be more, so much more. He’d no need of sex with her. Her blood alone would be amazing. He could tell that merely from the beguiling, so tempting smell.
He savoured the moment, rocking on the cusp of indecision while his body held still, racked with such powerful desire and thirst that even he found it hard to control. To take, or not to take…
He stepped one pace forward—and realised her breathing had changed. She was panting, a frown marring the previous smoothness of her brow. A sound of breathless distress broke from her lips. Her head twisted from side to side on the pillow in a desperate attempt to escape.
Intrigued, he stepped back into the shadows. She was trying to wake up, to make whatever was in her head stop. Memory twisted deep inside him. He understood nightmares only too well.
What scares you so much, little witch? You never seemed half so frightened of me in your head, not even when you thought I was God.
Melanie woke with a cry. Her heart thudded painfully. Her skin prickled with sweat as she stared into the darkness, listening to the sound of her own ragged panting.
The edge of the book pressed into her cheek. She’d fallen asleep reading, looking for clues as to the vampire Richard Wayland’s mysterious illness. And dreamed.
A nightmare. Well, memory. But in daylight it would seem like a nightmare again, or a film about someone else’s life. A horror film, where a child watches her mother being murdered and can do nothing to stop it. All she can do is save her father.
She lay still, waiting for her heart to slow, for the terror to resolve into present-day safety. But for some reason, the nightmare presence seemed to linger in the air and cling.
Lyall Clark, serial killer.
Dead serial killer. He’d died in prison twenty years ago.
Melanie wanted to reach out and switch on the bedside lamp, to dissolve the shadows of memory into her familiar bedroom, so lovingly restored and decorated with the rest of her cottage. But she refused to give in. She’d learned to control the terror in childhood. She wouldn’t let it defeat her in adulthood, not for an instant. So she stared into the darkness, breathing deeply, acknowledging that Lyall Clark wasn’t here, had never been here and was, in fact, very, very dead.
No, Clark wasn’t here. But something was. Someone.
Subtly, the cause of her drumming heart changed from the cold, helpless fear of memory to the excitement of knowledge. He was here again, the Founder, lurking in the shadows, watching her.
She’d sensed him more than once since the night she’d been shot and he’d walked into the depths of her mind, warning, “Curiosity killed the witch.” The first time, she’d been terrified he’d come for her, and pretended she didn’t know he was there. He was gone in seconds.
Since then, she’d almost looked forward to his occasional, fleeting visits. They never felt like stalking, for some reason. Instead, she greeted his soundless, watching presence with a little thrill of excitement that acknowledged his power. The strongest power she’d ever encountered. The most powerful being she’d ever encountered: the Founder. The first vampire who’d made himself, from whom all other vampires, including Blair and Phil and her new sick client, were descended.
But he’d been right when he’d spoken in her mind; her fear of him was laced with dangerous curiosity.
She couldn’t control his visits by physical means, willpower, or magic. She had no more say in those than she had in the nightmares. But perhaps she had some say in what happened during the short moments he was here.
Her heart still beating hard, she stared into the shadows by the curtains. Although she couldn’t see him, the darkness there seemed blacker, almost shimmering.
“Well, don’t just stand there,” she said loudly to the curtains. “Since you’re here, have a seat. Let’s chat.”
This was why she didn’t have flatmates anymore. They’d have had her sectioned.
The curtains didn’t move. Neither did the shadows. But after a moment or two, she realised the shimmering black shade had dulled to normal darkness. She sighed. Speaking to him clearly scared him off—which was good. Who wanted to be stalked? Especially by something even vampires were afraid of.
Still, as she sat up and reached for the lamp switch, she was conscious of a disappointment—which vanished into sudden, galloping terror as a figure seemed to loom out of the darkness in front of her. This was no vague, shimmering blackness. This was the definite shape of a man, only two or three feet away from her.
Oh shit. I’ve done it now…
“The Founder does not chat.”
Deep, soft, icy, with just a trace of self-mockery, his voice bypassed her ears and spoke straight into her mind, almost like a daydream or a fantasy. She’d have considered insanity if it hadn’t been the same voice which had once told her, “Curiosity killed the witch.”
Old vampires didn’t speak aloud. They communicated telepathically. Only Sera could hear them because she was telepathic, or perhaps because she could talk to the dead. Melanie could do neither. At least not without some very powerful spells. And yet she heard him. Surely more humorous than supercilious: “The Founder does not chat.”
She thought she could make out the whites of his eyes, a gleam of amber directed at her like a torch.
“I suppose he doesn’t stare either?” Melanie retorted.
There was a definite pause before he said, “That would be rude.”
“And breaking into someone’s home isn’t?”
“Not when I’m invited.”
“Invited?” she repeated, aware now that she was doing the staring. Not that she could see much.
“You have a short memory,” he remarked, “even for a human.”
Oh shit. Melanie grasped the quilt tighter as she remembered a certain spell cast a year ago, when she’d first learned about vampires and the legend of the Founder. “I tried to summon you. It didn’t work.”
“Of course it didn’t work. I have free will. On the other hand, I’d have heard your magic in hell. I chose to be invited.”
“And if I rescind my invitation?”
The air stirred, almost as if he was laughing at her naivety. She shivered.
He said, “You’ve been reading too many novels.”
Melanie swallowed, peering through the darkness at him. She could see two eyes now, but one seemed darker than the other. A trick of the nonexistent light. She said, “Are you speaking to me?”
“Is there anyone else here?”
“No, I mean are you speaking to me? Not, are you speaking to me?”
“Questions, questions,” mocked the Founder. “Do you want to end up like me?”
“You mean staring at people while they sleep?”
She knew that wasn’t what he meant. Legend said his own curiosity had caused him to face down ignorance and prejudice, had led him into torture and suffering and ultimately to defy death itself. But she couldn’t resist the barb.
For a moment, she imagined she’d actually thrown him. He didn’t move or speak for several seconds. Then he said, “You weren’t sleeping. You were waking. From a nightmare.”
Melanie twitched without meaning to. She never spoke of this. To anyone. She shrugged. “Everyone dreams.”
He stirred. She heard the faint rush of his clothes, whatever they were. What did the Founder wear? Her fingers itched for the light switch, but she was too afraid to move, in case he came any closer. A shiver thrilled down her spine.
“What do you dream, little witch?” he asked softly. “What scares you more than I do?”
She stared at the brighter of his eyes. “Nothing. I admit that.”
“Then you lie. Though I’m not often the one called upon to frighten away the demons.”
She caught her breath. Was that what she’d done?
She hadn’t called on him—of course she hadn’t. But if it hadn’t been for the dream, she’d probably have said nothing, just waited for him to go as she always had before. Everyone, including the vampire Blair, had told her never to speak to the Founder, never to try to engage.
Oh hell. I’ve engaged. Even more surprising, not to say terrifying, so had he.
“Well, thank you,” she said politely. “The demons have gone. Apart from yourself.”
“That’s the danger of inviting the biggest demon to dispel the lesser. Who’s going to scare me?”
“Can you be scared?” she countered.
“You could try with one of your little spells.”
“Now you’re being insulting.” Should she really be bandying words with the Founder? Oh well, in for a penny… “Actually, since you’re here, I want to ask you something.”
“How to keep the dreams away?”
“Oh no. The dreams are mine.”
For some reason, the answer seemed to intrigue him. She caught a faint head movement, as if he’d leaned it to one side, considering her. Then the darkness blurred, and her heart lurched as the mattress depressed.
Oh God help me, the Founder’s sitting on my bed.
Surely she should have been able to make out more of him than this blur and odd glimpses of his eyes? She was used to the dark now, and there was moonlight gleaming through the curtains. And he was close enough to touch. She could move her knee and brush his hip through the quilt. If she was insane enough.
No, she couldn’t see him properly, but he could see her. His very stillness told her that. She wondered what he thought, and her body heated with embarrassment and something more, because she wanted him to like what he saw. She wasn’t just a curious witch, she was a woman, and she could sense the caress of his eyes on her naked arms and shoulders, on her breasts, which, while mostly covered by her nightdress, probably revealed the outline of her tense nipples…
In the dark? Get a grip, Melanie.
He’s the Founder. He’s vampire. He doesn’t need light.
And this is so not the point.
“Do vampires get sick?” she blurted.
There was a pause. “Not often.”
“I have a vampire client who is. I don’t know how to help him.”
The mattress shifted very slightly, and she tensed, terrified he was coming closer, longing to know how it would feel if he did.
The Founder said, “He isn’t your concern.”
“Then you’ll help him?”
“I’m not your concern.”
“But you are.” Lunging for the lamp, she grabbed the switch and flicked it on.
A warm glow swam around the room. The empty room, containing only herself and her possessions. She didn’t even hear the window rattle, but she could have sworn that just for an instant, soft laughter echoed in her head.