Then she took my hands and she came to me. I cradled her so close that I could feel her heart beating and my senses came alive with the scent of her skin. It was a scent that she always wore?one that she had taken and made uniquely hers.
"You don't trust me, do you?"
She raised her head as she said it, and looked at me in a way that said she already knew the answer. Longing showed in her eyes, but it was held back by a certainty that tore at my heart. I had to turn away for fear that my own eyes would betray the truth.
"You don't have to answer me. I can tell you're trying not to say it. I understand and I don't need an explanation?but I want you to know one thing. I am not like them. I would never hurt you the way they did. I didn't know how to show you before but now?now I think I may have a way."
There was something in her voice that compelled me to turn towards her and away from the blackness of the night. I had heard that tone only once before and now?as then?it sent a shiver through me. In it I heard the innocence and vulnerability of the child she was, but the intent was purely that of the woman she was becoming. The wind had picked up a little and, as it whipped at her nightgown, I caught a glimpse of something in her hand. I couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed it before but I shouldn't have been surprised. Whenever she was around I found myself drowning in her eyes. Suddenly I understood?
"Non! Non, ma cherie, I will not let you do this. I will not curse you with my existence."
" I have thought about this for far too long. I am tired of having my courage fail me. It will not fail me again. This is my choice."
"It is not your choice! Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you know what this does to you? You will never be able to go back to what you are now?to the innocence that you have now. Je t'adore. Why can't that be enough for you?"
I knew that I had gone too far when this time it was she who turned away from me. I could tell from the set of her shoulders that she was trying to compose herself and I wanted nothing more than to run to her and take it all away. I didn't get a chance. When she turned back to me, there was fire in her eyes.
"You of all people should know why it isn't enough. How can I continue like this knowing that there is a part of yourself that you refuse to give to me? How can you say you love me if you refuse to trust me? I could walk away from this right now, but I can't imagine a life without you. I don't want to. This is the only way I know to keep the one thing that means more to me than anything else. Will you deny me that?"
The emotion in her voice silenced me. The look in her eyes drained all the will from me and I knew that couldn't withstand her?even if I wanted to. I helplessly followed the curve of her hand as she brought the blade to my chest and lingered there a moment. The metal felt cool against my skin and if I still had a heart, it would have been pounding against my chest. Then she slit the skin, and the pain was the sweetest I had ever felt?knowing that it came from her.
I could feel the trembling of her body and the coldness of her fingers as they locked with mine. She pressed against me and gave me quick kiss on the lips before lowering her mouth to the wound. My head fell back and a low moan was torn from my lips. For that brief eternity, we became one?one breath?one body?one heart. Then she raised her head and her lips were stained with blood?my blood. I gently wiped it away.
"Now I am yours, and yours alone, for the rest of my life?however long you deem that to be. When you need me, all you have to do is think of me. When you call, I have no choice but to answer."
My eyes filled with tears as I truly realized the sacrifice she was willing to make for me, and I could curse myself for ever doubting her. I tried to tell her but the words just wouldn't come. It didn't matter. There were no words that could capture what I felt at that moment.
"Why did you do this? Why did you give up your freedom for me?"
"Because I love you."
I love you. They were just three simple words?but to me, they were my salvation.
What was I thinking? I have to be out of my mind. Here I am, a twenty-nine year old woman with the world at her fingertips, and I find myself out on a lonely road chasing ghosts. Not literally?at least I hope not. I am chasing my past. I am chasing a memory that has burned its way into my mind. I am chasing a face that haunts my dreams. The hair at the back of my neck rises every time I think of it?of her. I wonder of she is real or maybe she is just what everyone else has tried to convince me?a figment of my imagination. A spectre brought on by fear and a lack of sleep. I am not sure which one I want her to be.
I shouldn't be out here this late. Common sense should have told me to do this tomorrow?in the daylight. Sometimes I am lacking in that department. I cannot explain it?something compelled me to be here. I could not wait.
The moon is high in the sky by the time I reach my destination and, not for the first time, I feel like I cannot go on. I slow to a halt and shut off the engine. From here, I can just see the house?the Mirele House. That's how we thought of it in our childhood?with a capital H. There are lights in the windows and for a moment I am speechless, not that it matters because there is no one here to talk to. That house has been deserted for as long as I can remember and as long as my parents could remember. I wonder why Jessica didn't tell me that someone lived there now. I also wonder why anyone would want to.
I am not sure whether I am disappointed or not?after all, ghosts don't live in well lit abodes. I suppose I should turn around and go back the way I came without disturbing some innocent inhabitant with my presence. Still, something draws me and I put it down to having to lay my demons at rest. Maybe if I go there now, I can finally see that it hold no terrors for me anymore.
I start the car again and slowly make my way up the road and to the driveway. I cannot see much in the darkness but my headlights show well kept grounds and an open gate. I go through it. I can feel the tightness in my chest ease as I pull up to the house. There is nothing frightening about it. It is nothing like I remember it. Gone are the peeling walls and clinging vines. In their place is a home where a mere house used to be.
Should I keep on going? Would I be disturbing some poor, helpless family? My curiosity gets the better of me and I make my way up to the door. The overhead light shows a new brass doorknob and a doorbell, which I waste no time in ringing. Almost immediately I hear creaking inside and I surmise that someone is coming down the stairs. A latch is pulled back and my face is flooded with light as the door opens. My 'hello' dies on my lips as I look into the eyes of the woman who has haunted my dreams.
She is beautiful. Her jet black hair rests about her shoulders, in stark contrast to her pale skin, and a piercing grey shines from her eyes. She is barefoot and clad in jeans and a white, silk shirt. The top two buttons are open and I can catch a glimpse of the top of her breasts. I chastise myself for looking down a strange woman's blouse until I realize that I am not looking down at all. She stands a full six inches taller than I am and is looking at me with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. It takes all my willpower but I finally find my voice.
"Hello Nina?what brings you out this way at this hour?"
She shakes my hand in introduction and I swear I feel a spark of electricity shoot through me. She has a slight accent and I try to place it, but I cannot. There is something so familiar about her but I know I haven't seen her before. Not her. She looks to be only a few years older than I am. It could not have been her.
"I?um?I used to live in town and I'm back for a few days. I just wanted to?um?to see this house again. It's been a long while."
I feel as though her eyes are boring holes through me and I am suddenly overwhelmed by a need to leave. I mutter a goodbye, not caring how stupid I look and, for the second time in my life, I find myself running down those stairs as if my life depended on it. I reach my car and fumble for the keys, then remember that I left them in the ignition. I spare a glance backwards and see her standing there, propped up against the door. My God?she is so damn sexy.
Hello? Nina to brain? Concentrate. I get into the car and turn the key and?nothing. This must be some kind of cosmic joke. I try again and the engine sputters and dies. I stifle a scream when there is a tapping at my window and I see her there. She is smiling at me and I suddenly feel very foolish. She must think I am some kind of freak. I roll down my window.
"I'm not very good with cars and I doubt anyone is going to come out here at this hour. Why don't you come inside? You're welcome to spend the night?I don't bite."
She smiles again and I feel like an ass. There has to be a perfectly good explanation why she looks like my dream woman. She doesn't seem threatening and certainly I don't feel like spending the night in my car. This is ridiculous. I really need to get over the boogieman. I get out of my car, making sure to lock the door behind me, and I follow her into the house. She closes the door and I get my first look at the inside of her house.
It is beautiful. There is a lazy fire going and it reflects off of the dark wood furniture and faded portraits. She has re-done everything and I wonder how much time and money must have gone into it. I can almost imagine that this how it used to look all those years ago when Angelique Mirele was its sole inhabitant. That thought sends a shiver down my spine and I glance over at my host. She does not appear to notice.
"Can I get something to drink? Maybe something to eat? You must be hungry."
It is an embarrassing coincidence that makes my stomach growl loudly at that exact moment. She laughs, a rich throaty laugh, and disappears into what I assume to be the kitchen only to emerge a few minutes later with a heaping plate of food and two glasses of wine. White for me. Blood red for her. As I sit to eat it occurs to me that I don't even know her name.
"Um?this is embarrassing?but?"
"My name is Angel?Angel Mirele. It is my pleasure to meet you Nina."
Angel? Angelique? It has to be a coincidence. I don't think about how she knew the answer to my question before I asked it. I prefer not to think about it.
She sits and watches me eat. I assume that she has eaten already and that is why she does not join me in my meal. When I am done she takes my dishes back through the doorway at the foot of the stairs, waving off my offer of help. I take the opportunity to study some of the portraits hanging in the drawing room. There is one that calls to me. It is of her?only not her exactly. It is of Angelique?but it may as well have been of Angel. I do not hear her return and jump nearly a foot into the air when I hear a voice whispering into my ear.
"So, are you going to tell me why you tried to run away earlier? Do I really look that scary?"
'Scary' was the last word I would use to describe her looks. I go to the sofa and sit. She does not follow me, preferring instead a chair on the other side of the room. It is a good thing. My skin still tingles where I felt her breath. I think of stalling?but something about her makes me want to tell her the truth, and I am tired of analyzing my compulsions.
"Um?it's a long story."
"I have the time Nina. I have lots of time."
"Alright. Like I said before, I've lived here nearly all my life. I moved away a few years ago, when I got a job, and I haven't been back since. You know everyone used to be afraid of this house. They used to say that it was haunted?but not me. I didn't believe in ghosts. Then something happened to change my mind.
One day, while I was in high school, a bunch of us came out here and got pretty drunk. Why here if everyone was afraid of the place? It was far away from our parents and we were at that age when we wanted bragging rights. We started fooling around, daring each other to do stuff. Someone dared me to spend a night alone in here. They were planning to camp out anyway, but I had to stay inside the house by myself. Well, being the non-believer that I was, I accepted. It wasn't anything big in the beginning. I had food and a flashlight and I knew that there were other people right outside."
My mouth starts to get dry as I tell my tale and I glance over at my host. Her eyes are on me and I see something in them. I think it is desire?but then it is gone and I am left thinking that I imagined it.
"Well, to make a long story short, I spent most of my time exploring and everything was fine. Then I stared getting a funny feeling?like someone was watching me. I tried to tell myself that it was just nerves but I couldn't shake it. It got worse and I started thinking that I was seeing stuff moving out of the corner of my eyes. But when I looked nothing was there. Still, I wasn't going to lose the dare. I continued exploring upstairs and came to what must have been the bedroom...well at least there was a bed in it?and a full-length mirror. That was when it happened.
I could have sworn I heard a voice call out. I'm not sure what it said but it sounded like 'Adele'. I thought it may have been one of my friends in the house?but when I turned, she was there. She looked like you?exactly like you. For some reason I looked back into the mirror and she wasn't there. She had no reflection?but she was there in the room?looking straight at me. I ran?I don't remember much after that. I think I fell and hit my head on the stairs. I don't know. I don't know if what I saw was real. I just know that her face?your face?has haunted my dreams ever since. She calls to me. She tells me that her arms long to hold me. That's why I came back here. I guess I wanted to know if she was real."
"And that's why you ran? You thought I was Angelique?"
I can't believe that I have told her all this. What must she think of me now? Maybe she regrets inviting a lunatic into her house. I am almost afraid to look at her now. I am afraid to see the ridicule in her eyes. I am surprised when I see none. Instead I see understanding?and something else. She looks like she is struggling with a story of her own.
"You're not the first, you know. Many people think that Angelique's face is my face. This house has been in my family for years?for generations. Some say Angelique's spirit still haunts it. Perhaps. I believe that you saw what you saw. I have seen enough in my life to not scoff at anything."
Her reassurances calm me and we spend the next hour getting acquainted. Later, I would realize that we spoke mostly of my life. I still knew very little of hers. In the firelight I can see just how attractive she is. I know that a part of me wants her and I am not sure whether it is just because of her or because of my dreams. Either way, she has not made any move towards me and I have no reason to believe that she would be interested. Finally, it is time to go to bed and she insists on walking me up to the room that is to be mine for the night. A shiver runs through me when I realize that it is the same room that I saw?her in all those years ago. Still, Angel is behind me and her presence comforts me a little.
I turn to bid her goodnight and make the mistake of looking into her eyes. That is when I see it. That is when I am sure that I hadn't been mistaken before. I see the longing there?the longing that is mirrored in my eyes. It is just another thing that I can't explain in this whole situation. I am not the type who would even consider falling into bed with someone I have just met. But there is something about this woman?something so safe and familiar?something that sets my very soul on fire. I want her. I need her. I will have her.
I do not launch myself into her arms as much as I melt into them. I see a flicker of uncertainty and silence her with a brush of my fingers on her lips. I hear a sharp intake of breath, but I know that she will follow me now. I lead her to the bed, stopping briefly to turn of the lights. Our passion needs only the moonlight. I push her back and then lie next to her. I want to feel her body next to mine.
It is only a few seconds before I want more. She is holding back?letting me dictate the pace and I love her for it. Did I say love? Where did that come from? I push the thought to the back of my mind and will myself to concentrate on the task at hand.
I kiss her?gently at first. I want only to taste her lips?the rest will come in time. They are so soft?so sweet. I lose myself in the feel of them. I nibble at her lower lip and I am rewarded when her lips part and she lets me in. I am top of her now and I know she can take my weight. I want to taste more of her?so I do. I make my way to her ears, tugging gently. I plant soft kisses along her neck and then graze my teeth over her skin. I hear her moan and it spurs me on.
Her hands have not been idle. They have made their way under my shirt and her fingers are stroking my back. I feel a trail of fire everywhere that she touches. I have never wanted anyone so much. I need to feel her skin?now. I push myself up and see a question in her eyes. She smiles when I tug at the buttons of her shirt and make a face when me shaking hands refuse to work. She puts her hand over my trembling fingers and moves them away. Then the room is filled with the sound of tearing clothes and flying buttons as the first barrier is removed. In the dim light, I can see her nipples, dark against the paleness of her skin. She is either very cold or very aroused. My ego makes me think the latter.
I unhook her bra, and her breasts are bared to me. They are perfect and eager for my touch. I comply and take them into my hands. She cries out and I know that she wants this. I take her into my mouth and her back arcs into me. She falls back onto the bed, her hands tangling in my hair. I tease her, alternately sucking and biting. I know she likes the feel of my teeth. I know she likes pain with her pleasure. It is of little consequence to me. I will give her whatever she needs.
She is writhing under me now and I hasten to remove her jeans and?nothing else. It seems my mystery woman doesn't approve of underwear. Neither do I in fact and I prove it by removing my own clothes. Oh God. She is so wet for me. I can see her desire glistening on the insides of her thighs. It is she who needs to feel me now. I will not keep her waiting anymore. I make my way back up to her lips and kiss her hard as I run my fingers through the velvety wetness. She gasps into my mouth and I can see that her eyes are closed. I want to see her eyes. I enter her, and I am not gentle. She no longer needs me to be gentle. She needs me to possess her?to make her mine. Her nails dig into my back, drawing blood, as I pick up my pace. Harder. Faster. I feel like I cannot give her enough of myself. I want to hear her screaming my name. Come for me baby. And finally she does. I feel her walls tighten around my fingers and she is screaming my name into the night?over and over. I do not stop until she begs me too.
I hold her close and the last shudders run through her. I smooth the hair back from her face and wipe away the beads of sweat from her forehead. She recovers quickly it seems. And then it is my turn. The things she does to me?with her fingers?with her tongue. Soon I am screaming her name. She doesn't let me stop until the first rays of sunlight have greeted the day.
I must have fallen asleep in her arms for it was almost midday when I finally stir. There is no one next to me, but I hear noises coming from downstairs and then the tumbling of an engine. I look out the window and there is Angel, bent over the hood of my car, her hands covered in grease. Hadn't she said that she knew nothing about cars last night? My lips curve into a smirk. Maybe a certain someone had been hoping for some action after all.
The rest of the day is uneventful?at least compared to what passed before and before long I am on my way. I kiss Angel goodbye and promise to return. I know that I will?it is just a feeling I have. I am meant to return. It is almost dusk when I make my way back into town and I go straight to Jessica's house. Funny, I thought it would have been later by now. She is there?and she is mad as hell.
"Oh my God. Where were you last night? Do you have any idea how worried I was? I was just about to report you missing. Damn it Nina?you know better than to just go off on your own like that."
I am a terrible friend. I know that. I should have called?why hadn't I? I had my cell phone with me. Oh yes?I was busy having the best sex of my life. I smile at the thought?and the memories.
"And what are you smiling at? You better have a damn good explanation."
"I do. I was with Angel."
"Excuse me? Who the hell is Angel?"
"You know, the woman living at the old Mirele house."
I suppose the fact that Jessica hurriedly sits down and suddenly looks very ill should have clued me in, but I can be extraordinarily dense. So I continue.
"She's really nice?and gorgeous. Why didn't you tell me someone's staying there now? The place is nothing like I remember it. And you should see the inside. She had it restored to its original look?Jess...are you okay?"
"No. I am very much not okay. Nina, I need you to tell me everything okay."
"Hey, I don't kiss and tell." I am hoping to lighten the mood that seems to have settled. Her eyes say that I have failed.
"What's going on?" I was confused.
"Just tell me, okay?"
I can't tell if she is pleading or demanding, but something is going on here and I don't like it. So I spill my guts to her and tell her every embarrassing detail. I expect her to laugh, or be jealous, but she remains grim.
"Nina, I need you to listen to me. There is no one is staying at the Mirele house."
"No one is staying there. No one has been staying there for decades. I don't know who or what you saw but?there is something I need to tell you. What do you know about Angelique Mirele?"
"She owned the house?was the last of her line?disappeared one day. That's about it. You know, the usual childhood stories."
"Well, there's more. Angelique Mirele was rumored to be a vampire."
"Right?let me guess?she kept the mummy in the basement and was best friends with the Wolfman?" I scoffed.
"Let me finish." Jessica was serious. I wondered briefly if insanity ran in her family. "Legend has it that Angelique was a vampire and that she lived alone in the house that her ancestors had occupied for generations, only venturing out at night. No one knew where she went during the day. The townspeople had their suspicions. They had heard rumors of her being run out of an adjacent area but they kept to themselves. Of course, she hadn't been run out at all. She just finally wanted to come home.
Most people stayed out of her way because they were afraid of her. That was until she fell in love with Adele. The girl was absolutely smitten with her and somehow managed to win Angelique's affection. Adele loved her in spite of what she was.
The girl used to run away at nights?to Angelique?despite the distance she had to run. She thought she was being so careful?but eventually she was caught. When the townspeople found out where she was going, a few of the men accused her of whoring herself to a monster?of losing her virtue to a sick creature. They were troublemakers and bullies. No one could stand in their way when they did what they did."
It is with a sick taste in my mouth that I ask her what that was.
"Angelique couldn't stop it. The bastards waited until it was daylight, when they knew she couldn't save her lover. They told Adele that they would show her what it was like to be with a man. They raped her and when they were done with her, they beat her?to death. When it was over, her battered body was placed on Angelique's doorstep. The fools thought they could get away with it. Maybe they didn't believe the rumors. Maybe they just thought they were men and a woman couldn't stop them. No one knows. Angelique went crazy?she demanded revenge. Every single man who was involved in Adele's death paid with his life that night. Angelique swore that one day Adele would return to her?that she would wait a hundred lifetimes for her. Nothing was heard about her ever since."
"Okay, so what does that have to do with me? All of that happened ages ago. I'm telling you there was someone in that house. I'm not crazy."
"I know you're not?wait here."
Jessica leaves me for a minute and I can hear her rummaging through a cupboard or something. There is something at the back of my mind?something that I know is important, but I cannot figure out what it is. I don't know what to think. Finally, Jess comes back and she is holding something in her hand. She holds it out to me and I see that it is an old, faded photograph. It is brown at the edges and devoid of color, but I can make out my face looking back at me. My blood runs could. This cannot be.
"What is this?"
"One of the few surviving pictures of Adele."
"How do you know all of this?"
"Adele had a baby sister. She was my great-grandmother. This story, and that picture, would be kept by my family until it was time. I tried to not believe it Nina, even when I saw the resemblance. I always told myself that it was just some crazy story. But now?Nina?I think she has come back for you."
I am running again, back out to my car?ignoring Jessica's questions. Do I believe it? I don't know?but I must find her again. I am afraid that I crash my car, but I keep speeding. I cannot get there fast enough. Again, it is dark by the time I get there and everything is as Jess said. There is no sign of habitation. The grounds lie abandoned and the paint on the house is peeling. My heart is pounding in my chest as I get my flashlight out and make my way up the stairs for the third time. There is enough moonlight that I do not need it, but it makes me feel safer.
The door is halfway opened, almost as if I was expected and it creaks a little as I push it open. If this were a movie, I would spend my time looking around and being startled by mice and other such absurdities. But this is not a movie?and she is there waiting for me. She is wearing the same jeans but has exchanged the white shirt for dark blue. I prefer this on her. Her eyes are on me and she follows every movement. I look around and there is only a hint of what I saw last night. There is no fire and the furniture is rotted. I should run. I should be afraid. But I am not. I am strangely calm. I know she will not hurt me.
I go to her and she holds me. There is a scar on her chest and I wonder how I could have missed it before. I put my fingers to it and then I am brought to my knees. Memories come flooding into my mind?my cutting into her skin and tasting the copper of her blood?our lovemaking on the nights that followed?my death?her pain. It all comes back to me. I believe. Once again?I am Adele and I am home.
"Darling?my sweet darling?I have taken so long to come back to you. Can you ever forgive me?"
"There is nothing to forgive, ma cherie. It is I who should fall at your feet and beg. I let them hurt you."
"Hush, there was nothing you could do then. But this?how? How did you do this? How did you bring me here? How could you walk in daylight?"
"When you?" She falters and I wipe away the tears that have formed and are leaking from her eyes. I know this is hard for her. If my darling had a heart, it would be made of gold. "When you died, your mind was still linked to me. You called out to me and promised that you would return. I waited all those years for your soul to return to me. I knew when it did. I bided my time until I called to you and I made you see what I wanted you to. We only spent the night together, my darling. You saw me in what you thought was daylight because I put those images there. I didn't want it to be too much for you. I shouldn't have come to you all those years ago, but I was weak. I wanted to touch you so much. I have waited so very long for you."
"My poor darling. I am here now. They will never take me away again."
"No?they will not. I could not bear it."
"Then make me yours. Give to Nina the gift you refused to give to Adele. I will not be taken away from you again. I will not grow old and die, knowing that I am leaving you behind."
She draws me close and whispers her love over and over again. I do not need to hear it. She has waited over a hundred years for me. She has proven her love to me. It is my turn. All I want is to belong to her. She kisses me, and it is full of promise. My gift to her was my return. Her gift to me would be her eternity.
Her mouth is on my neck now and I can feel her teeth. They are much sharper than mine. I know there will be pain and she cannot stop apologizing for what is to come. I will have none of it. I want this. I hold her head firmly in place and I will beg if I have to. She doesn't make me beg. I feel her teeth as they sink into my throat and the pain is unbearable. Yet I feel myself growing wet. There is something so undeniably erotic in this?in giving my everything to her. She is holding me, as I grow weak. I am not afraid. I close my eyes. I feel something warm and wet pressed up against my lips and know that she has opened her wrist for me. She drinks from me as I drink from her. I feel myself falling towards blackness as she picks me up into her strong arms. She bundles me into the car and starts the engine. I do not know where we are going. I do not care. I will awaken eventually?and I will be hers forever.