Marked (Chapter Six)
Because of the thundering of the stage coach’s wooden wheels, B.D. didn’t hear the heavy bass until they stopped and stepped out onto the street. The sign above the club read “Sanguinarium,” and Raven explained that it was owned by Vampires but welcomed humans as well.
“So there are Vampires other than you guys in Dublin?”
“Oh yes, Bella, many more. We all live in a truce of sorts, being that this is the homeland of my Tribe. Our Mother believes in strength in numbers, you see.”
“So, this business about Vampires being all territorial…?” She trailed off, her eyes suddenly drawn to a tall, thin man with slick black hair and equally thin, almost hawkish features. He was dressed in modern, smart fashion; well-tailored grey suit, black leather driving gloves, black wingtip shoes. He could have stepped off the cover of GQ. The man returned the look for a split second before giving a tight, necessarily polite nod and disappearing into the club. She felt Raven’s hand give a protective squeeze on her shoulder.
“…is true, to certain degrees.” He finished the sentence she’d begun through clenched teeth, and punctuated it with a hiss in his throat.
B.D. turned to face him. “What’s the problem?”
He didn’t meet her gaze as he spoke in a low growl. “Territory, Lass. That one,” he nodded toward the door after the man, “Felt like an invader. I’m not high-ranking enough in the Tribe to have any say, but if he’s broken protocol, at least I know he’ll be dealt with. His Tribe may own this club, but I don‘t like the Feel of him one bit.”
B.D.’d never seen this type of ferocity from Raven before. It was miles removed from his primal sensuality, and more than a bit frightening. She resolved never to act in such a way that would turn this menace in her direction, and so latched on to the dangling bit of information he’d given.
“What Tribe is that?” she said in a gentle tone, lifting her hand to weave her fingers through his that were still on her shoulder.
Raven closed his eyes briefly, as if extinguishing a blaze, and to B.D.’s comfort looked at her with his familiar affection. “The Rey Tribe, Lass. Entrepreneurs, business moguls, that sort. The club scene is usually more suited to the Emote Tribe, the artists and performers, but being that it’s such a lucrative venture the Rey can’t help themselves.” He gave an impish smile. “Usually the Emotes are called in to decorate though. But we‘ve spent enough time standing here at the curb. Let us inside, aye?”
B.D. nodded her agreement and took the arm Raven offered.
The interior of the club was nothing terribly unusual for anyone familiar with the Goth scene, the décor dominated by Victorian-esque aesthetics fused with industrial chic, black and jewel tones making up the color palate. A bar, lit with bluish-white light from beneath the counter, stood to the right, and across the expanse of the dance floor to the left was a massive television screen, flashing with dizzying images of intermingled sex and stylized sensual violence. Bloodshed, of course, was a major theme in the videos. But, B.D. thought to herself, If you’ve seen one Goth club…
As her initial sweep of the club brought her focus back to Raven, he again grinned and led her to the bar. A female bartender, dressed in little more than a vinyl bikini, her white-blonde hair curled and piled atop her head, leaned her elbows on the bar as they approached. A flash shone through her gold cat-eye contacts, a giddy kind of anticipation, as Raven arrived.
“The usual then, Love?” Her brogue flowed thick through the ruby smile, and B.D. got the definite impression she’d been on the make for Raven for some time. Whether she’d ever been successful was difficult to tell, but nevertheless B.D. pressed closer to him as he leaned in toward the blonde.
“Aye, Lass, and a cranberry Virgin for m’lady as well,” he replied, wrapping an arm tight about B.D.’s waist.
The blonde glanced at B.D., a hint of envy and accusation in her eyes. Pulling her professional mask back on though, she grinned wider and pointed over their shoulders. “Virgin, eh? How ‘bout that one?”
B.D. and Raven turned to see an awkward teenage boy standing alone against the wall, nervously sipping a soda and looking with both longing and terror at every female form in the room.
Raven laughed as he turned away from the boy. “She’d tear him apart, Lass,” he said, punctuating with a kiss at B.D.’s temple.
The bartender smirked in disdain and spun around to fix the drinks.
Raven’s lips lingered at B.D.’s ear. “Have to give her a hard time. Been after me, that one, but as I’m not the only one she’s after, her attempts are in vain. All she wants is to be some Vampire’s dinner, had a taste of it from the owner in order to work here, and now craves it like an addict. I’m not interested in sample platters though, Lass. You might say I’ve had my fill of appetizers and am ready for an entree. Wish too that I knew just how much tearing you‘re capable of.” With that he kissed her again, where neck and shoulder meet, and allowed his fangs a brief appearance against her flesh.
If it hadn’t been for his arm still around her waist, B.D. would have collapsed to the floor. She definitely preferred seductive to territorial, but when the two were combined like that, it nearly liquefied her knees.
Rolling the rest his words in her head, she thought about getting offended at the comparison to food, but his affections proved she was more than a meal in his eyes. She dropped her head to his shoulder instead and took a deep breath to steady herself again.
The drinks arrived with a tight smile and tighter nod from Blondie. Raven chuckled as he lifted his glass. “Damn, is she pissed. Never seen me bring a woman in before, so she has to know her chances are slim now.” He gave the drink an appreciative sniff before putting the rim to his lips. The deep red liquid had a slight froth to it, and seemed to flow smoother than the usual cocktail.
B.D. studied it as she began her drink, a vodka-cranberry. The presence of alcohol in a “Virgin” drink surprised her, and she caught Raven’s eyes over her glass. “I thought you ordered me something without alcohol.”
“Does the alcohol upset you?”
“No, just wasn’t expecting it, since you said Virgin.”
Raven lowered his glass. “I should have explained. Virgin here means no blood. You have to specify more than that if you want something non-alcoholic.”
Made sense, B.D. supposed. She looked at his drink again. “So yours is…”
“Similar to yours, only blood instead of cranberry juice. The owner also runs a blood bank; the bank accepts blood from anyone, but if it’s not suitable for human medical purposes, it comes here. Sometimes it arrives already mixed, if a wino were to donate for example, but occasionally it just has a low cell count or some such and then the bartenders mix as need be. Of course, the club management disposes of diseased blood, lest their patronage suddenly drop to nothing.” Raven downed the rest of his drink with was much grace and he did everything else, and replaced the glass on the dark wood bar top. A smile flirted with his lips as he spoke again. “Finish Lass, please, so I may dance with you.”
B.D. pulled reluctant eyes away from his face as she tilted back her head, somehow managing not to sputter as the rush of liquid went down. Raven took her glass and placed it beside his then, grasping only the fingers of her left hand in his right. He bowed and gestured broadly to the dance floor. B.D. smiled and walked out into the flashing lights.
Reaching nearly the center of the floor, Raven lifted her hand and spun her to him, his other arm curling about her waist and pulling her close. He swayed for a moment, collecting the beat and rhythm of the song, then suddenly bent his knees in a dip, the left one parting B.D.’s legs so that her pelvis pressed against his hip. Standing again he continued to lead her, his movements sinewy and fluid, and altogether sexual without being vulgar. All the while B.D. felt a flush so deep press against her skin she knew it wasn’t just the vodka, and more than once her breath caught, growing ragged as though they were doing something other than dancing.
The pulsing music flowed seamlessly from that track to another, the heavy thrum of the bass carrying the new melody with ease. The current artist was clearly local, because the electronically enhanced male vocals were in Gaelic, an eerie, otherworld sound above synthesized strings and a mournful acoustic guitar. But when the chorus hit, plain English broke through, a female voice that sang, “Take me away… a secret place… the sweet escape… take me away…”
Raven’s voice joined for the next stanza, his lower register reverberating through B.D. stronger than the bass beat. “Take me away… to brighter days… take me away… a higher place!”
B.D. craned her neck so her lips could reach Raven’s ear. “I remember when that song came out. I was in junior high and I always thought the chorus would go better with a song like this. It seemed so out of place in a happy-sappy love song.”
Raven smirked, and somehow his voice sounded in B.D.’s ear without him having to raise it or bend his head down. “Ah, but this, this is a love song. He sings to the Tuatha, the Faeries. He tells them his life story, his desire to leave this world and live in theirs instead.” A look of reminiscence came over his face as he spoke.
Confusion and skepticism crept into B.D.’s eyes. Her classes this semester had touched on faerie lore, and while the Tuatha weren’t malevolent, she seemed to remember that is wasn’t the best idea to ask them for favors; they always exacted payment of some kind. Asking to go away with them seemed like an even worse idea.
Raven caught the look and chuckled. “Sometimes it’s different, Lass. I don’t expect you to understand now, but you will...” He paused, then began again, as if correcting himself. “That is, if you choose to return after Yule.” He smiled, a little sadly.
B.D. almost wished that qualifier wasn’t there, despite the prolonged contemplation being a sound idea. The pout that crossed her lips was involuntary, so much so she didn’t realize she’d done it till Raven’s knuckle tilted up her chin.
“Please, Lass, don’t.” His eyes pleaded along with his voice, almost as if he felt physical pain. “I can’t bear to see you in such a state. Smile for me instead, I implore you.” He removed his hand from her jaw and took hers again, holding it between them and drawing her closer.
She hadn’t thought it was possible for them to be any closer without first removing their clothes, but was obviously mistaken. She did smile, again unable to help the expression but this time fully aware of it. Her eyes drowned in the depth of his, and she lost track of how many songs had played as they swayed there together.
The reprieve ended only when a young man, attractive enough with carefully disheveled and gelled dishwater hair, glinting yellow eyes, and several scattered facial piercings, tapped Raven on the shoulder. Raven turned reluctantly, as if waking from a dream, and quirked an eyebrow at the interruption. He held B.D. a little tighter, though the youth didn’t seem to pose an immediate threat.
The newcomer spoke, B.D. saw his lips move, but she couldn’t hear the tone or cadence of his voice. He seemed polite enough though, and Raven gave a humorless half smile and a single shake of his head to whatever was said. The other nodded once and turned away, lifting his nose to the air as if scenting something out. He stopped abruptly after about a half turn, and started off in that new direction with determination and confidence.
B.D. must have looked puzzled, because Raven explained the behavior as he turned his attention back to her. “Another Tribe, Lass, the Feral. They are shapeshifters, close kin to animals they say. They’re able to scent out other Vampires, and some can even determine Tribe that way. Oft times, they’re messengers between Tribes, since they can travel greater distances at greater speed in their beast forms. Of course, they can also tell who’s human, but most of us have a little of that ability anyway.”
B.D. nodded, making a mental checklist; Rey ran businesses, Emotes were artists, Feral were shapeshifters and messengers… but where did that leave Raven, Scorch, and the others? The way he spoke of these other Tribes led her to believe that they were something other.
Raven’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “They’re also the most… promiscuous, shall we say, of all of us. Highly sexually charged.”
B.D. gave him a frank, incredulous look. “And you’re not.” It was more of a challenge than a question.
“I prefer to think of myself as seductive and charming.” Raven feigned insult, nearly melting B.D.’s cynicism. She laughed then, the sound drawing Raven’s smile fully into his eyes. He continued.
“They have no sense of romance, Lass. Sex is merely a carnal indulgence, not a means to an enduring connection.”
B.D. nodded her understanding. “What did he want though?” She tried to sound nonchalant instead of insanely curious.
Raven’s glad expression darkened. “I said we can smell humans, meaning we can smell a meal. Your... enhanced state, shall we say, attracted his attention. He wanted to know if you were available.”
His protective grip in the youth’s presence now made sense. A smirk crossed B.D.’s lips, but her brow furrowed. She didn’t much mind the attention from men, but being sought out as food wasn’t a feeling she enjoyed. “So in other words, he was looking for a bed-&-breakfast,” she quipped.
Raven let out a full laugh. “In a manner of speaking, yes, I suppose.“ His eyes flashed brightly then, his pupils dilating, as though he’d had an epiphany. “As such, Lass, I think it would be prudent that I make your availability, of rather lack thereof, more evident.”
B.D. cocked her head in curiosity. “Ah, OK, if you think so.”
“It would require something of you, Lass.” The back of his hand brushed along B.D.’s jaw line, and she shivered under his touch, wondering what secret thing was delighting him so much.
Raven’s voice was low and quiet, the flicker still in his dark eyes. “Nothing extreme. Just a bite…” He trailed his hand along her choker then. “…To prove you know and accept what I am, and what you are to me.”
B.D.’s eyes fluttered and she gasped at the proposition, none of the reaction stemming from fear or revulsion. She pursed her lips and drew in a breath through her nose though; she did have some questions.
“Um, ‘know and accept’? So it’s not supposed to be a secret?”
Raven unclasped and removed the choker as he whispered his reply. “Not if we intend to change someone.” One cool fingertip traced a line where the delicate black lace had just left.
B.D. swallowed hard to keep composed and shut her eyes tight. “How, um, shit… how much do you need to drink?”
Raven had leaned his head into her neck as she’d spoken, and his breath now kissed her flesh. “Technically, none. The punctures will be sufficient.”
B.D. whimpered, both from the flames her nerves sent from throat to thighs, but also from a sense of disappointment; she found she wanted him to drink.
“But Lassie,” Raven breathed against her skin, “I fear that if I did drink… well, will you accept that it’s not yet time for that?”
She whimpered again, but nodded, her breathing barely in her control. Her legs trembled with the knowledge and anticipation as his lips grazed against the tendon in the side of her neck, and she was grateful again that Raven’s arms kept her from the floor.
“Are ye ready then, Lass?” The velvet brogue flew soundlessly into her ear, and an equally whispered “yes” was all the response she could conjure. The brush of his lips intensified into more tangible pressure, a true kiss on the side of her neck. As his tongue began to play against her flesh she shut her eyes again and chewed her lower lip, an attempt to brace herself for the eventual pain of his bite.
But pain was not what she should have concerned herself with, for as his fangs sank in, the floor seemed to fall away from her, her breath escaping along with it. She still felt his sleek, strong arms about her, but when she opened her eyes she saw not he club, but Raven’s face, lying below her. Pillowing his curls were dark grass and white flowers, the moon above casting enveloping shadows all around them. She sat upright, for she’d been leaning over him, and felt the length of his manhood slide fully into her depths, and her thighs clenched around his hips as he moaned and bucked upwards with the new plateau of pleasure. The tell-tale signs of a rising orgasm surged through her as she rocked in time with his motions, the night seeming to shimmer with their passion. Just as with the vision in her dorm room mere days ago, a strange feeling of familiarity permeated the scene.
But just as abruptly as it had began, the vision fell away, the flicking electronic light show returning. Raven’s face still hovered in her line of sight, his eyes shut tight as he licked his lips. B.D. brought her hand to her neck and winced as her fingers found the fresh wounds. Her whole body convulsed, a reaction to the sensuous mixture of pain and lingering pleasure that coursed though her.
“Raven?” Her whispered voice was tentative, not entirely sure if she was supposed to have seen what she did, hesitant to mention it.
His eyes opened gradually. “Aye, Lass?”
“Was that… umm… I mean, is everything OK?” She furrowed her brow at her own cowardice, but let it lie anyway.
He smiled, a hint of the predator in the expression. “Aye.” He pulled her close again, cradling her head against his chest. It seemed to B.D. that his heart beat just a little faster now.
“Your flesh tastes divine,” he murmured, a growl threatening to break through the words. B.D. couldn’t have fathomed the amount of will it had taken not to deepen the bite as he would a kiss, drawing her blood to sample her true flavor.
Whatever the tempo of the next several songs, they ignored it, and slow-danced there together. No one interrupted this time, and B.D. had to believe that the bite had done its trick as Raven intended.
Looking around them eventually, she noticed that the club had begun to empty somewhat, only a few inhumanly graceful beings remained on the dance floor, and she could see Blondie fussing about the bar to straighten things up. Resting her chin against Raven’s sternum, she suggested perhaps they should leave as well. He nodded in a agreement, a far-away look still in his eyes.
Outside, the coach waited, the mares pawing the road as if out of boredom. The driver opened the door, and B.D. was surprised to notice that it was warm inside, a contrast to Ireland’s blustery November. After a moment the coach pulled away from the curb, heading back to her hotel. Only a few moments of silence passed before her thoughts decided to voice themselves.
“So these Tribes, The Rey, the Emotes, and the Feral… are there more?”
Raven leaned against the far wall of the coach, his eyes closed as if he were suddenly very tired. His voice was quiet, but nowhere near strained. He nodded. “Though they’re ones you’ll likely never encounter; the Scholars, hermits and scientists. They are reclusive and solitary, studying all Vampire lore and dissecting it in their search for ultimate Truth. What this Truth is though, no one, not even they, can really say.” As he had earlier, he opened one eye and turned it in B.D.’s direction. “Obviously, they don’t get out much.”
The two chuckled before B.D.’s next question came. “Which do you belong to? You talk about all of them as if you‘re an outsider.”
Raven opened the other eye then and sat up a bit, his pose still relaxed but not as deflated. “Mine is called Ethereal, and we are the only ones to actively honor our Divine origins. The rest of them look upon their history much like most humans view Genesis in the Bible; it’s a story, maybe even a good one, but not the literal truth. Or perhaps there is a grain of truth to it, but the reality is more complex. We Ethereal don’t believe that. We are confident, we have proof, that our Mother created the first of us, and that Her presence is a constant in our lives. We are religious, spiritual, and communion with the Divine is our highest purpose and endeavor.”
“’Divine origins’? You mean mythology, gods and goddesses and all that?” She wasn’t disbelieving, exactly, but fascinated by the claim.
He nodded. “All Vampires are, or shall we say, are reputed, to be descended from war Gods from across the world. It is from these Gods that we get our grace, our beauty, our longevity, and our blood-lust. All these natural qualities of Gods are diluted though, since the first Vampires were the children of Gods and humans. As I said though, most of us, except we Ethereal, think it merely a story, or a poetic version of fact.
“There are some Vampires as well that don’t fit into any of the Tribes,” he continued, “but they’re not usually welcome in known Tribal gathering places. The Tribal system was organized some three hundred years ago, and these outsiders were those who rejected the structure. We all co-exist with a certain amount of civility, but these rogue creatures are often reckless with their feedings and identities…” He paused, the focus in his eyes changing to something unseen. “If we’re going to expose ourselves, it must be under the most precise of circumstances.”
B.D. could only assume he meant changing humans by that last comment, and so pressed on. “How is it decided what Tribe a Vampire’s in, or if they’re one of those Tribe-less ones?”
“The original Divine parentage; he who bestows the Gift bestows the Tribe. There is more to the stories, but all that is mostly background, Lass. You did need to know the sort of society you’d be getting into, and I‘ve given you a taste of that. Now the decision must be yours.” He leaned forward and caressed her face, a slight sadness in his eyes. “Make it wisely and with care, Bella. I…” He dropped both his hand and his gaze to his lap. “I don’t wish to sway you, but it is my sincere hope that this is not the last I shall ever see of you. But, either way…” he raised his head again, “I will never forget this night.”
B.D.’s eyes softened and she took Raven’s hand in hers. “Neither will I.” She had to whisper to keep her voice from cracking and betraying how very close to tears she was. The fang marks on her neck pulsed with her heart rate, a dull ache now that assured her the memory certainly would not fade.
The coach rumbled to a stop, and B.D peered out the window to see her hotel, and scowled at it. Turning back to Raven she sighed, but a smile graced his face. He drew her close one last time, inhaling her scent before pressing their lips together. B.D. nuzzled into his neck as she pulled away.
“Come upstairs with me? I know you have to be invited…” Her whisper was hopeful and pleading.
It was Raven’s turn to sigh. “Were circumstances different Lass, I would, believe me. But as with drinking from you, it is not yet time.” He put his hands on either side of her face and locked his gaze to hers. “I would,” he repeated. “You have no idea how much I want you.”
B.D.’s breath caught and she gave a sad nod. Not knowing what more to say, she managed a smile, and despite her tear-blurred vision exited the coach. She couldn’t bring herself to watch it drive away, but waited at the hotel door until the thunderous sound of the wheels died down to nothing.
Once inside she ran up the three flights of stairs to her floor instead of taking the elevator, an attempt to work off all the emotional energy of the night. Inside her room she flung herself face down on the bed, not bothering to undress or wash her makeup off, and also not caring if the hotel pillows had mascara streaks on them the next morning. She conceded to an earlier impulse and let her hand slip between her legs, but fell asleep before she found that relief.