Cal sat up, her shirt slipping down her arms. She didn't notice. How had she been so stupid? That was easy, she had not wanted to see. It was so obvious if she had only paid attention, he was pale, ate no food at the pub, lips colder than they should be, his physical presence and strength.
"I suppose there's no point convincing you vampires don't exist. Not with shields like that." His gaze drifted down to her now exposed arms, recognition filled his eyes. "Those are spell glyphs aren't they?"
"Yes, I'm a mage." Cal's next words were sharp-edged. Anger was good, it kept the fear under control. "You were going to feed on me, weren't you?"
"Well, yeah. I wasn't going to kill you though."
"That's not exactly reassuring."
Lucas shrugged. "Not trying to reassure you, just stating the truth. I'm not in the habit of leaving bodies lying around, it attracts far too much attention."
Cal studied his face, trying to judge how immediate a threat he posed. He could overpower her with ease if he chose to. Would he? It occurred to her that he looked inquisitive, like a child who had just found his very first lighting bug. Something brand new to figure out. Disconcerting was probably an understatement, but curiosity was preferable to hunger.
A troubling thought crept in. "If I wasn't shielded would you have fed before or after raping me?"
Lucas eyes went wide as he shook his head, he actually looked shocked. Before that moment Cal wouldn't have thought it was possible. Under less terrifying circumstances it would have been comical.
"No. I do have my limits, as few as they are, and fucking someone who cannot respond doesn't appeal to me. I let my control slip, I wasn't planning to feed on you until after we had..." He trailed off. "I'm just digging myself in deeper now."
That cut the tension and they both laughed. Lucas's laugh was not the same as it had been at the Eight Arms, it was still full of genuine humor but cold at the same time. He was no longer pretending to be human. The shift was subtle, a difference in how he held himself, a stillness. His breathing had all but stopped.
Cal had met a handful of vampires before but never had the opportunity to talk anything but business. When she was fifteen years old she had encountered her first vampire. A woman came to speak to her grandfather in his capacity of Guardian for the three northernmost New England states. She had not stayed long but the way she had been able to assume then drop the pretense of being human had terrified Cal at the time. One minute she was an animated young woman who looked only a few years older than Cal and the next something altogether different: a predator. Subsequent experience had been less frightening but cemented her opinion of their nature. Humans are food.
Lucas was still standing in front of her as she sat on the bed, staring at her with eyes she could not read. Her shirt was still half off, bunched around her waist. Modesty was not one of Cal's virtues but his unblinking gaze made her feel exposed. She moved to pull the shirt back up.
Her eyes never registered the movement. Lucas was just there inches away, hands on her arms. She stopped moving. Had she read the situation wrong? Did he still mean to make a meal of her?
"I've met a few mages over the years but none of them had glyphs carved into their skin. What kind of mage are you?" He was so close she had to crane her neck to look him in the eyes.
"Blood Mage." She answered. "The scars work as spell focuses."
"Blood mage? That's interesting." He leaned down, so close their faces nearly touched. Cal stayed still, fighting the urge to run away. Never run from a predator, they will chase you. Better to face them, bluff them into thinking you aren't prey. "Your magic is called through blood then. What would happen if I bit you now?"
"I could use the blood to call a spell, make you stop." There was no chance she could perform enough og her ritual to complete a spell if he attacked her, but she might be able to trigger one of the protection spells already set on the house. She hoped so.
Lucas took a half step back, still too far into her personal space for comfort but at least she had space to breathe again.
"How old are you?" It seemed like a safe enough question, something to keep him talking.
"Two hundred and eighty-three years."
If he had hoped to surprise her with his answer he was wrong. Her first reaction was to think that he was younger than her grandfather. Mages can live a long time. Living centuries was possible and, if she was lucky, she would celebrate multiple centennials. If she was lucky.
"You're young though, and not afraid." He leaned close again, smiling. For the first time Cal saw his fangs, big and razor-sharp like a leopard's. Where had those come from? Her tongue had been inside his mouth and there was no way she could have missed them. "No, there's fear there but you like it. Very interesting."
That was far too perceptive of him in Cal's opinion. Even unable to enter her mind he was able to see into her. Why had she not told him to leave? She knew why and it was stupid and dangerous. Lucas had it right, fear excited her.
What she also liked was control and right now she was losing it. She scrambled for a way to regain her mental footing.
"Why are you still here?" She asked. "You can't get into my mind to force me to allow you to feed and I'm not about to volunteer."
"I don't need to cloud your mind to feed. However, you are much more interesting than a meal, I can go a night without blood."
"So you've given up on drinking my blood?"
"For tonight. I can think of better things to do." The cocky bastard.
Cal was starting to like the real Lucas. His human persona had been attractive and normal, and in her life that wasn't enough. This however was fascinating and appealed to that darker part of her psyche she rarely indulged. Besides, for once she didn't have to hide who she was from the person she was with.
"If you are still interested, that is?"
It was a spectacularly bad idea. What the hell.
* * * * *
Lucas skimmed his fingers over the scarification on Cal's arm, fascinated by the intricate designs. They were beautiful, like her arms were etched with lace. Each line was raised, giving the skin a ridged texture. His eyes drifted down from one set of scars to another. These were far from beautiful, an angry web centered over her right hip. What happened to her?
She'd fallen asleep in his arms. No tricks, no influencing her mind, she had just snuggled in close and drifted off. He had been laying here, holding her, for the past ten minutes.
His last meal had been three days ago, a young man he met at a bar. A little shy, cute rather than handsome, probably underage with a fake ID. It had been easy, a practiced routine, there was always someone looking for a connection: sex, companionship, to feel, to forget. Lucas would seek them out, charm them. Sometimes it led to sex, more often not, but eventually he would take control of their mind and feed. In the morning they would be a little light headed but remember nothing. It had been many years since he had killed one of his meals, there was no need and people noticed too many unexplained deaths. The boy had been tasty, a bit too much alcohol in his blood for Lucas' taste but young and sweet anyway. He was hungry again but not desperate, not yet, he could go over a week if he was forced to but it wasn't comfortable. He could wait.
She was so close, so warm. He could smell the blood flowing under her skin. Copper and life, better than anything he could remember eating or drinking when human. Her curls brushed his cheek where she nestled against him. Still damp from the shower they had shared. Her fresh scrubbed face, now free of makeup and false lashes, was relaxed. It was a strong face, one that matched her personality, but with a sweetness that could so easily be lost. All he would need to do is tip his head just a short distance, her neck was so close.
How had she been able to fall asleep at all? She knew what he was, how dangerous he could be. Still she had taken him to bed and now she slept like it was another human next to her. Was Cal really so comfortable with him? She couldn't trust him, could she? She was so young, even younger than he'd been when turned, but she wasn't some innocent creature unaware of the threat he could pose.
He thought back over the night. Cal was very clear about what she was agreeing to, no blood but bruises were okay. Lucas could see several already forming on her thigh. She had asked for every one, begged in fact. Tonight had been very enjoyable for the both of them. If he violated her consent now, there would be no second chance with her. Normally this wouldn't concern him but he found himself liking the young mage and wanting to see her again. She could hold her own with him, that was rare enough to not throw away.
Lucas bent down, laying a light kiss over her carotid artery. He wanted more but if she didn’t offer he wouldn't take it. At least not yet.
“What am I getting myself into?” He whispered.