One Night

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“The heart has long been the center of literature and art; even the earliest practitioners of medicine have long believed that the wholesomeness of one’s body and soul lay within the beating life of a human’s chest. And yet the heart in all its vitality is a traitor.

“Yes, even in the body’s last frenzied moments, the heart struggles its best to pump the last of its blood out of the very soul it provided for. It does not think, it obeys, fueling purpose, not providing it. Emotions, ecstasy, revulsion, fear, arousal —these are not inherently good or evil. They are instinctual reactions interpreted by an excited mind. The heart is a pump, not a compass.

“For action, the heart is necessary, but without direction, it is a tool used easily to destroy itself. That, my dear, is why control is so crucial to a creature like me.”

Lillian merely stared, transfixed as she watched the dark figure poised at the window. His back was still turned to her, one arm casually folded behind it. What expression he wore was hidden, but his voice was tranquil and melodic, a silken lullaby that was deceptively harmless. All that could be seen of him was shadow, the moonlight able only to detail his tall and stately silhouette.

“Control?” The word felt strange and hoarse from her lips, but she persisted, anxious to keep the conversation going.

“Indeed. Your heart betrays you even now.” And then he turned his head just so, his long, pale nose barely visible as his lips turned up in a smirk.

“Ah.” What could be said? Lillian’s hand curled nervously against her chest, trembling as she caught sight of the corner of the man’s eye. Her heart had already been pounding, but now it felt like it might hammer itself out of her rib cage.

The man gave a low chuckle as he clasped his hands behind his back. “You’ve already considered edging away or perhaps sneaking up on me with that lamp as your only weapon. Quite the chance to take, knowing what I am. But you do not wish to provoke me when I am so content with my little lecture.”

Lillian blushed as she glanced at the old metal lamp whose long cord twisted beneath the very cushion she sat on. She couldn’t quite imagine managing to unplug it and swing it at him without being blatantly obvious. But it couldn’t be helped. Escape was the only lucid thought running through her head.

“My apologies, Dearest, but such notions I cannot indulge you with tonight. I need something from you, and then I shall be happily on my way. It won’t hurt, not this time.”

And suddenly he was right there, occupying the seat next to her. She didn’t even see how he got there, gasping as she leaned away.

“I’d really rather do minimal damage, Dear. Hold still.” He reached for her with the same speed he had reached the couch, and then she was in his arms, cradled like a rag doll. It was difficult to describe what she felt just then, the cold fear buzzing across her skin making his warmth all the more frightening and appealing.

He had no coat—she could feel the soft linen of his shirt. It hardly masked the strength of his arms, for though they had the lean muscle of any athletic man, his firmness was like steel. He did not smell of blood, nor drugs, nor any manner of smoky filth befitting a kidnapper. No, it was a warm and minty scent, musky and pleasing to her nose.

Something was very wrong here. The man’s embrace was gentle, yet no more forgiving than a steel cage. Even as Lillian resisted, squirming and pushing as much as she dared, he did not move an inch. The man merely stared at her with vivid green eyes, watching, waiting, smiling as she fought the futility of his strength.

“Let me go!” Her voice had gained a new pitch, the skin on her fingers growing damp with a cold sweat. She knew what was about to happen, and yet she couldn’t allow it to.

“That’s enough, now.” Lillian’s chin was caught in his hand as he forced her to face him, the tone of his voice no less serene than when he had been lecturing her. With his thumb caressing the edge of her jaw, he looked into her for a long moment. Something in his eyes became warmer, spreading into her with surprising force.

She stopped squirming. Staring back, she felt her mind grow slowly numb, her previous fear beginning to feel like an irrational memory. What had she been thinking before? What should she be thinking now? Where was the resolve to fight back? Those thoughts were pressed further away, her mind growing quiet as it was filled with his eyes.

“Be still.” And then he brought his lips to her neck.





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