• Ch 1

    It was a dark night, despite the moon’s hardest efforts. The clouds weren’t giving it enough of a chance. It was going to rain soon. A girl turned away from her window, wishing it were raining already. She blew out the candle on her desk, getting ready for bed, when she heard a female scream pierce the night. The girl sighed and looked out her window again. There was another scream, and she sighed again as she climbed gracefully out the window.

    A man grinned, pinning a woman against the wall. He was beautiful, tall, with long brown hair, steel-gray eyes, and a slim, muscular build. He wore a button shirt, a vest, a bowtie, and slacks. He wore a tailed coat over the vest. The cane that he had carried was lying on the cobbled ground where he had stood, before pinning the woman. His top hat lay close to the cane, having fallen off of his head when he had moved.

    The woman was beautiful herself, with waist-length, wavy red hair, a slightly pale complexion, freckles, and wide blue eyes. She seemed to be of Irish descent. She was wearing a dress like those worn by many other women of the country before they had changed into their nightclothes to retire to bed for the night. Her eyes were not naturally wide, and she shivered, though not from the cold or a positive reaction to the man. She was afraid. Completely terrified. Maybe it was the hunger in his eyes that scared her. Or maybe it was his fangs. She loosed another scream, and he grinned wider, taking a deep breath through his nose, smelling the air, and her neck. He lowered his head, ready to bite, when he heard someone clear their throat loudly behind him. His head whipped up and around. There weren’t supposed to be witnesses!

    “Excuse me. I think it would be best for all of us if you let the poor woman go right now and left town. If I’m correct, there’s a cute little village a few miles east. You should go there.” The girl from the window stood, black hair ruffling in the pre-storm breeze, behind him. She was wearing pants and a shirt, like a man, though her boots did have a higher heel than men’s boots. Her face was lightly sprinkled with freckles. Her gray eyes, much like his, flashed. He growled, menacingly, and smelled the air deeply. She flashed a grin. He straightened, forgetting his hunt for a moment, forgetting his prey, and refocusing on this new girl.

    “How dare you interrupt me, insolent girl?” So he hadn’t quite forgotten his hunt. “You do know you’re female, right? Because you wear pants, like a man.” He took a step toward the strange girl, but she didn’t react, except to grin again. Then she looked at the woman, still against the wall, clinging to it, as if she could blend into it and be forgotten completely.

    “Go on.” The strange girl nodded toward the other end of the alley, where safety awaited. The victim fled, quickly. “Now that that distraction is gone, we can focus on this. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be feeding here.” She was suddenly very business-like.

    “Why? Is this your territory? I haven’t smelled you around the city, like I would if you were hunting here.” He grinned and took another step toward her, but she continued to stand her ground.

    “Why, yes, it is my territory. And I do hunt here, but not humans. I hunt monsters like you, disgraces to the population. I protect the humans.” She crouched, bunching muscles that prepared her for an attack from him. It didn’t come. Yet.

    “Unless my sense of smell betrays me, you are a vampire as well. And trust me. Being a vampire myself, my sense of smell never betrays me.” He crouched, too, getting ready to end the discussion quickly. And violently. She cocked her head, almost as if to say ‘Begin. I’m ready.’ So he did. And she was. He sprang, closing the few feet that had still separated them, and she rolled, down, under, and behind. He whipped around to find her still facing him, but they had switched positions. She was still crouched, still on the defensive. He still wanted to kill her.

    He jumped again, hands outstretched, and she moved to roll just like before. Instead of her body tumbling over her head, though, she pressed herself flat to the ground, only for a split second as he passed harmlessly over her, then pushed with her hands, lifting her whole lower body off of the ground, slamming her feet into his back, which, in turn, slammed him into the wall, sending little cracks through it. He turned again, to see her crouched in almost the exact same spot she had appeared in. He knew now why she wore pants. His eyes narrowed, and he gathered himself for another jump, when all of a sudden another man landed, on his feet, between them. Both of the fighters straightened quickly, surprised at this sudden appearance. The newcomer looked over his shoulder and grinned at the girl, then looked back to the other man.

    “This is how you do it quickly.” The newcomer said, and then set to work on the offending vampire. After less than 2 minutes, hardly enough time for her to recover, the newcomer stopped moving, and the blur sharpened. His hair, shoulder-length and blacker than hers, was pulled back and tied up in a ponytail. He was dressed much the same way she was, in a simple shirt and loose pants. He was definitely taller than her. He stood with his back to her, but she knew, from the way he stood, that he was satisfied with his work. At his feet lay a pile of flesh and rags. No blood. There had been no heart beating, no force pushing the blood through his body. In his fist was the dead man’s long brown hair, head still attached. To the hair, but not the body. She shivered. She didn’t have to see his eyes or smell him to know that he was like her and their recently deceased ‘friend.’ “Like I said. That’s how you do it quickly.” He turned and flashed another grin at her. She blinked.

    “I was handling it.” She stood, staring, still trying to recover from the speed of his attack. “Who are you, and should I worry?” She inquired.

    “Raiden, and not unless you worry about having a stalker.” Great. A sense of humor. She rolled her eyes. “I’m serious. I have watched you the last few times you’ve saved people. You’re slow with what you do, but you’re good.” Raiden dropped the head, and it rolled onto the face and rocked. Neither paid attention to it. “Who are you?” He asked back.

    “I’m leaving. Goodbye.” And she turned to walk away.

    “I’ll just follow you.” He whispered in her ear, having already come up behind her.

    “Look, thanks for the help-“ Her eyes flashed to the side, where the pile of flesh and rags lay, then back. “-which I didn’t need, but I’m tired and would like to go to bed.”

    “I won’t let you fall asleep until I learn at least your name.” He persisted, in front of her now. She tried to get past him and he grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the wall that was suddenly pressed against her back. He stayed at arms’ length, head tipped slightly to the side. She sighed.

    “Lilli, ok? Lilliannah.” She looked up at her wrists, and his hands pinning them there.

    “Beautiful name.” He dropped his hands, freeing her.

    “This isn’t the last I’ve seen of you, is it?” She asked, pushing away from the wall and slipping around him.

    “I should hope not, Lilli.” He said it as if he were tasting the name, seeing how it felt. “Goodnight.” She had already left the narrow alley, but she heard him. He stood for a moment longer, then followed her, tracking her by scent as it started to rain. When he got to her house, there was a candle burning in one of the upper rooms, the light shining through the window, framing Lilli as she sat cross-legged on the shingled roof, getting soaked in the rain. She didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seemed to enjoy it. She did enjoy it.

    Lilli’s eyes were closed and she leaned sideways, against the window frame, as she listened to the rain. She heard Raiden’s quiet footsteps on the street below, but she chose to ignore him, hoping he would be discouraged and leave. He wasn’t. He sat down on the sidewalk across the street, and watched her. She sighed, loud enough for him to hear.

    Do you worry about stalkers?” He asked in a voice he would use in normal conversation, with her standing in front of him and no rain falling.

    “Only when they won’t let me think and enjoy the rain in peace.” She replied, just as quietly. He shrugged and leaned back against the house behind him, to watch.

    “What are you thinking about?” She didn’t have to open her eyes to know he was half-smiling.

    “How irritating you are. And I’ve only just met you.” She sighed again and shook her head slowly, as if to say ‘I don’t believe it.’

    “Ah, but you are thinking about me. That’s a start.” He was grinning now. A gust of wind blew around her and through the window, blowing the candle out, almost as if to show how irritated she was.

    “Good night, Raiden.” She let herself fall sideways, through her window and onto her bed, just below it.

    “Ray.” She heard from him, just outside her window now.

    “Don’t you have anywhere else to be? Nothing to do?” She demanded, annoyed.

    “Nothing important.” He watched her through the window, grinning.

    “Find something. I’m going to get changed into dry clothes and get to sleep, and I’d rather not have a stranger looking in while I do so. I may be alright with having a stalker, but only as long as he’s respectful.” She rolled sideways out of her bed, landing on her feet in a slightly crouched position. When she stood up, he was gone. She changed and looked out the window one last time. He wasn’t upwind, and she couldn’t hear him, but she couldn’t be sure that the strange vampire, Raiden, was actually gone. He wasn’t. Lilli lay down on her bed, and almost instantly sleep claimed her. He smiled as he heard her breathing slow and even out, and he settled into his very recently established routine of listening to the female vampire breathe, and watching her through the always-open window. She was very cute when she slept, curled up, on her side. There was one thing that wasn’t routine about this night, though, as she tossed and turned. She was having a nightmare.

    The head of the vampire that Raiden had killed in front of her was following her, and she couldn’t get rid of it. She knew if she could find him, if she could find Raiden, he could take care of it. But she couldn’t find him. She ran, and the head rolled after her, never falling more than five feet behind, never getting any closer than six inches off of her heels. Six inches was still too close for her comfort. She couldn’t find Raiden, so she tried to call for him. No sound came. The other vampire’s head had somehow made it up and sunk its teeth into her vocal cords. She couldn’t scream, couldn’t move anymore. She couldn’t breathe.

    Lilli sat up quickly and squeaked, the stifled version of the scream that she couldn’t voice in the nightmare. She was breathing hard. She sat and listened to the rain, falling harder than it had been earlier, and tried to catch her breath. Finally, she realized she wasn’t the only one breathing in her bedroom, and she turned to look into the shadows deeper in the room. She found Raiden, standing close to the foot of her bed, watching with a slightly anxious look on his face.

    “Better now that I can breathe.” She answered Raiden’s unasked question, and he nodded slightly, his facial features smoothing out.

    “You stopped breathing completely for a minute. It scared me.” He walked around the bed, closer to her.

    “Why on this Earth and in the Heavens would my not breathing scare you?” Her head tilted in confusion and her face was perplexed.

    “I like your breathing. It’s so even. It’s very soothing.” He put his hand on hers, which was on the bed next to her. She looked down at their hands, frowned, and removed hers from underneath his. “You whispered my name, and that you couldn’t find me. Right before you stopped breathing.” He watched her as she folded her arms, hiding both of her hands.

    “I was being chased by the man you killed. Well, his head. And, in the dream, I knew that you could make him stop, if I could only find you. But I couldn’t find you, so I tried calling. But it…stopped me.” She frowned. “That kind of thing never bothers me.” She shuddered, but not from the cold rain falling through her window. Raiden took another step closer, and she shook her head slowly. “So much for having a respectable stalker, Raiden.” She frowned at him.

    “I only listen.” He smiled. “Like I said, it’s soothing.” He sat on the edge of the bed, looking at her, not thinking that it would be a good idea to tell her that he also watched, even if he had never entered her bedroom before.

    “It’s still not very respectable.” She scooted back to put her back against the wall behind her.

    “And have you ever known a true stalker to be anything close to respectable?” He grinned as she shook her head.

    “I’ve never known a true stalker. But they have to be a little respectable. You know, blend in?” She felt better with the cool wall at her back.

    “Oh, I blend in quite well.” He was still grinning. “So, do you feel better?” The grin disappeared.

    “Yes.” Lilli nodded slightly and lay back down, against the wall. He reached to touch her arm, but she twitched away from him, and he pulled his hand back. She closed her eyes, then the mattress rocked and Raiden was out the window. She lay still for another moment, eyes still closed. Then she opened them and sat up, looking out the window. She sighed. “R- …Raiden?” She whispered, and jumped slightly when he appeared, suddenly crouched on the roof, closer than she expected.

    “I told you to call me Ray.” His tone was light but his face was concerned.

    “Alright, Ray.” Lilli rolled her eyes. “Thank you.” He smiled at her, and she couldn’t help but smile back. Until he touched her cheek. She jerked back, scowling, and rubbed her cheek harshly, almost as if she were scrubbing something away, and he frowned.

    “What was that for?” He reached through the window, hand open but relaxed, and she moved away from him.

    “I don’t get cl-“ She stopped in the middle of her sentence, frowned, and turned away.

    “You don’t get what? Close? Why not?” Lilli closed her eyes and shook her head.

    “I had to get rid of the last few I’ve gotten close to. Poor bas-…” She stopped again, opening her eyes and grinning, then shook her head again.

    “We could always fight side by side. I don’t like human blood, so you wouldn’t have to worry about me.” He smiled hopefully.

    “No. Go away, Ray. The closest I’ll ever get to anyone again would be just close enough to rip their head off.” She looked at him and her cheek was flushed, but only where Raiden had touched her. He lowered both eyebrows and reached to touch it again. It looked like her cheek had over-heated. She got off of the bed, moving away from him.

    “You’re lying. Why do you really stay away?” She shook her head again, holding her right hand to her chest with her left. “Tell me.” He climbed back through the window and walked toward her, through the room.

    “Go away. Don’t come back, ever. We don’t even know each other.” Lilli continued to back up and frowned when she bumped into the wall.

    “I’d like to know you.” Raiden whispered in her ear, suddenly very close. She cringed away from him and brought her hand up to rub her ear. He pinned it to the wall next to her head, her sleeve between his flesh and hers. She tried to push at him with her other hand, not touching his skin, but he pinned that hand too, almost distractedly, watching the ear he had breathed on. It reddened quickly, also looking like it had over-heated. He frowned, and the color started to fade soon after it had appeared. He looked at her cheek again, and that had faded too. Still frowning, he moved his hand up, from her sleeve to her bare hand. Her fingers twitched and she hissed, taking a quick breath through her teeth. He held her hand for a moment, then lifted his, keeping hers pinned to the wall, and was amazed at how red her skin was. It didn’t feel cold to the touch. “Why does it happen?" The wonder on his face could be heard in his whisper.

    “I don’t know.” Lilli’s voice faltered, and he knew she was lying.

    “You really shouldn’t try lying. You’re horrible at it.” He continued to watch her hand, fascinated, as the color began to fade from it again. The he let go of both of her hands and stepped back. She folded her arms and shivered. “Why? And does it hurt?” She shook her head.

    “It’s…just a little…uncomfortable.” She sighed. “Like moving your hand from a glass full of cold water to one of hot water. As to why… Someone once called me cold-hearted. I laughed, because they were exactly right. When I was…turned, my heart just froze. It didn’t just stop, but it is now a large block of ice.” Lilli looked at her chest, then his hands, and sighed again, reaching for his right hand. He gave it to her, and she placed it over where her heart used to beat. He shivered as the cold pulsed through her nightshirt, into his hand, and up his arm. She let go of his hand, but he held it there a second longer. Finally, he dropped it. She slid down the wall and pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her forehead on them. Her hair fell forward to hide her face.

    “That’s…weird.” He sat next to her, putting his back to the wall too. He put his hand under her hair, onto her cheek, but she didn’t react. He lifted her hair to look at her and smiled when he saw that she was asleep. ‘She must be exhausted,’ he thought to himself as he gathered her in his arms and stood up. He took her to the bed and laid her down gently, taking the place beside her. He fell asleep not long after.