Caryn was deep in thought as she reclined in her seat. The fluffy white clouds drifted past the airplane window unnoticed. Her thoughts were far away, in the very city she was now speeding towards. The same city she had run away from several months earlier.
She had run from the city, to Alaska – land of the midnight sun – but she had no idea where she would go next when the north was encased in its six months of darkness. She had run because she knew the time had come to fulfill her end of the bargain. A bargain made ten years ago between a struggling, 18-year-old model and a sophisticated man-of-the-world. The man apparently had influence in the right places for he had easily kept his end of the bargain. His lifestyle was a little bit strange, eccentric probably but she’d never let that bother her. She just accepted it, and him, without question.
Vincent had been her constant companion throughout the past ten years, considerate and supportive, but he had never let her forget the bargain, always reminding her in subtle little ways. It was a bargain made in sheer desperation on her part – protection for him, lending him a visible sign of normality. When the time of complete fulfillment drew near, however, Caryn had panicked. She felt sure that Vincent would not let her go easily. She fled, because she was not at all certain she could go through with it.
Now she was returning, not because she wanted to, but because she felt obligated. At least that’s what she kept telling herself. She could find no plausible excuse for not returning to attend the funeral of her younger sister. They were not a close family, but Jasmine had been the one person in the family she could talk to. Caryn could not tell her sister now about her fears where Vincent was concerned, of what he represented, or the hold he had over her. She had no one to talk to about her confused feelings.
The plane landed. It was dark outside. She drew a deep breath and prepared to disembark. He would wait until after the funeral … unless her disappearance had greatly angered him. He was meticulous about his manners and social behavoiur. Then she saw him.
He stood just inside the wire fence, as impeccably attired as always, his hair neatly groomed. Caryn realized at that moment that it wasn’t fear of Vincent himself that had sent her running, but rather what he was, what he represented, the things she didn’t understand. Vincent himself would never hurt her. As she stepped onto the tarmac, heart pounding, he came forward to meet her. He drew her into a gentle embrace, one hand gently cradling her head against her shoulder.
“I am sorry about Jasmine,” he said softly. “She was a good person. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such occurrences are tragic.”
“It was senseless.” She took comfort from his nearness and his strength. He’d always been able to calm her when she was upset. Slowly, she drew away from him.
“Come,” he said, wrapping one arm around her waist. “Let me take you home. I’ll leave someone to see to your luggage.”
“Thank you,” she replied and let him lead her to his car. The new, slate gray sedan did nothing to advertise his wealth. Vincent never did anything to draw attention to himself. Many people were completely unaware of the actual size of his fortune.
He settled her on the passenger side, then went round and got behind the wheel. “Where do you want to go, the penthouse or your parents’ place?”
“My parents, please…”
“Very wise. They need you now.”
She nodded her silent agreement and he squeezed her hand. It was just words, for he knew, as well as she did, that her family needed no one. He started the car, drove through the familiar city streets in silence, then pulled into the driveway of her childhood home, an elaborate mansion which had always felt more like a museum to her. It had none of the warmth one expected of a home. He got out and walked with her to the front door.
“Are you coming in?” she asked. She wasn’t exactly eager to face them alone.
“Not tonight. I paid my respects earlier. You need this time alone with them.”
“Thank you.” How like him, to be so understanding, to not want to intrude into what should be a time of private mourning for the family. “Vincent…” Her voice trailed off and her soft grey eyes met his dark, fiery ones.
He shook his head and took her in his arms. “Not now, my love. This is not the time.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll have your luggage delivered and I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night, Caryn.” He kissed her forehead, hugged her close, then left.
Several hours later, Caryn stood at the window of her old room. Everything had been just as she had expected. Everyone was mourning quietly, their faces like stone masks. Controlled grief, she thought. Just like all the emotion in her family was carefully controlled. Caryn, the emotional daughter, had never quite fit in. it was one of the reasons she’d entered into the bargain with Vincent, to escape the family she didn’t feel comfortable with. She had always felt that she was somewhat of an embarrassment to them.
Vincent. Where was he now, at this moment? He loved the night. It was his time. He seldom went outside until evening. She was a little puzzled that he hadn’t seemed to be upset with her for running off. He’d met her at the airport just as he did when she returned from a modeling assignment, with not even the slightest hint that anything might be wrong between them. He was a constant source of mystery to her, so unpredictable.
Vincent had done so much for her. When they made the bargain, he took over her affairs, obtained prestigious modeling contracts for her, and turned her into one of the world’s most sought-after models.
“You have talent, Caryn,” he kept telling her. “All I do is ensure that you make the right contacts, meet the right people – the rest is your own doing.”
It must have been true. Under his guidance, and careful management, she now had a penthouse in the city, a beautiful chalet in the mountains, and an investment income to enable her to live the rest of her life in luxury. She’d never dreamed of having so much so quickly. Vincent had kept his promise to her many times over, but she had balked when it came time to do her part. She had run from him instead. Run from a man who loved her more than anyone ever had before. That much she didn’t doubt.
Her thoughts returned to the present. She gazed at the bright city lights twinkling in the night. Then she looked upward at the dark sky. A storm was brewing. Vincent had taught her to recognize the signs. She disliked storms intensely, especially at night. Vincent loved them. Storms seemed to energize him, as if the raw power of nature could revitalize him. And he always comforted her when a storm made her uneasy.
A flash of bright blue lit up the darkness for one split second. Startled, Caryn jumped and hugged herself. If only she had gone to the penthouse … with Vincent … or if he were here…
“I am here, Caryn.”
She whirled around at the sound of his soft voice and flew into his outstretched arms, clinging to him tightly, her face buried against the smooth crispness of his white shirt.
“I know how you dislike storms at night. I would not let you be alone at such a time,” he murmured. He held her close, stroking her long, golden brown hair.
“I didn’t hear you come in. How…?”
“I … have my ways,” he said softly. “It is not important.”
“Can you stay?” She looked up into his face. “Please, Vincent, will you stay with me?”
He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I will stay, my love. It is not possible for me to refuse you. But you know I must leave before dawn.” He smiled tenderly. “The storm will be over by then.”
Caryn signed. It was always the same. “I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with that.” She knew it was useless to try to change his mind.
He smiled again. “Come. You should be in bed. You must be exhausted.” He led her across the room and urged her down onto the rose-coloured, satin sheets. “You need rest. Tomorrow will be a very trying day for you.”
She held out her hand to him. “Join me, Vincent. Help me to forget everything. I need to forget.” The strain showed in her face, the strain of trying to keep her emotions controlled.
She stirred as he was leaving. “I wish you’d stay longer.”
“One day, my love. You know what must happen.” He kissed her cheek and left silently.
Caryn saw Vincent again at the funeral. The dark glasses now covered his eyes, as was customary when he went outside in the daytime. He had not been at the church, but had met her outside and drove her to the cemetery. He supported her, with his arm around her waist, throughout the short service there. Then they returned to the house with all the relatives, some of whom she hadn’t seen since she was a toddler. The quiet, controlled crowd was more than she could handle. Vincent took her outside to the garden, and held her as she wept.
“I’m going to miss her so much, Vincent,” she sobbed. “She was the only person I could talk to, other than you.”
“I know you will, my love, but you will always have your memories of her. And you know I’m here for you. I will always be here for you.”
“You’ve always been the one person I could count on, no questions asked.” She gripped the lapel of his jacket tightly. “Vincent, are you angry with me for…?”
“No,” he said quietly, stroking her hair. “I understand how you felt. I felt the same way once, a long time ago.” He cupped her chin in one hand, raising her face up to his. He had removed the glasses. Their eyes met, and locked, in silent communication.
“I love you, Caryn. You know that. You should also know that I would never force anything on you that would hurt you, or cause you unhappiness.” His slim hands framed her face, thumbs wiping the tears from her cheeks. “If, and when, our bargain is completed, it will be at your initiation.”
He silenced her with a quick kiss. “No buts. I know ten years was the time limit, but I can wait longer if necessary.” He drew her close, face hidden against her hair so she couldn’t’ see what it cost him to say that. The waiting was torture, but he felt sure it would end one day soon. After a moment, he drew away to look into her face again. “That’s how much I love you.”
Looking up into his eyes, Caryn suddenly realized the truth. She knew why she had not been happy in Alaska, and why she had really come home. It wasn’t just her sister’s funeral. She lifted her arms up around his neck. “Kiss me, Vincent,” she whispered.
His dark eyes glowed. “Are you sure? Are you sure you’re ready?” His voice was strangely husky and strained.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
His lips were cool, his mouth gentle on hers, but she sensed a powerful passion held in careful check, as they shared their first real kiss.
Ten years is a long wait, even for me,” he said when he raised his head. “Where do we go from here, Caryn?” He had to hear her say it. And he knew she needed to say it, to realize the extent of the commitment she was making.
“Take me home, Vincent. I don’t want to go back inside, or to the penthouse. Just take me home and love me.”
He nodded and she knew that he understood her desire to get away from the city, away from all the pretense and pent-up emotions. Hand in hand they walked to his car.
No words were spoken during the three hour drive out of the city, up to the mountain chalet, the one place she felt truly at home. Words were unnecessary. There was peace between them, a feeling of excited anticipation, and a sense of having made the right decision.
Vincent opened the door and Caryn moved past him into the living room. The sheets that protected the furniture from dust had been removed. Vases filled with fresh flowers had been placed around the room. She smiled as she realized that he had once again anticipated her decision, even before she knew it herself. She turned to face him and slowly began to unbutton the high neck of her crisp white, tailored blouse, exposing the creamy expanse of her throat.
He crossed the floor and stood before her, gently capturing both her hands in his. “Not like this,” he said quietly.
“But…” she paused, an unspoken question written on her lovely face.
“Caryn, I can get what I need from any woman in this manner. From you I want more.” He closed his eyes and spoke slowly. “You were confused, scared, and you ran. Now, what changed your mind?”
She licked her lips. “I’m sorry I ran. Were you… are you very angry with me?”
“I was disappointed, and hurt, but it’s not important now. It’s behind us. What matters is the present, now, this moment. Why are we here tonight?”
“Because it’s time,” she said.
His dark eyes blazed into hers. “It is not enough. Caryn, I love you. The bargain is void without that. The conditions were love and total commitment. I repeat, why are we here? What changed your mind?”
“You did. I admit that I was scared when I ran … and very confused. But then I came back, and when I saw you waiting for me I knew I had come home. You were there last night, and again today, and I realized that it felt right. This feels right.”
“I do not want your gratitude, Caryn.” He spoke a little sharply. His eyes had narrowed and she knew he was displeased.
“Well, I’m sorry, I am grateful to you, for everything you’ve done for me, but that isn’t all.” She pulled her hands away and wound her arms tightly around his neck. “I love you, Vincent. It took me a while to realize it, but I think I’ve loved you for a long time. I think what scared me more than anything else was my own feelings. I’ve never been in love before and I was afraid to show you how I really felt.”
He regarded her in silence for a minute. As a child, she had been taught to hide her feelings, not show her emotions. It was not surprising she was scared. “You’re really sure?” he asked again. “You know there is no turning back? It literally means forever.”
“Vincent, will you please stop talking and kiss me.”
He drew a deep, ragged breath. “Oh, sweetheart, I plan to do much more than that – starting right now.” He kissed her with a fiery passion that left her gasping for breath.
They removed each other’s clothing and he drew her down to the thick sheepskin run in front of the fireplace. She clung to him as he drank the rich, life-giving elixir in her veins. She trembled uncontrollably.
Caryn floated slowly back to awareness, cradled in Vincent’s arms, her head pillowed on his shoulder. She turned her head to press her lips against his flesh, now warmed with her own blood. “How could I have been so scared of something so beautiful?” she whispered.
“It is not yet finished,” he said quietly. “One final act is required.” He drew one sharp fingernail across his chest, just above his heart. “Quickly now,” he breathed.
She leaned over him, her mouth close to the blood welling up from the wound. A moment’s terror paralyzed her.
“Take me, Caryn,” he whispered urgently, his breath coming hard and fast. “I must become part of you. It is the only way.” His body was on fire. “You know I love you.”
“I love you, Vincent,” she murmered, then lowered her mouth and … drank from him. Her head reeled with the most incredible sensations she’d ever felt. His hand caressed the back of her head, holding her to his chest.
“Yes, Caryn… yes, sweetheart… love me,” he gasped, his arms gripping her like steel bands.
His blood coursed through her, mingling with her own, blood that was centuries old and carried with it so many memories and emotions. The world began to spin, threatening to crash around her. She struggled to hold on, to not lose everything, her chest tightening with the effort. Their passion soared and exploded deep within them. His arms tightened until she feared her spine would crack. As his arms relaxed, she fell to his side, panting heavily.
“Now I am your bride.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “You are my true bride, physically and mentally. We shall enjoy eternal life together.” He turned to kiss her gently. “Caryn, we will feel each other’s joys and pain, sense each other’s fears. We share each other’s memories, know each other as intimately as we know ourselves. The bond of blood, shared blood, is that strong. That is why it is not given lightly.”
“The bargain is complete,” she whispered. A warm, lethargic feeling spread through her as she turned into his arms.
Outside the cozy little chalet, the distant mountain tops were touched by the first pink rays of the morning sun. Inside, wrapped in each other’s arms, lying on a bed of silk-covered soil, Vincent and Caryn lay in a deep, trance-like slumber that would last until sunset. With the coming of twilight, they would rise to begin the first night of their eternal life of darkness together.
© 1990, 2001 Fay Herridge
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