To Fear the Dawn, Chapter 8
Charity awoke suddenly, knowing instinctively she was in a strange bed in a strange place. She lay with wide eyes under the covers, staring at the unfamiliar ceiling above her head and the luxuriant canopies around her. She appeared to be unhurt; at least she felt no pain and could move her arms and legs, but where was she?
Her first thought was that she might be in a hospital, in spite of the fact that she seemed to be uninjured, but the bed she was laying in hardly seemed like a hospital bed. She sat up and looked around the room, confused.
The next thing she noticed was that she had been undressed. The pink satiny lingerie that had been a hopeful gift to her from Pascal was all she was wearing. Imagine that, she thought. A stranger got to see it on me before he did.
She fought back an insane desire to laugh, then sobered quickly. This was no laughing matter. Someone had brought her to this place, stripped her, and lay her in this bed. That much she could tell. What else had happened of which she had no memory?
She shuddered. It was a horrifying thought.
There was a dresser sitting in the corner of the room. Perhaps her clothes were in there. She could at least get dressed before she went wandering about, looking for she knew not what. She stood up and walked toward the dresser.
“Ah, you’re awake,” came a deep quiet voice from behind her.
Charity jumped and whirled to face the doorway. There was a silhouette of a man standing there, but in the dim light from the candles, she couldn’t see him properly.
She became acutely aware that she was wearing only the thin undergarment, and she awkwardly covered herself with her arms. “Who are you?” she demanded in a harsh voice. “What am I doing here?”
“My name is Reginald Cavendish,” the figure said in a deep, rich voice. He advanced gracefully into the room, and Charity bit back a scream at the sight of his pallid skin and blood-red eyes. He looked up to face her and stroked one of his long fangs thoughtfully with a forefinger. “As for what you are doing here, that depends upon you.”
Charity felt sick with fear and she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, yet it was unmistakable.
“You... you’re a... Vampire? Oh, Gods. It’s you, isn’t it? The killings... the bodies they’ve found with no blood in them... ” Her voice trailed off to a terrified whisper and she gave herself up for dead, but then she considered. He’d had ample opportunity to kill her already. Why hadn’t he?
“It is not only I,” he said, his voice revealing a sense of distinct pride. “My children have also been feeding well in this town.”
“Children?” Charity said, intrigued in spite of herself. She knew she was face to face with a monster, a preternatural being who had drained the living blood from countless others, but there was still something that fascinated her about him in spite of that.
“Yes, my children,” Reginald answered, his carmine eyes lighting up. “My family is very important to me. I have several children in this town I have brought into existence and given the gift of immortality.“
“You’ve turned them into vampires.” Charity stated.
“Those are the ones who have disappeared.” Charity murmured, everything falling into place in her mind.
“Yes, your police force believe so, but my offspring have not disappeared. They prowl the night looking for prey.”
“...and making more vampires,” Charity said. “Is that right?”
Reginald looked at her thoughtfully, then shook his head. “No, they only feed. Only I and my mate have the ability to bring others into the fold.”
“Your mate?” Charity asked. “Where is she?”
Reginald smiled. “She is here.”
“Is she...like you?”
“Not yet.” He was still smiling.
“Can I talk to her?” Charity had a wild idea that the vampire’s mate might be a friend. An ally. Someone who could help her escape.
“You might,” he said with a hint of amusement, “but it is best not to talk to oneself when others are listening, as they might think you deranged.”
Charity was silent as the implications of his statement sank in, then she nearly fainted with horror. She had her answer, then, as to why he had not killed her! He had brought here to be his mate!
Suddenly, she had a flash of insight... or was it a memory? Her clothing being gently, almost lovingly drawn from her body. Of being effortlessly lifted and held close for a moment before strong arms lay her down in softness, and of a chaste, tender kiss on her forehead... or had all that been only a dream?
She shivered, looking at Reginald.
No...she couldn’t do this! She had to flee. She had to get back home! Vidcund, Pascal, and Lazlo had to be beside themselves with worry. And the children...little Orion and the twins. Would she ever see any of them again? She blinked back tears at the thought.
The vampire swiftly came closer to her and she screamed in fright, but he only wrapped a white silk blanket around her in a comforting manner. "There is clothing for you in the dresser,” he said softly. “I must leave you now, and retire to my coffin for the day, as the dawn is coming.”
Charity let the blanket fall in a cascade to the stone-tiled floor, confused. “Leave me?”
“Yes. The sunlight will turn me to ash.”
“But what will keep me here?” she asked bluntly.
“This house is well fortified,” he answered, sighing.
“Can I contact my friends?”
He shook his head. “It is inadvisable.”
“What am I going to do?” she asked him in a whisper.
He smiled sadly. “Watch the sunrise, so you may describe it to me. I have heard it is beautiful.”
And with that, he left the room.
Charity watched him go for a moment. He was, without question, the most baffling individual she had ever met.
Shivering, she picked up the fallen blanket and flung it around her shoulders as the vampire had originally intended. As she clutched the softness around her, the scent of myrrh wafted faintly to her nostrils. She breathed it in, imagining Reginald back in the room.
Why aren’t I more afraid? Why am I not angrier?
The vampire had taken her by force to this house, stripped her practically naked while she was unconscious and was now holding her prisoner here with the intention of making her his mate.
She should be livid. She should hate him.
But she didn’t. Strange as it was, she didn’t.
He hadn’t hurt her, and being close to him and speaking with him as she had just done, it was hard to believe he was a monster. There was also the way he looked when he spoke of his “children.”
No one could be a monster who cares so much for family, she thought firmly, no matter how different or strange the family may be.
She realized Reginald didn’t even know her name.
I’ll tell him tonight, she decided, and, without bothering to dress, she walked out onto the veranda to watch the sunrise.
To Be Continued