|daniel lives a (bene_placito) wrote in repose,|
@ 2015-12-23 22:24:00
|Entry tags:||*log, daniel webster, destiny sokol|
Who: Daniel and Destiny
Where: Destiny's trailer
Warnings/Rating: I don't know. Violence?
The desolate nothing of week nights in Repose. It was too cold for crickets or birds, too cold to wear most things that advertised better, but most of the girls still bothered. They wore death defying heels with an open toe, they wore bare midriffs with all the welcome of those If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now billboards. They were stronger because of it, like maybe they'd gotten trampled by everything else in life, the elements weren't going to bring them down. There was admiration in that, but Destiny? She wore a coat. It was dark blue with tufts of imitation timberwolf fur coming out of the hood, which was pulled up over her ears.
She sat on the metal steps that led away from the screen door of her little trailer, and she tilted her hooded head back against the flimsy screen. There was music playing inside, and the front steps smelled heavily of bitter, steeped tea leaves and low hanging marijuana smoke. There were sprigs of rosemary tied to fishing line and thin ribbons, bundled and bowed, dangling near the front door in the way other people might hang windchimes.
It was quiet tonight. Most of the other women who lived in this part of Repose were with clients, or they were indoors with the intent to stay warm. But Destiny was on her steps, under the halogen glow of a yellow-tint porch light. The coat was bulky, quilted thick around her core, but her legs were half bare. White cotton socks stretched way up over the knee, then a thick slice of thigh before the coat took to covering the rest. She was warm despite the evening cold, blood thick with jasmine tea and weed. Her heart beat slow and sweet like drugged honey. She lifted a hand to glimpse the moon from above through the slats of her fingers, contemplating how if she tilted her head just right, her nails, polished mod white, looked like silver claws.
Daniel came out of the darkness from the wrong direction, avoiding the road and moving through the trees where the bare limbs of the old orchard came close and drove out the open space and open sky that he found so threatening. He too was in a long coat, though he didn’t feel the cold as she would, and he found the black wool flapping around his knees and wrapped high around his neck to be as close as he could come to a real cocoon of safety. This time Daniel had held out four days before the hunger managed to overcome an actual growing terror for the unfamiliar outdoors, and as a result he was bordering on ravenous and stopping just short of plucking some unfortunate out of the truck stop and saying to hell with the consequences. It was by chance, traveling northward in the opposite direction of the Carnival and away from someone he had tasted before, that he came across the cluster of trailers, and it had taken him a solid minute of cold breaths and confused thoughts to recall what Ceil had told him about the people who lived here.
He was moving too quickly to be seen as he approached, and he stopped himself just out of her field of vision so she could see him when she turned her head. He couldn’t have said what color her hair was, or even how old she was, because her heartbeat was too strong in his ears and her scent too enticing in the air. He kept the teeth in check, barely, but his eyes were probably gone, judging by how well he could see through the dark shadows and into the crevices of the metal steps on which she sat, so he stayed far back out of the circle of light. He imagined that she, like her sisters, was probably used to reassuring uncertain visitors, and he knew that the make of his coat and the strength of his voice would promise her profit. And she would not be wrong.
“Hello.” He didn’t soften his voice, and he let it trail out in a strange reversal, an invitation of intimacy, perhaps a little higher than the male average and suited to his size and far from intimidating height. There were other heartbeats, many, spreading back north, but he wanted her to want him, and the sooner it was, the less likely he was to do something he would regret.
She was telluric beauty in shades of cool mint and the more bitter minerals. Copper pennies and evergreen, blood and herbs folded into the neat, pale origami of a woman. Milk white, like the moon, like her socks, and she fixed the cotton ribbing back up over one knee when it slouched low because the elastic was dying a slow death. It was sheer chance, nothing but coincidence and possibly a magnetic pull of the universe, that he would just happen to be walking by at this particular time on this particular night. Destiny, right? There were herbs hanging above the steps where she sat, and similar things tilled into the soil that surrounded her little caravan. It was simple magic, and to somebody who a little more human or just a little weaker who wandered up to her door, it would certainly feel like a path that was meant to be.
Hello, it came from beyond her porchlight halo. A tilt of her head, and her eyes were dark sorrel when they found him standing there. Penny irises like an echo of her blood rising to the surface, warm and metal. The people who came around here were sometimes complicated like money, but mostly simple like flesh. Sometimes they wanted to be lured or convinced or make believe conned just to get inside, like that made it fate or happenstance or not their idea. Sometimes they picked you out like charity and they paid your bills for weeks. Sometimes they came once and you never saw them again, which was impressive in a town this small, but Destiny figured it was the lucky ones who were just passing through.
"Hello yourself." She flexed the white cotton of her ankle, untangled her knees, and stood. She had a good smile, but it was not really the look of a girl who kept herself well armed with the expectation of the inevitable. "Are you looking for someone?" She was the only one outside on the steps, at least as far as the few caravans that she could see. "Or something?"
Daniel, an inherently selfish creature even when mortal, had never been all that observant of the creatures around him when he wanted something, and the additional senses that gave him hints about the nature of potential prey, the ones he had explained to Louis the week previous, those were dependent on his personal experience. He caught a whiff of that rosemary and extra in the air, felt something in the circuitous way her little caravan drew him in, but he didn’t think about it. Instead he was thinking about the strong pulse and the white skin, a thudding he could hear inside himself.
He was no amateur at this, no embarrassed, lost little lamb that let his curiosity get the better of him. “No one in particular. Company, if I am in the right place for that.” Daniel shifted, taking a couple steps along the circumference of an invisible circle that was the edge of her witchery and the trace of her on the air. He moved back the other way only a few moments later, walking the edge of an invisible tether as his eyes focused on her in solid predatory gleam. While creatures like him were naturally destructive, he meant her no lasting harm, and his desire was as physical and natural as sex itself.
Daniel stopped and, entirely unaware of himself, took a step directly toward her, the central point of a rapidly narrowing world. Any protective little charms she had probably wouldn’t know what to do with that juxtaposition, unless they were strictly dependent on what was human and what was not. She grew more beautiful the closer he came, and he wished he had leisure for such a sweet emotion as admiration.
"You're in the right place for everything." Didn't he know? Mostly, Destiny peddled to the highest denominator. That's what her magic did, it amplified the want of any poor bastard who happened across her web. So whatever they were looking for... sometimes it was sex, but more often it was the opportunity to get stoned while the wife was away, to drink bitter cherry tea for their gout, to fall in love for half an hour at a time before they wandered back to more mundane lives, to the inevitable nothing of this small town and their small town dreams.
But on this night, this man was different. There was nothing to notice at first, aside from the tailor of his clothes, hemlines that bespoke the kind of money that rarely walked into the caravan camp. But then he stepped, he skirted the edge of her invisible magic. Destiny didn't know the precise line very well, but she knew its approximation. And when he traced the boundary? She found that fascinating, but not enough to raise eyebrows or vocalize anything. Repose was full of unusual people, that was nothing new. But the fact that he could seem to sense the line of her magic? That was new. It made her wonder if he might have been something like her.
"Come in," she said with a fingers that curled dramatic. Closer. Come into the parlor, my little fly. It was with those fingers doing their shepherd crook to her wandering lamb that Destiny could feel it. Magic, pulling at magic. He was in the circle now, and she could feel her magic expand like a balloon inflating to allow more. She could feel him, when her fingers curled, like something strong at the end of a tight fishing line. Closer. Her magic felt pressurized. Usually mild and friendly enough for humanity's consumption, but it was tight on her skin now. The lure of her seemed to breathe, expanding.
She looked at him, and her eyes seemed larger, golder. No more mousey brown, just the brilliant etchings of buried Pharaoh glory swarming impossibly large, thick as bees. Her eyes were molten honey, just like her. So warm, so alive. And it was too cold out here, didn't he want to be warm? Alive?
She leaned against the door of her trailer in waiting.
The funny fairy tale with the gingerbread house in the wood, that was what it was, honey bread in the air when he was hungry, moving through the stripped trees with no destination until the mouthwatering enticement of savory nutmeg and spices beckoned in cold air. Daniel hadn’t eaten in four days, his last meal only enough to stave off the hunger, the nightmares from the century lost to him turning his dreams restless, and now he was outside, stalking the same creatures who could terrorize him through simple sunshine and numbers. When he walked across her garden of desire it was like dripping kerosene on open flame.
The solid square of open light from the metal rectangle of her screen door illuminated his face as he grew nearer. He was pale and spare, like most of his kind, with edges on his cheeks under deep set eyes of blue stained by very old hunger. He kept his mouth shut to hide the prickle of teeth he was holding back by threads, and under the dark coat there was no sweater, no scarf, only a wrinkled set of white buttons on fifth avenue blue. It was the dark curls and the pretty words that brought Daniel his meals in good times long gone, but here the naked desperation took much of his grace away from him, and he watched her unblinking, eyes on hers.
He moved quick for an ordinary man, only enough to startle and not to fear, and the first metal step was creaking under his weight almost before her fingers relaxed from the curl of invitation. He brought with him a winter chill and the shape of a creature that wrapped himself up in her web quite willingly, the weight of his many years dragging its power down and making that burden still heavier and hungrier. And he didn’t stop, no hesitation, no concern, no question of cost, just a continuation of movement up rusting steps, toward the heat of her body until there was something to stop him.
There wasn't anything to stop him, not really… but she stepped back, through the broken seam of a doorframe thin as hammered tin. The hinges screamed with protest when yawning wider, and then the pneumatic piece hissed as the door was allowed to find its way slowly, slowly closed. But this wasn't an escape. She didn't look over her shoulder to make sure that he followed, but the fishhook in her heart, the tug tug of hunger and magic on the other end, it said he would follow when she said, "Come inside."
She didn't understand him or what he was, but Destiny didn't understand what she was most days either. Besides, there'd been a lot of these strange, tugging feelings since she'd settled again in Repose. Strange dreams and stranger feelings. Her heart was often a compass, hungering for the direction of the carnival, which Destiny avoided out of skeptical principle.
The inside of her trailer was old rose and red wine, old lace curtains and green things thriving in windowsill gardens. There were carpets underfoot, and the interior smelled even more herbal than the outside had. Destiny shrugged out of her coat, leaving it on a chair in passing. She had on those long, pale socks that stretched up to the knee, her shorts were cotton and blue, and above that was a modest shirt, white thermal with long sleeves that she peeled back to the elbows. "Do you like music?" Destiny stepped up to the little box radio with the antenna, and she turned down the Tom Waits that had been playing, figuring if he liked anything, it wasn't about to be that.
"Or maybe you want something to drink?"
Her voice, her questions, they were like long drops in a deep cave, soft plinks that were so many echoes, and echoes of echoes, that the source was long gone. A chorus of vowels, a splintering of sound that barely made it through his consciousness into true meaning. The cry of the door springs, the soft cushion of his step on the worn red rugs, it all heralded his arrival in a place as warm and as close as the valves of a heart, with her at its center. All her beckoning spells made his hunger a thing of its own entirely, and he could feel it choking all other thought away.
He was careful, so careful, not to drink from anyone with alcohol in their veins, to try to keep any recurrence of the madness away, to be sure that he could remain in control and never wake up alone with nothing but cold corpses for company. Yet he couldn’t hear her offer, couldn’t understand the scents that made her human. He was too hungry.
He followed her close, and came up behind her, and when he put his hands out for her arms, it was not in a soft embrace. “I’m…. sorry.” He meant it, the last quick flicker of control, the dam giving way, and his voice was the edge of a moan as he pressed cool winter skin close to her back. She had a moment to understand that something was wrong, and only a moment, because in that moment he was all teeth and she a strong pulse under them.
He was dressed like money, and she'd asked no definitive questions before allowing him into her atelier. She was constantly padding the cell of her existence with people's fortunes, but it didn't last long enough for her to roll in it on a bedspread like they always did in the movies. She was always scrounging for a little extra to keep her hands on, but the lawyers kept sending their bills, and money disappeared a whole lot easier than it came in. The only way she knew how to get what she wanted was by burning imprints of herself into every motel room, every alleyway, every dark bar, every loving eye, every romantic's tongue.
This man was close when he stepped into the line of her back, closer than she'd realized him to be. And cold, so cold that he felt like something she could make snow angels on. His hands were suddenly on her arms. I'm sorry. The circumstances stacked upon one another, and maybe she was still just a little high because it did take her longer than it should have for Destiny to realize that something actually was wrong.
They really should have talked first, outline price tags if nothing else. "What are--" Her voice was a breath, but gentle and even... up until the moment that it sucked back like a serpentine hiss. She didn't bother with finishing her question, the only thing Destiny did then was try to pull away. Blood ricocheted out of her galloping heart and through her veins thanks to adrenaline, and her pulse hammered like thunder… or a dinner bell, depending.
It wasn’t just hunger. Real hunger grew less when you satisfied it; it was a cup that filled, and eventually it would spill over. There was something else at work, the enhancement of his want for sustenance taking away the control and putting it in the metaphorical hands of a beast with no master, the thing that made him want to clutch, grab, kill and protect, the instinct that assured him he would always be alone except in that one moment he caught the fluttering pulse and pinned it with hands and teeth. And then there was habit, three hundred years of the bite and the blood, countless little hearts fluttering vulnerable in his hands. Her instinctual attempts at escape only made the adrenaline flare, lips rough against her skin and his teeth sinking down past the tendons and hard into the flow that connected head to heart and life to earth.
His hands shifted on her body, but not to grab or tear at her or her clothes. In a shift of movement faster than a man’s eye, he wrapped her body with his right arm, pinning her arm to her ribs and holding her shoulder in place. His left hand came up to brace her chin and smother any scream that she might have begun to stir, firm, inescapable, the wool of his coat scratchy against his wrists and the softness of her flesh compressed against the delicate bones of her jaw under his fingers.
The taste was unlike anything that could be described, total righteous satisfaction, the animal’s knowledge of the hunt’s end. He wouldn’t need to hold her for long, because Daniel’s bite carried a warm high of its own, a fictionalized sense of calm designed entirely by unforgiving nature to help him subdue his prey. His lips warmed to her throat, the blood a tingle as it left her almost floating in his grip, and he drank without thinking, down into danger, approaching that place from which neither could return.
She hadn't counted on how quickly he would react to defuse her, how skillfully he could disassemble the bomb. She growled like a strangled cat as he grappled her arms tight to her ribs, her mind unable to keep up with this too quick pace, she was too dazed, too stoned, she needed a breather… but she couldn't get away, and she was a spitting pissed cobra.
"Get the fuck off me!" Fortunately, the weed padded her perception of pain, too, so she seemed able to disregard the discomfort of his teeth in her vein, still wrenching and struggling, still trying to force him to back off. But she couldn't move her arms, and her socked feet shuffled uselessly against the carpet.
"Don't--" She was ready to really scream, practically in a fit, half flailing to rip his limbs and his grimy fucking paws off of her, just get off, stay off, go away, go to fucking hell. But then he clamped his fingers, like silk and steel, under her jaw, and it kept her scream from spilling outward. This son of a bitch. There was almost a shine of tears in her eyes, but it only translated to rabid fury. She was spitting acid against her clenched teeth, and panic was a twitching thrum through her razorwired body.
He was too close, too near, too much, she could smell him, he smelled too clean, too nice for whatever this was. This was like a horrifically bad trip, she was liking it less and less by the ticking seconds. Fury dripped from her like the blood in his mouth, and she kept struggling, getting more and more panicked like a bird in its ever-shrinking cage. And then, and then ..
The calm settled over her like a fog. She felt drugged. His mouth was sharp as a knife, but now sweet, and Destiny stopped fighting him. Still conscious, but her knees gave out from under her, and only his grip kept her from going bonelessly to the floor. Her muscles spasmed, limbs twitched as her heart kept pumping out a dwindling supply. She'd seen a wounded rabbit die once, and it'd done the same thing, but she wasn't afraid. Not of anything, not of him, and not of the way that shadows settled into the the edges of her vision.
Daniel turned his head from hers as suddenly and jarringly as if tearing free from bonds, breaking the chains his body had on his mind. He realized that it wasn’t blood and prey in his hands, it was a woman, and she wasn’t moving. He took in a quivering breath, a pant of coming panic, and tasted the copper of her veins, still impossibly sweet as it slid off his lips and onto the flat of his tongue. His grip changed, from restraint to support, a shifting of muscles and intent that was so familiar to him it made the sob condensing in his chest grow thicker and fight upward. “No. No, no, no.” The wound on her throat (enticing) was not kindly, two red tears with a far lighter rough edge of punctures lost in the red leak down to her shoulder and collar.
Pushing aside his panic, Daniel pulled the woman up so his right arm was over her hip and he could lift her entirely, with her torso to his left. He put his mouth on her neck again, consciously forcing himself not to drink, to apply pressure and the one thing that may help both of them survive the night: coagulant. Logical, biological, and disgusting, the way nature was at her best, creatures like Daniel had a thickening agent in their saliva that helped their victims heal and recover--if they survived the first attack to begin with. He could hardly stop the blood flow entirely, not so soon, not with his teeth only just cooling from the warmth of her neck, but it would help. Rough in his urgency, Daniel changed his grip again and pulled the woman against his arms and chest, looking toward either end of the trailer for her bed, which he found in a background of curtain. Her limp feet knocked radio, cups, and the contents of the table to the floor as he hauled her sideways down the trailer and set her on the bed.
Thoughtless, Daniel yanked at one of the curtains, tearing the fabric down in his hands, the rings helpless against blood-fed strength. He pressed the length of heavy fabric to her neck and stared down into her eyes, his other hand along her untouched cheek. “Don’t die. Please don’t die. Eyes open now, look at me. Look at me.”
No, no, no. His voice was like an echo, but she couldn't read the meaning in it. Just the words, no, no, no. She didn't feel the panic in him, the turmoil when he lifted her up like she weighed nothing at all. She didn't hear the fracture of a teacup as it clattered from a table in passing, smacked off its doily by her dead ankle. Everything was far away, but his voice was close. The magic surrounding her little caravan turned off, like a light switch being flicked. When she slipped into unconsciousness, she no longer resided in a place that promised beauty and love like all the boys wanted her to. It was just a cheap trailer with old world knick knacks on the inside. Things even a vampire might have missed before, they became obvious as Destiny's glamor magic subsided. Mainly, this was only the scents beneath the dwindling weed smoke and incense, notes of an absent dog, an absent child, something else that was small and vegetarian dieted and difficult to place in the animal kingdom.
Destiny didn't remember closing her eyes. She didn't remember her fury fading in the bliss of his arms, his mouth. She was far gone before his words set in, his protesting nos floating away like curls of smoke, higher and higher. Consciousness came and went ten times in a minute, it ebbed like a wave, but she never quite opened her eyes for longer than a lash-fluttering moment, until…
Whiplash adrenaline pulled breath into her lungs, sharp and deep and mainlined with the ancestral energy of a hundred Romani before her. Destiny gasped like she was drowning, her whole body jerked upright in a show of strength that simply shouldn't have been possible. And when her eyes opened? There was no more sweet hazel, just black. Large, swollen pupils with no sliver of iris. Her mouth opened foreign, confused, like it belonged to somebody else. And when lips moved, her voice was strangle spoken, a hoarse, gasping thing of someone else's voice. The language was a quick spill of Romanian, a jumble of the old world and lost tenses, but some terms came through just fine. Upir and strigoi and vampir! The tone? It probably seemed a little unfriendly. She hissed like she had fangs of her own, those large black eyes staring blind at his face until a second later when Destiny flopped back against her bed, dead quiet for a beat before she began convulsing.
Eyes closed and dreaming of a long, dark tunnel with a lone white bird singing at the end. In her head, Destiny ran and she ran. Eyes closed and dreaming, her whole body shook and shivered, but in her mind she raced for the pale bird. Close, so close… and when she caught it? Breath flew back into her lungs like electroshock treatment. She jerked, and her exhale was so confused and so relieved that it was more of a sob. Her eyes tried to adjust to life again, and there were tears all down her face like the worst kind of pained admission when Destiny scrambled into sitting.
Busy with the pressure under his palms, possessed by the concentration of keeping the pad of curtain cloth solid against the woman’s neck, and struggling through a blur of tears, Daniel barely noticed when the glamour cut off. He wasn’t much designed for the scents of home, not when spilled blood was so strong, and he kept begging her to stay awake, his weight on the edge of the bed so they were hip to hip, him sitting, her in a heap under his hands.
He was not expecting the sudden roar of a hundred dead voices and the woman’s body to tear itself out of his grip. She came up toward him in a convulsion of black eyes and old magic so strong that even he, a creature of automatic, unthinking speed, almost did not react in time to avoid knocking skulls with her. He yanked his body back out of the way as her eyes snapped open and she began hissing at him like an unholy cat. He knew those words, and he stared at her with his stained mouth slightly open in astonishment. He didn’t even have time to react, to say something else, before the dead souls went out of her in a rush and she dropped back onto the bed like a stone.
“A fucking witch,” Daniel said. It wasn’t anger or an insult, but wonder.
He was tentative now when he bent back over her, taking the thick curtain in his hands and tearing a length from it as easily as children tore wet paper to apply as new compress. The blood was slowing, the tang of it less strong in the air. He put warm fingers against the opposite side of her neck for a pulse, and smoothed the hair from her forehead. “Don’t die, little witch,” he said, softly.
This time he was ready when she jerked awake. He slid back easy, neck back and ear to shoulder, and caught her by the elbow so he could keep the cloth firmly to her neck and the motion didn’t tear it from the wound again. Daniel’s eyes were wet too, blue eyes, and the blood staining his mouth had dried to a dark crust in a line to his chin. “Go easy.” He figured she’d panic and flail at him, and he got ready to stop her from damaging herself again.
Destiny's eyes had trouble adjusting to being open, there was no bright light, but she squinted despite that, wincing away from the jarring memory of what constituted as metaphysical defibrillation. She felt strange, lightheaded and cotton stuffed. Everything, her thoughts and her eyesight and the taste in her mouth. Destiny swallowed, or tried to… but her throat was too sore, and she settled on a cringe instead. Go easy, he said, and her brown eyes swam up to him. They were brown again. Not kind honey, but gravedirt to bury him in when her eyebrows knit through the conjunction of fear and fury.
"You fucking asshole," it was the only words that she could find, the only words that didn't make her want to curl up into a ball and scream. But she couldn't scream because even when speaking, her voice was breathy-hoarse due to some vascular damage and a hummingbird heartbeat that fluttered, not yet convinced that the threat was gone.
She wanted to stand, but the world was still swimming through ribbons of darkness even still, and she felt a little nauseous. Eyes closed again, and Destiny whispered as evenly, as calmly as she could bear, "Get. Out."
“Yes, I know.” This was in response to the insult, hopefully the first of many, if she lived long enough. But she had to live; Daniel wasn’t sure what he was going to do if a life slipped through his hands so quickly, not when he had determined that his new existence was dependent on human morality--or, said better, the morality of the humans that mattered. His throat worked, ironic, as it was in far better shape than hers.
Daniel rolled the pressure of his hand, the fabric between his palm and the wound on her neck. “It’ll heal, if you wait. Rest.” He shook his head, and felt the tightness of the dried blood on his chin. He lifted his palm and the inside of his wrist, dragging his cuff across his mouth. “I can’t leave yet.” He stood up, ran water from the sink over a dish towel, and brought it back to the bed, his weight making it sink slightly once more.
Destiny was trying to steady her head, pale-painted fingernails dug divots into the crochet of the topmost blanket on her bed, and she used the heels of her hands as a kind of fulcrum to reposition her center of gravity. She held on tight, whiteknuckled. Her senses weren't absent, she was conscious, but everything was still swimming around in her head. The interior of her caravan was mostly dim, some softly lit lamps reflected back off of tight confines, rosy and wooden. It felt safe and familiar, and Destiny didn't flail away from him, even when she felt the pressure of his hand keeping fabric against her throat. His voice wasn't gentle, or she just refused to think it was. He told her to rest, and Destiny looked up at him without lifting her chin. Her eyes glowered from beneath an awning of coal spun lashes, so so dark in a face gone pale as angelfood. There was a litany of emotions in those eyes, but fear was prominent and recognizable amongst the sourmash of everything else.
She was still a little dazed, her eyes seemed glassy, but she was coherent enough to focus, eyes sharper now when he stood and walked the short distance to the kitchen area. Water ran, and Destiny took that brief moment to reassess her surroundings, to study the level of darkness outside of her window. She hadn't been unconscious long, that was good. But he was walking back now, and that wasn't good. The old wood of her trailer's floor creaked with his footsteps, and Destiny drew her bare legs up close to her chest. She made room between them when he sat on the edge of her bed. He'd said that he couldn't leave yet, and she thought that she knew what that meant. No witnesses.
"Look, I won't tell anyone… anything…"
Daniel’s pale blue eyes stared down at her from his place on the edge of her bed. He did not pursue her as she shifted away, though his hands on the towel moved involuntarily, because he didn’t want her to start bleeding again. He was not hungry anymore, not at all, and that frightened him, in quite a different way than a witch speaking in a hundred voices. He tried to keep his voice even. “I… I won’t hurt you again. I didn’t mean to… I mean, I’m sorry. I’m trying to help you, please believe me.”
“Obviously, I would prefer you didn’t.” Daniel put a hand out and caught at the edge of her knee to push gently at it, trying to keep her from curling up and away from him. In the other hand he held out the damp towel, ready to replace the mess of the curtain on her neck. “Don’t move your head, you’ll… you’ll make it worse. Here.” Daniel hoped he’d managed to wipe the blood off his mouth and chin, and he knew that with his teeth and eyes back to human-ordinary, he might look less a threat.
He said that he was trying to help, and Destiny made a useless sound that wanted to be a laugh but fell just short. It sounded like an old line recited by a lot of the same assholes who liked to pretend they were things other than what they actually were. All of these johns who wanted soft and sweet until they didn't. He said that he wouldn't hurt her again, and Destiny watched him with leery brown eyes that weren't gold like when there was glamour, they were just brown and simple, like this trailer.
"You didn't mean to?" It was a question, a genuine one because she knew about the effect her magic had on more mundane men, of which this guy was clearly not. But he didn't seem prepared to attack her again, and Destiny didn't want to trust that he wouldn't, but the panic did begin to subside despite the way that she curled her fingers into the scratchy crochet of the blanket. Stay, stay… but adrenaline could only last for so long, and Destiny was left with a flood of relief that crashed over her at the most inopportune time. Had she almost died? It felt like it, and the realization that everything was probably going to be okay, it was overwhelming. She didn't know why, but there were tears that she was unprepared for, and Destiny wiped at her eyes with quick ferocity before she looked at the man who wasn't a man again.
She took the towel from him and held it up to the sealing wound on her neck while she watched him with wet eyes. "I didn't think you were real.."
Daniel could barely understand the contrast between the woman in the bed and the one that had beckoned from her doorway; he didn’t even clearly remember what that first woman had looked like, because in his memory she was all heat, blood, and heartbeat, because he had… he had only been hunger, and that was all. It wasn’t the same as sex, as wanting sex, not at all. He wasn’t going to try to explain to her what it felt like to have that survival instinct take over, because he didn’t think of it as an excuse. He wet his lips, pulled his eyes away from hers, and tried to pretend the devastation just under the surface wasn’t there. “I didn’t mean to. I was… I was hungry. I got here and then… I couldn’t think.”
Daniel reached out for her shoulders and the towel, seeking to replace the pressure on her neck again, but his hands faltered when she began to cry. His expression grew strangely hunted, and he let his hands fall entirely out of the way and onto his lap, turning his own shoulder slightly to give her a brief illusion of privacy. Abruptly he rose from the bed, his back still to her, and shed the coat, wanting a better reach from his shoulder if he was going to sit on the very edge of her bed for any further length of time.
He dropped the coat over the inside of his arm, revealing the wrinkled button-up shirt and a set of shoulders to match his unimpressive height. He returned to the bed and pulled the heavy wool coat over her legs and hips. It had a black satin lining. “You need to stay warm. Here.” He held his palms out in her direction, for the towel and her cheek once more, his reach much extended without the seam of the coat restraining his elbow and shoulder. His blue eyes evaded hers. “Let me see.”
She could have explained it to him, but maybe not in the kind of exponential equations and chemical formulas that she'd once known how to explain things. Magic was at once simpler and infinitely more complicated than any of that. But the simplest explanation was that she wasn't the girl who sat out on the front step. When she sat on the steps, she was the gravitational pull of the greatest want, she was a shoreline after twenty years at sea, she was the brightest and the bloodiest apple. But in here? She was too real to be any of those things. The glamour of her magic was washed away like false eyelashes plucked loose, and this was the reality. She was too pale, and her legs wore small bruises like little badges from thumb prints and poor planning. In here, her hair wasn't perfectly curled. It was dark froth and a little tangled, it was a mess just like her eye makeup, which had bloomed into bandit shadows deep in the sockets when her mascara had run for its life.
He said that he hadn't meant to, that he'd been so hungry… and he was being so considerate that Destiny reluctantly settled on believing him when he brought his coat over her bare legs. Still, it didn't mean that she liked it. She watched him, cautious and curious, uncertain of what to do with her anger now that he wasn't trying to kill her. It felt strange, and he wouldn't meet her eyes. She rubbed the dampness and wet mascara onto his coat as it draped her knees, and when she lifted her head, she didn't seem entirely convinced that she should show him her neck like he asked.
But he hadn't killed her, and it was stupid to think that he wouldn't, but she leaned forward a little anyway, drawing the towel down so that he could see the wound. Her cheek in his palm, and she whispered. "Will you put the kettle on?" The kitchen was on the opposite side of the trailer, and she didn't trust herself to walk that far.
One of the rare advantages of age was the reality of people. Daniel had not reached maturity in an age flooded with the sylph-like, hairless, polished ideal woman of this modern century, and he had lived long enough to know that the lace-wrapped, porcelain females of his youth were not real women either. Women--people--were bruised and tangled. Their bodies were asymmetrical, their scents never perfect, their sadness rarely clear. The thing that made them real, that made them valuable, it was not in how they looked or smelled, or how good they tasted. Daniel tried to remember that a person had a soul, and it was shockingly easy to forget.
The bleeding had almost stopped, and given a few hours would eventually heal, but she was very pale and her pulse wasn’t strong. Not surprising, since he drank a long time, and… he was honest with himself: she should be dead. Daniel watched with slight dismay as she smeared the cosmetics on his coat, shaking his head slightly as if watching a child play tiddlywinks with a Ming vase. Sitting back and turning at the waist again to sit straight, Daniel tore another length from her curtain, the rending of the material overly loud in the quiet. He exchanged the damp towel with the dry, makeshift replacement at her neck, and used the clean end of the towel to wipe her cheeks, his expression a slight frown of concentration. “I owe you new curtains.”
Pulling the cool rasp of the material and the warmth of his hands away, he stood up and moved toward the kitchen, as ordered, taking the towel with him in the vague idea of rinsing it.
The curtains were old, but nothing sentimental, and Destiny only sighed a little lost lamb kind of sigh when she watched him tear the remaining curtain into something better resembling a bandage. This time, she didn't flinch when he reached for her neck, but the wasp cloud of her eyes watched him very carefully. He said that he owed her new curtains, and Destiny made a sound like sour melon. "You owe me a new sternocleidomastoid muscle."
But it was disconcerting when he wiped her cheeks, where she assumed mascara was still streaked like black tar tears. She didn't know why he did that, why he was still here. She should have been angry, and part of her was. He'd attacked her, violated her, and she was angry, but there was an overwhelming exhaustion that eclipsed her rage. She just didn't have the energy for that kind of internalized violence, she felt stripped bare to the elements, to him and his guilty eyes. Destiny curled up with the crochet blanket on her bed, and she kept the dry fabric against her neck when he left for the other side of the tiny caravan.
After awhile, she wanted to ask, "Is this what you do? How you… live?"
Daniel turned a long gaze down the trailer in her direction, a weak smile barely visible under the interested sheen of his eyes. “Educated. You’re full of surprises, little witch.” He dropped the towel into the tin sink, turned the tap, and then began opening cupboards in search of the kettle. He took the opportunity to snoop a little, trying to ground himself in her life, to get a stronger understanding of who she was. Anything to keep her life from being one in a string. He had to know what he could have done.
And Daniel was very good at guilt.
“Do you have juice? Sugar and liquids will help.” He found the kettle and rinsed the towel out before he filled it, hesitant and a little uneasy with so simple a task. Daniel ran his fingers over the stovetop, peering at it to try to figure out the knobs and controls. “This is kind of a death trap,” he sighed, and then tilted his head in her direction. “What?”
"I'm not just tits," she confirmed with her cheek tilted down against the rustic yarn of her crocheted blanket. Not that she thought a vampire noticed or cared about such things, and it’s not like hers were worthy of magazine covers anyway. And yet, she didn't go on to explain her knowledge of anatomy, of muscle groups or amino acids. It seemed unimportant while inside the little tin can she lived in. Her life had become something very different than what she learned in school. Some things remained, but mostly… it was different.
There was a little dingy window above the kitchenette sink, and little test tubes held small sprigs of plants. There was a potted aloe near the cramped sink, some oleander blooming in terracotta on the counter. The cupboards Daniel pulled open? Those were more telling. Bottles of plum brandy, jars of sauerkraut and cans of soup. An unopened box of Turkish delight and an entire corner dedicated to children's fruit snacks, juice boxes, and blue boxed macaroni and cheese. "There's some sugary stuff up there. Honey on the counter."
She leaned forward, trying to determine whether or not he was going to catch her kitchen on fire in the process of boiling water. As far as she knew, vampires didn't spend much time before a stovetop. "I mean, is this the only way you… sustain yourself? Attacking women?" She didn't sugarcoat it, but she didn't sound especially accusatory.
Just tits, she said. “No one is,” he said, not breaking his concentration in the kitchen. He got the stove going, feeling like a particularly inept burglar trying to feel his way into a safe, and set the kettle atop the burner. He put his hand over the rest of the surface to make sure he hadn’t somehow turned on the others burners, holding his hand there longer than a human would to be sure the heat would seep through his more sluggish sense of touch if it was there.
His face hidden by the open cupboard door, Daniel sifted through the contents, pushing at the cans of soup and staring at the closest brandy bottle, which winked and gleamed at him like a devilish friend. He swallowed and looked away, pulling open the next cupboard, where he found cartoonish boxes and smiling characters over pasta labels. Daniel took in a fast breath and leaned back, darting a sudden look around the trailer for more signs of a child that he had not detected before. Slowly, he reached up and took two of the juice boxes and brought them down to the counter. Tearing open the glued cardboard, he emptied the first one into a glass. “Usually I don’t have to attack anyone. I pay, and I ask.”
At the sink, he twisted the towel in the water and scrubbed at it with soap. Judging from the rest of the plumbing in this town, he didn’t expect the sink would be running hot water yet, and he didn’t wait for it. He rinsed it again and brought it back to her along with the juice, choosing a different seat, with his knees along hers, so he could put a hand out to support her into a sitting position. “Here.”
Signs of a child? Those were kept at a minimum. Wyatt's toys were contained easily in a small backpack, and most johns weren't perceptive enough to decipher the crumpled clothing in the hamper that sat just to the edge of her bed. Further down, away from the part that Destiny claimed as bedroom, there was a velvet bench seat and a boxy, ultra old school television that sat across. On top? A single VHS tape without a paper box to cover, just a white label that confessed what nobody ever walked close enough to examine. Land Before Time.
"You didn't ask me," she said flatly with his approach. She took the juice when he brought it, and although her stomach twisted at the idea of anything more than air, Destiny hastened a gulp of its sweetness. She looked at him, and she drank deeply from the juice before she sat up a bit straighter. Her dark hair hung in limp curls around her shoulders, and her eyes still seemed too faded to be considered brown.
"But you can control it?"
Daniel wouldn’t call himself perceptive, and he almost never was, concentrated as he was on his own wants and horrors. This… this was a special circumstance. Usually murder was just murder, except when you were also making a child an orphan, which really doubled-down on the ruthlessness. Daniel knew that having a creature like him sit on your bed was one thing, and having him know about your child another. He kept his mouth shut about the cartoon boxes in the cupboard and on the television.
“I didn’t get a chance to ask. I should have… I would have.” Daniel kept his hands very slow and visible, helping her upright and holding the glass until he was sure she had a grip on it. After he gave it up to her, settling it on the folds of the coat where they folded up over her lap, and he ducked his head to look at her neck again. His fingers were cooling quickly, and he brushed the tangle of her hair out of her way with delicate care, trying to make up for the way he handled her before.
“Usually I can control it. I… I waited too long to eat, and I saw you.” He wiped some of the dried blood off the hollow of her throat and her shoulder, his teeth broad and harmless under the loose line of his lips. He still wouldn’t look her in the face. “I’m sorry.”
He was right in thinking that she wouldn't want him knowing about the more personal details of her life, particularly that of Wyatt. At the moment, it wasn't a worry. It should have been, because she knew the mythology of creatures like himself, heightened senses and all that, she knew it, but most of her logical mind was background noise after all that blood loss. This was the same reason that they never let her drive for an hour after she donated blood. The world was a soft and fuzzy place, she knew that the man who sat near her was dangerous, but her senses were still dull and quiet from his bite, from the blood loss.
He was delicate with her when he brushed her hair away from her neck, and she could tell. He was more delicate with her than anybody had ever been, but Destiny didn't think it was sweet. She assumed, like she assumed the reason he was here, was guilt. Which was reason enough not to run him off. Plenty of guys felt guilty about what they did with her, but they didn't stick around. They didn't do this. "Is it because… of what I have? My…" She hesitated on the word, but seeing as how he'd already called her a witch, she supposed it would fit for him. "Spell?"
As long as she didn’t start screaming, and as long as the child didn’t actually show up, Daniel thought he could keep a grip on himself. Not that he was in danger of biting anyone, more that he was going to have some sort of breakdown, a total lack of control because he had lost control. Funny. He tried to focus on what he needed to do in that moment, which was keep the girl alive, alive and calm. If it had been guilt, pure guilt, he would have run away, and left her there, to sink into himself somewhere safe. Guilt didn’t need her alive, and it didn’t need her eyes watching him.
His hands stopped on her skin, the uncomfortable curve of his spine freezing in place. His gaze pressed into hers, unblinking, and there was no stirring of air from his chest. Only a dead man could be so still. “What spell?”
He went very still, unmoving in the way statues from the old world could be. Destiny could remember going somewhere as a girl, it'd been an old palace in Revolution Square, and the government converted it into a museum of art. There'd been frightening paintings of men fighting lions, and there'd been statues that reached from the walls, so real. They'd been marble, but Destiny could vividly remember the unshakeable feeling that those marble eyes were watching her. She felt like that now, with this man who didn't draw breath, with his eyes digging deeper into her soul. She stared back, open and chocolat chaud, sweeter and warmer than he deserved. But she wanted to know, "You didn't feel it?" She said IT like the unnamed was some tangible, massive thing.
Was that because he was no longer man? She tilted her head and she got a little closer, peering at him in the way people stared at a jigsaw puzzle freshly dumped upon the table, pieces scattered all over and where to begin. "Give me your hand," and she reached for his left before he could politely decline. She thought he was polite, despite what had happened when he'd first come inside. She knew about animals and things that couldn't be helped, the elements of nature that demanded more than anyone should give. She blamed him too, of course. A creature like himself must have been old, and to go through this life so carelessly as to not tend to the demands of their hunger? He was selfish, she decided, and she pulled at one of his wrists. "Let me see."
Daniel’s jaw twitched, a shift of his back teeth, a change reflected in the muscles around his eyes and an ever so slight twitch of his chin to one side. “Outside. I felt something… I didn’t know what it was.” Abruptly he broke the stillness, dropping his chin entirely and folding the rapidly drying towel into squares before pulling it free and draping it somewhat uselessly over her shoulder and the column of her neck. He examined his memory of his approach to her trailer, trying to think through the trip through the night, and came up only with the haze of the lights, a suggestion of rosemary in the air, and the overwhelming focus on her pulse from yards away. He shook his head slowly, disgusted with himself. “Stupid.”
Daniel’s eyes focused again to find that she was leaning in, her face coming toward his and her expression thoughtful. He recoiled from her, an automatic reaction to a nearness he hadn’t initiated and his primary concern that he would, somehow, tear into her again. “Why?” But he let her have his hand, still slightly warm and flushed in the wake of the recent feed, the palm uncalloused and the fingertips squared. He realized that maybe she was about to do something witchy, and it made him nervous, but he could hardly deny her anything she asked of him. “See what?”
Her smile was small and well deserved pride when he said that he'd felt something, and Destiny thought that was the best that it got for luring a dead man. It worked really well on the miserable and living, so much so that by the time prospects approached her trailer, it was rarely anything simple and sexual that they were interested in. Sometimes what they really wanted was egos stroked, virility tea, and the reassurance that they could buy their own importance. Destiny was good at that stuff. She didn't do spellwork for them or conjure poisons for them, those kinds of things couldn't be bought, not it order was meant to be kept in all the worlds unseen.
"It works better on men," a hypothesis realized. She glanced up from his hand only once when he gave it over to her. She gave him a strange look when he recoiled, like it was a kneejerk reaction to separate. "Are you afraid?" And although she said it without a smile, her tone found the idea a little amusing. But she looked down into his open palm a moment later. She flexed his fingers under hers, spread her touch over the center of his palm and she seemed better after the juice, still pale, but more animated.
"Hmm," she said, peering closer to the fine lines in his fingertips, and she glanced up again, reading his eyes like conformation could be found for whatever it was that she saw. Then she pushed his hand away, back toward the center of his body, tucking his fingers in and placing the whole package nicely against the front of his shirt, apparently having seen whatever she'd wanted to.
He didn’t know that her smile was pride, but he admired her fortitude, anyway. Nothing in him was strong enough to make a woman laugh or an artist proud; at best, Daniel found that his teeth made people content and pliable, but it was a temporary effect. This woman hadn’t started screaming or throwing anything at him, and Daniel was aware that was due to her strength of character and nothing to do with his charm. (Not that the latter had been much in evidence that night.)
“‘It,’” Daniel repeated. “You mean whatever you have going in the garden? I wouldn’t be so sure. I was hungry before I came, but by the time I came up the steps…” he trailed off, and dropped his eyes temporarily at the memory, one of his automatic reactions when he thought about hunger, in case the darkness found his eyes the way it did when he was first made. “I don’t want to hurt you again,” he said, honestly--and with a little irritation at her amusement, because Daniel didn’t like being laughed at it.
He kept his hand still as she traced ticklish fingers over it. By the time she looked back up into his eyes, they were blue again, the pupils round, his uncertainty and fear that she would suddenly die without warning clear in his gaze. “What?” he asked, looking down at his hand when it was returned to him, as if he might be able to see what she saw.
There were too many reasons to feel violated and hurt. She should have been angry, and maybe she would be later, but in the afterglow of her resurrection and the fading sedation of his teeth, Destiny found that she didn't mind his being here. She didn't mind his sitting close, and she thought that the giving up of his open palm might have been trusting, but was probably indifferent. She wondered if creatures of forever cared about the future.
"Nothing," she told him. But it wasn't the kind of nothing that meant nothing, rather the look she gave him seemed to convey that whatever it was, she wasn't going to say. She stretched out her legs as her body began to remember that it was more than just a heartbeat. Her extremities were cold, and she flexed her socked toes in experiment. Not numb, just cold. It could have been worse, and in that moment, thinking that, her eyes lifted again, cautious.
"I'm not going to… be like you, right?" She had no idea of the science behind his being what he was, but she imagined that their reproduction was more involved than contact with blood. Still, viruses had complicated structures and were transmitted in such simple ways.
Daniel eyed her, unhappy that he couldn’t manipulate or charm her into giving him a straight answer, because he owed her a bit too much for that. All the same, he frowned at his palm again, as susceptible to suspicion as the next man, if not more so, having seen her power at work. Daniel made a sound of discontent at the bottom of his chest and then picked up her discarded juice glass to go refill it from the second box on the counter. The kettle was just starting to whistle.
“No, you won’t be like me,” Daniel said grimly, refusing to elaborate further in a combination of “turnabout is fair play” and a natural hesitation to give anyone very much information about what he was capable of. Daniel couldn’t even stand himself after a few hundred years, much less another person. Immortality was an ugly thing to give away for free, and Daniel had little interest in spawning more misery for himself.
Daniel returned with the juice and watched her so she would drink it, thinking again of the bottle in the cupboard. “You should sleep. I have to leave before morning.” He cast an anxious look at her front door.
Before morning, he said. She assumed that was because of the sun, but she didn't ask for clarification. He wasn't a bad guy, even if he'd done a bad thing. Destiny would have been less forgiving if he'd attacked someone she cared about, but it'd been her, and she was tougher than she looked. He was still here, feeding her juice boxes and tending to her wounds. That wasn't something the villain of the story did. This wasn't how an umpir was to act, not the way that Destiny's grandfather had talked about the ones in the old country.
She drank the second glass of juice quicker than the first, the nausea of rapid blood loss fading into the craving for sugar. She gulped and set the glass between her knees before she asked something that was on her mind. "Do you do this often?" She hadn't heard anything from any of the other girls working this neighborhood. How often did he need to eat, and how was he keeping it a secret?
"I won't sleep if you're here," she said with all kinds of honesty. Too many unknown variables, she couldn't relax enough to find sleep if there was a john in her trailer, especially when he was something more than that. "Is that it then?" She asked because she saw the way he looked toward the door.
It was true that Daniel didn’t like the sun. It didn’t turn him to ash the second it touched his skin, but it burned, like a vicious sunburn that only worsened as time went on. He supposed that it would eventually kill him if he stood in it long enough, a torturous eight hours’ death, but he hadn’t been stupid enough to test it. The sun hurt his skin and his eyes, and he rarely had occasion to fight for her attention, especially with his predisposition to… nest.
Daniel wet his lips, a strangely boyish, human movement because he simultaneously slumped down his spine, watching her eyes. Some of the panic that he had first felt when he felt her collapse in his arms came back into his face, and his fingers writhed together for a moment, twisting and pressing down on the knuckles. “I should eat two… three times a week. I don’t, but I should.” He hesitated a moment, and then said, “I know… you have no reason to do me any favors. But I have to stay here. In town. And I need to keep what I am a secret.”
“Help me keep it that way.” He pressed his back teeth down very tightly again, staying well back and not attempting to touch her. “Please.”
Destiny watched him for a long moment. She didn't want to know the details behind why he needed to stay in town, they all had their reasons… her as much as anyone, she supposed. The dark of her eyes moved from his face down to his hands, where his fingers twined together. She thought it would have been easier to hate him if he'd just left or been an asshole, but the honest truth of it was that this wasn't the worst side of a person she'd seen. Teeth and all, not by a long shot.
It wouldn't be a difficult secret to keep, not many people cared about the reasons that led to women like her walking around with bruised necks. Besides, it was scarf season. Even so, she hesitated in agreeing. She didn't like the idea of being so quiet if he started going around killing people, but it did get her thinking. Something would have to be done about his hunger. "Alright," she said, finally. No stipulations outlined, and inkblot eyelashes lowhanging in something of a speculative squint over the mudhoney of her irises. She wanted to ask if he killed people, but it seemed like a wiser option not to.
"Are you going to pay me?" Her face was very pale, even after the sugar, and her freckles stood out like a mottling of shadowy stars, a constellation mapping her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Her lips were bloodless, but fruit juice stained. The question was familiar, but uncertain, as if it was something she's had to ask before, and she wasn't sure what she was going to do if he said no. She hadn't thought that far ahead.
At first, he stared intently back at her, allowing his mind to wander because he had no alternative if she refused to stay silent. She might promise him now, and go back on it later; that had happened to Daniel more than once, and usually it was a lover that turned on him, and almost always a woman, too. It wasn’t that Daniel was trusting; it was just that once he trusted, he sometimes forgot that people and circumstances changed with time, while he did not. He thought about her eyes, the changing brown that was much like fawn velvet, sometimes dull and sometimes bright depending on her thoughts. He thought about the way her eyes had grown dark, and she had screamed at him three different names, and he thought (not for the first time) that it was probably he who should be afraid of her.
He shifted, and rose from the bed, taking the sticky glass once more to return it to the sink. He blinked when she spoke, not at all expecting assent. “Alright? You will?” His face lit up with hopeful desperation, edged with uncertainty. The hot water was ready, and he poured some into a mug to bring it back to her, forgetting to ask her whether or not he should add tea or coffee to it in his haste to return and get a look at her face.
The request for payment went a very long way to appeasing that suspicion. Daniel had money, and he thought that an ongoing business relationship helped humanize him to the people who saw the teeth and knew otherwise. He was right, to an extent. “I will pay you. Whatever you want. I will bring you new curtains. Do this for me, and I will be a friend to you, too.”
She thought that there was something strange about a man who didn't just assert his demands on a person like herself. It wasn't about her being accustomed to being pushed around, but there was a certain degree of demand and entitlement that came along for the ride with the kind of guys who stepped into her little trailer. And not just that, but this one had teeth, she thought that intimidation must take him a long way, and she didn't understand the desperate hope labeled plainly on his face when she promised, "I won't tell anyone." Honestly, the list of people who would even slightly care about what happened to her? It was a short one.
She took the mug from him and glanced down with the realization that it was only hot water, but Destiny didn't mind, and she used the ceramic to warm her hands. There was a quick look when he said that he'd be a friend to her, she thought she knew what that meant. "I'll see you again?" He said he'd bring her curtains and money, so there was hope in that and it lifted her eyebrows expectantly from over the steaming mug clasped tight in her hands.
Daniel stared at her for a long moment, and it would have been a lie to say he didn’t consider, in the coldest part of who he was, that to kill her would be far safer than any promise she made. Daniel had killed countless people, and he still bore that guilt, so much of it that he would never stay ahead of it. He clung to the people who thought well of him here: Sam, Louis, the potential of Harper and Ceil. What if she told them what he had done?
Slowly, he nodded. She would keep his secret, or she wouldn’t; he would have to live with it. He couldn’t intentionally kill someone. The thought of what he had nearly done might destroy him yet. That choice, no matter how little it might be in the larger scheme of logic and numbers, was not open to him. “Thank you.”
Daniel backed away from her, and then turned. He fished a few bills blindly out of his front pocket and left them on the counter. “It will be a few days. If you need something, leave me a message on the town forum. My name is Daniel.” The squeak of a cupboard door barely interrupted the flow of words. He pulled out the bottle of plum brandy by the neck, and shouldered out of her door, leaving the echoes of his footsteps rattling behind.
He left the coat.