Once Orlando freed me from our chilling kiss I stared at him with complete confusion. There Orlando stood, the same familiar mocking expression returning to his glorious face, he always teasing what he called my goodness, my traditional sense of the natural world. Yet Orlando's eyes, blast, his wide dark eyes told me he had traveled somewhere that would have meant my spiritual destruction. Right now I wasn't sure if Orlando had truly survived his damaged journey.
Suddenly I didn't want to leave this safe suite. No, instead I wanted to strip naked and luxuriate against my lover's smooth flesh. I wanted to kiss all Orlando's sensitive secrets, yes, make him completely mine again. I didn't care if Orlando's long cock had turned into an icicle; I still wanted to taste his unique flavor. Nibbling at ice cream tickled my mind. What frivolous madness!
Natural instinct told me leaving my suite would ruin our reunion. As my mind whirled in agony my fingers caressed Orlando's cheeks. " Orlando, why must we do this? Where are you taking me? Just talk to me, dear one! Imagine, for once I want hear every last poetic word." God, I hated how my voice broke in pleading desperation. "Dearest lover, above all I want you against me so let's stay here. Please. Stay here with me."
Orlando regally shook his head before gesturing insistently at the carved door, his earlier despair now replaced by a bright, hard anger. "Viggo, either you come with me or I am leaving and I will make sure you will never find me again." My lover's soft melodic voice sounded so cold, so final.
My wide eyes searched Orlando's furious face but I found no answers. "Ahh, you cruel man, you must have grown to hate me. You've never treated me this coldly. Why are you doing this to me?" I whispered.
Orlando's beautiful face twisted in sudden fury; the wild expression made him look demented. He jerked his face away from my fingers. "Please, you dare to act wounded? Ha, you easily forget how shamefully you treated me those years ago. Yes, the logical Viggo with his high moral standards and his precious place in polite society; you condemned me in that stinking prison cell and directed me to my current life. Yes, Viggo, you condemned me because your high-minded anger demanded a sacrifice for daring to love me! You simply used my pathetic morals arrest to justify rejecting me."
At hearing Orlando's harsh words a deep shame conquered my own burning anger. No, none of that was true! "No, Orlando, I... "
My weak protest died before Orlando's simmering rage. "Oh, yet before that dismal night I changed you, yes, I made you aware of yourself. I knew everyone else wondered why handsome banker Viggo still hadn't married. I knew why. I sensed your well-buried need then I unearthed your forbidden desires and for two years you were completely mine. Yet I fear in your moral soul you thought I corrupted you. Wrong! I loved you, Viggo, and I still love you more than you can ever realize. I stayed away from you out of love and I will show you my next actions out of love. You must know what I am," he snarled. Once his wild words burst free Orlando finally calmed down. My lover's dark eyes revealed a new realm of desperation. His twisted expression sent blackness into my heart.
All these years and Orlando's bitter pain still bled as fresh as my own agony. Groaning in confusion I decided to give into my beauty's whims but not before I answered his negative words. "My darling, I know I treated you harshly during your arrest after that mess at Cassandra's so-called witchcraft ceremony but I never rejected you. Never. You magnified my usual anger into rejection and reacted as you saw fit. You pitched a tantrum and you wronged me by leaving me."
Orlando stared at me then something pained stirred in his eyes, flashed at me then fled. "Please, Viggo, my arrest drove you into a typical, 'I told you so, you fool' rage. I remembered sitting there feeling like my life had ended and in response you ranted at me, turned your back on me and left me in that holding cell. Yes, you coaxed the judge to dismiss the charges against me but you never visited me again. You didn't even meet me when I was released so what was I to think? After all our arguments I knew you didn't approve of my so-called sinful witchcraft hobby but I never thought you would reject me over it."
It felt so hard not to scream in frustration. Such an uncivilized act might upset the other guests. Instead I kept my voice low. "For the last time, lover, I did not reject you. You confused my rage with rejection. Can you at least admit that to me? I loved you then and I love you now."
After another long, hard silence Orlando shook his long hair. "Well, my dear one, now you know why I thought it best to escape the States and explore my new horizons. I thought to be gone for a few months then return and try again with you. Ha, now I know by running away I ruined our lives. There, I will admit that to you." My lover stared at the floor. "Knowing that you still love me makes everything worse."
"But why? I... Orlando, very well, because I love you I'll go along with your plan." My fingers pulled on my suit coat before then I yanked on my overcoat. I suddenly realized a stupid detail. " Orlando, have you no overcoat? No wonder you are ill. I have an extra raincoat if... "
Suddenly Orlando's bleak mood evaporated into mist. He laughed at me, a tender amused sound, its precious tones capturing sweet, sunny music from our past. "My dear love, my sensible love. Here you are still worrying about warm coats and my frail health."
Orlando's slender arms suddenly clasped me close in a secure embrace. My lover's lips pressed to mine for one more reekingly cold kiss. "One last time. You may not want to... oh enough! Come now!" he snapped, pulling away from our embrace. Before I could respond Orlando exited the room.
My frustrated moan echoed in the now empty room. After I hastily locked the door I swiftly followed Orlando's black-clad form down the hall. Orlando's movements and dangerous mood changes bespoke of his great agitation. Once beyond Claridge's safety my slim lover imperiously hailed a waiting carriage.
" Orlando, wait, I have a hired carriage at my... "
His pale hand dismissed my protest. "No. Not for this. Get in," he ordered.
I followed Orlando, listening as he supplied the driver an appalling intersection close to where I had searched for him. " Orlando, why are we... "
Orlando's stern glare silenced my next words. God, who was this angry creature? As he turned his head away from my confused gaze my lover stared out the window at the grimy city. I gazed at his tense form until Orlando turned back towards me. His dark eyes met mine then my cousin's melodic voice dropped into a guttural snarl. "You ask why I can't simply tell you my story. Trust me, Viggo, if I told you we'd travel toward Bedlam so best not ask me anymore questions. For now remember, Viggo, I love you. I know you love me but after the next few minutes I will excuse how you will feel about me."
Another silence fell until Orlando murmured, "Ahh, here we are."
We descended towards hell, the carriage dropping us yards beyond the Tower. The driver picked up two drunken nobles who had already enjoyed their little excursion into the grim night. Orlando swiftly led the way into the grotesque streets until he detoured down a dark alley and glanced along its sullen length.
I reluctantly followed Orlando midway into the foul atmosphere. He stopped before a boarded-up doorway. "Wait here, my love. I'll return in a moment," he instructed.
Before Orlando escaped me I grabbed his cold wrist and quickly yanked his slender body against me. "Wait, cousin. Where are you going? Is this another wicked trick to escape me?"
"Love and trust, my dear one." After he uttered his words Orlando's frail body leaned into mine. His cold lips kissed me, ahh, his fierce kiss ended with his obscenely chill tongue tracing along my cheek. "Love and trust. I will return in a minute. One minute of trust, than we shall see how far precious love can take us."
This strange game went too far! " Orlando, please, I... "
"One minute," Orlando breathed before pulling away, he moving with his astonishingly unnatural speed. My limp body sank against the rotting door then my fingers slowly touched my confused lips. They still felt searingly cold from our last strange kiss. My protesting mind ceased trying to understand.
After claustrophobic minutes two voices floated my way; Orlando's low cultured tones mixed with a drunken women's sharp, uneducated voice. Her shrill giggles scrapped against his deliciously velvety laugh, mmm, the lusciously seductive laugh I remembered from our years together. Orlando had used that magical laugh to dazzle me time and time again. But what was... my straining eyes saw them standing mere steps from my doorway. My lovely Orlando deliberately glanced my way then the unspeakable happened so fast I doubted my vision. Orlando's hands whirled the woman against the sooty stone wall. His slim hand yanked her head back by her tangled brown hair before his gaping mouth burrowed against her haggard skin. As I stared in utter stupefaction a tiny blood trickle oozed down her throat. Ah, the flowing dark line contrasted against her grayish skin.
Dear God no. No!
My stunned eyes stared in horror and watched her scrawny body slowly arch in mute protest. After eternal seconds the whore's body went limp. Her thin arms swayed backwards then those trembling fingers gently brushed against the stone wall in a terrible finality.
No. Dear God no. Insanity. No! I stepped towards them in dumb protest. My twitching hand reached out then dropped. I froze. My waking mind fled the alley and left my numb body as a helpless witness to this inhuman crime. I merely stared. Howling pain shot along my skull, merrily dancing against my eye sockets... no! I didn't see that atrocity: no, no, no!
After a shocked eternity Orlando gently leaned the woman against the seeping stone wall. Once he released her arms her body slid down the filthy stones in an inelegant heap. She appeared oddly peaceful.
My normally forceful voice sounded so pathetically tiny. "No, Orlando no, Heavens Above, no! What have you done to her? No!"
Orlando turned and slowly walked toward me. My lover offered me a wretchedly sad smile, yes, he smiled, his beloved full lips darkened with another's blood. Orlando's ghastly smile showed me two small, sharp fangs extending down before his eyeteeth. "Love and trust, cousin. Do you now understand what I am? By the Seven, my Viggo, you are so beautiful, so very beautiful. So... alive," he hissed in anguish.
Orlando's wet mouth soon pressed against mine. Before I could react his hands pushed me against the door then his long fingers caressed into my hair. I couldn't pull free from his lunatic's grip. Orlando's blood-stained lips fiercely kissed my frantic lips. As I twisted against his body I tried jerking free but Orlando's abnormally strong fingers held my head still. I felt like his fingers could easily crack my skull. When he felt my panic Orlando backed away, his now-warm finger stroking against my twitching cheek. "Viggo, ahh, my poor sweet Viggo. This is so wrong."
My horror and revulsion forced bile into my mouth. Instead of fleeing I cringed against the spongy door until a small animal cry escaped my blood-smeared lips. Dear God, this couldn't be happening, no, this must be some insane, brandy-induced nightmare. Once I crawled from my comfortable bed at my fine hotel I would quickly arrange to return home since this nightmare boded a disaster waiting for me. This awful night couldn't be real. No. No. Yes indeed, very, very wrong, oh, so wrong. Help me.
Orlando's elegant features abruptly contorted in utter despair. "Viggo. My poor logical love, please forgive me. I had to show you, yes, I had to prove to you I wasn't mad. Now you know, so forget me, yes lover, renounce me. I understand your emotions. Believe me, I hate myself for being like this, I do, but remember, I never asked to be this way. Forgive me for being a monster. But remember even after all I have endured I still love you so very much," he whispered brokenly, his warm fingers again stroking my stricken face.
Orlando's hand dropped then he whirled away from my stunned stare.
Stop. No. I couldn't let my lover go. Not again, not even after what I just witnessed. " Orlando, no, wait," I gasped. "No, this is all a horrible dream, isn't it? We drank too much brandy back in my room and, and, oh God no. Tell me this isn't real, lover. Tell me. Use your words to make this go away."
As I spoke the whore's wet blood seeped in against my tongue. My violated tongue tasted her metallic flavor. I gagged in fresh revulsion. Orlando returned to me and gallantly dabbed a tattered handkerchief against my lips. He wiped his own stained lips clean before swiftly tossing the cloth away. The fabric gently floated earthward and rested against the silent woman's outstretched hand like a spent white rose drizzled with festive red accents. My stomach clenched. Choking again I leaned back and almost wished I'd pass out from the pain infecting my tormented brain. As I shuddered Orlando gazed at me, a terrible sad expression tainting his dark eyes.
I must know. "Is she... dead?"
Orlando swiftly shook his thick hair. "No. I rarely kill for nourishment yet sometimes I can enjoy a kill."
For a shattered second the dim alley way spun in playful malice. My fierce headache tried scattering small bright lights before my aching eyes. No. I had no time for the physical pain. "Orlando, you, you... " I sucked in a heaving breath, my shocked eyes watching the intense way Orlando stared back at me in epic remorse. My lover reminded me of a wounded animal awaiting his final death blow.
Damn, no, this tragedy wasn't a dream. I just watched my glorious cousin drink blood from another human. The very lips my Orlando used to kiss me in love sucked at fresh human blood. No dream. No logical explanation.
Orlando still stood before me, his beautiful elegant face now tinted with life in the dim light creeping in from the main street's gaslight. His warm fingers finally grasped my hand and led me out from the alley, he hastening us along the main road until he aggressively hailed a for hire carriage. When Orlando pulled away from me I grabbed his elegant hand and gestured to the cab. I made my decision without thinking. "No, Orlando. Don't run from me again. Come back with me."
The grateful look infusing Orlando's perfect face shattered my constricted heart. Once in the carriage Orlando passionately kissed my hand before he curled away from me like a whipped dog, he keeping to the dingy carriage's far side. My outraged mind helplessly replayed the last devastating scene. As I stared over at Orlando's pale profile the blood's musky tang still haunted my mouth. Unconsciously I touched my lips, expecting to still feel that repulsive stickiness fouling their surface. Orlando threw me a swift glance, his pale face spasming in pain before he turned away from me.
Dear God, I couldn't begin to talk to Orlando. I couldn't focus on the gruesome reality until we sat safely behind my room's civilized door. Once in the ornate lobby sedate clerks glanced my way then they stared in open suspicion. My shock and the astonishing pain coursing through my mind and soul probably made me appear demented. I could only guess how tortured Orlando looked, but at least his smooth flesh now held warmth and living tint.
I ascended the grand stairway to my room and tried controlling the growing tremors arcing through my body. Damn, as I tried unlocking the door they shot through my uncooperative fingers. My fingers couldn't handle even this simple task. Before my fourth attempt Orlando steadied my hand, he firmly turning the key in the lock. He drew back and let me push open the door.
Once I shut the door my hot rage swept through me, the force giving me words through my mounting pain. "All right, Orlando, you drank that woman's blood. You had fangs," I choked, every word pulling me closer to insane reality. My large hands grabbed Orlando's willowy body then they angrily slammed him against the shut door. His pale lids protected his wide, dark eyes from my anguished stare. "Fangs!"
My fingers cruelly curled back Orlando's full, warm lips. No. Impossible! Nothing dwelled there but normal teeth. Seething in frustration I shook him again. "Fangs, lover, fangs! I saw them, I did! Show me! Where are they? What the hell did I see?"
Orlando's large dark eyes slowly opened. After an unfocused second they finally met my mad gaze. "My poor lover, you will never seem them unless I intend to use them on you. My bloodlust is a chemical reaction. Consider my fangs a weapon to help me obtain my feed," he whispered. "Although when in the throes of passion I can feel them. My love bites prove a bit fiercer than most mortal's," he mocked.
Snarling in ragged disgust I abruptly thrust Orlando away from me, using all my furious might. Orlando merely staggered back before he slowly sank to the floor. He rested there, his beloved head bowed towards the fine Aubusson carpet. His rich mane veiled his pale face.
Silence pushed against me. In the dense vacuum my brandy decanter called salvation to me. I filled a glass and disposed the burning contents in three easy gulps. Another brandy chased the first. Oh yes, I needed to wash away the blood's foul taste and shove back the searing pain invading my confused head. "Look, my lover, I even ordered a bottle of fine red wine for you, one of your fancy French vintages, a Syrah. A supposedly celebration bottle. Do you want any wine or isn't that to your new taste anymore?"
My low voice broke in agony. Orlando's soft footsteps concluded in his slender hands sliding around my waist. "Lover, my precious lover, please let me tell you what happened to me. Now I need to use my words to explain to you what happened to me. We've passed the worst hurdle; you don't hate me. You can still accept me."
I whirled about to face Orlando. Upon seeing my cold glare Orlando warily stepped back. "Damn it, I can't accept you! You are something angry mothers use to scare little children with over in Turkey or where ever you traveled to destroy yourself. You are a sick Bram Stoker fantasy! You don't need blood, you can't! You must be extremely sick! Oh Orlando, we can find a doctor to help you. You can't need blood!"
To my disbelief Orlando darted me a cruel smile before he shook his head. "Come now, lover, you must release the rational world. No real doctor can help me. After what I showed you tonight you still don't believe me? I am a vampire, Viggo! An undead, but not just a simple common vampire, oh no! I am very different, so different that others similar to me won't come near me. Yes, trust me, there are others out there. Sometimes I feel them lurking near me in the night. I've wanted to ask, I want to understand what I really am and I can't even grasp that simple pleasure because they always avoid me! I wish I was sick or mad or deranged then my life would make sense. But am I none of those things and you know my words are true. You know me well enough to tell when I am lying to you.
"Viggo, I needed that woman's blood, yes, without the blood I will die. No, not die, but become a corpse-like creature huddled in foul agony. While in Paris I tried not drinking blood for weeks and I couldn't stand the incredible pain. I shriveled up like a garden snail coated with salt until my student fetched me a victim. I don't normally kill, but I must drink blood to exist. I am not sick so don't try deluding your rational mind with pretty lies so you can accept me. If you can't accept what I am then I have failed and I must leave you," he ended.
So many new words cascaded at me. I stared back at Orlando, my dazed eyes reading the horrible truth in his wide dark eyes. A new rage burned within me. Before I even realized my arm moved I punched Orlando's pale cheek. My right hand instantly ached from the forceful contact with his hard bone. It felt like I punched a stone wall.
This time Orlando hit the floor. Yet even as I stood over him trembling in rage his gaze never left mine. My tense hands felt ready to rearrange his strange soul. "Damn you then for doing this to yourself! But no, you claim you didn't do this, you didn't want this damaged existence. You and your witchcraft and your foul sex ceremonies and your insane search for— for—damn you, Orlando!"
Not to my surprise Orlando broke into a ragged laugh, a harsh jagged sound completely unlike his velvet warmth. "Ah, come now, Viggo, I am damned; you already know that special fact so stop reminding me. And cease hitting me, although I enjoy your violent reaction. It's a normal reaction from you. Striking me means you are yourself again and you accept my condition because you feel positively furious at me. You're furious at me because you love me and... "
"Oh shut up already. Bah, you still talk too much." Even as my mind spun in dread my hands automatically poured more brandy.
"I will accept a glass of wine. I still can appreciate red wine," Orlando murmured, he standing, his long fingers straightening his tattered suit coat with his familiar elegant dignity. "Now can I tell you what happened to me?"
"Ha, you must tell me or I'll hit you again. I'll smash your unearthly beauty to infinite pieces. Jesus God, Orlando, I find you after four years and you stand there telling me something I cannot comprehend. I— I—yes then, tell me your sordid tale. Weave your sick story while I drink to our happy reunion, " I mocked. As I tried not falling apart I sprawled onto the couch with the brandy snifter clutched in my hand.
Orlando opened the bottle of wine with ease, he pouring the rich red liquid. After he sipped he offered me a tentative glance. "Viggo, where do you want me to sit? Do you want me near you or... "
Well, we'd come this far so what did it matter? I silently patted the cushion next to me. Orlando sank against the cushioned fabric then he sipped his wine, composing himself. After a tense second he set down his wine and shifted so our bodies touched. Feeling my darling cuddled against me so naturally made me set down the brandy snifter and pull his sublime body close. Be Orlando a monster or not I needed this closeness from him. I loved him too much to lose him again.
Interesting, this time my lover's warm lips tasted like wine. Our fingers fluttered and stoked until Orlando sighed against my lips. "How I love you and I can't wait to be loved by you again, yes, feel your mighty cock explore me until I scream in pleasure. You still want me, lover. You don't know how happy that makes me feel. You still love me beyond reason. I still rule your heart."
" Orlando, I might need you but I confess you also frighten me beyond reason. Before we physically reunite tell me your story. As much as I want you I... bah, I still don't understand any of this! How can you be this way? Yes, lover, convince me you aren't insane."
Orlando nodded then he rested his head against my chest. I instinctively stroked his long hair. "Viggo, I must go back to when I left you. Like I said I thought I had lost your love and I couldn't stand the pain. So I left you." A soft moan sounded. " At least I now know you read my letters. There was a cruel reason why those letters ended so abruptly. I never meant to stay away from you; yes, I imagined a few months then I'd return to you. I thought our parting would calm you down. Aren't I the fool?"
Orlando's soft cultured voice fell into his tale. "One broiling day I sat in the fierce summer sun, the only mad foreigner in attendance at the sweltering outdoor cafe. No one bothered me this way: I had grown tired of fellow European travelers plunking down next to me to discuss the so-called bloody heathens who occupied Turkey. After one too many encounters with such narrow-minded bigots I learned to sit outside and brave the overwhelming sun in order to gain my sweet privacy.
"I tried creating shade with the aid of a large-brimmed straw hat. This particular afternoon an old book recently bartered for at the market captured my rapt attention. I sipped a warm bottled beer and let the busy city flow around me.
"I wish I had never found that cafe."
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