I knocked on Viola Temperament's door three times before she opened it. She had black rings around her eyes, a sure sign something was up.
"Oh, it's you, Miss Black," she muttered, letting me in. "I thought it might be... someone else."
I gingerly stepped over the cat-skin rug she had inside the doorway and sat down on one of the chairs. The living room had a large cage in one corner, animal bones scattered across the grubby linoleum and a squat, greasy oven at the very back. It looked like Viola wasn't into health and hygiene.
Viola's stubby shape bustled through the gloom carrying a guttering candle.
"You should get some electricity installed," I suggested cheerily, as some of the wax splattered onto her filthy sleeve.
"Don't need that damn stuff," she snapped in response, collapsing onto a three-legged stool. "Can't beat candles. They're natural."
She squinted suspiciously at me.
"What do you want from me?" she demanded.
"Nothing much... well, actually, our house had three of its windows smashed last night, and the words 'repent o demons' were spray painted across the front door," I admitted. "I was wondering if you'd seen anyone funny looking in the area."
Viola said nothing at first, only waddled over to the oven to pull out a burnt leg of meat. It had a human foot at the end but I pretended not to notice as she chewed off large chunks. Then she swallowed and chose to speak.
"I saw 'em," she grunted finally. "Five blokes from the old church. They know what you are and they're planning to stake you."
I looked up sharply.
"Why didn't you tell me straight away?" I cried in irritation. "Dad could have had their throats out in minutes!"
Viola shrugged, licking her lips. I felt myself shudder a little as burnt skin peeled of the meat she had gripped in her hands.
Suddenly a small girl rushed out from behind the cage and tried to hit Viola over the head with a bone. She had a rusty chain around her ankle that jangled loudly.
"You killed my brother!" she screamed hysterically. "You cooked him alive, you horrible witch!"
I studied her quickly, taking in the dirty flesh and matted hair. Then I realized she probably had pint upon pint of blood in her body, and felt a terrible thirst build up inside me.
"You sit down, young Gretel," Viola croaked, pushing the child to the floor roughly. She clipped her about the ear with a gnarled hand. "Bloody cow," she added in a low voice. "Sorry about that, Miss Black. Anyway, about your Christian fellows. Load of crap, religion, I swear. Have one of them believing in Gods and whatnot and they all start thinking vampires are evil. And witches. They start all this vandalism and then... Miss Black?"
She saw me gazing fixedly at Gretel. My eyes were blurring, my muscles growing tense. My canines were growing physically longer in my mouth. I ran my tongue across them hungrily, only one thing in my mind. Blood. I could almost see it rushing around her body, pulsing in her veins. I turned blindly to Viola.
"Viola, can I...?" I stammered thickly.
"For Satan's sake, Miss Black, why didn't you feed before coming round?" Viola growled in response. Her green eyes flashed. "And no, you may not drink any of this slave-girl's precious blood. It makes up half her body and I need every scrap of it for Sunday dinner."
I froze, my blood lust lessening a little.
"You're telling me you're going to kill an innocent child for food?" I asked, horrified. "You told everyone including me you were a cannibalistic witch that only ate criminals!"
I stared at Gretel, whose pale face was tight with terror.
"I though she was just a slave," I yelled, fury building up. "But I can see I was wrong. I can see you LIED to me!"
My nails shot from my fingers, long and lethally sharp. Viola's mouth gaped in disbelief.
"You don't understand!" she gabbled. "She's a criminal! She and her horrible brother vandalized my house! Oh Miss Black, have mercy! You're only a girl, you can't handle killing!"
She started mumbling spells at top speed, throwing brick dust in front on her to stop me getting close. Little Gretel crawled in the dust at the corner of my vision, but I hardly noticed.
Blood lust and rage collided in my soul and in a blurred moment, my vision clouded, I dived across the room and clamped my teeth on her evil neck. Several things happened at once. Viola screamed, blood poured into my mouth and the door of the horrible little cottage was flung open. I concentrated on the blood gushing down my throat. It tasted disgusting, like soil and rust and something far worse, but I was so parched I drank continuously.
Viola convulsed in my grip, her stubby legs and arms flailing uselessly, before becoming still. Gretel pushed past, the chain broken, and ran for the door. I didn't stop her, I only wished her luck on escaping. Upon draining all of Viola's blood, I flung her into the oven and turned up the heat to full. Then I realized what I’d done, and her death came rushing at me so fast I could hardly think. I was shocked out of my wits.
"What have I done?" I shrieked, clawing at the oven door. I had let my emotions control me. I had done what no vampire is supposed to do as an unwritten rule- I had killed a human, albeit one with magical powers. Staggering back across the room, I bumped into someone. I tilted my head to look over my shoulder and felt a hand grip my lower back.
"You, Miss Pandora Black, are a murderer," the person said calmly in a male voice, before I fainted away on the spot.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I woke up, dizzy and sick, on the stone floor of a cell. I felt heavy; evidently draining a full body of blood was like over eating (I might be a vampire, but I vaguely knew about indigestion). My limbs refused to move very far across the ground, so I looked at my arms to see what was going on. Strong iron chains fixed me down hard, a lot better than the ones Viola used in her cottage. My head began to clear gradually as I got my bearings. Vampires are very difficult to harm for long, and they- we, I should say- heal very quickly. Soon I felt wide-awake and angry. There didn’t seem to be much in the cell apart from a formidable wooden door. Chinks of watery daylight filtered in from it. Remembering the figure that caught hold of me as I fainted, I strained on my bindings, eager to find and question him. I was surprised at how well the chains held out. Usually I could bust through anything put before me but this was amazing- I had to yank as hard as possible to even sit up.
Then I thought over the choices of what I could do now. I could sit and wait for someone to come in, try and dislocate my wrists to escape from the chains or I could yell for attention. As for the first option, it seemed highly probable that I would be waiting hours, so I mentally crossed it off the list. Next, I had no idea how to dislocate my wrists and didn’t particularly want to. So that left the last choice. I took a huge breath and roared at the top of my voice.
"LET ME OUT OF HERE NOW YOU FREAK!" I hollered, noticing how loudly the order echoed around the cell. However, there was no response so I tried again.
"HEY, YOU BIG DUMB IDIOT!" I bawled. "ARE YOU DEAF, OR SIMPLY BRAINLESS?"
That did it. I heard bolts slide back, and the door swung open with a creak. Immediately I fell silent. A handsome guy with black hair and eyes was standing in the doorway, scrutinizing me. I felt his eyes gaze at every aspect of my body, from my head to my black gothic boots, causing my cheeks to color. He stepped into the stone cell smiling in satisfaction.
"Well, what a beautiful vampire you are," he remarked, coming towards me. Hastily I crawled backwards.
"Don’t take another step," I warned him. "You kidnapped me when I fainted and I want to know why. So what, I killed Viola and that gives you an excuse?"
The man crouched low and cupped my chin in his right hand. He tipped my head back and looked straight into my eyes. His tongue licked his lower lip, and as he did so two perfectly pointed canines were revealed. He was a vampire too. "My name is Damon," he announced coolly. "And you’re Pandora."
"That’s Miss Black to you," I snarled. "Don’t think you can charm me with names. I asked you a question. Answer it."
"I heard a certain commotion going on at the witch’s house, involving a famous young vampire we all know and a recently deceased Viola. You, my pretty friend, were trying to find out about some unpleasant men who had desecrated your abode, if I remember correctly. Then when you were refused blood, you turned on the witch and killed her."
My heart began to thud in my chest.
"That isn’t why I killed her, and you know it," I argued. "She was going to kill an innocent kid. She’d already murdered her brother. She was eating him as we spoke!"
Damon put a finger across my lips in a shushing gesture. I jerked my head away huffily, spitting at him, but then he grabbed both my shoulders and made me look at him.
"Don’t underestimate me, Miss Black," he said quietly. His eyes glowed eerily in the dark. "You know that neither your mother nor your father would tolerate such crimes from any one, let alone their own daughter. They would throw you in a dungeon to rot for the rest of your life. I am far harsher on killers. Especially the pretty ones."
I felt sick anticipation rise up as Damon stroked my hair. I knew that vampire males were dangerous and unpredictable, stronger and even slyer than the females such as myself, so I felt sure of the punishment in store for me. I lowered my eyes again to look at the unforgiving grey floor.
"Look at me," Damon ordered in a hard voice, however, when I did I saw lust fill his eyes. "I have decided to be merciful. Strike a deal with me and I will tell no one you killed Viola."
I knew this was my only chance to get out of here alive.
"Ok," I stammered. "What do you want me to do?"
Damon leaned forward and kissed me on the mouth, drawing out the suspense.
"Keep still," he whispered. And I screamed…
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