Someone was shaking her shoulder. Cathrin groaned.
"Iím awake, all right?" she mumbled and rolled onto her side.
"If you are so awake, why are you going back to sleep?" came a sharp retort. Groggily, she half-opened her eyes. Only to find the face of a vampire only inches away from hers. She let out a surprised shriek and started back.
"Well at least I know youíre awake." Quin said with a charming smile. She drew her knees to sit in the foetal position and gazed around. She wasnít where she last remembered being. Before, she had been in a rather lavish room. This one was more subdued. The walls were cream until a freeze then were blue to the matching colour carpet.
"Uh, where am I?" she asked.
"My home. Yours is a wreck, and on the other side of town." the vampire informed her.
"I donít remember much after you began to feed." she mumbled and rubbed her temples.
The last things she remembered were the vampire taking her hand and raising her wrist to his mouth, the gentle caress of soft lips, then a quick, sharp pain, like a pin-prickÖ
The rest was lost in fog.
"Then perhaps that is best. Things got ugly after you passed out." he told her and smiled. It would have been devastatingly handsome if it didnít flash fang.
"Why are you smiling at me like that?" she asked. He laughed quickly, softly.
"Andrews wasnít impressed with his new servantís lack of consciousness." he told her. "Or the fact the she was no longer his servant. Too bad you didnít see the look on his face when he came back to parade you around. Iíve only seen that expression twice in nine centuries and both times were worth the trouble. On the other hand, I did manage to retrieve your clothes from the day before yesterday. I thought you may want to change out of that dress, considering your reaction to my comments."
"Whoa, back up a bit. Day before yesterday?" she asked and glanced down at herself. She cringed. She was still wearing that dress.
"You slept away yesterday. I didnít have the heart to wake you." he replied and let his smile fade. "Assuming I have a heart, which is what youíre going to say, so donít bother with the insult."
"Since you beat me to the punch line, can I have a little privacy to change out of this dress?" she said sharply. The vampireís smile returned, more mischievous than before.
"Itís not like you have anything Iíve never seen before," he said and let his smile grow a little.
"Flirtatious creature, arenít you?" she asked.
"Of course. Itís the best way to get food." he replied.
"Food, thatís all I am to you?" she asked. He laughed softly, the sound floating around her like silken butterflies and shrugged.
"No, you are my servant. I donít want to feed from you. There are other, more interesting, things on offer here." he said and headed toward the door. "Now, I shall leave you to dress. Then you can go home and start your work."
And with that, he left the room, shutting the cream coloured door behind him.
Cathrin took advantage of the vampireís absence. Whilst dressing, she took the time to look at her surroundings. During her brief glance around earlier, she did not notice the wrought iron furniture, the print hung neatly on the wall or the ornate chest at the end of the bed. Everything was kept simple, yet it was elegant at the same time.
She emerged from the room to find Quin leaning against a wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
"If you expect me to be at your beck and call, forget it, vampire." she told him. He smiled handsomely.
"I expect no such thing, Hunter. Now, shall we go?" he said as he pushed off the wall. They made the journey to her home in silence.
She was uneasy at being in such close quarters with a vampire. Especially with it supposedly on her side.
She also wasnít very comfortable with the fact that he could walk straight through her doorway, no invitation required.
Her apartment was still in ruins. Cathrin ignored the bulk of the mess and went straight to her couch. She pulled off its large blue cushions and unlatched a small bolt.
"What on earth are you doing?" asked the vampire as she lifted part of the couch like a lid.
"Hoping like crazy that Andrewsí people didnít find this." she replied. She lifted a cloth to reveal an assortment of weapons.
She cleared a small space for her to sit and began to check her weapons, to make sure none were missing and they all worked smoothly.
"I never invited you into my home, how come youíre standing here?" she asked began examining a shotgun.
Quin looked uneasily at the gun in her hands before he pulled up a chair and sat. "I told you when we first met, one of your neighbours was kind enough to let me in." he replied.
"Thatís a lie and we both know it. You also said that you were here two years ago, who invited you in then? Who gave you a carte blanche?" she said. To that, he smiled knowingly.
"And what would you do if I told you? I might not want to give up my carte blanche. You canít revoke the invitation without knowing you issued it, so I am quite content." he said and reached down into the chest. He picked up a silver crucifix by the chain, holding it at arms length away from himself. The cross began to glow a dull orange, but that slowly grew to an angry red. If he wasnít careful, it would turn white and burst into blue flames. "Why arenít you wearing this? Itís been blessed, I can feel it. I thought all hunters had these things." he said.
"Crosses only work if thereís faith behind them, right?" she asked. The vampire nodded.
"Thereís the answer to your question of why I donít wear it." she simply said.
"That isnít an answer." he said.
"So? Iím not going to tell you. You wonít tell me who invited you, Iím not telling you why. So there." she said, annoyed by his prying.
"Then answer me this, why do you fight us? Youíre but one fighting thousands, why fight? Why not choose not to believe like the majority of mortals? Why purposely make yourself part of the Dark World when most couldnít care less of its existence?" he asked.
"Because." Cathrin told him and continued to rummage through the chest in her couch, checking weapons.
"Thatís not an answer either." he told her, frowning.
"Live with it. I donít need you prying into my life." she retorted. Quin sighed.
"Then at least answer me this one question, Cathrin," he said. "Where do you get your passion?"
It was her turn to frown. "I donít understand." she uttered.
"You fight us, a mortal fighting immortals, a solitary person fighting the odds, and winning, itís a quality none of us posses. Iím curious about it, where do you get such passion to fight, no matter what?" he explained. Cathrin looked up at him, unable to think of anything to say. The vampire silently looked back at her, leaning forward slightly in expectation of an answer to his question. A lock of ebony hair had fallen over his brow and looked like it was about to cascade into his eyes.
Impulsively, she reached up and brushed the stray lock away, secretly delighted to find that it was as soft and silky as it looked.
Quin scowled and batted away her hand. "I donít even want to know why you did that." he muttered.
She smiled. "Human inclination. Surely you remember doing things just for the sake of doing them." she told him. His scowl faded to a sombre expression.
"Was that a reply to my question?" he asked. Her smile grew
. "No, and I will not answer your questions for three reasons; one, I donít like you prying into things that are none of your business. Two, some things are better left as mysteries or unknown. Lastly, three, I donít want to answer your questions." she told him. He merely looked at her for a heartbeat or two before the barest of smiles came to is lips.
"Touchť, Cathrin. You have beaten me at my own game. Not many have managed that feat in my time." he told her. Cathrinís smile remained for a few heartbeats. She was proud that she had beaten Quin at his games, though not proud enough to rub it in on him. The vampire said nothing as he watched her continue to check weapons.
"You know, you donít have to sit there and watch. Go and do whatever it is you do." she said after a lengthy silence. He let out a quick, soft laugh.
"I cannot, I thought you knew that." he replied amusedly.
"What are you talking about?" she asked. He shrugged, smiling.
"I thought you knew. You are marked as a servant, but you are not a fully fledged one." he told her, his smile turning a little mischievous. "You can be identified as a servant, but whose, that is the problem. As soon as you move more than five or six yards away from me, you are out of my power, out of my protection. Every vampire who nears you will think youíve gone rogue and will try to claim you as theirs."
"And youíre going to offer some solutions to that problem. I donít want to be stuck by your side for the rest of my life." she said. His smile grew.
"Of course. I also do not want you by my side for as long as you live, though there is an upside to that situation." he said. "However, I donít think you will go along with that. That leaves you with two options."
Quin reached into his jacket and produced a long gold chain, a small, clear vial attached to one end.
"You can wear this," he continued. "With the vial filled with my blood. If any of the others tried to take you, then you would have to break this open and let them feel the power that protects you. The impracticalities of this is that you are human and slow and you will not be able to break it open in time. There is one other, more permanent and practical, solution."
"And that isó?" she asked.
"The other option is the moreÖshall we say, interesting?, option. I would mark you. You would just have my power around you, no vial or close contact required. That way, I can call upon you if and when I need you." he replied, looking very pleased with himself.
"Elaborate." she told him.
"I would mark you." he said simply and put the chain and vial back in his jacket pocket.
"Elaborate more. What do you mean by Ďmark meí?" she said, not really impressed by his lack of explanation.
"I would mark you, what more do you want?" he said, playing with her. She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Donít you toy with me. Youíre a guest in my home, remember that. I can revoke an invitation without knowing who issued it. Now, answer my question without being such a prick." she said scornfully. The vampire laughed and sat back in the chair.
"My, my, you are so eloquent with words, Cathrin. Itís just a nip, but it would mean you would not have the pleasure of my presence." he said, his handsome face sobering quickly.
"Just a nip?" she said doubtfully. His smile returned, just as mischievous and dazzling as before.
"Exactly what it sounds like, just a nip, a little taste, any place exposed oró " he broke off and looked her over. "Or not." he finished with a wink.
"What do you get out of this?" she asked, still not sold on the whole marking concept. Quinís smile faded and he shrugged his broad shoulders.
"What makes you think I get anything out of being bound to you? Iím not exactly too thrilled with being bound to the Hunter, and you have made it very clear you want none of theÖenjoymentÖthat can come with that." he said earnestly.
"Thereís always a catch when it comes to vampires. You lot donít do anything unless it benefits you in some way." she scowled. He laughed again.
"Surely you donít think weíre that bad?" he asked amusedly.
"Yeah, you are at least." she told him. The vampire smiled, revealing his long, sharp teeth. He stood in one fluid movement and offered her his hand.
"Please, I wonít bite." he told her, his smile fading.
"Iím quite happy down here, thanks." Cathrin said firmly.
"Fair enough, we can do this the hard way. Now, do you agree that being marked is the best way for us to function?" he said.
"I suppose," she admitted reluctantly.
"Then you would also agree to be marked." he said, still offering her his hand.
"No, not until I know what you get out of it." she told him. He sighed, completely serious now.
"What do I get out of this?" he said, placing an emphasis on the word I. "What do I get out of marking you? I donít get much. I get to draw upon you life if I need to. I get to whisper in your mind. I get to enter your dreams. I will be able to find you wherever you are in the world. I will be able to tell if you are alive or no."
"You donít have to be cheery about it." she muttered sarcastically. He smiled knowingly.
"It will be interesting to see what goes on in that head of yours. I have been wondering that since we first met." he told her.
"You stay out of my head, Quin, understand? The last thing I want or need is a vampire roaming in my head when I sleep." she snapped at him.
"Who says you have to be asleep?" he said most wickedly.
"I wonít agree to anything if youíre going to poke around in my head." she said finally and crossed her arms over her breasts. The vampire let his arm drop to his side and he shook his head.
"Let me guess, you wonít agree unless I promise not to Ďpokeí around in your head." he made it a statement.
"Damn right." she said. He sighed.
"Must you be so difficult, Cathrin Forbes?" he muttered under his breath. "All right! I wonít enter you mind, no matter how much I want, I will resist the urge." he told her.
"Thankyou, itís nice to know that one of you leeches have a sense of decency. Misplaced as it may be." she told him. The barest smile curved on his lips. He offered her his hand once more.
"I suppose it will be too much to have that put in writing. Now, please, can we get this over with before the day wears on any further?" he said. With a sigh, Cathrin took his hand and let him pull her to her feet.
"Whatís wrong, Quin? Afraid youíll fry on a nice, sunny day like today?" she asked. He narrowed his eyes at her.
"You know very well I canít be about when the sun meets its peak. If we do not do this now, then I will be forced to seek shelter here and Iím sure you donít want that. So, the question is, when do we do this? Now or later?" he said.
"You would obviously prefer now, but I choose later." she said with a smile His broad shoulders slumped.
"Are you always like this?" he asked. She smiled.
"Always." she replied. Quin raised his eyebrows.
"Then can we please do this now? I am not the most patient man in the world. Maybe you misunderstood me, itís now or not at all. You will be marked and then I will be free to seek shelter and we will both be pleased with the outcome." he said almost desperately. He gave her a forlorn look, eyes wide and pleading. All he needed to do was have a trembling lower lip and it would look like he would burst into tears. It was almost sweet. If he hadnít been a vampire then maybeÖ
His lower lip began trembling. No fair. The look combined with his beauty was irresistible.
"Letís get this over with." she growled. He brightened with a smile.
"Thankyou. Now where?" he asked, almost triumphantly.
"Where what?" she asked irritably.
"Where do you wish to be marked?" he asked, letting the desperation drain away from his face with one devilish smile. She just looked at him.
"Youíre a devious bastard." she told him.
"Why thankyou, but that doesnít solve the problem of where you want to be marked." the vampire said. She sighed.
"Any place not covered up." she replied. That left only her face, neck and hands. That ought to ruin his plans.
"Are you sure?" he asked as he looked her over.
"Yes, Iím sure, so donít look at me like that. And I thought you were all worried about being fried." she snapped. Quin shrugged.
"Then would you please stop arguing with me and let me mark you. Then Iíll be gone and youíll be happy." he told her. So she shut up. He drew close to her and brushed her hair away from her neck. He leaned close, his lips hovering over her skin.
"Must you tense like I am about to hurt you? This can be quite pleasurable, for the both of us, my kiss, my mark." he murmured, his breath and lips lightly brushing her skin. She realised then that she had braced herself for a physical blow. She forced herself to relax a little. He was supposed to be on her side after all.
"Just a nip?" she murmured.
"Just a nip." he said softly before his lips descended onto her flesh.
It was indeed a kiss, almost a nuzzle. He was right. It was sort of pleasant. Then she felt the warm wetness of his tongue sliding over her skin. She knew what he was doing. Finding a vein. She began to panic, but it was too late. His lips caressed her flesh a moment before he eased his fangs into her.
She gasped as she felt the vampireís teeth break her skin.
"No, you son of a bitch!" she gasped and tried to pull away. She found his arms around her, holding her like living steel. One of his hands slid up her back and cradled her head as he pressed his mouth harder against her neck. She had her hands on his chest, ready to push him away, and she was bracing herself to do it, but she never did it.
Fire swept through her limbs and her vision went painfully bright. She squeezed her eyes shut and let out a shuddering gasp. Her knees buckled and she collapsed against him. A shudder passed through her. Not of terror, happiness, lust or pain. Pleasure. It welled inside her, flooding her limbs and racing through her veins like fire. She clung to Quin, afraid to let go, afraid heíd stop, afraid to continue.
She was drowning in the fire, swallowed by the pleasure. She wanted to lose herself in it. Vaguely, she was aware of the vampire burying his mouth deeper. But a searing heat jolted her back, away from the intense pleasure. Slowly, she became aware of herself in Quinís arms, of his mouth pressed to her neck, of his teeth no longer digging into her. His mouth suddenly left her skin all together and she heard him gasp. Slowly, she opened her eyes and found herself held very tightly to his body. She gulped down air, trying to calm her furiously beating heart.
"That wasnít so bad now, was it?" he murmured rather breathlessly in her ear. Cathrin realised then that he was breathing as hard as she. She could also feel his heart beating wildly against her hands.
Her neck stung and throbbed dully with pain, a reminder of what he had done.
"You bastard!" she spat and broke out of his hold, pushing him away. She stood unsteadily, her legs refusing to hold her. He too looked unsteady on his feet. He blinked his dark eyes and sat down. There, he sat watching her like some dark statue, silent, unmoving, beautiful.
Cathrin stormed out of her living room and into her bedroom, then the bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror and bared her neck. On her pale skin, there was a perfect red crescent with a small hole at each end. Just a nip, bullshit. Heíd fucking well bitten her. Hard too. It was going to bruise and scab over and look like the worldís worst love bite.
"You bastard!" she fumed as she walked back into the living room. The vampire still sat motionless on the chair, still silent. If he was breathing, she couldnít tell.
"Do you delight in insulting me?" he asked, finally giving some indication of life.
"Absolutely! ĎJust a nipí my arse! You bit me!" she accused. He blinked, his face not showing any emotion.
"As your temper deteriorates, so does your language, I hope you know that." he told her.
"I donít give a damn about my fucking language! You bit me!" she said heatedly, her voice rising a few notches in anger. She curled her hands into fists, desperately wanting to lash out at him.
"So you keep saying. And I wouldnít resort to violence. If you start throwing punches, Iíll fight back." he said quietly. Even as he said that, she was fighting the urge to hit him.
"I donít care right now, you fucking well bit me, vampire. You tricked me into giving you a meal." she said slowly through clenched teeth. He sat back in the chair and just looked at her.
"I did not." he said finally. "I did not trick you into anything."
"Then how come Iíve got your bloody teeth marks on my neck? How come your nip ended up being a fucking bite?" she fumed. He stood in one fluid motion.
"I apologise if you assumed my mark would be more gentle. You of all people should know that violence is often necessary to accomplish things. Unfortunately for you, this is one of those violent necessities and I apologise for the severity of the mark. You are lucky I didnít tear out your throat. Neither of us would have known or cared if I had. So count yourself as lucky, human." he said, his words warm with anger. He almost snarled the last word at her, letting her see his fangs. "You are mine now, Cathrin. When you agreed to this, you became mine. I am your Master, you are my servant. If you donít like it then you should have refused. Now, it is too late to back out."
His voice had changed, the anger draining away into empty quietness.
"I donít belong to anyone." she said, her anger outweighing her fear. His lips held the slightest curve, serving as a predatorily cruel smile.
"Wrong. You are mine, you belong to me. And as you say, live with it." he told her, throwing her words mercilessly back at her.
She lost control of her temper and lashed out with her left fist. He caught it easily and held her hand tightly. Tight enough to hurt.
She tried to punch him with her other fist, but he caught that too.
"I did warn you." he said, mockery thick in his voice as he squeezed her fists. Her nails dug into her palms and she gasped in pain.
"Let me go!" she choked out.
"I think not. Now, one good twist should either break your wrists or dislocate your arms. Should we try it?" he said, letting his cruel smile grow.
"No! Just let me go!" she grunted in pain.
One of the vampireís ebony eyebrows lifted. "Let you go what? I donít hear what I want to hear." he said and his hold on her fists tightened painfully.
She gritted her teeth and tried to wrench her hands free, but he did not move.
"Let me go please!" Cathrin muttered. She was immediately released.
"That wasnít so hard." he said pleasantly.
"If you think you can make me do whatever you want, youíve got another thing coming! I swear Iílló" she started to shout but suddenly stopped. Her mouth refused to work. Quin had simply raised one of his hands and her voice stopped, his will pouring over her as effectively as chains binding her.
"Youíll nothing. This is a small demonstration that I can control you quite easily, marked or no. These are my rules. You can do whatever you like. However, you do not demand anything from me and I will not demand anything from you. Pleases and thankyous apply whenever in my presence, for I do like politeness and civility can go a long way." he told her and lowered his hand, allowing her to speak.
"Civility! Youíre the one who broke into my home! Youíre the one who tricked me into doing this!" she shrieked.
"I wonít deny it, my only explanation for that was that I was losing patience and my temper with you, like I will shortly if you do not stop arguing with me." he said quite calmly, though his voice did start to lose emotion. "I, unlike the others, am willing to treat you as an equal, but if you insist on behaving this way, that can change quite easily."
"Change my behaviour! You look here! This is the way I am and if you donít like it then maybe you should look into a new servant and a new hunter. Then youíll really be in the shit heap with Calahan and Andrews." she hissed. He blinked and drew back a little.
"Are you trying to blackmail me, Hunter?" he asked, his voice losing just a little more emotion.
"No, Iím just laying down my rules." she told him. "You donít push me around. You donít tell me what to do. Asking is a good way of getting me to do things because Iím generally a nice person. You donít act all superior around me either. As far as Iím concerned you are a parasite, youíre superior to shit. You want to be equals, fine, you come down to my level."
He raised both of his eyebrows and just looked at her. Then he smiled. It wasnít mocking or spiteful. It was respectful.
"Very well, Lady Cathrin, we are in agreement." he said and cast a glance over his shoulder, toward to window. "Now, if you will excuse me, I must leave you to seek shelter. Until later, Lady Cathrin."
With that, he stood and turned to leave.
"Youíre not going to disappear on me again, are you?" Cathrin asked.
"Actually, I thought Iíd leave the conventional way." the vampire said over his shoulder before slipping out of the door.