Home > The Story of Son(5)

The Story of Son(5)
Author: J.R. Ward

She stared at him. Even though he was huge, he was so still and contained and modest, she wasn't scared of him. Of course, the logical part of her brain reminded her that she should be terrified. But then she thought of the way he'd subdued her without hurting her the first time she'd woken up. And the fact that he seemed frightened of her.

Except then she glanced at the chain and told herself to back up the brain train. That thing was on there for a reason.

"What is your name?" she asked.

His brows flicked down.

God, the light falling on his face turned it into something positively ethereal. And yet the thrusts of bone were all male, hard and uncompromising.

"Tell me."

"I don't have one," he said.

"What do you mean you don't have a name? What do people call you?"

"Fletcher does not call me anything. Mother used to call me Son. So I suppose that is my name. Son."

"Son."

His palms rubbed up and down on his thighs, the red silk of his robe moving with them.

"How long have you been down here?"

"What year is it?" When she told him, he said, "Fifty-six years."

She stopped breathing. "You're fifty-six?"

"No. I was brought down here when I was twelve."

"Dear Lord . . ." Okay, clearly they had different life expectancies. "Why were you put in this cell?"

"My nature began to assert itself. Mother said it was safer for everyone this way."

"You've been down here for all this time?" He must be going insane, she thought. She couldn't imagine being by herself for decades. No wonder he couldn't meet her eyes. He wasn't used to interacting with anyone. "Down here alone?"

"I have my books. And my illustrations. I am not alone. Besides, I am safe from the sun here."

Claire's voice hardened as she remembered nice, little old Miss Leeds drugging her and throwing her down in this cell with him.

"How often does she bring you women?"

"Once a year."

"What, as some kind of birthday present?"

"It is as long as I can go without my hunger becoming too strong. If I wait, I become . . . difficult to handle." His voice was impossibly small. Ashamed.

Claire could feel herself getting viciously angry, the flush blooming up the skin of her throat. Man, Miss Leeds had not been matchmaking with a kind heart as she'd talked about her son up in her bedroom. The woman had seen Claire as food and her son as an animal.

"When was the last time you saw your mother?"

"The day she put me down here."

God, to be twelve and imprisoned and left. . .

"Will you eat now?" he asked. "You can see I am unharmed."

Her stomach growled. "How long have I been here?"

"For dinner, only. So not long. There will be two breakfasts, one lunch, and one more dinner and then you will be free."

She glanced around and saw there were no clocks. So he'd adapted by telling time through meals. Jesus. . . Christ.

"Will you show me your eyes?" she asked, taking a step toward him. "Please."

He stood up, a towering force draped in red silk. "I will leave you to eat."

He walked by her, his head turned away, the chain dragging over the floor. When he got to the desk, he turned the chair around so it faced away from her and sat down. Picking up an artist's pencil, his hand paused over a piece of thick white paper. A moment later, the lead began stroking across the page. The sound it made was as soft as a child's breath.

Claire stared at him and made up her mind. Then she glanced over her shoulder at the food. She had to eat. If she was going to get them both out of here, she was going to need her strength.

3

Claire finished everything that was on the tray, and as she ate, the silence in the room was oddly unstrained considering the situation.

After she put her napkin down, she shifted her legs up onto the bed and leaned back against the pillows, tired, though not in a drugged way. As she glanced at the tray, she had an absurd thought that she couldn't remember when she'd last let herself actually finish a meal. She always dieted, leaving herself a little hungry. It helped keep up her aggression level, made her sharp, focused.

Now, she felt a little fuzzy. And . . . was she yawning?

"I won't remember this?" she asked his back.

His head shook, that mane of hair waving, nearly brushing the floor. The red and black combination was stunning.

"Why not?"

"I will take the memories from you before you leave." "How?"

He shrugged. "I know not. I just. . . find them among your thoughts and bury them."

She pulled the duvet over her legs. She had a feeling that if she pressed him for more details, he would have none to give—as if he didn't understand himself or his nature all that well. Interesting. Miss Leeds was human as far as Claire could tell. So clearly the father had been . . .

Shit, was she actually taking this seriously?

Claire put her hand up to her neck and felt the faded bite mark. Yes . . . yes, she was. And though her brain cramped at the idea that vampires existed, she had irrefutable proof, didn't she.

Fletcher came to mind. He was something different, too, wasn't he. She didn't know what, but that odd strength coupled with his obvious age . . . Not right.

Silence stretched out, the minutes fluid, passing through the room, draining into infinity. Had an hour passed? Or half of one? Or three?

Strangely, she loved the sound of his pencil's soft strokes over the paper.

"What are you working on?" she asked.

He paused. "Why did you want to see my eyes?"

"Why wouldn't I? It will complete the picture of you."

He put the pencil down. As his hand came up to push his hair off his shoulder, it was shaking. "I need to . . . come to you, now."

The candles began to extinguish one by one.

Fear had her heart going like a bat out of hell. Fear and . . . oh, God, please let that rush not be partially about anticipation.

"Wait!" She sat up. "How do you know you won't . . . take too much?"

"I can sense your blood pressure and I am very careful. I couldn't bear to hurt you." He stood from the desk. More candles were extinguished.

"Please, not the whole darkness," she said when only the one on the bedside table was left. "I can't handle it."

"It will be better that way—"

"No! God, no . . . it really won't. You don't know what it feels like on my end. The darkness terrifies me."

"Then we shall do this in the light."

As he came to the bed, she heard the chains first; then his shadow emerged out of the blackness.

"Perhaps you would stand?" he said. "So I may do it from behind again? That way you wouldn't have to see me. It shall take a little longer this time."

Claire exhaled, her body heating, her blood running hot. She wanted to tease out the whys of her dangerous lack of self-preservation, but what did they matter? She was where she was. "I think . . . I think I want to see you."

He hesitated. "Are you sure? Because once I begin, it is difficult to stop in the middle. . . ."

God, they sounded like two solicitous Victorians talking about sex.

"I need to see."

He took a deep breath, as if he were nervous and girding himself to get through the anxiety. "Perhaps you would sit on the edge of the bed then? That way I may kneel before you."

Claire shifted so her legs were dangling off the mattress. He lowered a little, bending at the knees, then shook his head.

"No," he murmured. "I shall have to sit beside you."

He sat with his back to the candle, so his face was in darkness. "May I ask you to turn toward me?"

She changed her position and looked up. The light of the flame formed a halo around his head and she wished she could see his face. Craved the beauty in him.

"Michael," she whispered. "You should have been named Michael. After the archangel."

His hand came up and moved her hair back. Then it planted into the mattress as he leaned into her.

"I like that name," he said softly.

She felt his lips against her throat first, a light caress of skin brushing skin. Then his mouth drew back and she knew it was parting, revealing fangs. The bite happened quickly and decisively and she jumped, much more aware this time. The pain was greater, but so was the sweetness that followed.

Claire moaned as heat swept through her body and the pull of his sucking started, his mouth finding a rhythm. She wasn't exactly sure when she touched him. It just happened. Her palms went up to his shoulders.

He was the one who jerked now and as he pulled back, the light hit part of his face. He was breathing hard, his lips parted, the tips of his fangs just barely showing. He was hungry, but shocked.

She ran her hands down his arms. The muscles were thick and cut.

"I can't stop," he said in a distorted voice.

"I just. . . want to touch you."

   
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