Taken by the Night -- excerpt
"He dismissed me as though I was a child."
It was quarter past seven in the morning and Ivy was in her mother's bedroom, pacing the length of the burgundy and navy William Morris carpet. She should have let her mother sleep longer -- she looked as though she had been up half the night sobbing -- but Saint's arrival needed to be discussed.
Her mother smiled as she lay against a mountain of thick, down-filled pillows. She looked like a little doll amongst the fresh white sheets and wine velvet counterpane. Her strawberry hair was a satiny halo, and despite the amount of tears she'd shed as of late, her green eyes were bright and alert. In the soft light, with the sun still hours from being at its harshest, Madeline Dearing didn't look much older than Ivy herself -- much to the younger woman's occasional chagrin.
"You were a child last time Saint saw you,” Madeline replied, languorously twirling a lock of hair around one finger.
Ivy's lips tightened, remembering the conversation. "That is no excuse. And I was seventeen, hardly a child.” He had looked down that sharp, straight nose of his and told her he was tired -- that he would discuss it ‘later’.
Her mother stifled a yawn. "It was dawn. He was no doubt tired and needed to rest."
She stopped pacing and fixed the older woman with a pointed gaze. "We're all tired. Finding Goldie and Clementine's killer is more important than sleep. After all Maison Rouge has done for them you would think the vampires would help us, but Reign is gone and Saint needs his beauty." The words left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Just a fortnight ago she had photographed Goldie and Clementine. Laughing and playing in the costumes Ivy had brought, the two young women had been more like children than seasoned prostitutes. They had been all of twenty and nineteen respectively and now they were dead. Murdered by a sadistic bastard.
The expression on her mother's face was sympathetic, bordering on pity. "Reign left before these awful attacks took place, otherwise he would already be searching for the murderer."
Yes. That was very convenient as far as Ivy was concerned. "How unfortunate that he didn't see fit to leave you with a way to contact him. Not even his own staff know where he is."
"Your face will stick like that if you do not stop sneering."
What was more maddening, that her mother continued to talk to her as though she was still a child, or that Ivy listened to it? She sighed.
"It is time to face the truth, Mama. We’re on our own. The authorities are impotent and the vampires have turned their backs. It is up to us to see the killer brought to justice." Goldie and Clementine had been her friends. She'd be damned if she'd allow the man who slaughtered them to remain free.
"I'm sure Saint merely wanted some time to think about the situation and speak to us when he was more alert."
Think? What was there to think about? Women were dead. "You give him more credit than I do."
"I know him."
Were it possible to roll her eyes while scowling, Ivy would have done it. "Ten years can change a person, Mama."
Her mother smoothed her palms over her blankets. "Are you not the one who is always telling me that people don't change?"
Ivy made a scoffing noise when words didn't readily come. She had said that, yes.
Her mother smiled smugly. “What’s this, no witty retort? Saint must have made an impression.”
The remark hit a little close to home for Ivy’s liking. In addition to being apparently just as confident and selfish as she remembered him being, Saint was just as beautiful as well. In fact, she had never seen a more breath-taking creature in her life. He was almost too sensual. She liked handsome men -- men who had a pleasant look about them and who smiled easily. She did not like men who were dark and swarthy and looked at her as though she was a lamb and he a hungry lion. Those dark eyes of his made her nervous; it was so difficult to read the expression in them, and that perfect bow of a mouth curved ever so slightly -- almost contemptuously -- in amusement.
He would photograph beautifully and she hated him for it. In fact, she was very close to hating him -- and for what reason? Because that school girl crush she thought long dead had raised it’s eager head at the sight of him.
"I always loved his hair," her mother remarked almost dreamily. "Is it still long?"
"Collar length." She refused to remark on how dark and thick it was, or how the soft waves framed the chiseled bones of his cheeks and jaw.
Madeline sighed. "He's cut it then. Too bad. Every girl here wanted to bed him just to play with that hair."
Ivy supposed she should have been shocked by her mother's bold remark, but she grew up in a brothel. As pretentious and fine as Maison Rouge was, she was rather difficult to shock when it came to sexual behavior.
A woman's body was her most expensive commodity, and her heart the most prized, Ivy's governess used to tell her. If she had to barter with one of them -- the price had better be worth it.
Ten years ago Saint could have had her heart and her virtue for a smile. He had barely noticed her.
"We're nothing more than food to him! Don't you care about justice for Goldie and Clementine?"
One look was all that was needed for Ivy to realize that she had gone too far.
"Ivy Abigail Dearing." Her mother's voice took that tone that never failed to make Ivy stand up straight. "Only the fact that I share your grief keeps me from boxing your ears. Disagree with me all you want, but don't you dare presume that you care more about the welfare of my girls than I do."
Duly chastised, Ivy nodded. "Yes, Mama. I beg your pardon, but I do not have as much faith in Saint as you seem too."
Why, the vampire's name alone was laughable. Saint, indeed. Saints didn’t bed a new girl – sometimes three -- every night
"Darling, I trust him with my life and you should as well."
"In the name of God, why?" She wouldn't trust him with a paper cut on her finger, let alone her entire being.
"Because if it weren't for Saint neither you nor I would be here." As a thick churning began in Ivy's stomach, her mother grinned. "I'm afraid so. That vampire you do not want to trust is the man who saved me and brought me here. You owe him your life."
copyright 2007 Kathryn Smith