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Authors: Sonnet O'Dell

Tags: #England, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Supernatural, #Vampire, #Urban Fantasy, #dark, #Eternal Press, #Sonnet ODell, #shapeshifter, #Cassandra Farbanks, #Worcester

Silent Doll (3 page)

BOOK: Silent Doll
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I already knew I was strong, that my tears had healing properties, that fire magic came easy to me and didn’t burn me, and that I would live a very long time. That was the bit that had scared me the most, the length of time that suddenly stretched out before me. Most legends said that phoenixes could live between five hundred and a thousand years.

I’d already noticed I wasn’t aging anymore, that my body healed damage at a rapid rate, and that normally fatal damage results in an explosive healing process. Being reborn in flames was reportedly pretty to watch, but it also, unfortunately, left me naked.

That bit wasn’t mentioned in any of the legends, of course. At least not the ones I’d found so far. I’d traced legends back through medieval France, Egypt and into the Middle East but there were more that I’d yet to get to. In China, for example, there were a whole host of legends; I was waiting on a translation of a book whose hand-tipped illustrations had sparked something in me. For months before I’d accepted what I was, I’d been seeing a bird in my dreams, a sparkling red and gold creature larger than anything I’d seen, with long tails that feathered at the end almost like a peacock. The last time I had seen it I’d also heard a voice; it hadn’t been my voice, nor the one I registered as the internal voice of my thoughts, but a completely outside, masculine speaker. Virginia and I were still not talking about this. She had known all about my mother and kept it from me, thinking it for my own good. She’d begged me to hold out, to not accept the power; but in the end, given a choice between dying or accepting it, I chose to live.

She hadn’t been happy with my decision; not that she would have been happy if I had died. I also think she resented my mother a little. My stepfather was Virginia’s only son. My mother took him away with her to another world—and then he’d died in a car accident when I was a toddler. Virginia had lost her son twice.

I read through book after book until it grew late and finally called it a night about midnight. I crawled into my nice warm bed, settling down to sleep almost instantly.

Books say if you have the same dream more than once, it’s supposed to mean something. I wonder what meaning they’d find in the dreams I’ve been having lately.

The fire lit room could have been taken straight from any Austen movie, with the detailed wooden paneling and the long slim windows encaged by iron. In front of the fireplace sat a chaise couch, on which Aram reclined. I stared at his boots; they were shiny black to the top of his calf. One leg was bent so the boot rested against the end of the couch and his second leg dangled, the heel just brushing the floor. His breeches were brown doeskin, the straps hanging down by his hips. A white poet’s shirt billowed around his upper body, exposing a patch of pale chest. I followed it up the long line of his throat to his face, bathed in the glow from the hearth; his eyes were shut, his thick lashes glittering, his expression serene; his thick brown curls tousled and sexy.

I gulped. He was rhythmically tapping a leather riding crop against his knee. I looked into the fireplace and saw my face reflected in the flames. I was definitely dreaming.

Aram opened his eyes slowly. A sultry smile curved one corner of his mouth.

“Ah, wench…”

I arched a brow at him, then looked down my outfit. The white blouse had frills around the neck that dipped, revealing a large amount of cleavage pushed up by a whale bone corset. The dark caramel skirt looked tattered and stained, like it was worked in for a living. I jiggled my shoulders experimentally: it was like watching two boys fight under a blanket. Aram’s smile widened.

“Now, wench…” he said in what was supposed to be a commanding voice, but he’d watched me jiggle, so it lost a little something.

“Can we discuss the wench thing, Aram?”

“Lord Aram,” he corrected me. I had to snigger; we both knew there was a snowflake’s chance I’d call him that, even if it was only a dream.

My snorted laughter didn’t please him. He stood, beating the riding crop against his thigh until the sound was almost a metronome of slaps. He raised the crop threateningly, then touched it to my neck, running it down the exposed skin and the corset.

I was surprised to find it had an effect on me: a line of heat coursed down my body, ending in a lusty wave south of my navel. I tried to think about other things: bills, rain, Margaret Thatcher naked, anything to calm my beating pulse.

“I am not doing this, Aram.”

I had to turn my back to him, because frankly he was mouth watering in period clothes. This wasn’t the first dream like this he’d pulled me into; there had been the princess and the knight—that one involved a tower. There was the one with the milk maid and the stable boy. The pirate and the duchess—after which he’d learned my weakness for that kind of period costume.

The crop whipped across my bottom. It stung like hell, making me jump and yip. Aram slid one arm around my waist; his other arm pulled my neck taut. He kissed my bite scar before sinking his fangs into me. I shuddered: dating Aram, I’d begun to enjoy it when he fed, because it was usually part of foreplay. He spun me in his arms, kissed me with bloody lips, and pushed me down on a four poster bed not too unlike my own.

“Aram,” I growled, but he was already pressed partly over me, tracing the line of my leg with the crop.

“Are you going to be a good wench or will I have to punish you?” His words danced over my skin, making me shiver.

“Damn it, Aram, this isn’t fair.”

“All is fair in love and war, pet. I will not give you up.”

When I’d called a halt to our relations, cutting my libido off at the source might I add, he’d promised to fight to win me back. Only thing was he fought dirty; and by dirty I meant downright filthy.

He nuzzled my breast while I counted backwards. I tried to recall historical dates when he kissed my earlobe. I was attempting to conjugate French verbs when he grabbed my hips, bumping his bulge against my groin. I’d only gotten a D in French, so it wasn’t going well.

I began to panic. Aram’s talent to enter dreams could also make the dream feel so real that the sensations could drive me crazy. He ripped the blouse, kissing my rounded flesh, squeezing my breasts and grazing them with his fangs. My knees pressed against his sides and I brushed against him. It was reflex, I couldn’t help it, but he took it as a green light. He thrust the skirt up around my waist and I screamed until I managed to break free.

Chapter Three

I woke up with a gasp and a cry: alone, but definitely affected by the dream. It was three in the morning. I rolled over and threw my copy of
Lord Wraxall’s Fancy
into the desk drawer; I was only supplying Aram with his ideas by reading that junk.

I cursed Aram and headed for the kitchen to get something to drink. I poured some milk and set it to warming in the microwave; by the light of the open fridge, I saw something on the floor by the front door. I turned to the microwave as it binged, took out my milk, and collected the object on my way back to the bed.

In the light of my bedside lamp it looked to be just a normal envelope, purple with a card inside. I snuck my nail under the top and ripped it open. Inside was a stiff, buff colored card, decorated at the corners with fine designs in gold leaf. Bits of shiny cardboard fluttered to my lap as I pulled out the card.

The card said:
You are cordially invited.

“Invited to what?” I muttered, and retrieved the smaller cards that had fallen in my lap: two tickets to something called
Le Cirque de Poupèe
, for tomorrow night.

I flipped the card open again; there was no other writing in either the gold filigree or any other pen. I checked the envelope: no postmark. My name wasn’t even on the envelope, so it was hand delivered by someone who knew I was the only one here. Aram! I thought. Was he trying to set up a date? I’d asked for time but he was, as ever, impatient. He would not leave me be in my dreams; was he now progressing to a real life offensive? I was annoyed at him, but some small part of me registered affection for his dogged attempts to reclaim me.

I was about to bin the offering when a thought occurred to me—I had the tickets and nothing said I had to take Aram. I could take Incarra. She and I needed to do some re-bonding. We’d both lost a friend: Anton refused to take any of our calls and we had to both face that he wasn’t going to deal with their recent, unexpected venture into the other world with me. I set the tickets on my nightstand and snuggled under my covers, hoping that when I closed my eyes again I would not see Aram.

I slept unmolested and undisturbed, and awoke considerably more relaxed in the morning. I’d been feeling a little stressed lately, what with throwing my money into my searches and still trying to pay my bills. They couldn’t take the apartment from me, my parents have owned it outright, but they could still cut off the heat and the electric; and despite my recent discovery of my immortality, I still had to eat. I was not some nut job who would starve themselves just to see how long they could go and what would happen.

In the other world, I knew some vampires would do such trials, but I saw that as an experiment designed to benefit humanity. They used to have to know their limits for long journeys so that they could feed without drawing suspicion, but with modern advantages like Richard Branson’s Vamp Air—“the safest way for the undead to travel”—they didn’t need to worry about it. Vampires presented a new market to sucker in. I had heard that Vamp Air offered a Bloods of Europe touring package, in which the mature vampire could travel in special accommodations to sample the veins of the continent. This proved a problem in countries where vampires had no rights or any right to exist; in fact, in some of the southeastern countries of Europe—such as Romania, Transylvania and Hungary—a vamp could still be staked on sight.

The bill to allow Vampires more rights in the UK had passed with a majority, which had surprised me until I saw the amendments to cover vampire duties and taxes. All vampires of a certain age and wealth had to pay a one off duty to the state and any new vampires had to register themselves. That recession we’d been having would soon be nothing but a bad memory.

The Census was due this year as well and would now contain a section dubbed Life Status, where you had to inform the census taker that you were a vampire—or an “undead citizen”, to use the PC term. I hadn’t read through all the new vampire laws yet. I had had a pamphlet about it come through to my office because as a PI—Paranormal Investigator—I had to know what I could or could not get away doing to a bloodsucker.

If I ever shared that thought with Aram, he would give me a list—and I could guarantee that at least seventy-five percent of it would be filthy-minded innuendo.

Thinking of Aram brought me back to the tickets sitting on my bedside table. The tickets had the other world venue written on them; it looked to be one of the warehouses down by the waterfront. I picked up the phone and dialed Incarra’s number. It was about nine in the morning; she should have been up. The answering growl at the other end of the phone did not bode well. So I joked.

“Yogi, is that you?” Another bearlike growl sounded; there was a rustle and a grunt.

“Cassie, it’s my free day, why are you calling so damn early?”

“I didn’t know. Thought you would be up. I can always ask someone else to go…”

I am a mean friend. I was baiting her and I knew it. She probably knew it too but her curiosity was piqued.

“No. Whatever it is, as a holder of best friend status, I demand the honor be mine.”

“Fine,” I said, pretending to be exasperated with her. “Think you can be at my place before the sun goes down? I have tickets to a show.”

“On the other side?” Her voice held both fear and excitement.

“Yep,” I said, picking up the tickets and fanning myself with them. “Someone sent me freebies to something called
Le Circe de Poupee
.”

“The circus of the dolls?”

“You surprise me. I didn’t know you were any good at French. I underestimate you.”

“Constantly.”

“Easier for you to take over the world, though, if it never sees it coming.”

“Exactly. I’ll be there. What should I wear?”

I looked at the tickets and the invitation: a very fine card, embossed with very probably actual gold leaf.

“I’d say casual dressy, sort of if you were going to a club… and wanted to be let in.”

When we were underage, Incarra had enjoyed teasing the bouncers at clubs that wouldn’t let her in. It had surprised me, once upon a time, that she knew so many rude gestures in sign language.

“All right, then. I’ll see you later,” Incarra said, then hung up.

I climbed out of bed and took the sheets off, bundling them into a wash bag. My plan for the day was to get simple chores out of the way. I would do the laundry, remake my bed, give my apartment a once over with the vacuum, then go out with Incarra. I wrapped my robe around my body, belting it tight at the waist, and making sure I picked up every wrinkly sock and discarded item of clothing, carried it all down to the wash room in the basement.

I wasn’t overly fond of the industrial style machines. They swallowed money, rattled loudly, and shook fit to explode. I piled everything in together, poured in washing stuff and a color catcher before heading for the change machine. I pushed a five pound note into the machine, listened to it whir and the money clatter into the tray below me. Like I was in Vegas at a slot machine, I raised my hands in the air and called out “Jackpot!” That earned me an odd look from an older lady who had come in carrying a fluffy dog. She retrieved some towels from a dryer on the other side of the room.

BOOK: Silent Doll
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