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First Kiss

In your dream he comes to you, a carriage out of the dark, to carry you in velvet-cushioned repose to an old bed with new sheets, still a little rough from the weaving, scratchy and luxurious against skin soft with the night’s dewy passage and the fragrance of cherry blossoms.

The rattle of the door lock stirs your slumber, and you wonder absently who has removed the dressing-gown and oiled your pale skin to such magnificent rosy suppleness, but he is there, paler than the dawn, a quiet hanging about his face like the sound of sepulchres and the pause between breaths, and all is his hair, such luxurious, saturnine locks curling all about his heart-shaped, boy-sweet face, so serious, adoring now in its blankness.

Tiny ruby embers light within his green eyes and are extinguished, to kindle a fire within the rose-blossom mouth of him, supple, heavy lips drawing back sweet and curving, lascivious in their subtlety. The kiss is like a draught from a cave, sweet and filling and forever flowing, empty-ing itself into some forgotten reservoir within you that seems long to have been empty, but gone unnoticed.

The fulfilment, the pleasure of the kiss wash through you in languid waves, seeping across every fibre of muscles long accustomed to paler luxuries, etching its memory on nerves in wont of baser raptures, and leave you craving, the reservoir filled and overflowing into others, endless others, emptied and wanting more.

Awakening to the creak and jingle and jostle of the coach, the dawn finds you weary and heavy with the drunken feeling of a night’s work at pleasure, the dizziness of rapture too soon sus-pended; the velvet somehow seems crushed, redolent of dust and the salty-sour scent of horses and old tack leather, and leaves your tired limbs sore and wanting the release of slumbers interrupted, scouring rudely the skin so delicately touched with the night now gone.

At last, you arrive, the coach bumping and swaying and creaking no more, the smell of feathers and long-past nights of abandon welcoming you within your own blankets, and you know no more....

As day passes, you find yourself in a curious lassitude, drowsing between repose and slumber, even as night falls, quickens upon the hills and vales outside your bedchamber. Your lady-in-waiting comes with fresh raiments, dresses full and satiny, petticoats and corsets of the finest whalebone, and of course the hair, it must be brushed out, out, braided into a proper lady’s coiffure, bound.

Dinner is a haphazard affair, your mother sitting in her place at the head of the table, hers since Father died at the hands of some ruffian or other in the Suez. The meat seems to smell wrong, burnt, dead, unwholesome, somehow, though subtly tantalizing, so near, so....something. You drink the wine, great draughts of its liquid light, like it was your first nutriment in years. Drunken, listless, be-wildered, you betake yourself to your room again, barely bothering to remove the hooks from your dress, the pins from your hair, before you cast yourself on the bed again, enervated and restless at the same time. You feel...thirsty. Ravenna brings wine, and you gulp at it, but its savor, its wholesome-ness, is somehow cloying, thin, syrupy-sweet, you want meat and bread and...the food she brings at your behest has no savor, as if the colour had gone out of the world, all smells pale and joyless. You look at yourself in the mirror, behold the slack skin under your eyes: it is as if you had aged, in a night, thirty years.

And then the coach, with its starkly-cloaked driver, arrives at the door, and almost before the butler announces him, you hurl yourself into the cab, the dust of the velvet cushions rising to greet you with its vaguely musty, sensual aroma again, and you feel yourself grow weak between the knees al-ready, your head spinning with half-remembered sensations...

The ride creaks on and on until he is there again, and you lie naked, spread before him like a feast, your nipples rosy and rising, inviting his kisses, but he does not look at them; the green eyes, deep as the wide Sargasso sea, burn into yours with the force of a hundred thousand candles in moonlight vi-gil, as they descend, to feast upon your rapturously hungry mouth, this kiss that goes on and on and on, flowing deep as a river under the floor of a cave, dark and pure and silent...

The day dawns, somehow, with you in the coach’s creaking embrace, and every ray of light that es-capes the too-thin curtains drawn across the narrow windows seems a stiletto stabbing into your weary eyes. Home, the feathered comfort of your bed beckons, but its comfort is pale and wanting, and you lie thirsting, aching, listless and half-dreaming, most of the long day, too tired to call for your maid, too pained to sleep. Your wounded mind swirls through orbits of the highest invention, fancies sweeping through you of half-forgotten savors, cravings bone-deep and blood-real. You sum-mon the strength, finally, to pull the bell for Ravenna, but the wine she brings you only reminds you with its lightness, its thin, bitter aroma, of how wonderful she smells, and looks, so warm and vital and salty-sweet, so feminine, so perfect. You wonder vaguely when she became so beautiful; are you perhaps falling in love with the maid you have known for ten, even twenty years? Strange, too strange for the imagining, this feeling, this wonder, and as she leaves, you find yourself drifting away into slumber at last, lethargy overwhelming your limbs and your mind both.

Your eyes clear again, to find yourself not at home, but at his mansion, in the big, faintly musty-smelling bed, its drapings so graceful that you marvel at them for long moments, not wondering when you made the traverse across the lonely miles to this place, this house of dreams.

A long pale hand reaches for your own, and as if you had expected it, you find yourself drawn to your feet and walking, crossing the wide thick Turkish carpet with its swirling images of roses and poinsettias and ivy, drawn behind him toward double doors which, though you do not remember how, you are sure lead into the drawing room.

The ceiling is high, with a crown molding of angels laughing amid cherubic horses with wings and a broad chandelier, hanging almost to head height and dripping slowly from the few candle stubs still burning. It seems so well-lit, you had hardly noticed it is night, but it is, for the wide French doors show brilliant night, stars twinkling gracefully beneath a citrus-slice moon, barely risen.

As you move into the room, the two ladies in repose on the velvet settee rise, their rich clothes and warm scents greeting you with as much charm as their open smiles and admiring glances.

One is dark, petite, her hair curling thick and Gypsy-black around her delicate face with its almost triangular jaw and huge, long-lashed eyes; the other is tall, firmly-boned, with waving red hair and wine-dark lips that smile even when she looks at you quizzically, and back at your host. Her blue eyes question both of you with their sapphire depths, but her lips do not move.

He turns to you, his verdant eyes muted and sad, the corners of his too-rich lips puckered inwardly, and at last, his voice, melodious and soft, pours into your ears.

“All this, I give to you, my last, my only love. For your love, I would sacrifice...eternity,” he whispers at the last, eyes consuming you in their emerald depths.

A burning chill sweeps through the core of you, leaving your skin hot, violently prickling with the tentacles of ice that have crept in around the cavern that was your heart. They are his. A harem. And you, its next member-to-be.

He steps to the little Gypsy, her dark eyes questioning his ardently, and strokes the side of her face, kisses her deeply, softly as a sip of wine, and her arms ardently encircle his neck, long nails gently caressing the pore less skin below his twin-peaked hairline, half-concealed by the long tail that is braided with a deep green ribbon, each outshining the other in the beautiful golden light of the chandelier.

His kisses, you notice with a growing flare of jealousy, linger long, and lower, caressing themselves down her beautiful cheek if only you had such marvellously wide cheekbones! and onto her delicate little neck. She sighs, and her nails scratch the back of his neck roughly, scraping deep, leaving tiny red welts where they have passed.

He turns, delicately stands her between you, caressing her little shoulders with his hands, and as her great dark eyes gaze upon you with undisguised triumph, opens his mouth wide, wide, exposing monstrously long eye-teeth, which sink themselves into the side of her throat.

A single splash of hot, salty blood bursts out of her, scarlet as the dawn, sparkling in her hair and on her lovely satin bodice, plashing on the deep carpet in little jeweled constellations, and she gasps out a scream that turns into a snarl as she tries to remove his hand, his head, from her, to escape the gentle embrace turned rigid as stone, one hand cradling the side of her neck, the other across her slender waist, but he bends his lips to the wound in her throat and as her blood pounds out of her and into him, she batters at him, arms and legs thrashing violently, curses pouring out of her, her huge black eyes become pools, reflecting depthless hatred.

The hatred in her eyes burns you, scores you with a thousand shattering scratches, but too soon fades. Her blows upon his motionless head fall weakly, slowing, and her little feet, one slipper cast unnoticed across the room, dangle now upon the carpet numbly. The light that scorched into you out of the depths of her eyes fades, and they become only dark marbles, reflecting the horror that you see before you, as he drops her to the floor like a sack of grain, the thump muted by the thick carpet but tangible; you feel it in your feet, your knees, as her head strikes the carpet, lolling to one side, the last few drops of her life’s blood trickling from her throat, uniting to form a tiny mirror beneath the side of her face, pooling with the bloody spittle that has spilled from her curvaceous little mouth.

His long hands return at last to his sides, uncurling from their frozen grasp upon her empty little body, and he turns gently, almost apologetically, to the tall red-haired girl, who has sunk to her knees beside the little settee, her huge sapphire eyes glistening and dark with tears, as if years of long-forgotten grief had finally surfaced within her heart and cut her legs from under her, struck her mute and helpless as a newborn. She looks up at him imploringly, her eyes begging him to deny the moment, the awful finality of her love’s death.

A step takes him to her, silent as death itself, and as final. He caresses the side of her face as she kneels before him, gazing lovingly upon her upturned face, her firm jaw and wide, straight-browed eyes, her lovely delicate cheekbones, sculpted, it seems, from rosy quartz, just the faintest hint of blush illumining their curve.

He draws her to her feet, her breasts almost touching his chest with their closeness, and gently un-hooks the fastenings of her clothing, removes the ties of her corset, pulls away all that conceals her, and she stands raptly, unblushingly, naked before you, her firm belly with its subtly beautiful femi-nine curve into the little triangle of hair as red as the long, waving locks that just brush the sleekly rounded ass which she inadvertently exhibits to you in such a tellingly delicious manner as he turns her toward him, her long legs curving to her long white feet, as delicate as her equally alabaster hands. You only wish your own humble charms were as delicate, as pronounced, as firmly, sleekly perfect. Her breasts rise once, round and firm as the apples of her cheeks as she smiles up at him, her own teeth white and glinting-sharp, a hunting cat at rest in its den.

And he kisses her, as well, as thoroughly, as lovingly as he had kissed her dark, delicate little counterpoint, softly, lushly, making love to her skin with his lips, the subtly-rough tip of his bright pink tongue. His arms gather her to him, and her own wrap themselves loosely, affectionately, about his neck, her long delicate fingers twining in his loosely-bound hair, as he sinks his kisses deeper and deeper into the cleft of her clavicle, and finally she gives a little agonized moan and her fingers clasp into fists, nails creasing her narrow palms, pulling at the long gleaming snake of his hair, as the piercing shock of his teeth in her throat diffuses down into her, and the blood flows out of her, out of her throat, into his.

He blushes with the pleasure of it, the heat, and her lips tremble as if she might weep, blushing deep down her shoulders and breasts, as in a sexual heat they embrace, he mightily, a statue of hunger, she weakly, clinging to his shoulders with lessening determination, until at the last her arms drop to dangle behind her, as he arches her to him in his need, and then she, too, is falling, sinking to the floor, to flop motionless between his arched heels. A single tear slips from her half-open eye, leaving a trail of bloody grief across the alabaster perfection of her cheek, to drop soundlessly into the carpet, drawn away into its depths almost instantly, caught in the shadow of her once-lovely shoulder, now crooked and careless, flopped as uselessly as her once-firm breasts, now hanging against the finely-woven carpet like half-filled bladders of seawater.

You realize he is looking at you, still poised above her, that his long green eyes are searching yours with a grief in them so deep you want to weep instantly yourself, and a hunger so hot you feel your-self weak in your belly.

“This, my love, I give for you. Your love is worth any price; this small...sacrifice...shall be my earnest and I shall buy with my own....”

His kiss is deeper than ever before, more painful, more pure, as hard as anthracite, and as dark. And this time, there is something more - something which satisfies all that has been wanting...


by Count