LaCroix was brought back to the present by the touch of hands on either side of his face. As he moved to pull them away he was transfixed by the sight of Gwen looking at him with an almost painful intensity. Instead of removing the hands, he found himself caressing them. Never breaking her gaze, she reached up, pulling his head towards hers -- pressing her warm lips against his cool ones almost tentatively, deepening the kiss when he didn't pull away from her.
You're a fool, he raged inwardly. You can't recapture a life that has been dead two thousand years! You don't even know who this woman is for sure. And even if it was Brigh, he told himself bitterly, it was the man she knew that she desired. Not the vampire you are now, who has seen two millennia of darkness and death. You should send her away or dispose of her entirely and damn the consequences. Despite his angry inner dialog, he found himself pulling Gwen to him, his hands roaming her body . She ran her hands up his chest to link behind his neck, her lips parting under the increasing intensity of his kiss. He traced the outline of her lips with his tongue, then moved deeper to claim the rest.
He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom, setting her down gently and just looking at her. She looked back at him with eyes that held no hint of fear or compulsion, only acceptance and desire. LaCroix's heart clenched a little -- it had been nearly eight centuries since a mortal woman had looked on him that way. He began to doubt his intentions; he should let her go, now, before it was too late.
She seemed to sense his inner turmoil. "We can't recapture what we were, Lucius," she said in Latin, "but we have this moment, this place in time to be together. Even if it is never again, we have now." She switched back to English. "*I* want this. *I* choose. Not Nicholas, not you, and not who I was," she said with utter conviction.
He nodded, reaching towards her, running one finger down the line of her jaw, across the pulse that beat at her throat. At her collar, as he slowly began to undo the buttons on her blouse, their eyes locked, his hands skimming the silk as he moved down. He pushed the blouse over her pale shoulders and off her arms, still holding her gaze.
Gwen reached up to her hair and pulled out the pins holding it, allowing the dark red tresses to fall around her like a cloak. Showing no hesitation, she began to undo the clasp on the front of her bra, only to be stopped by LaCroix. He splayed his hands over hers, his fingers between her slender ones, delicately undoing the clasp. With her hands still under his, he moved their hands over her breasts. She gasped at the sensation of his touch coupled with hers over her skin. Cupping her breasts and her hands with his, he bent down and took a nipple in his teeth, lightly pulling at the pink nub while flicking it with his tongue. She thrust towards him, wanting him closer. She moaned deep in her throat as he moved his attention to her other breast, giving it the same intense attention. Lips still on her breast, he gently pushed her back onto the bed. Moving his lips up over her throat to her mouth, he lightly traced the outline of her lips with his tongue. She reached up to capture his teasing mouth in a fierce kiss, and he responded in kind as his hands sought the waistband of her slacks, undoing them in a swift, practiced motion. She made a noise of protest as he broke away from her.
"Not for long," he promised as he stood over her, running his hands over her legs and up under her bottom to remove first her slacks and then her panties.
Gwen now lay totally naked across his bed and LaCroix drank in the sight of her pale skin, delicately flushed with rising passion, framed by her long red hair, her lips slightly parted and swollen from his kisses. He felt his desire for her rise at the vision she created and the thought of what was to come. She merely watched him, appearing lost in her own thoughts and memories, whether from the present or the past he didn't know. He quickly removed his own clothing, laying down beside her, and gathered her into his arms, their bodies quickly becoming entangled in desire and need.
He found the contrasts startling, the woman in his arms familiar and strange all at the same time. Gwen's hands and lips moved over him with the familiarity of a long-time lover and yet at the same time with a certain hesitation, like that of a woman inexperienced in matters of the flesh. If he found it disconcerting, LaCroix wondered what must it be like for her, to be two people, yet one? As he pulled away from her slightly, she looked up at him questioningly. He ran his fingers over her face, placing them under her chin.
"You've never lain with a man before." He made it a statement, realizing only after he spoke that it was in the language of his mother's people. LaCroix once again watched, fascinated, the shifting emotions running across her face .
Gwen answered in English. "Theoretically, no. At least, not in this incarnation." She smiled wickedly. "But I'm sure it's like riding a bike, once you know how, you never forget."
He laughed. "I'll be happy to remind you of anything you may have forgotten, my love," he said, running his hand down her body to press against her mound. She caught her breath at the touch.
"I was counting on it." With that she pulled his head down to hers for a deep kiss that he returned hungrily.
She ran her hands over him, eager to remind herself of his once-familiar form. Amused by her impatience, LaCroix trapped her wrists in his hand, pulling them over her head. Gwen struggled against his grip briefly, looking up at him in annoyance and desire.
"You don't play fair, Lucius." She pouted charmingly at him.
"When have I ever?" he asked in low, velvet voice.
Her reply was never uttered, replaced by a gasp as his free hand found entrance to her center. He thrust two long fingers in and out, slowly, his thumb rotating over her mound. The assault caused her to arch and struggle against the hand restraining her wrists and towards the hand that was setting her afire. The fingers changed rhythm, pausing to explore her inner depths before beginning to move faster, plunging in and out. She whimpered in frustration, trying to push her pelvis against the thumb tormenting her for a deeper touch. He merely chuckled as he continued his meticulous onslaught of her body. She screamed as his thumb moved harder over the sensitized bundle of nerves, pushing her over the edge. Her orgasm hit like a tidal wave as her muscles spasmed around his questing fingers.
Releasing her wrists, he knelt between her legs, running his hands up her thighs, across her stomach and to her breasts, kneading them in his hands, tweaking the now hard pink nipples. Gwen moaned as he ran his hands back down the same path, this time stopping to entangle his fingers in the damp curls between her thighs. She hissed as his hands teased and massaged her cleft, her hands gripping the covers on either side of her. Positioning himself above her, LaCroix paused a moment to look at her lying below him, her body wracked by passion, her breath coming in gasps, her hair damp with perspiration. He caught her lips in his as he thrust into her waiting body.
Her arms came around his shoulders, her nails digging into the flesh as he moved in her. LaCroix shifted his mouth to her throat, running his now extended fangs over the tender flesh. Gwen instinctively arched her neck to allow him access as he licked the spot where her pulse throbbed. With a growl, he plunged his fangs into her throat, tasting her orgasm as they came together in a circle of blood, mind, and body. He almost forgot himself in that moment, allowing two thousand years of carefully trained control to be forgotten in the exquisite illusion of he and Brigh together in Gaul once more.
A voice brought him back, familiar, but not Brigh's. "Lucius, please don't…." the voice trailed off weakly. Brought back to the here and now, LaCroix pushed the vampire back. He owed Brigh -- for that was how he now was thinking of her -- more than that. Despite the fact that he knew he was being foolish and sentimental, he allowed himself the illusion that somehow he could fix the past, however unrealistic the notion was. He licked the slightly bleeding wounds at her neck, then looked at her now ashen form with a practiced eye. No, he thought, he hadn't taken too much. It had been a near thing, but she would be fine. Gwen murmured softly as he gathered her in a gentle embrace, her hands splayed across his chest, her head in the crook of his arm. LaCroix watched her as she slept, and wondered where they went from here.
LaCroix carefully disentangled himself from Gwen's still-sleeping form; she never even stirred as he placed her head on the pillow. After he had showered and dressed, he sat on the edge of the bed. She would sleep for some time still, he thought, as he considered the decisions to be made once she awoke. As he watched her sleep he felt the presence of his son at the edge of his perception, and sighed. Nicholas appearing here tonight was not totally unexpected, but he wasn't really in the mood for him and his intrusive questions. Realizing that his son was not to be avoided, LaCroix headed for the sitting room, closing the bedroom door softly behind him.
Ignoring the other man, LaCroix went to the sideboard and poured himself a glass from the bottle sitting there. "I'd offer you something, Nicholas, but I'm afraid I don't have cow," he said dryly, his back still to Nick.
"We need to talk, LaCroix," Nick said, coming to stand behind his Master.
"So you keep saying, Nicholas, and quite persistently, I must say." His annoyance evident, LaCroix turned and looked at his son expectantly.
Nick looked at his Master and sighed. Soon, a look all too familiar to LaCroix appeared in his son's eyes -- stubborn determination. He waited for the inevitable demanding questions that were sure to follow.
"What is there between you and Gwen, LaCroix -- and how do you know each other?" he asked. LaCroix merely looked at him coolly and sipped from his glass. "Damnit, I want to know what the hell is going on!" he shouted, clearly exasperated.
"Indeed?" he quirked an amused eyebrow at Nicholas' outburst. He really was so predictable. "And that should make some difference to me?"
Nick slammed his hand down on the sideboard. "Yes it should! I'm putting you on notice, Gwen is under my protection. I won't allow you to destroy her life, seducing her into our darkness! Stay away from her, LaCroix, you've done enough damage already," he warned, his voice still raised.
LaCroix stifled a smile at the last; if Nicholas only knew just how late he was with that particular warning. "Be assured, I have no intention of destroying the lovely Gwenyth." His voice became cold. "But that is all I intend to say on the subject, tonight or any night." He watched the irritation flash across the younger man's face, but was gratified when he seemed willing to drop the matter for now.
"Was there anything else, Nicholas?" he asked, pointedly looking at the clock. "As much as I've enjoyed our little chat, I do have a business to run."
"As a matter of fact, there is," Nick replied, changing the subject. "I need to know if there have been any new vampires in town, or any who have been acting out of character."
"And the reason for this inquiry?"
"It seems that the killer is one of us, and he needs to be stopped before he kills again." He waited expectantly for LaCroix's reaction
"You're sure about this?"
"Very sure, because he is getting sloppy. With each killing it is becoming more and more obvious that it is a vampire.'" Nick looked at him meaningfully. "And with each killing it is becoming more and more difficult for Natalie to hide the truth."
LaCroix set his glass down and looked thoughtfully at Nick. "There may be a few possibilities." Nick looked relieved. "But I will investigate them myself." He held up his hand to forestall his son's protest. "If this is true, it is a matter for the Community to take care of, not the mortal authorities. Or you."
Nick's reply was interrupted by Gwen's entrance into the room. To say he was stunned would have been an understatement; his expression was a study in shock. She was wearing LaCroix's robe, her tousled hair hung down her back, her pallor making it obvious what had transpired. She moved to stand next to LaCroix, his arm moving around her shoulder in a protective gesture that elicited a look of surprise and bafflement on Nick's face.
"The killer is a vampire?" Gwen asked tonelessly. Nick nodded, still too stunned to say anything. "How long have you known?"
"Since last night." Finally, he found the words, "Gwen, what are you doing here? I told you not to come back." Nick shot LaCroix an accusing glare. "Did he force you here?"
"No, he didn't. I came here quite on my own." She forestalled the next question. "No, I don't want to talk about why. At least… not yet." Her expression pleaded for Nick's understanding. Changing the subject back to the murders, she asked, "I do want to know what you intend to do about the killer, both of you." She looked at Nick and then up at LaCroix.
Nick, a smug expression on his face, said, "I was just asking LaCroix the same thing myself. What do you intend to do about it?" he asked, looking at his Master.
Gwen looked expectantly at LaCroix, who silently cursed Nicholas for placing him in an untenable position. She would not understand, of that he was sure. He pulled her around to face him. "You must understand, my dear, we are a community with its own laws and rules. Whoever this is, we will take care of it. One way or the other." LaCroix hoped this would be sufficient, but he knew it wasn't meant to be.
"He'll be stopped?" She glanced from one vampire to the other.
"It is a possibility, but it may not happen. It depends on the circumstances," he answered, knowing that Nicholas was not going to help him explain this. "If the Community decides that this reckless behavior was merely an aberration, he may just be made to move on." He had no intention of trying to explain Enforcers to her.
"Are you telling me that he could get away with this? Move on to some other city to start murdering all over again?" Gwen was incredulous. "And you'll do nothing, will you, Lucius?"
LaCroix noted the puzzled frown at 'Lucius' on Nick's face and then the flare of triumph at Gwen's outrage. It won't be that easy, Nicholas, he said silently.
"What is it you say, LaCroix? Mortals die, does it really matter how or when?" He took Gwen's arm, moving her towards him. "You have to realize, Gwen, that to vampires like LaCroix, and the killer, human life means nothing. You are merely a fleeting diversion and meal." LaCroix glared at Nick, knowing that he was trying to put a wedge between himself and Gwen. He could only wait and see what effect his son's words would have on her. It didn't take long for both men to realize that she was not going to be manipulated.
She pulled out of Nick's grasp. "Don't patronize me, Nicholas, it was rather obvious to me where mortals stood in the vampire world view." Her voice became steely. "And don't try and manipulate me. I don't intend to be used as a pawn in your struggle with LaCroix. I won't have any part of it." Her tone softened again. "Despite appearances, I'm not quite as naive as you think. I can take care of myself."
Nick frowned; it was not the reaction he had expected. LaCroix, on the other hand, smiled. He wasn't sure what Gwen's reaction would have been, but that last had been pure Brigh -- he had felt the edge of her sharp tongue on more than one occasion. He could see that Nicholas was quite taken aback by it however. Good, the boy needed to see that he could not always get his own way.
She turned back to LaCroix, determined. "This has nothing to do with LaCroix being a vampire -- it has to do with a debt owed." As she spoke the last, she swayed unsteadily.
LaCroix caught her has she collapsed, carrying her back to the bedroom, Nick following close behind. He laid her back on the bed, pushing her shoulders down as she struggled to get up. "Lie down," he said sternly.
Gwen looked ready to argue, but one look at LaCroix's set features made her reconsider. She stopped struggling against him with ill-concealed irritation. He allowed himself a small smile at the expression; it was quite familiar, even though the face it appeared on was quite different. He lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed it, smiling when she moved her hand to caress his cheek.
Nick silently watched the by-play between the two, more and more perplexed. What he was seeing was indicative of a familiarity between two long-time lovers, not two people who had known each other barely three days. The mystery was driving him insane -- he had to find out what was going on.
"You need to rest, my dear," LaCroix said firmly.
"No, I need to know what you intend to do," Gwen said adamantly. "You have to decide -- will you honor your debt, or not?" She looked at him intently.
LaCroix sighed. She had always been stubborn, some things never changed. "I won't betray my community, my people, Gwenyth. That you must understand," he said in an uncompromising voice .
Her expression hardened. "And why not? You betrayed your people, betrayed me, did you not?" she asked, her voice bitter. "I would think you would be well used to betrayal by now, Lucius, or have you developed a conscience in the last two millennia?"
Gwen's accusation dazed him -- it was obvious she remembered that last summer. The summer that LaCroix had not allowed himself to remember for many ages -- till now. The last summer he and Brigh had been together….
On to Part Seven