Here's another 'Bloodties' story. Thanks to T.W. for beta reading.

LaCroix property of TPTB, everyone else belongs to me and a few others.
 
 

Forever Knight/Highlander
LaCroix/Female
Rated 'R' for Implicit sex and Vampire sex


The End of the Beginning

by Altariel

c. 1998


"What did LaCroix say?" Sara asked Triona as the two women looked over a portfolio of paintings from various young artists in Triona's office.

"He liked Dominique's work the best."

Sara smiled broadly. "I *knew* he'd pick her!"

Dominique was an artist that they had discovered at a little offbeat art gallery in New York about five years ago -- before Triona had become LaCroix's. The two friends had been immediately taken with the dark, erotic, sometimes almost nightmarish, paintings she created. Now that LaCroix was going to sponsor a young, promising artist, Sara wanted Dominique added to the small group he was considering.

"LaCroix likes the irony of supporting the work of an artist who paints the danger that hides in the night," Triona said, laughing. "While he was looking at the portfolio he seemed to be amused."

"In a good way?" Sara asked.

"In a good way." She nodded.

"I'd love to be able to help Dominique. She deserves to have her work seen by a larger audience," Sara told Triona.

"I would too. The attorneys have already started the proceedings."
 

********************

A few weeks later, LaCroix, through many subsidiaries, was the owner of an art gallery in New York.

He, Triona, and Sara met in his office to discuss the latest acquisition. After going through all the items on the agenda, LaCroix closed his folder.

"Will that be all, General?" Triona asked.

"Yes, for now. Except for one thing." He interlaced his fingers, tapping two of them together. "Your friend. Dominique, isn't it?"

Triona and Sara nodded.

"I want to meet her before we decide to showcase her work."

"Meet her?" both women asked in unison.

"Yes. Meet her. I find her paintings -- interesting. And, from what you have said about her, I'm sure I would find her company most invigorating." He smiled slightly, making the two women shift nervously.

"But, General...." Triona started, only to be interrupted by LaCroix's upraised hand.

"See to it, Triona. Today." His tone brooked no argument.

"Yes," she said, unhappiness quite evident in her voice.

LaCroix leaned over her, grasping her chin in one firm hand, looking at her. "You will do as I say, child. Won't you?" His eyes flashed dangerously.

She sighed, her shoulders slumping. "I'll see to it immediately."

"Good girl."

With that he was gone. They looked at each other, no words being needed to know what the other was thinking.
 

                             *****************

The women greeted their friend warmly as she got out of the car that had been sent for her.

"Dominique!"  a chorus of female voices shouted, all trying to hug their overwhelmed guest at once.

"Whoa! What a greeting!" She tried to extricate herself from the mass of arms around her. "It's nice to see you too!"  She surveyed her gathered friends. "You guys need to get out in the sun more often," she commented. "You're all so pale!"

Terese and Stephanie snickered, Sara and Triona looked at each other, and Lauren shifted nervously.

"You know how it is, Dom," Terese said. "Work all day and by the time you finish, the sun is long gone."

"I guess." Dominique shrugged.

Changing the subject, Triona broke in, "I'm sure you'd like to clean up after your long trip." She led Dominique into the house, the others following.

"Baker, this is Miss Stillwell," Sara told the butler as he held the door. "Would you please show her to her suite?"

"Of course, miss. Right this way." Baker replied.

"Just ring for one of the servants when you're ready, Dominique. They will show you to us." Triona said.

"Sure thing," she replied, a little overwhelmed by all the attention, the house, the butler. \\So this is how the other half lives,// she thought as she made her way up the stairs. \\I could deal with it.//
 

                             *************************

Triona made her way to LaCroix's suite to let him know Dominique had arrived. She heard his voice before she was able to knock.

"Enter."

She did as she was told, pushing open the heavy door and entering LaCroix's sitting room. He was sitting behind his desk, typing on the computer. He didn't look up as she approached.

She watched him for a moment, entranced by his long fingers moving over the keyboard. Her heart did a little flip at remembering those same fingers moving over her body. Her heart sped up, and she knew he could hear it. But it didn't bother her anymore; that he knew her desire for him -- knew everything about her.

"She's here," Triona finally said.

LaCroix's eyes remained on the screen, but he extended one hand to her. She walked around the desk, taking the proffered hand. Turning in his chair he drew her to him.

"And you are unhappy about it," LaCroix stated, looking up at her finally, his eyes ensnaring her in their grasp as always.

She shook her head. "No, not unhappy. Concerned."

"Oh?" One hand came to rest on her hip, the other fondling her hand with long, cool fingers.

"What do you intend to do to with her, LaCroix?" she came right out and asked.

"Whatever strikes me, I would assume," he said coolly, the hand on her hip running down her short skirt, to rest on her thigh. "If she proves to be an *interesting* mortal, you have nothing to worry about, my dear." The fingers slipped under the edge of her skirt, moving up.

"And if she doesn't?" Triona asked somewhat breathlessly as his hand moved past her stocking to brush her inner thigh.

"Then..." he paused. "We shall see."

LaCroix watched her eyes darken with desire as his hand slipped under the edge of her panties, skimming the soft flesh beneath. He did so enjoy tormenting her when she was trying to be serious. Her heart was now racing and he heard her fight back a whimper as his fingers continued to move.

"You... you…." She shook her head, trying to gather her thought. "You wouldn't kill her?" \\Gods, she couldn't take much more of this, damn him!// She knew he was toying with her. He was in a mood -- a mood to play games. Which, for Dominique, could be very dangerous.

"And if I did?" His eyes glinted. "What would you do about it?"

The fingers moved deeper, sliding towards her center. This time a whimper did escape from her. LaCroix drew her wrist to his lips, caressing the pulse that beat there with his tongue.

"N… n..nothing!" she gasped brokenly. "I could do nothing," she sobbed.

There it was. What he had wanted -- surrender. He closed his eyes, savoring the emotion; so sweet and heady. He pulled her to him, his fangs piercing her wrist while he thrust two fingers deep into her. As he drank from her, as his hand took her to the brink, her body followed her mind in total surrender.
 

                                     *********************

LaCroix finished dressing in anticipation of his meeting with Miss Stillwell. He smoothed his black linen jacket as he looked at Triona sleeping in his bed. Smiling smugly, he pulled the cover up over her shoulders. Spying a drop of blood welling from the fresh wound at her throat, he delicately drew one finger across it, bringing it to his lips. He shuddered a little at the taste; relishing it, absorbing it.

Their encounter had been quite -- satisfying. And now she would most likely sleep the night and the better part of the day away. Just as well, no need for her to agonize over the fate of the young Miss Stillwell. He kissed her lips lightly before heading down to his study and his appointment.
 

                             *******************

'The End of the Beginning' -- Part Two

Dominique had been waiting in the study for close to fifteen minutes. She tried not to let the wait get to her already strained nerves. This whole situation was plain odd. Not just this *summons* -- she didn't know what else to call it -- but the situation with her friends. Yes, she knew that they all supposedly worked for this 'Lucien LaCroix', but something told her there was more than a business relationship going on under this roof.

Of course, she hadn't even met the man, or been able to witness any interaction between him and her friends. But she had a feeling, and Dominique always trusted her feelings.

Take dinner for example. Even though she had not seen Triona, or the others for over a year, she had been conspicuously absent at dinner. When Dominique had asked, the others had told her she had been unexpectedly detained by business. That their employer's business and Triona's responsibilities kept her at all sorts of odd hours. Though their replies had been smooth and nonchalant, to Dominique they seemed *too* smooth, too practiced. As if explaining unusual absences to guests was a regular occurrence.

"Something is screwy around here...." Dominique muttered to herself.

She shrieked as a voice behind her spoke. "I beg your pardon?" Whirling, her heart pounding, she saw a tall, imposing man with eyes that seemed to pierce her very soul. She shook herself mentally, realizing she was staring. Trying to cover her discomfiture, she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry. You startled me. I'm not usually so jumpy."

"I apologize," he said, a knowing smile touching his lips.

\\Wonderful lips,// she thought absently, finding that she wanted him to speak again, just to hear his incredible voice. \\What's gotten into me?// she thought with some irritation. \\You're acting like you've never seen a man before!//

"No harm done." She returned his smile shakily.

"You must be Miss Stillwell." He stepped closer, extending his hand. "Lucien LaCroix. Welcome to my home."

Dominique took the proffered hand. She started a bit as, instead of shaking it, he raised it to his lips in a gesture that, had any other man done it, would have seemed trite and affected. But not when he did it. When he brushed his lips over her hand, she felt a rush of warmth through her body. She was thoroughly mesmerized by the man holding her hand, and at the same time felt a little thrill of danger -- at what she didn't know.

Dominique forced her thoughts back to the room around her. "Thank you for inviting me."

Finally, he released her hand. "The pleasure is all mine, Miss Stillwell. All mine."
 

                                  *****************

Dominique sat in the library, not reading the book she held open. That meeting with LaCroix, a few nights ago, had been odd. He was terribly polite, very old school and most of their conversation had centered around generalities. But somehow, she had the feeling he was weighing her, judging her. She didn't know for what -- more than for a patronage though.

She tried to force herself to pay attention to her book and not think about LaCroix.  She succeeded, partially, at least until she heard someone enter the library. Dominique looked up to see Terese approaching.

"Enjoying my library?" Terese asked.

"Your library?" Dominique asked, smiling.

"I may not own the books, but it's mine. My responsibility. My vocation."

"You certainly have quite a collection. I'm afraid to touch half of them -- they are so old and delicate." Dominique decided to try and find out more about what went on here. All the women seemed more open by themselves. When they were together, they seemed like one united front -- against outsiders. Yes, that was it. She realized that they saw her, and anyone else, as an outsider. This revelation flashed through her mind like lightening. She was even more determined now to unravel the mystery that was LaCroix and this house.

"So," Dominique paused a moment, looking at Terese before continuing, "you feel like you have a stake in this library, in your job? I mean, your employer doesn't mind that you feel a sense of *ownership* of something that belongs to him?"

"Why should he mind?" Terese asked, perplexed.

"I don't know. Maybe it's just in the few days I've been here that you all seem more like some sort of…family, I guess." Dominique shrugged. "There is a *closeness* between all of you that makes it seem like much more than just jobs."

She watched that familiar closed expression fall in place on Terese's face. She realized she had been a little too direct. But the other woman's reaction told her she was on to something.

"We're close to each other. I mean we were friends before in college, and now we work together. That's all." She didn't quite look at Dominique.

"And are you close to your employer too?" She watched Terese carefully. "He doesn't seem like the modern, in touch with his employee's feelings, type boss to me. Just the opposite in fact."

Terese busied herself moving books here and there, not looking at Dominique. "Oh, I don't know. He is a more than generous employer. And, despite what you might think, he does care about our well-being," she said a little coolly.

"Hey, I didn't mean to offend you!" she reassured her friend. "I was just curious, that's all. I get that way you know." She tried to keep her voice light.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry." Terese started to head for the door, looking over her shoulder at Dominique. "Curiosity isn't always a good thing, you know," she said cryptically before leaving Dominique and her unread book alone to ponder.

                     *****************
 

Dominique stood on the bluff that overlooked the lake, the wind blowing softly against her face. Her conversation earlier in the day with Terese had unsettled her. Truth be told, she had been unsettled from the moment she had met LaCroix. She closed her eyes, and remembered the sound of his voice -- like velvet against her senses.

Then, the voice was at her ear. "A beautiful night, is it not?" A hand rested on her shoulder.

She shivered, jumping a little. "Yes, a beautiful night," she agreed. "The setting here is incredible. It begs to be painted," she added.

"Indeed?" He was standing so close, that his chest touched her back. "And what would you paint, Dominique? Creatures that haunt the night? Vampires perhaps?"

"I don't know. Perhaps." She tried to keep her voice steady, LaCroix's nearness making her feel oddly breathless. "I do paint other things," she added a little defensively.

"But not with the intensity that you paint the night -- and those that hunt in it." He turned her around to face him. "Tell me *why*."

She didn't pretend not to understand him as she searched his ice blue eyes for some inkling of what made him such an enigma to her. "Not the obvious." She dropped her eyes.

"Obvious? What would be obvious about mythical creatures, Dominique?"  His voice insinuated itself deep into her soul. Every time he said her name, her heart clenched a little. "Immortality perhaps? Power maybe?"

She shook her head. "Yes, those are the obvious. But they aren't what draws me, seduces me -- it's so much more than that!" she told him, with an intensity that startled her. "To be able to *feel*, to experience every sensation in a way no mortal could. I think you could lose yourself in pure feeling if you were a vampire. Imagine the insight into the world around you, if you could only truly experience every nuance, every shading that is possible...." she trailed off, lost in her thoughts.

"Do you truly desire that? It can be a terrible burden, as well as a gift," he told her in a heavy voice.

"How can I desire something that isn't real?" She looked at him. "I may be an artist, but I have my feet firmly planted on the ground. I'm not a flake!"

LaCroix smiled a little at her tirade. He delicately ran one finger down her face. Dominique felt like she should run, but her legs refused to obey her brain. He moved closer, his hand cradling her jaw. She closed her eyes, taking a shuddering breath. Suddenly, she didn't want to run anymore -- she wanted to be closer. It wasn't logical, it wasn't sensible, but she couldn't fight it either. A warm lassitude seemed to take her as his other hand came to rest on her hip.

"Oh, my dear child, it will be *quite* real." His voice was low, intense.

Dominique opened her eyes, so ensorcelled by LaCroix's voice, his touch -- that she wasn't even surprised to look on gold eyes and fangs. Her heart fluttered a bit, but slowed as a calm touch flowed across her mind.

"There. Yes… calm." She wasn't sure if she hear the words with her ears or not.

His hands moved to the collar of her blouse, slowly unbuttoning it; pushing it off her shoulders, baring her throat. She just stood there, her will no longer her own, trembling as LaCroix's fingers brushed her skin. She sighed as his lips brushed her temple, her jaw, her throat. Her hands crept up his chest, coming to rest on his shoulders.

LaCroix nuzzled her neck, the tips of his fangs running over the soft skin of her throat. She arched her throat to him, inviting his bite, needing it. His fangs sank into the soft flesh and she gasped, a strangled scream escaping her lips at the sharp sensation of pain. The pain instantly gave way to other feelings as he drank from her. Pleasure, pain, hunger, desire, all crashed on her like a wave. Never had she felt so intensely; so deeply. She wanted it to go on and on, even if it meant her death. Nothing could ever compare to this moment -- no matter how long she lived.

Softly, as if a warm blanket was enfolding her, blackness enveloped her. And she knew no more.
 

                         ****************************

'The End of the Beginning' -- Part Three

Triona went to the sideboard in the sitting room, pouring herself a brandy and draining it in one swallow. It did nothing to stop the shaking. Neither did the second one.

That was how Sara found her, staring into space, tears running unnoticed down her face. "Triona, what's wrong?"

She emptied her glass, placing it carefully on the marble as if it was the most important thing in her life. "He's going to bring her across." Her voice was raw with emotion.

"LaCroix? Who is he going to bring across?" Sara asked, confused.

She didn't seem to hear her. "All these years, he's been using me. Was he going to just use me up one day? Or just let me die a slow, lingering death?" She turned to look at Sara with wild eyes. "I won't do this anymore! He can kill me, or bring me across. I can't live in this in-between world another day! He should have ended it that night in Seacouver. But no, he just prolongs the torment. And now this...." she broke off, sobbing.

Sara hugged her, not knowing what has precipitated this trauma. "Triona, you have to tell me what you are talking about."

"Dominique. I'm talking about Dominique," she whispered. "I saw them. *Felt* them. Was them. Felt what LaCroix intends."

Sara had no answer for that. From the certainty in Triona's voice, she knew she was probably right. "What are you going to do?" she asked, concerned.

"I need to see him. Now. It has to end. Three years is too long to bear," she said, suddenly calm. Too calm to Sara's thinking. Triona hugged her hard. "I love you, Sara. All of you. That's one regret I'll never have."

"Triona...." She didn't finish. Looking into her sister's eyes, she just nodded -- understanding.

She squeezed Sara's hand. Then taking a deep breath, she left the room -- taking her own fate back into her hands.

                                         **********************

Triona waited in LaCroix's suite. At first she wandered aimlessly, touching familiar objects, breathing familiar scents. Soon, she found herself in the bedroom. She wandered a few more moments before sitting on the bed. Picking up a large pillow she wrapped her arms around it. Time passed, and emotionally as well as physically exhausted, she fell asleep.

LaCroix returned a few hours later to find her still asleep, still sitting up, her arms tight around a pillow. He noted the tear stained face, the dark rings under her eyes. He had sensed her turmoil earlier, and wasn't really surprised she had sought him out. Deciding to let her sleep, he turned back towards the sitting room. Her voice stopped him.

"How can you do this?" she asked him, anguished. "Three years of my life -- my blood -- to you. Willingly; always. And yet you are going to give her what you won't give me."

LaCroix stared at her, stunned. He could feel her grief, her torment, at his supposed betrayal pummeling the bond they shared.  Add to that his astonishment that she had perceived his intentions towards Dominique -- and he was at a loss.

Finally, he spoke. "Is that what you think? Truly?"

She drew her legs under her and pulled the pillow closer, like a shield. "What am I supposed to think? You denied me in Seacouver, when I begged you to end it. All the reasons you gave me, they all ring hollow now. " Her voice was ragged. "Did you ever intend to bring me across? Or any of us?" Her accusation stung him. "You like the fact that I am bound here, with no choices -- addicted to you. If you make me like you, I have some measure of freedom, but not if you keep me like I am!" She was crying again and hating herself for it.

He said nothing, just watched her, expressionless.

She pounded the pillow with her fists. "I would do *anything* for you! You know that!" she cried out. "I can't take this anymore, LaCroix. Kill me or bring me across. Don't cast me aside. Please." Her voice broke on the last.

"Cast you aside?" He sat on the bed next to her. "Listen to me, Triona, you must understand," he said urgently. "Yes, you're right, I intend on bringing Dominique across." He saw the look of vindication that appeared in her eyes. "*But*, it is totally unlike the situation with you and the other women."

He could see she didn't believe him. He had to find a way to make her believe in him once more. Of course, he couldn't tell her one of the main reasons he had not done as she had asked in Seacouver was because of Methos' veiled warnings about the dangers. Dangers he wasn't entirely sure he believed -- but wasn't quite willing to disregard either.

"Let me ask you a question. Why do you want to be brought across?" He placed his hands on top of hers. "Because you desire to be a vampire, or because of me?"

She didn't even pause before answering. "Because of you, of course."

"That is why it's different," he replied, satisfaction evident in his tone.

Triona shook her head, mystified.

"Dominique desires to be a vampire," he told her, as if it should be obvious.

Annoyed, she glared at him. "What do you mean? I don't understand."

"Simply put, my dear child, Dominique does not wish to be a part of the bond we share as a family  -- not yet at any rate. She wishes to *be* a vampire, however. My bringing her across does not affect our relationship as a family, or my feelings for any of you." His hands cupped her face gently. "Do you understand now?"

"I... I'm not sure," she whispered, trying to absorb what he had told her. She looked into his eyes. "You'll bring me across then?"

"No. Listen to me, Triona," he said sternly, stopping her angry outburst. "Not tonight, not when you ask in such an emotional state. Wait one month, time for you to seriously consider this step. If you come to me then, and still wish it,  I will do as you ask. You have my word."

"One month?" she asked. LaCroix nodded. "Very well. One month," she agreed. "What about Dominique?"

"I will put that aside until after you have decided. There is no reason to be hasty after all." He kissed her lips, pulling back to look at her. "She will make an excellent vampire, but let's let her sell a few paintings first, shall we?"

Triona nodded, putting her arms around him and embracing him tightly. "Thank you," she whispered.

LaCroix drew her in to nestle against his chest, stroking her hair soothingly. "Soon, " he murmured as she fell asleep in his arms. "Soon."
 

                        *************************
 

Dominique slowly awoke in her own bed. At first she couldn't remember where she was or how she got here. Her head hurt and she was so thirsty. She tried to sit up, but thought better of it as a wave of dizziness hit her.

"Don't try and get up just yet, " she heard Lauren's voice say quietly. She opened her eyes as Lauren came to sit on the edge of the bed. "Drink this." She held out a glass, helping Dominique bring it to her lips.

She drank the juice gratefully, draining the glass and wishing there was more.

"You want more?" Lauren asked, smiling, as if reading her mind.

"Please."

Lauren walked back to the bureau, pouring another glass of juice from the pitcher placed there. "Here you go, " she said, handing the glass back to Dominique.

She took it gratefully, still too out of it to wonder much why she felt so odd, and why Lauren was in her room. Suddenly, it occurred to her that she didn't remember going to bed, and she certainly didn't remember changing into her nightclothes. Yet, here she was, in bed and in her nightgown. Her hand went unconsciously to her throat, coming to rest on the two small wounds there. Freezing terror and burning desire slammed into her, leaving her gasping for air as she remembered everything.

Lauren was hugging her in an instant, "It's okay. You're safe, honestly."

Dominique pulled away, looking at her in shock. "You! All of you! That's what's going on here. Gods, this is like something out of a Dracula movie! Vampires, enslaved women, unwitting house guest.… " She could hear the edge of panic in her own voice and strove for control.

"I know this is hard to get used to, but I promise it's *nothing* like a Dracula movie. All of us are here of our own free will. You have to believe that," Lauren tried to reassure her.

"Well, you would think that, wouldn't you?" Dominique asked dryly. "I mean, he's hardly likely to want un-compliant women around here now is he? That would be an awful lot of trouble."

Lauren giggled, "Compliant? You could describe us as lots of things, but compliant isn't one of them!" She giggled again. "In fact, I'd say we were a great deal of trouble to the General most of the time!"

Somehow, Lauren's giggle fit did more to reassure Dominique than any words did. She certainly didn't *act* like a mindless slave girl. "General?" She cocked an eyebrow.

Lauren smiled. "Oh, that's what we call him. He was one you know -- a General I mean."

"Oh? In what army?"

"Roman." She grinned, pleased that Dominique seemed calmer.

"Roman? Oh my god...." She collapsed back onto the pillows. "Just how old *is* he?"

"Ahhh, two thousand, give or take," Lauren answered offhandedly, like she was making a weather report.

"Give or take..." she muttered to herself. She looked at Lauren. "So what happens now?"

She shrugged. "I suppose that's up to you really."

"Oh? Why do I find that hard to believe?"

Lauren didn't answer. Instead she said, "LaCroix will see you this evening. One of us will come for you when it's time."

Dominique felt a little thrill of exhilaration at hearing she would see him again soon. She remembered the feelings of him drawing her life from her; the pleasure, the pain. She wanted to feel that again -- and it frightened her....
 

                       ***************************

'The End of the Beginning' -- Part Four

After inquiring of Baker, she discovered that Triona was in her office. Knocking softly, she went in. Triona looked up from her desk at her friend's entrance. Now that Dominique knew what she was looking for, she realized how different her friend looked from the last time they had met. Not just pale, but almost translucent, like milk glass. Her already small features made more so by her bones, prominent under her pale skin and her eyes large and dark. It struck Dominique that her body was using itself up, fighting to maintain itself against whatever damage the constant feeding of a vampire would inflict on it.

"How long?" Dominique asked softly.

Triona looked at her a moment before answering. "Three years."

"Is this," Dominique asked,  waving her hand at Triona, "what my future holds?"

She shook her head. "I don't think so. I don't think it's what you want."

Dominique was surprised at the look that Triona directed at her, as if she felt sorry for her. "How do you know what I want?"

"Because LaCroix knows," she answered simply. She shook her head. "This isn't a conversation the two of us should be having. It's between you and LaCroix."

"But I *want* to have this conversation with you!" she said in exasperation. She was tired of the runaround she got every time she asked a question. "It's my life, damn it! I have a right to know!" Dominique put her hands on the desk, leaning towards Triona.  "He drank from me, and I welcomed it, more than that, I craved it. And I want to feel that feeling again. But you seem to have some sort of mental closeness that scares the hell out of me. I don't know if I can accept that." She straightened, shaking her head.

Triona stood up, walking to the window to look at the garden. She didn't say anything for the longest time, gathering her thoughts. Deciding finally, she spoke. "That won't be required of you -- unless you ask it." She turned to look at Dominique. "And you will have to ask. LaCroix believes in his children living with the consequences of their actions."

"You welcome it. Don't you?" She grappled with the concept of willingly intertwining one's soul with another.

Triona closed her eyes. "Welcome, crave, desire, fear. All are one -- as we are." Her voice was soft, almost dreamlike. She opened her eyes. "It's what drew me to him. The vampire aspect is only the means, not the reason. For you, I think, it's different."

Dominique nodded. "I can't do what you do," she said in a pained voice. "I just can't." She crossed her arms tight around herself. "The thought of another, being that close -- it scares me to death."

"And the thought of losing that closeness fills me with a dread you can't understand -- not yet at least." She shivered a little, as if remembering some old pain. "Never again, " she whispered.

She moved over to where Triona stood. "Maybe one day, you'll tell me about it." Taking her hand, she offered, "I may not want to be able to read your mind, but I like the idea of having sisters." She smiled.

"I'm glad." Triona returned the smile. "And now, it's time for your appointment with LaCroix. He's waiting for you in the study." She squeezed Dominique's hand. "I'll see you later."

She nodded, wondering is she would still be human when they met again.

                              ***********************

This time, LaCroix was waiting for her. "My dear," he greeted her urbanely. "I trust you slept well?"

"Yes, thanks," Dominique said, social conditioning taking over as her brain fumbled over what to do, what to say. His very presence was making it hard for her to think at all.

"Drink?" LaCroix asked, smiling slightly. At her nod, he poured her a glass of wine, handing it to her.

She almost lost her hold on the glass as his fingers brushed hers, a jolt of electricity racing through her body. Once more she found herself in a battle of wills with herself, trying to keep her savage side in check. A side she hadn't even realized existed till last night, one that wanted to bare her throat to the vampire standing before her -- his very presence exuding a power, a mastery, that left Dominique little control over herself.

She took a deep breath. \\Stop it!// she screamed at herself, at her savage, wild self. She caught his smile -- knowing and well-pleased. That was enough to snap her control back into place. She wouldn't make it that easy. She sipped at her wine, grateful for something to occupy her hands, the alcohol warming her, calming her.

Still smiling, LaCroix waved a negligent hand towards the couch. "Shall we?"

Dominique nodded, sitting down. LaCroix joined her; not so close as to be inappropriate for two people contemplating a business relationship, but closer than was strictly necessary. She got the feeling that he was toying with her. \\Well, whatever gets you your kicks after two millennia.// But she was not in the mood to be a game piece.

She straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath and tried to control her fear. "I don't want to play games," she stated baldly. "I want to know what you intend." Dominique looked him straight in the eye.

LaCroix arched one expressive eyebrow. "Do you now? And what if I have no intention of telling you?" he countered.

She said the first thing that popped into her head, "Then I'm leaving. Tonight." \\That probably wasn't the smartest thing you've ever said,// she scolded herself, not liking the glint in his eyes one bit.

LaCroix just looked at her for what seemed like hours, the silence stretching till she wanted to scream.

"You will find, after being a part of my family for a short while, that I do not take kindly to ultimatums." His voice was cool, with an edge of menace that made Dominique's skin crawl.

She swallowed, afraid, but unwilling to give in -- not yet. Some part of her, that obviously had no survival instinct, kicked in. "I don't recall saying that I intend to spend any time as a part of your family," she said defiantly. "In fact, I think you are assuming quite a bit!"

His fingers grasped her chin, not at all gently. "I assume *nothing*!" he told her, his voice low and fierce. "I know more about you than you know about yourself. Never forget that, my pet. The bond has been formed, you cannot renege on it anymore than I can. Nor will I allow you to try!"

He pulled her to him roughly, crushing her lips under his in a grinding kiss. She wanted to fight, to struggle, but her body overruled her mind -- her lips parting under his assault. A detached part of her mind heard the little whimpers and moans that she made, but Dominique didn't care. All she did care about was recapturing the feeling from the previous night -- the feeling of LaCroix drawing her life's blood from her body.

He pushed her away, grasping her hand in his. She watched, entranced, as his eyes turned gold. "A reminder," he growled.

Her wrist met his fangs. They pierced the skin without obstacle, slowly pulling the blood from her veins.

She swooned back at the sensation -- cold pain, the exquisite agony of too much pleasure. Only his hand at her back kept her from collapsing back onto the couch. Dominique knew it was a lesson -- a warning -- but she didn't care. Not now. Maybe later. But not now.

All too soon, it was over. She struggled to regain her sense of self. To disentangle herself from what was LaCroix. From what were his emotions, his motivations -- the overwhelming force of his personality.

When she finally opened her eyes, she realized she was lying back against the cushions of the couch. LaCroix was merely watching her, a supercilious smile on his face. One long finger ran down her cheek, her throat, coming to rest where her breasts met.

"Any questions?"

She shook her head.

"I didn't hear that, my pet." His voice oozed mock concern.

Dominique realized he would accept nothing less than a verbal reply. "No." Her voice was shaky. "No questions. I understand -- totally."

And she did. If she hadn't before -- before he had first drunk from her, before she had spoken to Triona -- she did now. There was a price, a steep one, for what she wanted. Whether she was willing to pay it or not, she would have to. Dominique's fate was sealed. Sealed to the vampire who looked on her with eyes as deep and cold as the glaciers that clung to the mountainsides. Inexorable in their steady pace, overtaking all in their path -- no escape.
 

                                         *********************

Dominique hugged the others good-bye. "I'll be back soon," she reassured them; and herself. "This is my first real exhibit, and I can't wait!" she said excitedly. "I can't believe how fast you got the gallery ready for its first show."

"We know you'll be back, and soon!" Stephanie told Dominique.

"On a more permanent basis, I think." Triona commented, looking at Dominique.

She nodded. "Yeah, I think so. No, I know so. One last swirl through the mortal world for me. Then...." Dominique trailed off.

She and LaCroix had an understanding. There was no other way to describe it. Dominique would have her moment as a renowned artist -- then she would die. LaCroix had told her it was as close as she could come to having her cake and eating it too. A moment in the sun; then an embrace of the night. Forever.

They made their farewells, knowing that when they came together again, all would be different -- irrevocably.
 

End


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