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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Angel Vicky
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The time had come to find the daughter of Lord and Lady Crest a suitable husband. One that would take care of her, take over the estate and handle affairs of the family’s assets and business interests now that her father had left the land of the living. The Lord that was chosen was the son of Alexander Crest’s business partner Lord Christopher Spencer and his son Christopher Spencer Jr. Thus, the Crests threw a lavish masquerade ball in their daughter’s honour, as it was her 21st birthday. A big deal of reaching true adulthood for any member of high society.

Lady Victoria, the half English-half French beauty, taking mainly after her French mother Lady Diana Moncourier-Crest, adorned a stunningly sexy red gown and a golden masquerade mask.

The guests were gathered in the grand parlour as the Head Butler, Sebastian, tapped a glass to announce the arrival of their guest of honour. “Ladies and Lords. Lady Victoria Crest.” The butler gestured toward the top of the grand staircase. She approached the bannister of the stair case and ascended with grace unmatched. It was almost intoxicating for the Lord Spencer as his eyes practically leaped from their sockets. She looked upon all the guests below with sadness glinting behind her eyes as she was still very grief stricken at losing her beloved father. She was not in the party mood and she was less looking forward to meeting her chosen betrothed, feeling trapped and forced into this life she knew was a complete farce. For she knew the true purpose of her father’s legacy and it was not within riches nor the high flyers of society…it lay in keeping mortals safe from the threat of vampiric embrace. Her father was her hero. He had saved her once before from the clutches of evil. Now all she could think about was how to carry on that legacy and protect herself and her family.

“Lady Victoria, you look…simply ravishing this eve.” Lord Spencer was practically drooling at the vixen as he bowed to her. She curtseyed in return to the Lord. “Thank you, My Lord.” She feigned a small smile and looked at him through her golden mask with violet eyes that glinted in the light. Tales of her beauty ventured far and wide. The Lord took the back of her hand and kissed it, as was accustomed to do so at these events.

As Spencer lifted his head from her hand and towered over her, she looked up at him sadly. Ever since she lost her father, she felt numb. It felt…wrong to be without him here. That’s when she realised, they would never find anyone to replace him, even in death. Spencer let go of her soft hand and she glanced away and took a champagne flute and took a sip to calm her growing anger. The fact no-one knew Alex’s secret life, the things he had done for these people, Victoria was forced to keep it a secret all this time. When really, she wanted to shout from the top of her lungs that she would vow to carry on his legacy. Somehow…she didn’t even know how to wield a sword or gun, though she watched the boys fencing classes at school, committing their moves to memory.

The fact of the matter was, Lord Spencer Jr could not hold a candle to Alexander Crest nor take care of Victoria the way she needed to be protected due to her special and rare blood that make her the biggest target for miles around. She had to be careful not to injure herself or draw any form of blood. She was placed in a bubble after her accident 9 years ago that alerted a vampire to her presence. For she had too much iron in her blood which made it smell ten times stronger than the average human. This was due to the descending genes of her parents who both had the condition yet known to medical science. The condition that would be later called Haemochromatosis. Symptoms would not display in her for another ten years.

The guests went back to mingling as Lord Spencer spoke with some other high-profile Lords of society, leaving Victoria stood in the centre of a room full of people she hardly knew and still feeling quite alone in the world. Who would protect her now? And more importantly, how would she find the vampire who murdered her father?
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“I’ll never understand why you find enjoyment in going to these… events,” Lord Peter Hygrace folded his arms across his chest as he stood in his son’s doorway. The time was nearing seven o’ clock, and the head of the household had stopped by to see his heir off before he left for the masquerade thrown by the Crest family that night.

“It’s called a party,” Vail turned away from his dresser to cast his father an amused smile. Despite the difference in their ages, the two could have been mistaken for siblings. A perk of immortality, Vail supposed. He and his father shared the same lean, yet sturdy frame, commanding stature, and brown hair that reflected a silvery sheen in the light. The biggest difference between them was Vail’s hazel colored eyes, a tribute from his mother, Katherine Hygrace.

The younger of the two turned away again to put on a tailcoat. “It’s the best opportunity I have to get out of this suffocating manor without drawing attention to myself,” Vail went on simply. “Why shouldn’t I enjoy myself?”

“Perhaps because you’re on your way to the Crest manor,” Peter frowned. “You know that family has been involved in the Order for centuries, Vail. They’re dangerous. They’re the ones who call our kind demons and kill us in the name of justice.”

“Yes, yes,” Vail rolled his eyes stubbornly. “And that’s why I’ll keep my head down.” Finished getting dressed, he stepped away from the dresser and made his way toward the door. “I’m not hungry at all. I have complete control right now.” He held up his hands in a shrug as he stood before his father. “Besides, this is a masquerade party. It’s perfect. My face will be covered, and there will be so many other people around that a Wynter would have a hard time picking out my scent in the crowd. There’s no risk.”

Peter pursed his lips into a thin line before letting out a reluctant sigh. “Very well,” he conceded. “If you’re absolutely certain there’s no risk, then I wish you well.”

“Thank you,” Vail nodded courteously and then grinned, flashing a set of fanged canines as his lip curved away from his teeth. He reached into his coat pocket and held up a silver mask in front of his face. “I’ll be back later. Don’t wait up.” With that, he stepped past Peter and headed for the door.

--

It was plain to see that the Crest family had done well for themselves over the years.

Vail craned his neck as his eyes roved over the lavish manor, which has been decorated extravagantly for the birthday of the heiress, Lady Victoria. It was his first time visiting the place, and it would have been a lie to say he wasn’t impressed. The ballroom itself was gorgeous with décor to catch the eye almost everywhere he looked. Having always been one to appreciate human luxuries, he could have spent hours simply wandering around to take it all in. However, he didn’t get the chance before the chime of silverware on glass caught his attention.

Standing near a table that had been filled from edge to edge with a wide array of food and drinks, Vail spun around to listen to the butler announce the Lady Victoria’s arrival. Murmurs began to sound around him as the rest of the guests spoke quietly amongst themselves, whispering about the rumors of the Lady’s beauty. He lifted a glass of sherry to his lips, his light eyes flicking toward the nearby people before shifting to the staircase. Even though he had only attended the party to get out of his own family’s manor for a few hours, he couldn’t help but feel curious to see who the Crests’ daughter was. He hadn’t heard much about her aside from the little his father had mentioned, but from what the people around him were saying now, she sounded like quite the woman.

His hunch was proven correct when Victoria emerged at the top of the stairs. To say she was beautiful was an understatement. Though he had enough sense not to ogle like some of the other men in the ballroom, he still watched her discreetly as she descended from the top of the upper floor. There was a melancholy about the Lady that seemed out of place at such a vibrant party, but he had a feeling he knew why she was distressed. Word had already reached the Hygraces about the death of Lord Alexander Crest, the former head of the Crest household and a high ranking member of the Order. It hadn’t been long since the man’s demise, so his daughter was probably still mourning.

As Victoria was greeted by a man at the bottom of the stairs, Vail turned away again, uninterested in their exchange now that he had sated his curiosity about who the heiress was. He sipped causally at his drink, making his way across the room to continue looking over the Crest family luxuries. It felt good to be able to move about without looking over his shoulder. The mask that adorned his face helped him to blend right in with the crowd, and he hadn’t caught so much as a whiff of a Wynter. It was starting to seem like none of the other vampire clan had even shown up to the party. Good news for him.

Suddenly, Vail was drawn from his thoughts when he felt himself bump into someone else with his shoulder. Having been distracted by the scenery, he realized he hadn’t kept his eyes in front of him as he should have been. He silently chided himself for being careless. Just because he was able to let his guard down didn’t mean he could keep his head in the clouds.

“Sorry,” he said, turning to apologize to whomever he’d run into, and then froze when he recognized the Lady Victoria. Of course, it was just his luck that he would have collided with the honored guest of all people. So much for keeping his head down. Eager to make amends in case she was upset, he quickly bowed to her in a respectful gesture. “Ah, I was hoping I might run into you, Lady Victoria,” he lied, hoping a bit of humor would diffuse the uncomfortable situation and give him some time to think of a reason why he would have wanted to speak with her in the first place.

After a pause, he thought of something, “I just wanted to say what a lovely party this is. I think it’s very brave of you to attend something like this in light of… recent events.” He bit the tip of his tongue, realizing too late that it might not have been the best idea to bring up the fate of her father. Unable to take back the comment, he pinched the bridge of his nose in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. Forget I said that… I’m just going to go now.”
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Victoria sighed as she overheard the petty conversations on who had the fanciest new trinket or invention, when none of that even mattered. It was trivial in comparison to losing a loved one. These same people had been at Alex’s funeral. Expressing their words of ‘comfort’ such as ‘it’s such a great loss’ and ‘he was a good man’. But none of them really knew him, not like she did. She wandered off, in her own little world,

As she stared at the painting of her father, mother and herself at the age of twelve just after her accident, to commemorate her life just in case it happened again. She felt a shoulder collide with hers. She almost jumped out of her skin, she should have paid more attention.

“Oh! It’s entirely my fault.” She spun around as he apologised to her. “I should have looked where I was going…” She admitted to her fault modestly. As he said what a lovely party it was, she merely winced at his comment. Sure it was, she was just sick of the fallacy that came with them. She was about to dismiss his next words automatically out of habit when he mentioned how brave he thought she was to attend this party in light of her father’s death. This was the first genuine comment she’d heard for months. Someone who actually understood the grief process. And someone bold enough to say such a thing, which he quickly rectified with another apology and told her to forget what he just said.

“No don’t go, it’s quite alright”. She placed her hand on his lower arm to stop him from moving away from her. “That’s the first time anyone’s actually said what they think rather than what they think I want to hear. It’s…refreshing. To say the least.” She half chuckled in relief. She then offered out her hand. “Victoria Crest. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of making your acquaintance before. Did you know my father?” She assumed he must know of him at least. She gave him a genuine smile as her violet blue eyes sparkled behind the golden mask. Eyes of curiosity, eyes that hid a smart woman beneath the beauty. Intelligent women were underappreciated in this day and age, and a rarity to find due to being told they had no place to speak among the men. Victoria was quite well red for her age, had private tutelage and fencing lessons with her father. Lately she had been raiding his study that held all the secrets to hunting vampires.
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Vail had only just turned away from the Lady Victoria when he was surprised to feel a slender hand rest on his forearm. After he’d let his tongue slip so carelessly, he had expected her to be eager to get away from him, not say that it was “alright” and ask him to stay. He wasn’t sure what to think about that. After all, she was a member of the Crest family. They were the enemy of his kind, so surely it wasn’t wise to linger around one of them any longer than he already had. His father would certainly be furious with his recklessness if he found out he’d even spoken to her at all.

On the other hand, this wasn’t Alexander. This was Lord Crest’s daughter, a far younger woman whom had likely never killed a vampire in her life. In fact, it was entirely possible that she wasn’t even part of the Order to begin with. Thinking about it a little more, he realized he’d never seen any women among their ranks when they’d crossed paths in the past. He casted her a sideways glance. Perhaps she wasn’t as dangerous as he’d first thought.

As she went on to say that his words had been refreshing, Vail nearly snorted. He hadn’t been trying to speak his thoughts to her at all. At the time, he had just scrambled to excuse his behavior so he wouldn’t cause a commotion and draw even more attention to himself. The comment had just spilled out since Lord Alexander happened to be on his mind. It wasn’t even close to the noble gesture she made it out to be. But, of course, there was no point in correcting her when she seemed so flattered by the misunderstanding, so he said nothing more on the matter.

When the Lady Victoria extended her hand in greeting, Vail hesitated briefly. Even though he’d decided she was harmless by herself, he still wasn’t sure if she was aware of his family name. The Hygraces were the most powerful vampire clan in England, and they were quite well known to the Saints of the Order. The two groups didn’t fight amongst each other very often—his father had followed in his uncle’s footsteps by insisting that they shouldn’t kill the humans they fed on, which kept some peace between them and the Order—but Peter had told him that Alexander knew about them. He didn’t want to alert Victoria on her own territory if she knew the Hygrace name as well.

“Vail Griffiths,” he said, safely supplying a fake surname as he took her hand. Absently, he noticed that her skin was delicate, soft to the touch, but it wasn’t a detail he lingered on for very long as he answered her question, “No, I’ve never met your father personally, but I believe my father has.” At that, he hesitated again, unsure what else to say. Lord Alexander had been an enemy to his family for decades, so he couldn’t bring himself to offer her any words of praise about the man. Still, he supposed it wasn’t her fault that her father had been a Saint, so there was no harm in offering his condolences.

“From what I’ve been told, your father was quite important to your family,” he admitted vaguely. “I’m sorry for the untimely loss.”
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Victoria noted he wasn’t too comfortable at staying behind as he seemed to hesitate, his hand was slightly cold to the touch. Did she say something weird or offensive? There was more to this mysterious guest than met the eye. Maybe he was simply nervous at functions or perhaps…he had something to do with the Order. Surely if he were a vampire, he wouldn’t dare to set foot in this house. But as he give his fake surname, Griffiths, she nodded. She hadn’t heard of that family name in Alex’s notes. He didn’t know of her father but apparently his father had met him. “I see. I do not believe I have ever met a ‘Lord Griffiths’ before. Father never mentioned him.” She eyed him slightly suspiciously and glanced toward the food table. “Yes…my father was quite important to a lot of people. He did a great deal of good in hid life.” The fact she’d never heard of the Griffiths’s told her instincts he may be lying.

And there it was. The ‘I’m sorry’. It was social convention to say such things in these matters, yet, saying they were sorry wouldn’t bring her any joy or comfort. Neither would it bring her father back. She somewhat sighed and winced. “Thank you.” She expressed with her melancholy aura. “Well please do enjoy yourself this evening, Lord Griffiths.” She tipped her glass to him. There were many delicacies from around the world to indulge oneself in. No expense was spared for her birthday. “Perhaps you could save me a dance later…” She suggested just as she turned away. She would get to the bottom of this eventually. She was investigating every possible lead. If his father knew hers, he would be a good place to start.

Lady Victoria proceeded to try some of the appetisers, when she picked up a rather sharp ended shrimp that gave her a slight cut. “Damn.” She immediately placed the finger in her mouth for fear of being smelled from afar again. Although the blood was but a trickle, the scent would be as strong as a cloud of perfume to any vampire. She glanced the room in case there were any reaction from anyone. Whoever killed her father could very well be in this room tonight. Just as she was about to move and get out of the room quickly and find something to wrap her finger in, she felt a hand on her bare shoulder. She flinched and gasped as she turned around to see whom it was.

“Care for a dance, birthday girl?” Lord Spencer asked his betrothed so suddenly. She still had her finger between her lips and she was reluctant to remove it. “Oh, my dear - did you hurt yourself?” He asked as he fished her hand away from her mouth to reveal a very small cut on her finger. He was so calm, yet his emerald eyes hid a dark secret.
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Having lived on this Earth for over two centuries now, it wasn’t difficult for Vail to read human emotions anymore. He had come to learn that many of their kind tended to wear their hearts on their sleeves, whether intentionally or not. Right now, the Lady Victoria didn’t even bother to hide the fact that she was suspicious of him. Part of him wondered what he’d done to arouse her distrust, but overall he found that he didn’t care one way or the other if she believed him. It wasn’t like they would ever cross paths again, after all. He had just come to her birthday party as an excuse to get out of the Hygrace manor for a few hours. As soon as it was over, they would be parting ways for good, since he had no intention of returning to her family’s manor ever again.

When Victoria winced, Vail knew he’d said the wrong thing again. Although that didn’t matter much either, he supposed. Even if she wasn’t dangerous, he didn’t enjoy lingering around a Crest any longer than he had to. The sooner she dismissed him, the better; and luckily, it appeared he didn’t have to wait very long.

“Thank you. I intend to,” he nodded his head courteously, relieved when she finally concluded the brief conversation between them. But that wasn’t the end of it. Apparently she wanted him to save her a dance later. “Perhaps I could,” he offered her a polite smile, though inwardly he knew he wasn’t going to honor the request. There was so much happening at the party. If he let enough time pass, he felt sure she would get caught up in the festivities and forget about the stranger she had run into toward the beginning of it all. He could slip out with the other guests at the end of the night, and it would all be over.

As she turned away, Vail did as well, making his way through the crowd toward another table across the ballroom. Once he was further away, he let out a sigh that was inaudible behind the elegant music playing for the dancers. So far, the night hadn’t turned out quite like he’d hoped but, choosing to remain optimistic, he still intended to enjoy himself, just as he’d told Lady Victoria he would. All he had to do was avoid one person for the length of the party. How hard could that be?

Apparently very hard indeed.

He had only made it about halfway to the target table when a sudden, pungent odor of blood made him freeze in his tracks. It was as strong as if the source had been directly beneath his nose and tantalizing in a way he’d never experienced before. He was thankful he’d had the foresight to feed the night before the party, or else he very well could have lost his composure right then and there.

Bewildered as to where such a powerful scent could be coming from, Vail began discreetly looking over the people around him. He was careful to keep his wandering eyes from being too obvious though. This was the Crest family manor, after all. The vampire hunters could have arranged some sort of trap to draw his kind out of hiding, and he didn’t want to give himself away. However, that didn’t seem to be the case when his gaze landed on the Lady Victoria, who had her finger in her mouth as she seemed to nurse a cut.

It’s coming from her? He marveled, licking his lips as his body began to salivate involuntarily. It was surprising to him that such a small wound could give off a smell as strong as this. He’d never seen the likes of it before. Even though he had fed just twenty-four hours prior, he found it difficult to fight the urge to approach her. He wondered what such enticing blood might taste like, what it might feel like to feed on just a drop…

Vail took a slow breath. It didn’t matter what it would be like, since he couldn’t lay a finger on the Crest heiress in the middle of her own family’s manor. Doing so would have been practically suicidal. As tempting as it was, he had to stick to his original plan and keep his distance from the woman.

He was just about to turn away from her again when a second, fainter scent made him bristle. There was a Wynter at this party after all.

Suspecting he already knew where to locate the member of the rival clan, he glanced once more at the Lady Victoria, who had been approached by another Lord—the same one who had greeted her at the base of the staircase earlier. He narrowed his eyes. He wasn’t sure what a Wynter would have to gain from getting close to a member of the Crest family, but he didn’t trust any of them well enough to wait and find out.

Without taking the time to make a real plan, Vail cut back through the crowd and walked up behind Victoria, speaking at a slightly raised volume to get her attention, “You know, I’ve thought about it, and there’s no time like the present. I think I’d like to have that dance now.” He stopped abruptly, his hazel eyes flicking from Lady to Lord with a hint of surprise. “I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?”
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The Lord was just about to whisk Victoria away from the crowd and suckle on that sweet blood of hers when a voice interrupted his plans.

“You know, I’ve thought about it, and there’s no time like the present. I think I’d like to have that dance now.” Victoria’s eyes widened slightly, she didn’t expect him to even honour her request. He was bolder than she thought to take her head on after giving him the suspicious look. But the fact he eagerly interrupted her with Lord Spencer so suddenly, especially after her cut, she couldn’t help but wonder if he were a vampire himself or even a vampire hunter who knew something about Spencer. Of course, she could be entirely paranoid and he could simply be just a man interested in a woman.

As he asked if he was interrupting something while Victoria held her finger tightly to stop the bleeding as soon as possible, luckily it was only a small pin prick cut that would clot quickly. Lord Spencer took a breath. “Actually y-“

“No! Not at all!” Lady Victoria interrupted his reply to Vail quite loudly as if quite relieved to get away from Spencer. “Sorry I did promise him a dance first. I’ll save the best until last though.” She charmed her way around Spencer by fluttering her big blue eyes at him. “Alright my dear. Good things come to those who wait…” Spencer smiled pleasantly down at her.

“I just need to um…freshen up first.” She said with a nervous chuckle, gesturing toward her cut and insinuating she was clumsy. The Lady made her escape to the kitchen where the waiters and maidens were preparing more champagne and bringing out more food. She rushed to a damp cloth to get the dried blood off her uncut hand that she’d used to cover the wound with until it stopped bleeding.

“You alright My Lady?” A kitchen maid enquired.

“Yes, yes. Fine.” She responded sharply. How could she have let herself be so careless, especially in public? No more sharp objects. Soft foods only. She was certain that if there was a vampire here, they would be foolish to even try anything with this many people here. She only hoped more members of the order were present at the event, having vowed to Alex to look after her if anything happened to him. She had best stay in the public eye for the rest of the eve, if she were to be found alone, anything could happen.

She ventured out of the kitchen area and scouted the room for Vail Griffiths again. It was a good opportunity to dig a little deeper. Or at least get to know him better. Spencer couldn’t be the only eligible bachelor for the Lady. Did she not even have a choice in whom she was going to spend her time with? To at least pick someone who wasn’t as egotistic and pompous as Lord Spencer, and so far up his own backside she was surprised he could even see her.
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Now up close with the Lady Victoria, Vail was starting to wonder if he should have left the situation alone. The aromatic smell of her blood was nearly intoxicating, and he had to fight to stay focused on the reason why he had approached her to begin with. The Wynter standing across from him had to have been feeling it too, perhaps even more so if the other vampire hadn’t fed as recently as he had. He knew it wouldn’t take much for the situation to turn dangerous. If either one of them were to lose their composure, a frenzy would start, immediately giving them both away to the Crests. Knowing that there had to be members of the Order amongst the crowd, he was sure they would be killed on the spot.

Vail held the other Lord’s gaze unwaveringly, intent to find some reason to stay if he tried to dismiss him. However, it seemed an argument was unnecessary because Victoria intervened before he could object. The eagerness in her voice was surprising to him, and he wondered if she knew that the man whom had approached her first wasn’t what he seemed to be. The thought caused him to study her a bit more closely. Whether his guess was correct or not, he was glad she had interrupted before the situation had a chance to escalate.

The peace wasn’t kept for long though. As soon as Lady Victoria hurried off to freshen up, the two vampires turned on each other with hostile glares. “Quite bold of you to show your face here, Hygrace,” the Wynter tilted his chin up. “Or perhaps I should say foolish. You do know this is the Crest manor, don’t you?”

“I could say the same to you,” Vail rolled his eyes. Now that the overwhelming odor of blood had faded, he was able to think clearly again. He casted the rival clan member a cold look. “I don’t know who you are or what you’re trying to pull, but I would suggest you stop chasing after the Crest heiress before someone from the Order catches onto you.”

To his confusion, the Wynter merely laughed, his broad grin momentarily exposing his upper set of fangs. “I see word hasn’t reached your household yet, has it?” he asked. When Vail just stared at him, he stood up straighter. “The Crest heiress and I are to be betrothed.”

That wasn’t the answer Vail had expected to hear at all. Lady Victoria was beautiful beyond a doubt, but she was part of a family that hunted down and killed their kind as a method of livelihood. He couldn’t see why a member of the Wynter clan would want anything to do with her.

He gawked at the other Lord, too curious to restrain himself from asking, “What on Earth are you marrying a Crest for?”

“It isn’t your business to know,” the Wynter answered with a hint of warning in his voice. “But understand this: If you do anything to get in my way, I will kill you.” He angled his body to walk away, signaling that he was done with the conversation. “Enjoy your dance.”

Vail watched him go without responding, keeping his guard raised even as the rival vampire passed out of his sight. He still didn’t know why the other Lord was so interested—or perhaps possessive was the proper term—of the Lady Victoria, but he had a feeling his attachment had to do with more than just her beauty. Not wanting to start a feud over something that he had no proof would hurt his own family though, he contented himself with keeping an eye on the Wynter from a distance for now.

He stayed put by the table for a few minutes longer, absently swirling the remains of the sherry in his glass as he waited for Victoria to return from freshening up. After his conversation with the other vampire, he had come to the conclusion that there had been no reason for him to get involved with the couple. However, he’d already offered the girl a dance, and he wasn’t a complete savage. He would honor the commitment just this once and then keep his distance for the rest of the event, just as he’d planned.

Luckily, he didn’t have to stand around for long.

As soon as the Lady Victoria reappeared by his side, Vail turned to her and bowed with well-rehearsed eloquence, “Are you ready now, My Lady?”
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Lady Victoria soon spotted Vail's fair hair across the room, somewhat having a heated debate with Lord Spencer. She narrowed her eyes. She wondered what the two could be in disagreement about. She wandered over to him and sneaked up to his left side. Of course, she could not realistically sneak up on a vampire without them knowing about it. She knew their senses were far too powerful.

As he turned to face her and bowed, she raised an eyebrow. He had certainly upped the charm in the last five minutes. She extended her elegant hand for him to take and begin their dance. "Why so eager Lord Griffiths? Couldn't keep away?" She asked with a glint of mischief behind her blue eyes. "You and Lord Spencer looked like you were having a fun conversation..." She pried out of 'socialite curiosity' as she lay one hand on his right shoulder as they danced the three beats of the infamous Viennese Waltz.

She noticed how gracefully he moved, she felt it a challenge to keep up herself, having practiced all ballroom dances since she was a child. She fondly remembered learning ballroom with her father within this very room. What she wouldn't give to have one last father-daughter dance with Alex at her eventual wedding after he gave his daughter away at the altar.

"Was Christopher boring you with his boasts of how much he spent on his yacht earlier this year?" She mused sarcastically as she took a spin underneath Vail's -rather strong- arm. She knew there was something definitely special about this man but she couldn't quite work it out yet. She watched for his reactions carefully as she questioned him.
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Vail raised his shoulders in a shrug when the Lady Victoria asked him why he was so eager to dance with her. “Is there a reason why I shouldn’t be eager to dance with the guest of honor?” he queried with a smile, though eager was the furthest from what he was feeling. Of course, he knew he couldn’t tell her that he had only intervened because he didn’t trust the other Lord she’d been talking with—especially now that he knew the Wynter was to be her husband—so feigning impatience was the next best option.

As the dance began, he laid his hand on the small of her back to guide her through the movements. Her comment about his conversation with her betrothed—apparently the Lord’s name was Spencer—made him smirk. “You could say that,” he mused, walking her through a simple turn. After attending events like this for two centuries, the motions of each kind of dance had become second nature to him. He barely even needed to focus to lead her from move to move and thus conversed with her easily, never missing a step.

At her sarcastic question, Vail chuckled. “Luckily, no,” he answered, watching her red dress flow like water as she twirled in front of him. The succulent aroma of blood lingered about her as well, and though it had faded quite a bit from the pungency with which it had struck him before, he still found it stimulating. He pursed his lips together. She really was quite an alluring woman. Perhaps he could see why Spencer was so fascinated with the Lady Crest after all.

“Let’s just say we disagree about some things that prevent us from getting along,” he explained vaguely, pressing his hand a little more firmly against her back to pull her into a series of close-quarters steps. In the altered position, his face hovered close to her neck, something that would have been difficult for most vampires to handle. However, Vail prided himself on his self-control, abstaining from even touching her soft skin as he continued to walk her through the dance.
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“Oh well that is a shame. I guess I won’t be seeing you at the wedding then. I quite enjoy your dancing.” She expressed as he explained that he and Spencer didn’t quite get along on some subjects. She hadn’t had as good a partner such as Vail before. She truly enjoyed his effortless movements. He was a pleasure to dance alongside, she couldn’t hide her genuine smile as she danced with him. When he pressed his hand a little more firmly into the small of her back, she felt a slight tingle run down her spine.

There was something about this Lord that instilled a sense of excitement within her. But she didn’t quite know why. If he was indeed a vampire, his aura could have affected her human pheromones. As his face hovered over her delicate neck, she could feel his gentle breath tickle her skin. He was so calm, he wasn’t even out of breath! Whereas her chest rapidly rose and fell as they neared the end of their dance. He was either incredibly fit, toned and had miles of stamina or he was not in fact, human at all.

For if he were a vampire around her recent blood blunder, he had amazing control. She didn’t suspect Lord Spencer either, yet. The music and dance came to an unfortunate end, it was customary for the women to courtesy and the man to bow. Which Victoria proceeded to do and lowered her head. Upon her return to her upright position her eyes were a lot softer and gentler than they were before when they looked upon Vail with suspicion.

“You said your father met mine? In which capacity?” She moved out of the way of the dancefloor for the next dancers taking up the Foxtrot. She wasn’t quite ready for the next dance, especially a quicker one. She took a champagne glass from a passing butler and held it to her ruby lips. She was always eager to know more, learn more about her father’s secret life. To unravel all the mysteries that came with it. Even if it meant she was in danger.
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“Oh, I’m sure you’ll enjoy dancing with your betrothed even more than with me,” Vail assured Lady Victoria, though he knew he was lying through his teeth. It was true that Lord Spencer was more than likely a good dancer, since he could have lived for just as long as Vail had—it was impossible to tell with other members of their kind—but his prejudice toward all Wynters influenced his opinion of the other vampire. It was petty, but he wanted to believe he was better at dancing than his rival.

As if to prove the point to himself, he went on to lead the Lady through some more complex steps, keeping her close for the added challenge of moving without tripping over each other’s feet. Throughout the years, he’d come to learn that he quite enjoyed dancing. It was an elegant art with plenty of room for creativity, and it was always changing as humans came up with more styles and motions to add to it. Plus, there was no denying it was a bit of a treat to get so close to a Lady without needing an excuse to do so. He had enough self-control not to bite, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy her scent or the lingering aroma of her spilled blood. Both were stimulating to the predator inside of him and got his heart pumping in an exhilarating way.

For a moment, Vail nearly forgot he was dancing with a Crest. As he let himself sink into the intoxicating smells and the rhythm of the waltz, his previous inhibitions about staying close to the Lady Victoria fled from his mind. However, the moment didn’t last long before the dance ended, and he was brought back down to reality.

Having fulfilled his offer, the Lord bowed gracefully to the Crest heiress and turned to leave, relieved to finally be able to put some distance between them. He was still determined to enjoy the rest of the party, regardless of how rocky the start had been—though, if he was honest, dancing with Victoria hadn’t been nearly as terrible as he’d thought it would be. Unfortunately, it seemed the Lady had a different agenda as she walked with him away from the other dancers.

At her question, Vail nearly groaned. Apparently it had been a mistake to bring up their fathers’ relation to each other after all. He located another drink on the table, port this time, and took a sip as he thought of a way to speak of their past without telling the truth or getting himself tangled in a lie that would be too complex to climb his way back out of.

“They met through your father’s work,” he finally stated, deeming the answer safe enough to use. “Although I believe they only crossed paths once or twice during chance encounters, so I’d hardly call them close.”
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As Vail suggested she would enjoy her betrothed’s dance more than he, she very much doubted that. Spencer spent more time at his work and his various mining, timber and weapons manufacture companies, and was rumoured to be a workaholic that drove his employees hard. How would he have the time to spend perfecting such dance manoeuvres that Vail had mastered so elegantly. He went on to prove that by performing even more complex moves that she was barely able to keep up with. She was left quite breathless as she sipped on her champagne. She could really do with some water but only alcohol seemed to be on offer. Vail himself opted for a stronger beverage, perhaps he was uncomfortable speaking with the daughter of Alex Crest. A name known by both hunter and prey alike.

As Vail explained his father and hers met through his work, this sparked her attention. They met during chance encounters. Perhaps through The Order itself. Perhaps Vail’s father was one of them and knew about her father’s secretive life. “Oh? He must have invested in some shares of the steelworks he ran then?” She asked as she eyed him over her tall champagne glass. She noticed the green flecks in his irises as she watched his reactions carefully for any slip up of information that may give him away to what he really knew about the underworld. She couldn’t help but glance over at Lord Spencer, his eyes seemed to pierce her soul as he looked her way. It made her feel…somewhat unnerved by the way he stared at her. His presence felt ominous. How could one instil such a feeling over one’s betrothed? She was not looking forward to spending more time with her future husband.

Regarding Vail once more, her face softened at the view of his. Such smooth skin and perfect complexion. Although slightly pale in colour that could be put down to a life lived indoors behind a desk. She surmised he could be into business affairs, as he spoke with a finery an and intelligence behind those deep green orbs of his. Was his vampiric aura affecting her enough to distract the Lady from her train of thought and refocus on his strong jawline and fie hairs of his stubble in such a way she wanted to reach out and stroke it? Whatever it was, either his pheromones or her own hormones playing tricks on her mind, it caused her pupils to dilate and her eyes to sparkle slightly brighter as she looked up at him.
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There was an air of intelligence about the Lady Victoria that made Vail feel wary of her. Sipping at his drink, he eyed her discreetly as she went on to press him for details about how their fathers had known each other. Though the men of the era they lived in often looked down upon women as lesser members of society, he’d been around long enough to know better than that. In the past, he’d crossed paths with plenty of women whom, by any definition of the word, were quite smart. They always shared a curious glimmer in their eyes, eager to learn, but stifled by the culture they lived in. He could tell with just a glance that Victoria was among them. That meant he needed to be careful about what he said to her.

Even then, he had to wonder if simply guarding his tongue was enough. The Lady’s watchful gaze didn’t slip past him for a moment. It was clear that she was observing him for some reason—probably to see through any lies, he guessed. The thought brought him some amusement in the midst of his guardedness, and a hint of a smile tugged at his lip. He concealed the expression by lifting his glass to take another sip, unable to help but think that this woman was something special. He supposed he should have expected as much from the daughter of Lord Alexander though. His father had told him that the former head of the Crest household had been quite a dangerous force as well.

Putting his own observations of Victoria aside, Vail knew he couldn’t let himself get tangled up in the snares of the trap she was laying down. Whether she believed he was a member of the Order or an enemy that needed to be slain, he needed to keep her from finding out he wasn’t human. His hazel eyes danced over the other people in the ballroom. If there were any Saints among them, he would be killed in a heartbeat. For the sake of keeping his word to his father, he couldn’t let her know who she was talking to.

“Perhaps,” he answered her question with a shrug. “To be perfectly honest, my father never told me very much about their encounters. He’s always been a man of few words, so I’m afraid I don’t have much more to say about their history.” He studied her blue eyes, noticing the captivated look they held as she gazed up at him. It seemed that his lingering around her for this long was beginning to have an effect on her psyche. He ran his tongue across his teeth, drawn instinctively to the thought of coaxing her away from the crowd while she was vulnerable. Though it was tempting, he restrained himself. To feed on this Lady would be to invite conflict with both the Crests and the Wynters. He couldn’t do something so foolish.

“I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you,” Vail finally said, breaking the spell as he turned away from her again.
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Victoria was almost mesmerised as his eyes studied her in their subtle way. For a moment she couldn’t hear the noises around her of the guests milling about, chattering, and chortling. She watched his tongue flick across the front of his teeth as if a hypnotist dangled a stopwatch in front of her face. She snapped out of her trance like state as soon as he spoke, apologising to her for his disappointment. As he turned away from her she blinked and came round to her full senses again. “You didn’t disappoint me, Lord Vail, certainly not in the way of dancing.” She at least reassured him in that aspect. Although she couldn’t deny being slightly disappointed at being given no information on her father and no closer to finding his killer, she did enjoy their dance and wanted him to know that before he departed her presence, quite possibly forever.

Vail was more slippery than she had anticipated. She laid the trap and he evaded it like a cunning fox. It suggested it was not the first time he had done so from his slight amused smirk that he had tried to hide behind his glass. She didn’t mind this challenge though, if he was reluctant to give her any answers, perhaps she should contact his father directly for the truth, unknowing that it would lead her to a dead end as there in fact, was no Lord Griffiths.

Lady Crest watched Vail leave with a sigh of fore longing. She hoped she could meet him again sometime in the future even just to dance with him one last time. Before she could fully gather her thoughts, a hand took hers and led her back to the dancefloor. She turned and saw Lord Spencer was leading the way. “I finally get you all to myself.” He meant that in more than one way, her blood would be solely his to drip feed on as like a drug addiction. He pulled her into his arms and they began the Tango. His movements were not as fluid as Vail’s were. And he was quite rough with manhandling her. He squeezed her hands too tightly that she winced from the pain. The Tango was a dance of passion, yet his passion seemed to come from a dark place. But his brown eyes captivated hers and she felt a wave of oppression over her. The air felt heavy, her body felt limper in his arms. He was able to manipulate her arms and hands in any way he desired. She simple followed suit with no freedom for her own creativity. She certainly did not enjoy this dance with her betrothed.

“I see you met Lord Hygrace.” Spencer grinned as he blew Vail’s cover.

“Lord….Hygrace?” Victoria regarded Christopher Spencer with a worried flicker behind her blue eyes.

“Yes the gentleman you were just dancing with.” He spun her around, “He said his name was Lord Griffiths.”

“Ah well that does not surprise me. They are a family of pathological liars…” Spencer continued to whisper dark rumours in her ear, as the pace quickened, so did her heart rate. Vail had not been genuine with her from the beginning. Why? Did he really know something about her father that he didn’t want her to know? Such as the details of his murder? She just had to know…yet as the dance ended and her eyes scoured the room, there was no assign of Vail Hygrace anywhere.
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Vail casted the Lady Victoria one more smile over his shoulder as he turned to walk away from her. Even though he knew he hadn’t given her what she’d wanted from him, she was still polite ‘til the last moment. He appreciated her bent to speak so respectfully to a mere stranger, even bothering to compliment his dancing once again before they parted. Though the Lady was bright, she definitely wasn’t the assertive type if she was content with letting her question go unanswered so easily. Her amenable temperament was probably the reason why she had been so entranced with him earlier too. Women who were more submissive by nature were often more susceptible to the pheromones that he and the rest of his kind used to draw them in. He was sure that if he’d chosen to, he could have easily taken advantage of her altered state of mind to get a taste of the rich blood he’d smelled before.

Weaving his way through the crowd, Vail caught wind of a familiar scent that drew his attention to a figure on his right: Lord Spencer was heading in the opposite direction, back to Victoria’s side now that she was alone. He snorted softly and shook his head. After getting to know the Lady a little better during their brief encounter, he felt quite certain that the Wynter was planning to do what he could not; and with a perfect cover, too. He couldn’t help but wonder how the rival vampire had managed to weasel his way so deeply into the Crest family that he was to be betrothed to the heiress. Just the thought of it was baffling to him. Alexander had been high enough up in the Order that he should have known who the members of the Wynter family were, right? He couldn’t imagine that the former Crest head had been careless enough to miss this particular viper.

It doesn’t matter. It’s not my business, he reminded himself, slowing to a stop by another table to finish off the rest of the drink in his hand. All in all, this party certainly hadn’t turned out at all like he had been expecting. His eyes wandered to the front door. The night was still young, but after his rather ungraceful meeting with Lady Victoria and his unnecessary involvement with her and the vampire she was to marry, he wasn’t feeling as eager to stick around anymore. He’d drawn far too much attention to himself for one day, and the usually stifling Hygrace manor was beginning to sound quite cozy compared to the chaotic ballroom he was standing in now.

Vail glanced over his shoulder one last time, spotting Lord Spencer and Victoria locked in a fast paced dance near the middle of the room. Even from a distance, he could see the hunger in the other vampire’s eyes; that lustful thirst for blood which made the Wynters such a formidable group to the humans who had the misfortune of crossing their path. He couldn’t help but feel some pity for the Lady. While his family handled their predatory appetites with grace and control, their rivals were known to overindulge, often leaving their prey listless if they didn’t bleed them to death first. He doubted Spencer was planning to drain Victoria of her life, since they were supposedly going to be married, but judging by the look in his eyes, he wasn’t going to hold back much more than that.

Not my business, he reminded himself once more, turning away from the dancers as he set his empty glass down on the table. Whatever was to happen between the couple, he wanted no part of it. In fact, he’d spent far too much time at this masquerade already. It was time for him to go.

Without wasting another second, Vail headed for the door, slipping into the cool night air as he walked back to the Hygrace manor alone.
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The Morning After


After bidding everyone a farewell and a late-ish night going to sleep, Lady Victoria Crest was up early that next morning. Not backing down from her resolve to find out what happened to her father and who killed him. She sat at her father;s desk in his study flicking through his journals, sketches and maps for any clues.

“Hygrace, Hygrace…” That’s what she was searching for. Any clues as to Vail Hygrace, his father and any connections they had with her father. But as she flicked through the pages, her mind couldn’t help but wander back to last night and those moments she and Vail danced together. She could hear the music echoing in the recesses of her subconscious. She could still smell his cologne, the feel of his fingers holding hers. And his breath upon her neck. She shivered suddenly and snapped out of it. She went back to flicking through the pages.

There she came across a piece of text…

The Hygrace Clan
Once the most powerful vampire clan in London led by Lord Reginald Hygrace, he was known across the nation for offering protection to any vampires who needed sanctuary from The Order of the Saints.

Around the year 1750, Lord Reginald Hygrace was kileld by Lord Elias Wynter and soon after bested them the Hygrace Clan went predominantly into hiding.

Yet I met Lord Peter once in passing…he was not the cold bloodthirsty killer as I was led to believe all vampires were. I made a mutual truce not to hunt him or his family so long as they do not interfere with mine.

The Wynter Clan
They believed that as “superior beings,” they should fight back against humans instead of hiding from them in fear. They saw the Hygrace Clan as weak and cowardly, unfit to lead their kind, and thus started a rebellion. Peter Hygrace thwarted this rebellion and went on to take over as the leader of the Hygrace clan. Unfortunately, the Wynter family refused to give up after just one defeat and has continued to fight for power against the ruling dynasty ever since.

I have yet to come across any of the Wynter Clan but I feel it is only time. For whenever there is a Hygrace, there is a Wynter not far behind…


Victoria looked up from the book. “A Wynter is never far behind…” She thought back to her dance with Lord Spencer. He was the one who told her about the Hygrace’s. That they were pathological liars. Yet her father wrote nothing of the sort. They were protectors of their own kind and were now in hiding. That’s the reason why Vail had given her a false surname. She understood it now. And so how…did Lord Spencer know about the Hygrace family…? Was he in league with the Wynters? She pondered this in deep thought as she heard her drunkard of a mother crashing about the house. She had no taken her husband’s death well.
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The following day, Vail awoke much earlier than he usually did after spending a night out. It wasn’t the most pleasant morning of his life either. Judging by the light that filtered in through the curtained window by his bed, it was probably around eight o’ clock. He had gotten plenty of sleep, but he felt like he’d hardly slept at all. He rolled over to face away from the light, drawing his sheets over his head. On top of waking up tired, his teeth ached as well. He had fed just two nights before, but he nearly felt like he had gone over a week without the sustenance he needed to function at his highest capacity.

He stretched his jaw uncomfortably, his lips peeling away from his long fangs as he opened his mouth. It was hard to say why he was feeling so terrible so soon after his last meal. Perhaps the human he’d fed on had had a health condition that had tainted her blood, or perhaps he simply hadn’t drunk enough of it to satisfy his body’s craving… or, perhaps it was because of a certain Crest heiress who had reignited his primal hunger with a single drop of blood that was different than anything he’d ever experienced before.

As his mind wandered back to that moment at the party when he had first caught a whiff of Lady Victoria’s cut, Vail could already feel himself beginning to salivate compulsively. Of course, he knew he couldn’t have her, since the politics between their families were far too complicated to risk inciting a war, but it was hard not to be drawn by his own curiosity. He wished there was a way for him to find out what it would be like to feed on such tantalizing blood without causing tension between the Crests and the Hygraces. In spite of himself, he even found that he was mildly jealous that Lord Spencer was able to have as much of it as he wanted.

Disturbed by the thought, he climbed down from his bed to get ready for the day, eager to put the events of the previous night behind him in favor of moving on. It wasn’t like there was any point in dwelling on what had happened anyway. He was never going to see Lady Victoria again, and it was unlikely that he would cross paths with her betrothed either. The best thing he could do was forget about the couple—and the Lady’s mouthwatering blood—and go on like nothing had changed.

As Vail dressed himself, he was pulled from his musings by a knock on his door. He turned around to see that his father was standing in the doorway with a bemused expression detailing his features.

“You’re up early,” Lord Peter commented, knowing his son well enough to find the behavior abnormal. Usually when he attended parties, he slept in until at least ten o’ clock the next day.

“Yes, well, I didn’t stay out as long as I’d planned to,” Vail shrugged, raising his arms over his head to slide on a clean shirt.

“Trouble with the Crests?” Peter asked with a concerned frown. “I knew it was a bad idea for you to attend this event, Vail. Did someone from the Order recognize you?”

“No,” the younger Hygrace answered thoughtfully. “I did run into Alexander’s daughter, but I told her my name was Griffiths. Even if she didn’t believe me, there was no familiarity in her eyes.”

“Good,” his father exhaled. “Since Lord Crest’s passing, relations between our family and the Order have been… tense, to say the least. The last thing we need is for one of them to think you’ve taken an interest in stalking the Crest heiress.”

“I would do no such thing,” Vail cracked an amused smile. “But I think someone else already has.”

“What do you mean?” Peter knitted his brow.

“There was a Wynter at the party,” Vail explained, absently checking over the clothes he’d put on in order to straighten out any wrinkles. It would have been an easier task if he could simply check himself in a mirror like a human would, but with no reflection of his own, he had to be a little more thorough. “He went by the name Spencer, but I’m sure it was an alias. Either way, he’s supposedly engaged to marry Lady Victoria soon. I don’t think she has a clue who he really is, poor girl.”

“That is concerning,” Peter crossed his arms. “If he marries Alexander’s daughter, he’ll become the next head of the Crests.”

Vail faltered at that. Though it was obvious to him now, he hadn’t thought about the consequences of a Wynter marrying into the Crest family before. Last night, he had been so caught up in his desire to keep out of the other families’ affairs that the connection hadn’t even crossed his mind. Knowing that his father was probably correct in assuming that was the rival’s end game, he felt more troubled about what he’d learned.

“Don’t worry about it for now,” Peter said, seeming to catch the uneasy look on his son’s face. “I’ll deal with the Wynters. You go downstairs and get some breakfast. Your mother saved you a plate, since we both expected you to be up much later.”

“Tell her I appreciate it,” Vail nodded. He stepped around his father to go down to the parlor, but then paused as another thought came to him. “Speaking of eating, I think I’ll be going out again tonight,” he mused, glancing at the other vampire once more. “I woke up feeling a bit famished, so I’d like to feed before I get too ill.”

“I thought you went out recently,” Peter studied him confusedly. “Do you really need to go again so soon?”

“I think the woman I fed on must have had a disease,” Vail lied, deciding not to tell his father about what had happened with Lady Victoria. “Regardless, I’m already aching. I need to go out soon, and I see no reason why I should be confined to the manor tonight.”

“Alright,” Peter relented. “Just be careful.”

“I always am,” Vail smiled, turning away from him to get something to eat downstairs.
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Later that evening, after Victoria had helped her drunken mother to her bed and tucked her in, she headed out of the mansion in search of answers. She adorned a long black cloak with red velvet lining and propped the hood over her long curls. She knew the dangers out there for a woman in the night, that’s why she brandished her father’s dagger in the top of her knee high riding boot. It was supposedly blessed with holy water and made of pure silver. A true vampire hunter’s weapon. But she had not yet located his gun. The killer possibly stole it from his corpse.

The only lead she had right now was a former comrade of his - Gerald Alabaster from his journals. Gerald had apparently saved his life a few times. The way she figured, was she owed this man in her father’s name. Apparently he frequented taverns on the lookout for any vampire hunters preying on innocent drunk victims.



So she ventured out in search of this man and the first local tavern she came across was The Black Bull. As she entered, as a Lady on her own, this was considered most strange so the tavern fell silent and the patrons stared at her as she wandered in off the street. She kept her hood up as she felt a thousand eyes pierce her soul as she walked up to the bar counter. She placed her hands neatly on the counter, it felt slightly sticky from the dried spilt ale.

“What can I get ye?” The bar tender asked as he threw his towel over his shoulder.

“I’m…looking for someone.” She nervously expressed. She didn’t usually go anywhere without her father. Now he was no longer around, she had to fend for herself.

“A client of yours?” He presumed she was a lady of the night here to meet her client for the evening. Victoria blinked at him, he didn’t know what he meant by this, being unused to the talk of the commoners.

“N-no I don’t have any ‘clients’?” She responded with a slightly puzzled expression. “I’m looking for a man called Gerald Alabaster. I hear he drinks in these here parts. He was a friend of my father.”

“Oh ol’ Gerry! Can’t say I’ve seen him around much lately.” The barkeep revealed to the disheartened Lady. He apologised and offered her a drink of wine, to which she nodded with a sigh.

As the barkeep prepared her drink, a male of brown scruffy hair and brown eyes pulled up next to her. “Hey Lady, lookin’ fer a man to keep you company tonight?” He asked with a wide grin and placed his hand on her rather plump rear. She glared at him from under her hood. “If you wish to keep that hand. I suggest you remove it.”
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Vail spent the rest of the day assisting his mother with the care of two refugees whom had shown up seeking help when he had been gone the night prior. There was one man and one woman, both members of the Jewel family. According to his mother, they had escaped an attack by the Order while they had been out to feed and had arrived in quite a bloodied state. He thought they looked worlds better now. The wounds they had sustained from the Saints’ weapons had been thoroughly purified and bandaged, and neither of their hearts had been touched by silver. As long as they got plenty of rest, he was sure they would fully recover within the week.

As night eventually fell, Vail readied himself to go out for a meal of his own. Between the news that the Wynters were moving and the sudden appearance of two vampires whom had been attacked by the Saints, he could tell that his parents were more nervous than usual about his departure. He didn’t share in their fear though. It had been a long time since he’d had any trouble with any members of the Order since he knew how to keep his head down. Additionally, he wasn’t worried about the Wynters because they were obviously biding their time to infiltrate the Crest family. It would have been a foolish move on their part to start a fight with him and cause a feud with the Hygraces. As far as he could tell, it was perfectly safe to go out tonight.

Feeling confident, Vail bade his parents goodbye and headed out of the manor to explore the city.

At this late hour, the streets were mostly empty aside from the odd passerby here and there. He strolled at a leisurely pace, in no hurry to sate his hunger. Though his jaw still ached, he was well aware of how dangerous it could be to let his instincts drive him. Forcing himself to be patient was a good way to keep from losing control. After all, a frenzied vampire was a dead vampire as long as the Order was around to kill any who drew attention to themselves. For his own safety, he couldn’t rush in his search for a target.

After a bit of walking, Vail came across a tavern that was still bustling with activity: The Black Bull. He paused outside to peer through the window. Like any other tavern, the patrons inside were mostly men as far as he could see. He clicked his tongue. Though he would feed on a man if he had to, he much preferred the sweet taste of a woman’s blood. Unfortunately, he didn’t always have that choice in this day and age. The Order had recently figured out that women were the prime victims of his kind, so they kept the local brothels under constant watch. Given that it was rare for ladies to go out alone when they weren’t working for a Madame, he often had to settle for male prey.

Still, that didn’t mean he would settle without taking another look around first.

Vail was just about to turn away from the tavern when something caught his eye that made him pause. One of the patrons at the bar had a more curvaceous figure than the rest. He smiled to himself. It seemed there was a woman at the Black Bull after all.

Keeping her in the corner of his vision, he slipped into the crowded building and made his way over to the counter. However, he had only made it about halfway when he froze again. Amongst the sea of smells in the tavern, he realized there was a familiar scent that he hadn’t expected to catch. No. He narrowed his eyes at the Lady’s back. Of all the women in London, he just had to stumble upon Victoria Crest, didn’t he? The coincidence made him want to snort.

Of course, knowing who the woman at the bar was, there was no point for him to stay at the Black Bull any longer. As much as he wished to feed on a woman’s blood tonight, he couldn’t lay a finger on the heiress of the Crest household. He let out his breath in a short sigh. It seemed like he was probably going to have to settle for taking a male victim this time.

He was just about to approach a young man who was sitting alone by the front of the room when another motion drew his attention. A man at the counter had taken that moment to cozy up to Lady Victoria. He wasn’t sure why he cared—perhaps he already felt some level of pity for her because he knew who her husband was to be—but for some reason, the sight made him frown. He shifted his weight from his left foot to his right.

It’s not my place to get involved, he thought sternly. Victoria had come to this place of her own volition. Surely she could take care of herself. There was no reason for him to intervene, especially when he still needed to focus on finding a suitable meal before he lost his window of opportunity. His hazel eyes flicked from the bar to the man at the table then back again, and he exhaled. As much as he tried to convince himself it was a bad idea, he disliked the thought of ignoring the situation at the counter too much to simply walk away. I’m going to regret this…

“Ah, there you are!” Vail exclaimed, pushing his way through the crowd as if he was in a hurry to reach the Lady’s side. “So sorry I’m late. I had a few matters at home that needed my attention, and—” He faltered, his gaze falling down to the man’s hand and then lifting back up to his face with a warning look. “And just who might you be?”

The man’s eyes widened, and he hurriedly pulled away from Victoria. “Sorry, sir,” he fumbled to apologize, his words thick from the ale he’d been drinking. “Didn’ realize she was with some’n.”

“And you thought that gave you the right to get friendly, did you?” Vail scoffed. He tipped his head toward the door. “Get out of here.”

As the man hurried off, Vail turned back to Victoria, wondering offhandedly if she had recognized him. He had been wearing a mask at her party before, so there was a chance he could have gotten lucky and she didn’t realize who he was. Regardless, he’d done his good deed for the day, so he had no intention of lingering around her any longer.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s dangerous for a lady to be on her own at this hour?” he said, deciding to offer her one piece of advice before he turned around to leave. “I think it would be wise of you to consider going home before you get yourself hurt.”
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