Angelus licked his lips, tasting Darla. He reached for her, disappointed to find the bed empty save for the delicate scent of rose. He wasn’t used to women who could afford scent. His lover always had the best of everything and wanted him to as well. In retrospect, he should have been afraid, seeing a wealthy woman in the street at night alone. That just wasn’t done. A pickled brain and an erect cock made more of an impression on him than Darla’s strange appearance in the alley.
It was a bizarre feeling, sensing the final shred of humanity peeling away like old paint but that was the sensation gripping his mind. The last time he thought about that night in the alley just a few weeks past, he had still felt pangs of remorse over what he had lost, in spite of loving what he had gained. Now there was nothing. Darla had warned him about the dangers of clinging to the past. It was one of the reasons she had him kill his family. He felt no regret over killing his bastard father but even now, his sister’s death bothered him, like a sore that wouldn’t heal.
He dragged out of bed, his bare feet chilled by the cool, warped wooden floorboards of their new London home. Darla had promised to show him the world and she was as good as her word. First, while they were killing in Galway, she showed him a world the joys of sharing a bed even to sleep, something seen as sinful. Now she showed him all-new lands and he loved every moment, every new sight and sensation.
Angelus glanced at the heavily curtained window. The sun was still up but the eastern-facing windows wouldn’t be casting much light into the rooms. If Darla had left the shelter of the bedroom, the east-facing rooms would be where she would be. She was in the habit of leaving the curtains open so the neighbors wouldn’t wonder why they were drawn. That was a the problem with living in cities among the wealthy. Appearance mattered. His father had taught him that and he wasn’t wrong. Curtained windows in the daylight hours would attract unwanted attention.
He dressed and padded carefully downstairs. To his surprise, Darla wasn’t alone in her parlor. A seamstress glanced up, a startled cry catching in her throat. The older woman nearly swallowed the pins she held in her lips as she hemmed up the ends of Darla’s skirt. He had never seen the crimson silk gown before but even half done it was eye catching and beautiful.
Darla eyed him like he had done something wrong and the seamstress seemed stunned to see a man at home at this hour and that he would invade the feminine domain of the parlor. “Yes?” Darla asked, sharply.
“Nothing, sorry. I was just seeing if you were busy but obviously you are. A new dress, I like it,” he replied, waving a hand at the crimson gown.
Her lips fell into a pout. “You weren’t supposed to see it yet.”
“Sorry,” he repeated, knowing the benefits of keeping Darla appeased.
“If you don’t mind, tailoring this will take a while and won’t be very interesting to you, Angelus.” Darla’s shoulders twitched, her muscles tired from standing in one position while the seamstress worked.
He smiled faintly. That dismissal wasn’t even subtle. He just nodded and moved to the library. He could kill an hour or more reading while Darla did womanly things. Reading wasn’t a hobby she liked to indulge in but there needed to be ways of passing the daylight hours. They couldn’t sleep and fuck all the time, after all.
Angelus started with the paper. He was always a day behind because he couldn’t grab it off the porch until dark. News didn’t really thrill him but it was another way of making sure he stayed current. Darla assured him being out of touch with fashion and news would be a beacon to the Slayer and her Watchers. From Darla’s horror stories, he knew he didn’t want to get their attention. Besides, the gossip column gave him a good idea as to the people he might want to get to know, use and eventually eat.
He found an interesting article about a new building exhibiting historical and natural arrangements, which on the surface didn’t sound all that interesting except for the fact the paper predicted a high turn out of well-heeled onlookers. Angelus knew this could make for an interesting opportunity. Meals could be earned anywhere in London but it wasn’t often he and Darla had the opportunity to rub elbows with the rich. They both knew well how to use contacts to better their situation. The Master might want to live in a cave or in basements but Angelus and Darla knew with just a little bit of care, that wasn’t needed. Of course, he and Darla were beautiful and the Master was so ugly he couldn’t walk the night without terrifying all who saw him.
Angelus smiled at Darla as she came into the room. “What is the occasion for the dress?”
Darla sat in his lap. “Do I need one?”
He buried his fingers in her soft, golden hair. “I suppose not. I have just the place for you to wear it.”
Darla’s eyebrows climbed. “Oh, really.”
“There’s a museum opening.”
Angelus excitedly explained what it was and who would be attending. She shared his enthusiasm for the chance to rub elbows with the wealthy, just as he knew she would. They returned to the shadows upstairs for a boisterous celebration of their new plan to walk with riches.
X X X
Angelus couldn’t help but be proud at how Darla looked in her gown. Heads turned when she swished by in the crimson silk. He was part and parcel of her display, like good framework. It was a very good feeling. He did like being the center of attention. His father always said it would be his downfall. Maybe the old man had been right and someday Angelus’ vanity would spell his doom. Some would say it already had the moment Darla killed him but he found it glorious to be a vampire.
“This is not as fun as I hoped it would be,” Darla hissed. She dodged a swath of fading light. They had came up through the subterranean ways so they could join the crowds. Angelus knew it always made her nervous, being out and about in the daylight, depending on shadows for survival. He liked the danger of it.
Angelus glanced around the quiet museum at the other small clusters of people taking in the exhibits. Maybe it wasn’t as fun as a good hunt but he found the exotic displays to be vaguely interesting. “What exactly were you expecting it to be, Darla?”
She shrugged, shaking her long curls back over her shoulders. “I don’t know, not like this.” Her eyes tracked an attractive couple as they moved to look at some ancient pot. Angelus could almost read her mind. He wouldn’t say no to playing with them either.
“Do you actually like this?” She gestured to the object in front of them.
Angelus rolled his shoulders. “We wanted the wealthy to see us and they are. You are the most oustandingly beautiful women here and everyone knows it, especially in that dress. Crimson is perfect for you.” He ran a hand over her arm.
Her face was softened. “I’m so glad you think so but you didn’t answer my question.”
“Some of the placards are interesting,” he said, cautiously. It was bad for his image to look so intellectual and it was something he never encouraged in himself. Occasionally, however, there was a strange urge to better himself. He didn’t understand it or necessarily like it but there it was. Even thought he often protested going to the theater or reading poetry to Darla, he secretly enjoyed it. “Take this one for instance. It’s from France. Maybe we should go there.”
Darla squinted at the words on the placard then made a face. “I still don’t see your fascination.”
“Don’t you see what it says? This table was supposed to belong to Gilles de Rais. This is the table his servants would put the heads of the children after he was done fornicating with them and decapitating them so he could judge which was the most beautiful. They say he killed hundreds of them, a man after our own hearts,” Angelus said with a low chuckle.
Darla laughed. “True...only I couldn’t read that. I can’t actually read.” A hint of embarrassment shone in her dark eyes at the confession. She hated admitting to any failures.
Angelus stared at her for a moment, wondering how he had missed that. It wasn’t tremendously uncommon for women to be uneducated but Darla always carried herself as a woman of wealth. It would be unusual for a wealthy woman not to have at least her basic letters. No wonder Darla didn’t like his reading habit. “I had no idea.”
“Well, now you do.” She looked away, a petulant pout on her lips.
“It’s nothing to worry about, I can teach you to read,” he said.
“Don’t bother, young man. It only makes them willful,” a grey haired man butted in as he tried to see around Angelus and gawk at de Rais’ table. His wife stood silently beside him, looking as obedient as an old dog. “They’re better off not addling their heads with things they don’t understand.”
Angelus put a hand on Darla, feeling her tensing for the kill. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Have you seen the Roman sarcophagus? I heard it’s truly something to see,” the older man said, oblivious to Darla’s rage.
“I think we’d like to see that.” Angelus traded knowing looks with his lover. “Why don’t you show us?”
“It’s this way...I think,” the older man said, looking at the posted signs.
Angelus and Darla followed the couple to see the sarcophagus with a small detour down a servant’s hallway in the mansion so they could let Darla express her true feelings about her intelligence being scorned. The sarcophagus, while impressive, made an excellent hiding place for the bodies.
“How about that couple over there?” Darla said, pointing to a young man and his red headed wife. “They look like money. Shall we introduce ourselves?”
“That is the object of the night.” Angelus took her arm. “And I was serious, Darla, about reading, if you want that is.”
“The world is changing, that might be for the best that I know how.” Darla leaned against him. “But that can wait. Tonight, we need to have us a little fun.”
“Then lead on, my dear. With as beautiful as you are tonight, who could resist you?”
“Flatterer.” Darla said knowing he was right, loving it. Crimson was the color of vampires and she knew how to make full use of it.