When Pamela Ravenscroft was six years old, she read her father’s mind.
Unfortunately, it was the day after he had had a certain indiscretion with their maid, and needless to say, Cynthia Ravenscroft had not been pleased when her young daughter had inquired as to why her father “had been fighting with the maid with no clothes on.” Once the family had gotten over the annoyance of adultery and the business of firing the maid, they took a minute to wonder how, exactly, little Pam had known. Then Pam had told them it was because she had heard her father thinking it.
Pamela Ravenscroft’s childhood was, to be sure, quite interesting.
As she grew older and gained at least some semblance of control over her “queer little mind,” as her father had put it, she was able to use it to help her family’s finances. The upper crust of London wondered in amazement at how Sir Richard Ravenscroft always seemed to know when a business partner was cheating him, even as they gossiped as to why the Lady Pamela never married. The years ticked by and all too soon she was past marriageable age. The gossip continued. Perhaps she was a man, or perhaps she was insane- or worse, a Sapphist. But the ever-growing finances of the Ravenscroft family kept their mouths shut and their purses open, and insured that Pamela would be able to live in comfort even if she never acquired a husband.
But here she was, the talk of the town at twenty-seven and unmarried.
“Lady Pamela!” the cheerful, high pitched voice of her maid came rollicking up the stairs. “Oh, Lady Pamela! My fair lady!”
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” Pam muttered quietly, shutting her leather-bound volume of Shakespeare. Then she spoke loud enough to be heard. “In here, Gertrude.”
The plump, cheerful maid bustled in before promptly dropping the armful of dresses she was carrying. “Why, you’re not even dressed yet!”
Pam sighed. “This may come as a surprise, but it is not my greatest wish to attend yet another society ball where I spend the entire evening listening to the minds of slack-brained noblemen and their sons as they slobber over me.”
“Well, this ball is in your house, and your parents will be most displeased if you choose instead to spend the time with Sir Shakespeare,” Gertrude replied, sorting through the pile of cloth. “Now- how about the green dress?”
Pam rolled her eyes as her mind automatically scanned Gertrude’s. The servant’s thoughts were like a bubbling stream- excited and happy, and a little anxious to get Pam ready, lest the elder Lord and Lady Ravenscroft blame her for the absence of their daughter.
“You know green makes me appear ill,” Pam informed her. “If I must be on display, I will be the best display there. The blue dress, I think, will do.”
“Eric, let me up.”
“No. I don’t want to.”
Godric sighed and tugged his arm away from his child. The past century he had grown in strength magnificently, although at the moment Godric wished he was still the trembling, newborn vampire he once was.
“We must get ready, or we will be late for the ball.”
“We don’t need to go,” Eric growled, stretching luxuriously in the large bed. “We could just lounge here the entire night.”
“We’ve been in bed the entire day, child,” Godric replied. “If we did the same for the night it would simply be laziness.”
“It’s not laziness,” Eric pouted. “Why, we haven’t even had any fun yet.” With that, he licked Godric’s shoulder. “Mmm. You taste good.”
“I taste the same as I’ve tasted ever since the Industrial Revolution,” Godric informed him, using a little strength to toss Eric off him before pulling open the bed curtains. Their hired help had lit a few candles, giving the stone underground chamber a warm glow.
“These servants do know what they’re doing,” Eric commented, rolling out of bed as well.
“That’s the magic of glamour,” Godric replied. “Now- we must get you looking tasty for tonight’s ball. After all, I have it on good authority that there will be nearly a dozen young ladies with wealthy fathers of marriageable age.”
“You know you are all the woman I will ever need.”
Godric smiled, shooting a quick glance at the trunk where he stored his dresses and other feminine accoutrements.
“That may be, but I am not all the businessman you will ever need, and tonight will be an excellent night to make contacts. After all, we’ve barely been in London a month. Rumors about our associates in Paris will only get us so far.”
“All right, all right, you cobra,” Eric sighed, opening the closet. “Now, which suit?”
“Oh, the blue one. Definitely the blue one.”
Gertrude bustled anxiously around the room as Lady Pamela took her own sweet time buttoning up the intricate fastenings on her gown.
“Are you nearly ready? I can hear the guests arriving!”
“So can I,” Pam replied as she picked up the mental waves from two stories down. “Here, help me with my hair. I am not setting foot down there without it being perfect.”
“If you delay much longer, you will only be adding to the rumor that Lord Ravenscroft’s only child is a hermit,” Gertrude protested even as she picked up the hairbrush and began running it through Pam’s golden locks. “What hairpiece?”
“The orchid,” Pam replied, pointing to a glass-blown stylized flower. Her father had given it to her- along with a long lecture about the horrors of dying a spinster- on her twentieth birthday. Seven years later and Pam was still holding strong against the pressure to marry, and her parents only asked her about it a few times a year.
“Very well, my lady.”
The carriage was a relatively grand one, Eric and Godric having brought over plenty of money from Paris. Neither had wanted to leave, but they had been there for eleven years and people were growing suspicious that neither of them was showing the effects of age.
Godric leaned against Eric, careful not to wrinkle his fine evening suit as they listened to the clop clop clop of their horses’ hooves against the cobblestones.
“Where are we headed again?” Eric inquired.
“Cavendish Square,” Godric explained.
Eric raised his eyebrows. “Hoity-toity.”
“And exactly the type of people we want to be associating ourselves with if we want our decade in London to be any fun.”
“I miss brothels,” Eric frowned. “I want to associate with some of those people.”
“Make no mistake, Eric, we’re heading into a brothel just the same. People are still selling themselves and their friends for a tidy sum- only with pounds as opposed to shillings, and with more clothing.”
They rode in silence for the next several minutes, Eric breaking it only when they pulled up in front of the grand London townhouse.
“Kiss me,” he demanded.
Godric quirked an eyebrow. “Why? Scared that you’ll meet some high-class enchantress and be swept away by her unless I reaffirm my hold over you?”
“Oh, stuff it.”
Godric reluctantly removed his mouth from Eric’s when their footman opened the door.
“We have arrived at the Ravenscroft residence, my good sirs.”
“Thank you, Harry. Go off and attend the servant’s party, that’s a good boy. I know there’s one in the kitchen.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Eric glanced around. The house was large, brick, and relatively new- those were gas-lamps shining from the inside. His supernatural senses picked up the buzz and bustle of dozens of humans swirling around inside- dancing, eating, and otherwise trying to subtly claw their way to the top of the social pyramid. He shook his head- they thought they were being manipulative, they should have been around for the Renaissance…
The enormous door swung open and the two were met by another footman in livery who inclined his head in a most respectful manner and asked to see their invitations. Godric showed them and the servant nodded with an expression of curiosity on his face- the two new arrivals were the talk of the town in London, and everyone who was anyone wanted to be the first to meet them. Well, here they were.
The music was the perfect level- loud enough to be heard, but not so much that it muted conversation. Eric and Godric threaded their way through the crowd- and that was the perfect size too, large enough to be enjoyable and thriving but not so much as to get lost in- for several minutes, favoring guests with a smile, a greeting, a compliment before moving to the next one, being sure to keep an air of mystery about them.
“Eric,” Godric whispered. “Eric, look up at the entrance stairs.”
The tallest man in the room turned and froze, looking at the vision in blue walking slowly down the stairs.
Pam inwardly steeled herself as she set foot on the entrance stairs. The ball below was bustling, and she knew all eyes in the room were on her.
hear she’s practically a hermit
can’t believe she actually came tonight
prettier than I thought, her bank account’s not too shabby either…
She swallowed and focused her mind, pulling up shields as best she could. This was why she avoided being in anyone’s company. All the time. If she had her way, she would spend the rest of her life on the third floor- preferably in the library…
“Ah, my lovely daughter!” Lord Richard Ravenscroft smiled, even as her mother cut her a dirty look for arriving late. “Doctor Jekyll here was just inquiring after your health.”
“As you can see, I am quite hale and hearty,” Pam replied, giving the good doctor a sharp nod. His mind was a bit murky, but he wasn’t slobbering after her body or her money in the least, which shot him up in her esteem.
“That is always good to hear, madam,” Dr. Jekyll nodded.
“Come, Pamela dear, you must greet Mr. and Mrs. Preston,” Cynthia Ravenscroft steered her daughter away to greet the distinguished silver-haired couple, who were smiles on the outside but were thinking about their son’s opium habit at the same time. Pamela didn’t say anything, and she never would. It wasn’t her secret to tell- although if her father ever needed to borrow a sum of money from the good Mr. Preston, it was always nice to have a little ammunition on their side…
“And you must meet these gentlemen,” her mother whispered to her a moment later. “They’ve just come from Paris!”
Pam eyed them appraisingly. Both stood out amongst the crowd of Londoners- one because of his youth and the other for his soaring height and rebelliously long hair.
“My name is Godric Sparks, Lady Ravenscroft,” the smaller one introduced himself with a sweeping bow.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she carefully replied.
“And I am Eric Northman,” the tall blonde one grinned, kissing her hand like the gentlemen she suspected he wasn’t.
“Again, a pleasure,” Pam arched an eyebrow.
Mr. Northman arched an eyebrow back.
“What did you say your business was?” the elder Lady Ravenscroft inquired.
“Artifacts,” Mr. Sparks replied. “We buy, sell, and trade various artifacts and antiques. Speaking of which, that’s a lovely vase you had in your entranceway.”
“Thank you, it was from Italy,” her mother replied, before descending into a conversation about the vase and others like it with the young Mr. Sparks.
Automatically, Pam let her guard down a little bit to scan the minds of her father’s potential business partners.
Odd, she thought, and let the shields down all the way.
Still nothing, although the thoughts of everyone else in the room had increased threefold in volume.
“Lady Ravenscroft, are you well? You look pale,” Mr. Northman commented, laying a gentle hand on her arm as if to steady her. Normally, the skin-to-skin contact would have allowed her to see into his thoughts- into anyone’s thoughts- as easily as looking through a window.
But there was only silence.
“I- well-” Pamela Ravenscroft stuttered before doing the only thing a shocked society lady could do in a situation such as that one.
She promptly fainted.