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A little bit of arson never hurt anyone

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Eric shot upright in bed, his cabin pitch black. He could feel the pull of the sun high in the sky outside, dragging him back into his death-like sleep. Blood began to drip from his nose as his body fought against functioning during the daylight hours. His thoughts were sluggish and he exerted all of his effort to concentrate and identify what could have possibly pulled him from his sleep.

The blood was flowing fairly freely from his nose and now from his ears, much faster than would be expected if a vampire were to wake during the day. He grit his teeth and pressed the heel of his hand into his eye, trying to alleviate the pressure building there. It was making it impossible for him to think. He had never experienced anything like this in all of his thousand years.

He wiped the blood from his upper lip as dropped his hand, giving up on what was obviously a vain attempt to stop the pain blossoming in his head. Panting, Eric lay back, willing himself, unsuccessfully, back to sleep. Light streaked behind his eyelids when he closed them and he felt as if everything in his body was rebelling, everything pulling and tearing at him as he lay awake. The waves of pain that originally washed over his body were either lessening or he was growing accustomed to them as he lay there.

Just as suddenly as it came, the pain vanished, though the bleeding continued. Taking a deep, albeit unneeded breath, he reached out with his mind, trying to pinpoint what had caused this painful interruption. He could still feel the sun at its apex in the sky, bearing down upon him, as if he were laying exposed on the deck. Nothing appeared to be amiss on the ship. He could feel the presence of his small crew as they went about their daily routine of maintaining the ship. There was no threat or danger that he could discern. Relaxing, he waited for his body to succumb to sleep once more. As he wiped the back of his hand across his upper lip, in a vain attempt to clear away the blood that had gathered there he noticed a curious sensation, or rather, a lack thereof. Not only had the pain disappeared, but it seemed as though his ability to feel anything at all had ceased.

He attempted to explore this curious numbness, but it was if he was no longer in his own body. He could move everything and was aware of all of his movements, but the sensations associated with them were absent. Once more he reached out with his mind, searching for the cause, realization slowly dawning upon him.

Eric desperately sought his child, Pamela, through their connection. Barely a year dead, she had proved more than capable of taking care of herself as well as minding his affairs and as a result he had left her at home in London, maintaining the household while he was away on his current trading expedition. He could feel her as her maker and knew that his earlier pain and now the accompanying numbness had originated in Pamela, traveling through the bond to alert him. He could feel through her that it was dusk in London, and the sun had almost completely set. Alarm filled him as he tested the bond between them, pushing for a stronger connection with his child.

Eric could feel Pamela’s anger. That’s good at least, He thought as he struggled to strengthen their link. Being so new she was still very much controlled by her emotions. Though she had matured greatly in the past year, anger had consistently been her strongest emotion and the one Eric picked up most frequently through their bond. He let some of the anxiety that had been building leave his body, as he felt the familiar waves of aggression he had come to associate with her continue to flow through him.

Irritated at what seemed to be a passing incident, most likely associated with a new child, Eric was surprised when his muscles finally ceased their spasming and his body was once again at peace. The tug of sleep was quickly overtaking him as he made mental note to take his now ruined bedding out on Pamela once he was back on land. Smiling, he thought to himself that it had been a while since he had the opportunity to discipline his child and he did so love how responsive she was to a strong hand.

Relieved that his body was once more shutting down, Eric closed his eyes, a slight smile playing upon his lips. As the last of his strength left him, a rush of Pamela’s emotions flooded their bond once more. Unable to fight his way out the death-like state, a muted growl was all he could manage before his body shut down completely. Pamela was afraid.

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A tall dark-haired man passed by Pamela’s body, as she lay crumpled at the base of the stairs. The spilled blood of the help filled her senses. She could see the hand of the young girl who worked in the kitchen just inside of the entryway to the parlor. It was stiff and curled in death, splatters of blood staining the fingers. Pamela had sulked for days when Eric had forbidden her to play with the girl. He was all about maintaining appearances and refused to have anyone on the small day staff wandering about London with bites on their body.

Kitchen girl, Ginger, if Pamela remembered correctly, was almost too vapid to function, but she took orders well and never questioned the odd occurrences in the house. Eric had her cooking daily, making it seem as though a normal family lived there. He had even allowed Ginger to see him once or twice during the day, moving around in his windowless study. As far as she knew, her master was very busy and away from home regularly and preferred the nighttime when he was in residence, sleeping through the daylight hours.

Robert, Eric’s daytime man, made sure to whisk each meal prepared for Eric and his “sister” away before poor daft Ginger had a chance to notice. She was also seemingly oblivious to the copious amounts of refuse each day, comprised almost solely of the meals Robert deposited periodically.

And now, because of her, that man was in the house. At least she was dead, saving Pamela the task of killing her once her body had mended itself and she regained the use of her limbs.

Boots stopped inches from Pamela’s face. Rage boiled within her as she stared at them, unable to move or even look up into, what she knew was, his smirking face. A cloth sack dropped to the floor next to the boots, the items within clanging and jarring against each other as they settled there. Leather squeaked as he crouched down beside her, his fingers tilting her chin so that he could look her in the eyes. As if it would do anything, she poured every ounce of her hate for him into her stare. A cruel smile spread across his face as he saw her pupils dilate. He dropped his hand from her chin, letting her face fall against the wood once more.

“Why, Pamela, how very rude of you to to laze about with a caller here. And in your dressing gown as well!” Laughing at his jokes, he reached over to flip the edge of the gown aside, revealing a sheer chemise beneath.

“You have no idea how much this pains me, poppet, but I’ve come across some rather hard times. If you and your staff had been at your brother’s country estate like you were scheduled to be, none of this would have had to happen.” He ran his fingertips across the thin fabric, barely making contact with her skin. Leaning over so that his face was parallel to hers, he reached up and stroked the line of her jaw.

“Who would have thought that you would be so strong? I admit, I was rather shocked. Of course, I put all of that aside when you hit me. I thought you loved me, poppet. Why did you have to go and make me do this?”

Drawn from her sleep by the overpowering scent of freshly spilled blood, Pamela had run into him as she reached the landing at the top of the stairs. He had grabbed her arm and tried to pull her down the hall in the direction of her bedroom. Instinctively she had struck out at him, her elbow connecting with the side of his face. He had turned on her incredibly fast for a human then, grabbing her other arm and lifting her off of her feet slightly. She had kicked at him, landing a blow to his right kneecap.

Cursing, he had shaken her violently, his face contorted in anger. He had felt it, the moment that he’d broken something in her, as her body went slack in his grip. A sigh of disgust escaped him as he released her arms, pushing her form backward over the railing. A sickening thud had followed moments later as she made contact with the final step and floor, her limbs splayed out.

He had stepped away from the railing then, and reached for one of the unlit lamps in the hallway. Shoving the glass from its sconce, the base shattered as it made contact with the wood, spilling oil everywhere. He continued down the hall repeating his previous motion, leaving a trail of stinking kerosene in his wake.

Squatting now beside Pamela’s body, he leaned over and brushed a kiss against her temple, “Oh, sweet girl, I really will miss this lovely body of yours, but I just can’t have anyone around to tell big brother what I’ve done. I’m sure you understand.” Pulling back, he pushed himself up, using the side of her face to balance himself.

Pamela willed herself to heal, so that she could stand once more and tear his head from his shoulders, but the daylight had already taken its toll. Blood was pooling beneath her face and she could feel her body weakening.

He grabbed the sack and strode toward the back of the house. She could feel the sun setting. Twenty minutes, maybe less and then her cells would begin to knit themselves back together and she would be able to follow him. She saw him pause at the entrance to the hall and hoped that he would dawdle further, allowing the sun to set further and closing the gap between her and her health.

Lost in her thoughts of decapitation, Pamela missed the sound of a slight scratch. An acrid scent filled the foyer as he dropped a match behind him, the carpet igniting almost instantly.

Pamela’s eyes darted around her surroundings as she watched him walk down the hall and through the entrance to the servant’s quarters. The smoke irritated her eyes as terror filled her. The sun would not set before the flames reached her.

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Rain beat down on the roof of the carriage as it rolled through the city streets. Adele pulled her cloak tighter around the children at her sides, resting her hands on their shoulders. Jason, her oldest grandchild, pushed her away, sliding to the far side of the seat, distancing himself from Adele and his sister Susannah. He pressed his face against the glass window, staring listlessly at the passing scenery. Sighing and shaking her head slightly, Adele hugged her granddaughter to her as she watched Jason survey the streets of London, expressionless.

A small hand tugged at a tassel on her cloak, drawing her attention from Jason. Susannah had just had her third birthday not a month ago. Looking down into the child’s face, Adele smiled softly. With her blonde curls and blue eyes, Susannah reminded her of her son, Nigel. He had been a beautiful child, his deep blue eyes and unruly mop of golden blond hair giving him an almost cherubic appearance. It had always been a point of pride when the other mothers had remarked how lovely to look upon Nigel was. Though Jason strongly resembled his father, Adele saw her Nigel most prominently reflected in Susannah as she gazed down at her.

Tassel in hand, Susannah pressed against Adele’s side, almost climbing into her lap. She was frowning and sadness seemed to fill her eyes as she returned Adele’s stare. It was as if she understood what had happened to her parents and the profound toll it had taken upon Adele. A weight settled upon Adele’s chest as she thought of never again seeing her son. She wondered if her pain would ease as time passed and the children grew. Perhaps once they were older, they would no longer be a constant visual reminder of Nigel. Her thoughts saddened her even more. She scolded herself silently. She couldn’t blame the children for reminding her of their father any more than she could blame the skies for the violent storm that took him from her.

Adele lifted Susannah into her lap finally, clutching the child tightly as the carriage bumped along toward home. Holding her was comforting, and it was easier for Adel to calm herself, swallowing the sobs that she desperately wanted to release. What would someone think if they saw her, tear-streaked and red-eyed? She had a duty to her grandchildren. Inside, she may feel as if she were dying, but outwardly, she would maintain her composure as a lady should, showing nothing but a strength and graceful mourning.


Sookie dashed down the stairs, her slippered feet sliding on the freshly oiled wood as she turned the corner into the hallway. Jason had stolen her doll and was once again threatening to set it on fire in the garden. She flew past her grandmother’s maid, Catherine, heading for the back of the house. Arriving in the kitchen, she scowled as she found the room to be empty. Jason always hid in the kitchen when pursued, so she was surprised to find that he’d passed it by. Huffing in annoyance, she sat on the wooden bench near the fire. With none of the servants around to clutter her head, she might be able to find him if she listened hard enough.

She closed her eyes and willed herself to relax, pushing outward with her thoughts. She’d only recently begun to learn how to control her “gift” as had Catherine called it. Despite her reassurances that Sookie was indeed one of God’s chosen few, Sookie could not help but think of it more as a curse.

More than once her grandmother had admonished her for speaking out of turn when she unknowingly answered a question or comment she’d plucked from a guest’s mind. Over the past few years, Sookie had learned that it was easier to avoid a sound scolding if she merely did not speak in the company of her grandmother’s guests. She had earned a reputation in doing this though. Most of her grandmother’s friends and acquaintances assumed that she was too simple to carry on a polite conversation and silently pitied Adele for being saddled with a child who could very well turn out to be a spinster.

The only person Sookie felt at ease with was Catherine. Maybe it was because they both had a secret. Early on, before Sookie could control her mind or even understood what she was doing, she’d frequently find herself listening in to everyone around her.

Catherine had started working for her grandmother a few years after her parents were declared lost at sea and she and her brother had moved into her grandmother’s home. Dark-haired with almond shaped eyes and fine features, Catherine was not the typical Londoner stock. She spoke with a slight accent and her complexion was slightly darker than the common paste-white found so prevalently in the English.

At seven, Sookie had been sitting on the same bench by the fire, watching Catherine as she flitted about the kitchen. She hummed as she worked, and Sookie had learned that she could hear Catherine more clearly as well. Usually, Catherine’s thoughts were filled with mundane household-related worries, such as laundry and helping her grandmother get ready for a ball. That day she had seemed sad, the song she sang softly was full of longing. Picking at the threads on her doll’s apron, Sookie had looked up at Catherine, frowning when she realized what pained her.

“Catherine, if you miss your family, why did you leave them? Is it because of Catina?”Sookie asked, looking up from her doll.

Hearing her, Catherine lost all color in her face. With fear in her eyes, she looked over to Sookie, her hands frozen in their task.

“What ever do you mean, my Sookie?” she asked carefully, attempting to keep her voice from wavering. “Where did you hear that name?”

Focusing once more on her doll, Sookie answered, “I heard the angry man yelling about her and then I felt how sad you were. Did you leave your family because of something she did?” Sookie looked up once more when she felt the waves of unease flooding Catherine.

“Did I do something wrong? I did not want to upset you, I am truly sorry Catherine, please do not be angry with me.” Sookie lay her doll on the bench and approached Catherine, her hand outstretched.

It was as if Catherine were frozen in place, her fear immobilizing her. Sookie’s eyes widened when she covered Catherine’s hand with her own and all of Catherine’s thoughts flooded her mind.

Catherine had run away from her family as they traveled throughout England when she was 14. Then, she was Catina, a Rroma and her father’s the only daughter. She had met a boy when they had stopped in Manchester, but her father forbid her to see him. The night her family was due to leave the town; she slipped away, leaving them for her love. She knew that her father would not look for her once he noticed her absence. She had disobeyed him and disgraced herself by leaving for an outsider. He would never welcome her back.

Catina soon realized that her beloved was a fraud, frequenting taverns and the beds of other women almost every night. Disheartened, she left Manchester to make a life in London. After a few years she managed to lose most of her accent and secure a job as a lady’s maid. She was no longer young and foolish Catina. Having grown up facing the disgust most had for the Rroma, she quickly shed that part of herself, becoming Catherine.

Frightened, Sookie pulled away, her eyes wide and trained on Catherine’s face.

“I promise I will not tell. Please do not angry with me Catherine. I did not mean it.” Sookie stood there in front of her, unsure of what to do.

Suddenly, as if awaking from a dream, Catherine moved, pulling Sookie into an embrace and burying her face into Sookie’s hair.

“Oh, my Sookie. You know what would happen to me if anyone knew.”

Nodding, Sookie’s voice cracked as tears formed, “You would leave us and have no where to go.”

Catherine pulled back, her hands resting on Sookie’s cheeks as she stared into her eyes. Sighing deeply, she wiped the tears that had escaped away and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“You will be my confidante, yes?”

Still sniffling, Sookie nodded in agreement once more.

Frowning as she reached out once more, Sookie concentrated hard. She could feel her grandmother in the parlor and Albert, the butler, bustling around on the top floor. She felt Catherine approaching the kitchen once more, but there was no trace of Jason. She banged the heel of her hand against the bench in anger.

Where could he be?

Sookie’s grandmother called out to her as she passed by the parlor door on her way back to her bedroom. Pouting, she skulked into the room, stopping to stand in front of where her grandmother was seated.

Adele looked up from her needlepoint when she noticed Sookie standing there. Her brow furrowed as she took in her granddaughter’s appearance. Her hair was disheveled and her hands were slightly dirty from sitting by the kitchen fire. She clicked her tongue against her teeth in mild annoyance.

“Oh, Sookie, please do not pucker your face like that. You will have as many wrinkles as a crone by your eighteenth birthday if you continue to do so. And why, pray tell are you in such a state? You look as if you have been rolling around in the garden all morning.” Adele stood and moved to straighten Sookie’s hair.

“You know that I have a caller coming today. What would he say if he saw you like this? How would that reflect upon me? You really must think of these things before you go romping about the house.”

Sookie stood still as her grandmother groomed her. She had dropped the pout and listened as her grandmother fussed over her. Despite the sharp tone of her voice, Sookie knew that she meant well.

Tucking one last stray hair into place, Adele straightened and smiled, “There. You still look a bit like a street urchin, but a civilized one.”

As she walked to the desk on the other side of the room, Albert appeared at the parlor door. His eyes dropped in disappointment a bit as he took in Sookie’s appearance.

“Madame, your gentleman caller has arrived.”

Adele’s face lit up and Sookie was surprised to feel how excited and pleased her grandmother was.

“Oh, do send him in!” she said quickly as she bustled about the room, finally returning to her earlier seat. In her excitement, it was as if she’d completely forgotten that Sookie was even in the room.

Albert appeared at the door once more, ushering in Adele’s guest. A tall handsome man with dark hair and strong features followed him in. Sookie was shocked that such a young man would be calling on her grandmother. As soon as he caught sight of Adele, he flashed a bright and charming smile.

“Madame, may I present Mr. William Compton.”