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I grunted when Harper came beneath me, not from delight in his pleasure or the aftershocks of my own, but lancing pain. Harper's arms and legs were curved bent around my body and his fingernails had deeply scored my back. Fair country living had roughened our town manners and dress.

After he had caught his pulse and his breath, Harper joined me in sitting.

"Let me clean you up." Harper had finished licking my blood from his fingertips. "Just a little," he said. His eyes seemed brighter than brown.

I turned to sit at the edge of the bed and brushed my hair forward over my shoulder as I looked behind to watch him. Harper slid his arm around my waist, hand searching for purchase in mine, and his mouth was burning on my bare skin.

I looked ahead. The curtains to Harper's bedroom, our bedroom, were already open and their layers fluttered with night winds.

I could not count the number of times Harper had tasted my blood, but I remembered the early times, how very much of me he had needed to take. I had expected then that Harper would be the sort of man for whom a little was never enough, but perhaps that was just an addict's fancy. I was no longer an addict, and our lives were no longer so fraught. My skin did not feel Harper's lips sucking, but only the heated, wet path of his tongue.

Harper's grip slackened as the change came over him, but I held on. If Harper enjoyed the yellow of my eyes and the rigid pitch length of my clawed fingernails, the signs that marked my body as Prodigal, I enjoyed flying with company.



Harper only removed his gloves at night, just before the very last lamp was extinguished. He had always enjoyed the illusion they gave, the possibility, but now, he liked Belimai's reaction to the uncovering of his bare hands.

However, tonight, Belimai only frowned.

"Did you shut your hand in a drawer?" he asked.

"No." Harper looked down at his hand. Beneath his already too long again fingernails, the root of every nail had turned black.