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Redemptor Per Sanguinem

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Her Majesty The Queen’s relationship with her Prime Minister was one of understanding, wit and the deepest mutual admiration.

Victoria’s feelings for William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne were strong and not entirely definable, she conceded. They were somewhat intemperate even, and she considered – yearned, let us say – that something might occur which would prompt them to take another course altogether. His reciprocated affection for her was irrefutable – and not entirely unnoticed – but it nurtured and sustained her through the stress of her regency, which, must be acknowledged, was considerable.

Victoria could not imagine a life without her Lord M, of that there was no doubt.

And so, when rumours began circulating that he would soon resign from public office, it sank the Queen into a despondency which would not be shaken.

‘Ma’am … perhaps you should try to engage in a diverting activity,’ tried Emma Portman one October morning. The Queen had been sitting staring absently ahead of her for some time. Her Majesty sighed deeply and turned to her Lady.

‘I have no inclination for anything.’

‘A walk? A game of cards? A song at the piano, perhaps?’

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, I told you, I have not the will for any of it!’

Harriet Sutherland continued gently. ‘Ma’am, what troubles your thoughts? You seem so melancholy.’

The Queen’s shoulders huffed in despair. ‘Oh, you know! I wish Lord M to remain in position! I cannot abide the thought of anyone else as Prime Minister.’

‘Well … he has been intending to give up for some time. I believe politics no longer holds the charm it once did,’ suggested Harriet.

‘But what else will he do?’

‘Well, Ma’am … there are many options available to him,’ said Emma.

‘At Brocket Hall?’

Lady Portman attended to her embroidery but quirked an eyebrow as she answered. ‘And beyond. Perhaps he will travel.’

This prompted indignation from the Queen.

‘Oh, he mustn’t! I wish him to remain in England.’

‘He is a widely travelled man, Ma’am. He enjoys experiencing new ideas and cultures. He would never remain in one place for too long.’

‘Why? Is there not enough for him here?’ Her Majesty’s annoyance was palpable. ‘Why ever would he not stay?’

‘For various reasons … one imagines.’ After this, Emma Portman pursed her lips and became coy. Victoria sensed there was more to impart.

‘Tell me.’

When Her Majesty insisted, there was no point in diffidence.

‘Lord Melbourne is complex, Your Majesty,’ said Harriet Sutherland.

‘I am aware of that, all too well.’

Emma added, ‘Some say he is more complex that anyone could imagine.’

‘In what way?’

After a glance at Emma, Harriet took up the conversation but glanced around first as if what she was to say was of the greatest significance and most secretive. ‘Some say … and it is only rumour and silly gossip by a very few of his oldest servants … they say he is – how to put it? – ancient.’

Victoria tutted. She had had enough of Lord M’s age being a subject of contention. ‘He is not that old! I am tired of this insult!’

‘I do not mean in that way …’ Harriet’s voice dropped, and she imbued it with a pointed import that made Victoria lean into her. ‘They say he is much older than he appears.’

‘What?’

She continued. ‘Lord Melbourne barely ages. It is a curiosity, and the staff at Brocket Hall imparted to my lady’s maid once the conjecture as to why this is.’

‘And why he is so spry and mentally agile,’ added Lady Portman.

‘He certainly is,’ agreed the Queen.

‘And so very good looking.’

Victoria blushed. ‘Well, yes, there is that as well.’

Harriet shuffled closer yet to Her Majesty and whispered, ‘They say he has a secret, one so dark and sinister that if it were to be revealed …’ Her voice trailed off but her intense gaze left Victoria in no doubt of its incendiary nature.

‘But here we are discussing it!’

‘Well, it is only rumour, Ma’am, and it was only after much insistence on my part that I managed to get my maid to tell me at all – the staff at Brocket Hall insisted on her discretion. In any case, I cannot myself believe it as it is so ridiculous!’ Harriet tried to turn back to her sewing.

Emma Portman was not so inclined to let the matter drop. ‘But when Harriet told me, I did think there were some curious correlations to his behaviour. For instance, he returns to his family seat at Brocket Hall frequently, he rarely, if ever, ventures out in bright sunlight … he never attends church …’

Victoria was conflicted and intensely enthralled in equal measure. Her heart rate had quickened and she pulled in rapid breaths. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I thought him simply tested by faith, as he is entitled to be.’

‘That may be it, but it is strange for a Prime Minister to be so bold in his refusal to even go inside the places.’

‘What is this business of him not wishing to go out in sunlight?’

‘His kind, they say, cannot tolerate it.’ Harriet’s eyes widened as if she were implying some well-known fact.

‘His … kind?’

Harriet’s voice dropped so low that Victoria had to lean right in to hear her. ‘The rumour, Ma’am, is that he is … the undead.’

Victoria’s breath was robbed from her. ‘I … the … what?’

‘The undead.’

The Queen stared unblinkingly at Harriet Sutherland, who continued, ‘Specifically, Ma’am … that he is a vampire.’

Vampire.

The word pierced her mind. She had read stories as a child, books Sir John Conroy had confiscated when he’d found her with them. She had heard the servants talking about shadows and dark figures … Vampire … she had heard that word before … But these were fictional imaginings, surely, feverish fancies dreamt up by over-zealous minds. Never were they ever thought to be real.

‘I … no, how ridiculous. That is impossible.’

‘Of course it is,’ said Emma before adding slyly, ‘but his valet is convinced, apparently.’

Victoria was remembering the tales; they were returning to her, creeping up the stairs of her mind and back into the forefront of her consciousness. ‘But, vampires … do they not … drink blood by …’

‘Biting their victims? Yes, Ma’am.’

‘Does Lord M do that?’

‘Well, if the rumours are true then I suppose he does!’ Harriet offered a little giggle to diffuse the tension. ‘Apparently his coachman often picks him up at night from near the slaughterhouse. Perhaps he sustains himself that way.’

Emma gave a little tut, as if suddenly regretting the conversation. ‘It is foolish gossip, that is all. There is no foundation in it. Tittle tattle, idle fantasies. Put it from your mind, Ma’am.’

The women fell silent. But the colour had returned to Victoria’s cheeks and the light once again caught her eyes.

Harriet Sutherland dared to ask, ‘Are you shocked, Ma’am?’

Victoria did not move her gaze from where she stared out at the hawthorn tree across the lawn. ‘No … no I am not. Not at all. I am curious.’

--xoOox--

When the Prime Minister arrived the next day, Victoria was on her feet awaiting him with unusual glee, even for her. He came in and kissed her hand as usual.

‘Lord M … how are you today?’

‘Very well, Ma’am.’

‘Good, I am pleased to hear it.’ She stood, lips quirked in a half smile, studying him intently.

‘And how are you?’ he added, a little unnerved by her intense scrutiny.

‘Very well. I had a good night’s sleep.’

‘As did I.’

‘At Brocket Hall?’

‘Yes, Ma’am. I find it most refreshing there. But I do have to deal with Peel later. He is proving most wearisome. It is practically November, and he has not yet had one day off. He has not had the decency to contract even a mild cold, let alone influenza!’

She laughed. He made her laugh like no other. How she adored him! Had these rumours made her devotion to him any less fervent? Far from it. The weight of the monarchy sat heavily with her much of the time, but never in his presence. With him, all was well. With him, all seemed right. Their laughter and conversation was a balm to her very soul. She stared at him. He wore the dark frock coat which brought out the green of his eyes. He smiled back, that teasing smile she craved so much. He looked unfeasibly handsome today, it almost took her breath away. He really was the most beautiful man she could imagine.

‘Shall we ride out?’ she suggested. ‘It is a fine day.’

The details of Victoria’s conversation with her ladies lingered in her mind. A little test, possibly.

He glanced outside. ‘Perhaps later, Ma’am.’

‘Why not now? It is beautiful. The sun shines so brightly.’

He frowned slightly, a little wrinkle appearing between his eyes which she wanted to run her fingers over. ‘Hmm … It is a little too warm.’

‘It is autumn, Lord M! It is hardly hot!’

‘All the same, I would prefer not to.’

She tilted her head to the side a little and observed, ‘You rarely ride out in bright sunshine, Lord M.’

‘Well … I don’t like the glare, Ma’am. It makes me squint … most unattractive.’

She laughed and noted him mark her laughter – he liked her laughing, she knew. ‘Oh, you silly! You could never be unattractive.’ She crossed to him and smiled up, restraining herself from throwing herself against him.

This magnificent man she adored so much – the rumours made him only more fascinating in her eyes. For now, it mattered not to her what he was – he was here now and he was perfect.

‘Shall we settle to the dispatches, Ma’am?’

She gave a sigh. ‘If we must.’

He smirked. ‘You know we must.’

She moved to her bureau and they attended to business with their usual efficiency. When they had finished she stood up and found herself so beguilingly close to him she could feel his warmth.

‘Lord M …’ she murmured, giving him the full force of her gaze, her fingers tingling to touch. ‘What now?’

His eyes darted down to her collarbones then up along her neck and back to meet her stare. She offered him her most seductive smile. Oh, she felt a sudden rush of brazen wickedness! That curious stirring in her belly, which presented itself so often in his presence, began again, writhing and twisting to assert itself.

For a moment, she saw a look in his eyes, not his dutiful look of statesmanship this time, but another, a look she’d seen that night they’d danced at the Coronation Ball, the look she’d fed on once at the opera. For a time she thought he may indulge her, incline his head and meet her lips with his, but instead he drew in a shuddering breath and turned away. ‘As business is concluded, Ma’am, I could read to you, perhaps.’

Her disappointment was tempered by the excellence of his suggestion.

‘That is a splendid idea! I have just the book!’ She reached down to a drawer and pulled out a book she had been reading secretly for some time. ‘Sh! Don’t tell Mama or anyone that I am reading this. They would be most disgusted.’

She held it out to him. He frowned as he read the title. ‘Frankenstein.’

‘Indeed.’

‘Are you sure, Ma’am?’

‘Why should I not be?’

‘It seems quite curious for you to be reading this. This is a controversial title.’

‘What is controversial about it? I adore it. I pity the poor monster. It seeks only acceptance and love … as we all do.’

‘Indeed. Yet … this creature is a demon, surely.’

‘Is he? He strikes me as simply being misunderstood. In any case …’ She approached him again. ‘Is there not a little of the demon in all of us, Lord M?’

He averted his eyes. ‘Ma’am …’

‘Lord M … is there not? But it’s how we control it, how we use it which defines us.’

He swallowed hard and stared not at her eyes but at her lips, as if he were struggling with himself.

‘Read to me,’ she stated, not a request but a demand.

He met her eyes again, and once more she wondered if he would kiss her. She wanted it. She wanted it so much it burned. But instead he turned away, sat down, and opened the book at the page she had marked.

‘Chapter Nine.’ Melbourne cleared his throat and began. ‘Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear.’

Victoria listened as he read on, her senses drinking in his rich voice.

‘The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself) was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness and the love of virtue.’

She watched him carefully. He seemed to struggle with the text, but continued nonetheless.

‘I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe.

This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps never entirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation—deep, dark, deathlike solitude.’

At this he paused, and Victoria sensed his reluctance to continue.

‘You read beautifully, Lord M. I love you reading to me.’

He sighed a little. ‘This is not my usual sort of book, Ma’am. Give me Gilbert White any day.’

‘Perhaps you should read it properly. I enjoy it very much.’

‘Why, Ma’am?’

‘The same reason I gave you before. I like to explore the demon in all of us. If we can understand it, perhaps we can tame it.’

He sighed again and stood up. ‘I find I am not in the mood for reading, after all, I am sorry.’

‘Have I upset you, Lord M?’

He glanced from the window. ‘No, Ma’am, you could never upset me. Look, it has become overcast. The temperature will have cooled. Shall we ride out now?’

She stood and approached him and once more gave him the full force of her smile. He took it, she knew. His mouth ticked and his eyes shone.

‘Very well,’ she said.

--xoOox--

They rode out under a grey sky so different to earlier. But Lord M seemed content now. She looked at him as he rode. Those high cheekbones, the bright eyes. Were they part of his condition, of what he was? She laughed to herself. How foolish! She should not listen to gossip and rumour. It was ludicrous that she should even entertain the notion.

Victoria was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t notice the low hanging branch until it was too late. It scraped along her arm and tore right through her sleeves.

‘Ow!’ she exclaimed, pulling her horse up sharply.

‘Ma’am?’ he asked with immediate concern in his voice. Melbourne pulled about his horse and dismounted quickly by throwing his leg over its head.

He rushed over and helped her down. ‘What has happened?’

‘I brushed against that branch and it has sliced clean through my sleeves.’

‘Let me see.’

She held her arm out to him and he moved the torn material aside.

‘You have cut yourself, Ma’am.’

She looked down. Blood was seeping relentlessly from a nasty gash on the pale underside of her lower arm. ‘Oh, so I have. Dash it. It is bleeding awkwardly.’

‘Allow me, Ma’am.’

Melbourne reached for his handkerchief and handed it to her. She pressed it to the wound, which was deeper than she had realised.

Melbourne turned away, and she assumed he was embarrassed by her disarray. Or perhaps he could not stand the sight of blood. Her uncle had been that way.

She giggled in surprise. ‘Oh, Lord M, it is only a little blood! These things happen. Don’t tell me you are squeamish.’

He turned a little back towards her, but did not look at her fully. ‘No, Ma’am … I am not.’

She tutted. ‘It is a deep wound. I have caught it in an awkward place.’

An odd tension had overcome him. ‘Do you think you can ride back, Ma’am?’

‘I imagine so, but I’d like this infernal bleeding to stop first. I can wrap your ‘kerchief around it but I fear it will not suffice.’

Red blood was oozing from the wound with relentless determination. It stung and annoyed her but mainly she wanted him to soothe her and stroke it. He remained turned away from her and she noticed a pronounced rise and fall of his back as he drew in breath. His silence confused yet intrigued her also.

‘Lord M, can anything be done to stop it?’

At this he turned and stared hard at her, almost making her gasp. At last he stepped into her, and slowly, as if trying to resist, took hold of her hand. At the first touch of his fingers her heart juddered in that way it did near him. She glanced at him but he was staring down at the wound with an intensity she found curious. Melbourne brought his other hand to her arm and held it, turning it a little so that he could study the wound carefully, it seemed. Every sense in her body was attuned to each of his fingers pressing into her flesh.

‘What can be done?’

He said nothing, but she noticed the lurch of his neck as he swallowed. The deep breaths he were drawing in were more pronounced than ever.

‘Lord M? What do you suggest?’

At this his eyes rose to hers, and her breath was stolen from her. The green of his eyes was no less intense, but there was a darkness to his gaze which unnerved her, and something else, flecked within the green – surely not? Red ... She was unable to look away. He had never stared at her quite like this before and she found herself intimidated, almost fearful, but, beyond that, it made him more stunning than ever.

‘Lord M …’ Her breath was ragged. The words of her ladies came back to her … the rumours …

The grip of his fingers grew stronger and then, without a word, he turned his attention back to her wound and the blood which had now run in a stream of crimson along her pale skin. He emitted a sound, halfway between a gasp and a moan. It was the strangest, most alluring thing.

She found any speech gone. Something had taken hold of him which she had no way of preventing. But more, she had no desire to prevent it.

Victoria watched transfixed as he stared in total absorption at the wound. Then, slowly, he lowered his head and closed his mouth around it.

She gasped in with the utter shock. Melbourne held her arm tightly, so tightly she found bruises the next day. His lips were open wide around it, and she felt it – his tongue, grazing over it, licking it. And then more – he sucked. He drew on the wound, sucking on the blood oozing from it.

The sight alone was bewitching, and the feel of his mouth on her intoxicating, but then the most extraordinary thing happened: a ripple inside her, a tingle and a prickle, as if her veins were enthralled to him, giving to him, pouring towards him. And it felt so very, very good, like those brief moments she inadvertently touched that secret place between her legs.

Her head fell back and she moaned. Still he continued, long deep sucks, drawing the blood from her.

And then, after her head started to swim and she wondered if she could remain upright, he drew off with a groan and turned away quickly. Victoria stumbled and reached quickly for the tree trunk to prevent herself from falling.

‘I … I …’

‘Are you alright?’ he stuttered, still not looking at her. ‘You should perhaps sit.’

‘What … what did you do?’

‘I stopped your bleeding.’

She glanced at her arm. The wound was now pale and was indeed no longer leaking blood. But it was damp with the wetness from his mouth. She reached up curiously and touched it.

‘But …’

‘I have heard it can be tried, Ma’am,’ he muttered as if in excuse. He seemed at odds, as if he was recovering from an injury himself.

‘I am a little dizzy,’ she said.

He threw his head up again, his breath coming fast, his back still turned. ‘Rest a while here.’

‘Did you ... did you suck it from me?’

‘Yes.’

‘A lot?’

‘Perhaps.’

‘Was that necessary?’

‘I did what was needed.’

Her mind was befuddled. She tried to make sense of it. ‘But … it felt …’

‘What?’

‘It felt … good. It felt so very good.’

At this he turned to her and stared down, his gaze as penetrating as before. ‘Did it?’

She nodded. ‘Yes.’

He paused then added, ‘It felt good to me too.’

‘But …’ She pushed herself to her feet and in her dizziness stumbled a little. He caught her and held her under the elbows. ‘Why was that?’

‘I cannot tell you, Ma’am.’

‘You have … here …’ There was a streak of red at the corner of his mouth. She lifted a finger to wipe it off. He didn’t stop her. His mouth opened a little. His lips were a dark red and she realised it was from her blood. She drew the tip of her finger along them and his eyelids fluttered as she did so. ‘Did you drink the blood you sucked from me?’

‘Yes.’

She looked into him and she knew. It was true. She wanted his truth. She would take it and adore him even more.

‘Lord M …’ she said softly, almost inaudibly. ‘I have heard rumours … about you. About who you are … about what you are.’

He said nothing, but this time did not turn from her. ‘Have you, Ma’am?’

‘I have.’

‘And what is it that people say?’

‘That you are … different. That you are afflicted.’

He stifled a laugh, half in humour, half regret. ‘Afflicted … that is one way of putting it.’ He met her eyes. ‘And do you believe them?’

‘I think perhaps I do.’

‘You spoke of it yourself, Ma’am … the demon inside.’

‘It is true?’

He lowered his head and shook it, his expression one of deep confliction. ‘Ma’am … I do not wish to burden you with this. It is something I have lived with … for many, many years.’

‘How long?’

‘I cannot tell you. I must not tell you.’

‘Oh, but you must.’ She took a step up to him and her hands instinctively rose to his chest, which was strong and heated beneath her fingers. ‘I cannot have secrets between us. Lord Melbourne … tell me.’

He drew in a staggering breath, but then said quite plainly. ‘For 256 years, Ma’am.’

‘What?’ The shock hit her hard.

‘I was born, Ma’am, in 1560.’

The starkness of his sudden admission took her aback and she tried to make sense of it. ‘Lord M …! But how can that be … your mother was Elizabeth Lamb, your father the first Viscount Melbourne. I remember them when I was a child.’

‘People remember what is easiest for them. Elizabeth took me in at a time when I needed it. She knew of my affliction, as you call it, but I am not her son. It was easy enough to concoct a tale of belonging. People are easily convinced.’

Victoria stared up at him, trying to make sense of the revelation. ‘When people talked, I was not sure I believed them, and yet ...’

‘What exactly do they say about me?’

‘That you are … Oh, I cannot.’ She dropped her head. He held onto her arms and she was compelled to look up at him again.

‘Victoria … You know. Say it. Say what I am.’

She closed her eyes, but said the word. ‘You are … vampire.’

He barely paused, but ensured she was looking at him again before stating, ‘Yes.’

She half wanted to shake away the truth, but it somehow felt unnecessary. Her denial was almost a pretence. ‘But it cannot be. How?’

‘Your surprise is understandable. All I can say is that I had hoped to spare you discovering it.’

‘Why? Why spare me?’

‘Because … it is horrific.’

‘Is it?’

‘Ma’am? … Please.’

‘You do not seem horrific to me. You never have. Why should I not know the truth?’

It was his turn to look away. ‘But … the things I have done, Ma’am.’

She shuddered at the intensity of what he’d said. ‘What have you done?’

He closed his eyes. ‘Do not ask me that.’

‘Do you do it still?’

He did not answer.

‘But how? Why? I never knew such things were real, but when I look at you I know, I know it’s true,’ she continued.

‘Yes, it is true. I was killed in 1583. The only reason I am here today is because I am the undead … Nosferatu.’

She laughed. She couldn’t help herself. It was inconceivable. It was so extraordinary and inconceivable and ridiculous that she laughed. But she also laughed because she knew it to be true.

All those trivial things which had seemed so insignificant now made sense: the avoidance of sunlight, the need to retreat to the earth of his home, the frequenting of the slaughter house. And this. She glanced at her wound, the blood flow stopped by his relentless sucking.

‘You needed it,’ she stated plainly.

‘Yes, and I wanted it. It has not affected you, do not fear. I did not persist … and I did not pierce your skin.’

‘Pierce my skin …’ she repeated and wondered immediately how it would have felt if he had. It would have hurt dreadfully, no doubt, and yet still she was curious.  ‘But you do … to others?’

‘I have tried to sustain myself through the blood of beasts after slaughter.’

‘And that is sufficient?’

‘It is sufficient, but … it is not satisfying.’

The tingle was still there, pulsing through her relentlessly. Her breath was dragging. She asked, her gaze boldly turned his way. ‘Was my blood satisfying, Lord Melbourne?’

‘Yes, Ma’am.’ At this he met her eyes again and her desire almost upended her. His voice was deep with his own truth. ‘Your blood was exquisite.’

She believed him. She knew it. ‘When you sucked, when you drank from me … I felt that too … exquisite. Why is that?’

‘I do not know, Ma’am.’ But she felt he knew all too well. She took a pace towards him and forced him to respond.

‘I wish to know. Why does something which should be about pain, which could lead to death … feel so wonderful?’

He said eventually, ‘It is a connection, Ma’am. It is about sharing ... joining.’

‘I see …’ She did not entirely see, but she knew she wanted to.

He took a step back from her. ‘You will be missed at the castle. We should return now, Ma’am.’

‘Yes … I suppose we should,’ she sighed.

Silently, absorbing this new state between them, they mounted their horses and began the ride back.

As the castle came into view she asked boldly, ‘Is this the reason why you wish to resign?’

‘I cannot stay in one situation for too long, Ma’am. When you have lived as long as I have, you need frequent changes and challenges.’

‘Is being Prime Minister not challenge enough?’

He smirked. ‘I thought it would be, hence why I did it.’

She laughed. ‘Not everyone can achieve such a thing with the ease you did!’

‘Well, with great age also comes great experience, and I suppose, a modicum of charm and intelligence.’

She teased his arrogance. ‘But not modesty it would seem.’

He laughed and once again their easy relationship struck them both. She held his eyes and his smile and he returned it freely.

‘I had never thought to tell you,’ he said with a sigh. ‘I had hoped to protect you.’

‘From what?’

‘From the darkness of my true self.’

‘Are you so dark, Lord M?’

He offered a small, sad smile. ‘I hope not with you, Ma’am.’

‘And you think I have none of the dark in me? I did not choose to read Frankenstein on a whim, Lord M.’

He laughed a little. ‘You and I, Ma’am, despite our difference in age –’

‘More than I ever realised!’

‘Indeed … but, despite it all, we are so very similar, I have always thought.’

She met his eyes again and the connection between them struck her profoundly. ‘And you think it still?’

‘I do.’

‘As do I.’

‘I do not like having secrets between us. I am glad you know, Ma’am.’

‘So am I. Lord M, of one thing I am certain … no matter who you are, no matter what you are … I will never let you go.’ And with that she turned and cantered away ahead of him.

--xoOox--

Melbourne stared after her.

She knew. She accepted. His adoration of the woman sank ever deeper into his being.

But lingering on his tongue was the taste of her. That tang of her rich, red blood had swum around his senses from the first moment he had placed his mouth around her wound. He had known she had cut herself as soon as he pulled the horse round; the smell of her blood wound instantly into his nostrils and compelled him towards her. He had tried, but the lure of it was impossible to resist. Her blood, the blood he craved beyond all else, there before him for the taking. At the first taste of her he had known true pleasure, even from the little he had taken, sucked from her smooth, soft skin. He had kept his fangs hidden from her, but they had emerged, desperate for more. How easy it would have been, how delicious and perfect, to twine his arms around her and hold her captive, to tilt her head back the exact amount and expose that beautiful, pulsing neck to him. To lean down and sink into her pale, giving flesh.

It was only with the restraint that he had honed over the years, with the love he bore her, that he had not.

And it was not only her blood he craved, but her slight, giving body. Oh, she wanted him too, he knew; she made little attempt to hide it. He could have all of her and she would give herself willingly. The palace and the castle offered many hiding places and opportunities. How easy it would be to take her exactly as he wished, exactly as she wished, for he knew she would be as curious sexually as she was in all other matters. His cock had been lividly erect throughout the encounter in the wood, and once again he allowed himself a modicum of pride at his restraint. He had, after all, been born a gentleman all those years ago, and in many aspects hoped that he remained one. That was the conceit, anyway.

But the agony of holding back! How it had pained him!

He had not been entirely truthful. The animals from the slaughterhouse provided his daily sustenance, true, but the desire for living human blood was a constant cry which could not be entirely ignored. He had recently, and admirably he felt, restricted himself to the more villainous elements of society – the thief who had gone for his knife and would surely have stabbed Melbourne first; the lowlife he had found beating a child with his studded belt; the brothel mistress who chained the women who did not indulge the every hideous whim of their clients … He had had to. The craving was too great.

And now he had tasted her. Perfect, luminous, throbbing her.

As he watched her canter off from him, he dug his heels into his beast’s flanks and urged it into a gallop. He would catch her.

For having tasted her, he now, of course, would have to take more.

 

 

Chapter Text

Both Melbourne and Victoria were busy for the next two days, which was probably a sensible thing given what had just occurred between them.

The court returned to Buckingham Palace from Windsor on the Thursday and it was the next day that he arrived for his usual morning audience.  As he packed away the dispatches, conversation quickly turned to the only matter occupying Victoria’s thoughts. Lord Melbourne seemed content to discuss it.

‘What happens exactly when you bite someone, Lord M?’

‘It depends, Ma’am.’

They may as well have been discussing the Corn Laws, such was the matter-of-fact manner of their discourse.

‘Tell me. I am curious.’

He smirked. ‘I can see that.’

‘Indulge me.’

Oh, how he could indulge her.

‘Well, you must imagine it like wanting food. Sometimes, one simply needs a small snack, yet at other times one is famished and must eat until full.’

‘So it is not necessary to take all the blood?’ She stood up and moved across to the chaise, her brows furrowing as she contemplated it all.

‘It is not necessary, although it is, let us say, addictive, and hard to stop once you have started, especially if it has been a while since the last live … feeding.’ He followed her at a discreet distance but came and sat just along from her on the chaise.

‘Do the people … I mean the …’ she began, uncertain what to call them.

‘Victims. That is what they are. Do not prevaricate.’

Her brows wrinkled a little. ‘Do the victims … always die?’

‘No. If you do not take too much blood then they recover, but … it is rare that one allows them to survive, for one does not wish them to remember and tell their tale.’

Her lips pursed against the disagreeable nature of his conversation. ‘I know you feed only on dead beasts now, but still it is strange to hear you talk so freely of what is murder.’

It pained him to hear her say it, but Melbourne was used to pain. Silence enclosed them for a time before he said mutedly, ‘I am sorry, Ma’am. We do not have to talk of it.’

She looked straight at him and he was impressed with her boldness. ‘No … I wish to. If you do drink all their blood and they die … is that the end for them?’

‘That is up to the feeder.’

‘The feeder?’

‘The one who has fed on them. The feeder can choose simply to let them die as any other mortal, or …’

‘What?’

‘If the connection is there, they can turn the victim into one of their own.’

Victoria’s eyes widened. ‘You mean make them into a vampire?’

‘Yes.’

The extraordinary discoveries darted through her mind. She tried to reconcile them with what she already knew of the world. ‘And so they would have eternal life just like the feeding vampire?’

Melbourne clasped his hands in his lap. ‘I would not exactly call it eternal life. Yes, vampires will live on forever, unless destroyed in a particular way. They can be killed, but not in the usual ways. And if a feeder turns a victim – by turns I mean changes them into a vampire – then those two remain deeply connected, bound together.’

She looked directly at him, only one question burning now. ‘Who turned you?’

He didn’t at first reply, but she persisted. ‘Was it a man or a woman?’

Melbourne let his gaze drop. ‘It was a man.’

‘Oh.’

He lifted his eyes again and met hers gravely. ‘You sound surprised, don’t be. You have heard of him.’

‘I have?’

‘Yes … It was Byron.’

Victoria could not suppress her gasp. She knew all too well of the trouble that man had caused Lord M. ‘Lord Byron! He was a vampire?’

‘Oh yes.’

‘But … you were turned hundreds of years ago. Lord Byron was born only last century.’

‘Was he? You thought the same of me until a few days ago. No. The vampire last known as George Gordon Lord Byron has been on this earth for many hundreds of years.’

‘So you two knew each other all that time ago?’

‘Yes.’ His eyes drifted beyond her as he recounted the memory. ‘We were, at the time, great friends. George and I met at Trinity College, Cambridge, but not, as many believe, in the early 1800s, but in the early 1600s. And we lived life to the full, it must be said. Surrounded by the best minds in the country, we were full of youthful arrogance. Beautiful women flocked to us, our fellow students hung on our every word. Life was there for the taking and we took and took and didn’t want it to end. When it came, it was all his suggestion, all his doing. He had been turned one summer on a visit to Italy and saw nothing but wonder in it. His morality was fragile, to say the least. And he came to me and suggested a way to make life yet more vivid and glorious. He was too persuasive, too vividly alive to refuse. As ever, he was the one we all followed, the one who promised meaning and lucidity … and eternal life. I was weak and foolish and at odds with the world. And so one day, I let him bite me.’

‘But you said you are bound to the one who turns you. Do you not still see him?’

‘No. He is gone into darkness.’

She was confused. ‘What do you mean? Was he destroyed?’

‘No … but he has chosen to live in the underworld, far from here. Some vampires choose that, feeding on the half-dead, the outcasts, and never emerging into the world as we know it. I doubt I will see him again. I care not. Our connection was broken when …’ His voice trailed off.

‘What?’

‘Caroline.’

‘Your wife?’

‘Yes.’

Victoria swallowed hard. It pained her to hear of his past relationship, but her curiosity got the better of her, and she sensed his need to talk. ‘What happened?’

‘Caroline … Caro … I met her at her most radiant. She was so innocent, so full of life – she entranced me. I told her. I told her everything about me and she was so utterly accepting. She knew what I was and yet still she wished to marry me, she wished to give me everything. At that time, I adored her and told myself it would work. We married. I promised never to corrupt her, never to turn her, and for a time we were so very happy. And then he returned. I had not seen him for some time, he had been abroad, and one day he crashed back into my life. He had turned his brilliant mind to poetry and was the toast of society … Little did they know the truth of the ‘genius’ poet.

‘At first I welcomed him and our connection was as strong as ever, but fame had gone to his head and he lost focus of what was needed. He turned his attention to my wife, and she to him. He assured me he would leave her alone, that he would not take her, but they became so obsessed with each other and I knew she did not have the strength to resist. I could only stand back and watch.

‘He did what I promised never to do … he turned her. He took her, my Caro, my pure rose, and corrupted her completely. She lived on with him and became the worst of her kind. Together, they fed freely, indulging themselves on whims – innocents, good men and women, children even – they fed wherever they wished. It appalled me, it disgusted me. She was never careful and became an easy target for hunters.’

‘Hunters?’

‘Vampire hunters. Professional bounty hunters who seek us out for reward. Some are even our own kind. They found her, and they starved her.’

‘Starved her?’ Her heart juddered.

‘Of blood. You can kill a vampire that way, by denying it blood. If starved of blood, we simply fade away. I heard of it and returned to her just before she died. She simply faded to dust before my eyes. Her coffin contained only the dust of her. And it was all him.’ His jaw clenched and a steely light caught his eyes. ‘My hatred for him is boundless. I blame him. I blame him for everything.’

‘Byron?’

‘Yes. For her, for me, for all we have become.’ He stood and paced solemnly to the window.

Victoria stood quickly and hurried over to him. ‘But look at what you have become! You are Prime Minister! You are loved!’

‘By whom?’ he practically sneered. ‘Not by the people. Not by my own party even.’

‘By me!’

He turned to her. Her eyes were shining with tears.

‘I love you! I love you, my darling, my darling Lord M! My William!’

And at this she was there, curling her arms around his neck, pulling him close, pressing her body upon him.

He made the mistake of looking into her eyes – blue and bright and imploring.

Sense was forgotten.

He bent his head and pressed his mouth to hers.

It was her first kiss but there was little he could call innocent in it. She opened for him immediately and her sweet breath floated into him. By God, he wanted her! Every part of him cried out for her – for her body, her soul and her blood.

He gripped her tightly, pulling her flush against him. He had risen quickly and he indulged himself, pushing his erection against her. Again, she did not pull back but reciprocated, her natural instinct staggering. A dash of pure erotic bliss coursed through him and he took more. She kissed like a long-standing lover, not an innocent girl, and he relished it brazenly. He felt her tongue and gave her his own and soon, open mouthed, they were kissing with such desperate passion they nearly stumbled. His left hand clasped the back of her head to press her harder yet against him, the other took hold of the join of her neck and shoulder, and his thumb stroked until he felt it – her pulse – beat, beat, beating. At the feel of her blood throbbing through her veins under his thumb, he groaned into her mouth.

His thirst was almost too much. Melbourne pressed harder against her throat and felt her blood pound ferociously.

The prick in his jaws began; his fangs would soon emerge. They would cut her if he did not break the kiss. He managed to pull away only to graze down her neck to that point, that pulsing, throbbing point. How easy it would be. She was ready. Her neck was bared, her body open. He opened his mouth, and she would feel the sharpness of his fangs catching her skin.

She gasped but held him there.

But, at this moment, William Lamb was still a good man.

And so he let her go. With a groan propelled from his inner agony, he drew back and turned from her.

‘No. I will not.’

Victoria rushed over, grabbing for his coat, trying to turn him around to face her. He resisted and was pleased to feel his fangs retracting.

‘Oh, my darling, don’t do this! That was glorious! That was wonderful! I want more and more. I want it all! I love you, how I love you!’

At this, he did turn back a little and smiled sadly. ‘No. Do not waste your love on me.’

‘Oh, but I want to. It would not be a waste, but a triumph. You spoke of connection, you know we have it, you know we share that already. Let me show you!’

He was gripped with the tension of denial and resistance. ‘Victoria … don’t. I have suffered enough. I cannot taint another.’

‘You will not be tainting me! I am so sick of this life! Being Queen restricts and constrains me evilly. I cannot bear the thought of being tied into it. I want freedom! I want to live as fully as I can!’

Melbourne turned and met her gaze at last. Her lips were full and bruised from their kiss, and her eyes shone with a determination which staggered him. Christ above, she was glorious! Could he resist? Should he even bother to try? His fangs may have retracted, but his cock still demanded more.

‘You know how good we are together,’ she continued. ‘You love me too, you cannot deny it.’

There was no doubting it. ‘No, I cannot deny it.’

Oh, he could not.

She looked at him and their devotion was everything. Why indeed stop? Why?

Melbourne took a step back towards her.

Just then the door opened and her mother came in.

‘Is business concluded?’ asked the Duchess. ‘Good, because I wish to go to Richmond Park. Go and dress, Victoria. And do hurry. Good bye, Lord Melbourne, it is time for you to leave.’

--xoOox--

Victoria remembered very little of her trip to Richmond Park. She did, however, remember every detail of her kiss with the Prime Minister and the words they had exchanged.

That night, as she lay in the muffled stillness of the dark, she went over the moment time and again – the feel of his lips on hers, the way he had pulled her against him, that hard force between his legs which seemed to seek her out. The declaration of their mutual love, which had remained unspoken for too long. In the enclosing darkness the memory was almost as good as the kiss itself. She ran a finger over her lips while her other hand sought lower, down between her legs. She found that place she touched from time to time and stroked. Her body responded immediately and she didn’t want to stop.

And then she thought of the moment in the woods, and in her mind she combined the two, the feel of his body on hers and his mouth sucking her blood from her. The passion and the force of it overwhelmed her even though the pulsing sensation between her legs craved more touch.

But she grew fearful. Alone in the dark, she was unnerved. It felt so terribly sinful and with no one to absorb her apprehension, the prospect of going to hell did not appeal. She didn’t think like that when Lord M was around, when his love cossetted her, but, now, alone and isolated, her conscience overcame her desire. She withdrew her hand from between her legs and turned over quickly, pulling the covers up and squeezing her eyes tight shut.

But sleep did not help matters. In her dream she was entirely naked. In her dream she was not alone. In her dream, unspeakable things were done to her body. And in her dream, she adored it.

--xoOox--

Melbourne returned to an empty Dover House after his visit to the Queen. He forewent dinner and sat instead in the gloom of his drawing room with only a large decanter of brandy for company.

He had never known conflict like it. Everywhere he went, everything he did, he could not escape it. And this was the hell of his condition. He loved her. He adored her. He wanted to do what both she and he wanted, but if he did, he would destroy her.

Or would he?

He had survived, had he not? He had lived and loved and given much pleasure in his many, many years on this Earth. Would she not do the same?

But no. With perpetual life came limited choice, came an exhausting need for continuation, came the need to hide and run and move on and on, always changing, always excusing. Did he want that for her?

But he would have her and she him. They would be together. The adaptation which was needed for such an existence could be borne so much more easily with another. Apart from his brief happiness with Caro, he had never really had that. He would with Victoria. And he could take her away from this life she found so frustrating and restricting. He could grant that freedom she so craved. And she demanded it of him. She begged him for it. Would he not simply be giving her what she wanted?

He closed his eyes and dragged on his brandy.

Images came back to him: A girl, her body pale and broken, lying lifeless by a river as a dark figure stood over her, sated; a young student, a few moments before so full of hope, now his eyes staring blankly in death as the last of the blood was drained from him; a child howling with hunger and confusion while her vampire mother, recently turned, now sought only blood and forgot to feed her own daughter.

All because of him. He had destroyed all those lives.

And then another image … Caro … turning to dust before his eyes.

Melbourne dragged his hands down his face and reached again for the brandy decanter. It had been this way since the start: so much promise of life, and in truth the deliverance only of death.

He closed his lids again and shining blue eyes appeared in his vision. A smile; warm, seeking hands; a lithe, needy body; pulsing warm blood … pleading with him, wanting him … loving him. And the taste of her … that tang of her rich, beautiful blood which had lingered on his tongue for days now.

He cried out in frustration and tried to flood the taste with more brandy.

He could not.

--xoOox--

Her Prime Minister could not come soon enough the next day. Victoria was afraid he would have been deterred after what had occurred between them previously, but he arrived as the clock struck nine, just as usual.

Melbourne gave at the knee and kissed her hand then stood. She didn’t hesitate but moved into him immediately and placed her hands on his shoulders. He did not draw back but avoided meeting her eyes.

‘I dreamt of you last night,’ she said with a deliberately seductive lilt.

‘I am sorry to hear it, Ma’am. How dull that must have been.’

She smiled it away. ‘Far from it. It was heavenly.’

‘Ma’am … what happened yesterday –’

She stood on tiptoes and silenced him with her mouth. He tried briefly to resist but his hands worked of their own accord, curling around her waist and pulling her in against him.

By Christ if this continued he would not control it! He must stop this madness! She was his Queen! Had he lost all of the decency he hoped he could still summon when necessary?

With an agonised groan he pulled away. ‘Ma’am! This must stop. We cannot continue like this!’

She looked at him in despair. ‘Why not? Why not? We want it. We need it.’

‘You do not know of what you ask! You do not know what it means, that life. If I told you what I had witnessed … what I have done to maintain my life!’

‘Tell me then! I want to know! I want to understand. Together, we can ease your suffering.’

He shook his head. ‘No. I cannot. I cannot do that to you.’ With that he picked up his bags and paced from the door.

Her words rang through his head as she shouted them after him.

‘But you do it instead to yourself! You are living a lie, Lord Melbourne, and you know it!’

She was right. But what more could he do?

--xoOox--

Melbourne found the only way to deal with the matter was to remove himself from the Queen’s presence. When he was near her, her soft, warm, pulsing body was constant temptation: the feel of her, the lure of her, drawing him in, calling to him. And she abetted it. She craved it as much as he did, there was no doubt.

And so he made excuses for his absence. Days passed when he would not see her at all. On the times he had no choice but to attend her, she upbraided him for staying away and would try to wrap her body around him. Sometimes she succeeded, sometimes he rewarded himself with a kiss, and those kisses were so deep and potent that he felt his fangs forming and his cock hardening.

But his vampiric nature had not yet managed to vanquish his sense of duty, and it was with some pride that he had so far extricated himself on each occasion from her hold, uncurling her arms from about him and leaving her.

Her frustration was tangible.

On one occasion, as he retreated, she had hurled an ink pot at him in her rage. It had bruised his shoulder and left deep purple stains both on his frock coat and on the carpet of her drawing room. It pained him to see her so hurt, but, it can only be said, also aroused him yet more. Her fury was beautiful. He wanted to sink his teeth into that as much as the soft pliancy of that smooth skin.

But he continued to live the lie. He had sown the seed of the inevitable that day in the woods, and it was becoming harder and harder to keep it at bay. As long as blood pulsed through her veins, he would have to have her.

--xoOox--

His deliberate absences infuriated Victoria. But, if he was trying to dull her feelings, he was achieving the opposite. Her dreams continued. Her body was more enlivened than ever, her soul buzzed with the wonder of it, and her mind was opened with the possibilities. Her life as Queen continued to frustrate and torment her and escape seemed the only way to a future of happiness.

He could provide her with that escape. And what an escape – an escape led by love and desire and need.

Victoria had decided. And when Alexandrina Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, decided on something, nothing could deter her from it.

 

Chapter Text

The following Tuesday, Melbourne called after receiving an urgent summons from Her Majesty. It was dark, the sky thick and oppressive with sombre grey clouds which threatened heavy rain and worse.

By the time he reached the Palace, the rain was falling relentlessly. He was damnably wet when he walked in and already at odds. He was met by a footman with a message.

‘Her Majesty is unwell, Lord Melbourne. Yet she insists you call today as she has important business to discuss. You are to visit her in her bed chamber.’

He started at the surprising request. ‘Her bedchamber?’

‘Yes, My Lord.’

‘Is her mother aware of this? Is the Baroness Lehzen?’

‘They are not here, My Lord. They have gone out for the day.’

He indicated his wet clothing. ‘In this weather?’

‘Yes. They informed us that they would remain at the Duchess of Lancaster’s all day if the weather worsened.’

‘And were they aware I had been summoned to see the Queen?’

‘No, My Lord . The Queen called for you after they had left.’

‘I see.’

He searched the footman’s eyes for a reaction, but, as the man was a professional, he had none.

‘How exactly is Her Majesty afflicted?’

‘A slight headache, I believe, My Lord.’

‘Ye t she can still attend to the dispatches?’

‘She seemed most keen to attend to the dispatches, sir.’

‘Very well. In that case, I … should attend upon her.’

‘Follow me, sir.’

The footman led him to a part of the Palace Melbourne had not set foot in since that first time he had shown Her Majesty around Buckingham House. Even he had not imagined returning to these rooms, although he had in his imagination many times, and for many purposes.

The footman knocked and he heard her voice call, ‘Enter.’ The door was opened for him and he was announced.

‘Lord Melbourne, Your Majesty.’

‘Thank you. Leave us. There is no need for you to stand outside. We have tedious business to attend to and shall be some time.’

Melbourne entered. The door was closed behind him. At first he couldn’t see her, but soon enough something rustled off the bed and there she was, padding across to him.

His head swam immediately and he had to adjust his stance not to sway forward. She was wearing nothing but her nightgown. Her hair was undone and fell long and flowing about her, and already he could practically see the blood in her veins with the flesh exposed at her neck and shoulders.

He swallowed hard and averted his eyes.

‘Why have you been avoiding me?’ Her annoyance remained, clearly.

‘You know why.’

‘I will not have it.’

He sighed briefly. ‘Ma’am … I must protect you.’

‘From what?’

‘From … me.’

Victoria’s voice was taut with grievance. ‘I don’t want protecting from you. How can I have protection from the very thing I crave above all else?’

‘Then you need protecting from yourself.’

She stood, her breath coming fast. He could see the outline of her breasts through the thin cotton and it took all his willpower not to take her there and then, tear the material from her and sink into her, all of him into all of her. His cock was already stirring, the hint of his fangs tingling.

She said nothing, but her outrage defined her. He tried to diffuse matters.

‘I am sorry to hear you are unwell, Ma’am.’

‘I am not, y ou know it.’

‘If your mother knew you had granted me audience in your bedchamber

‘Damn my mother!’

Even Lord Melbourne’s eyes widened at the words. He couldn’t help but smile a little at her boldness.

‘I have thought of one thing only recently, she continued.

So had he.

‘I cannot function while this thing occupies my mind.’

‘What is that, Ma’am?’ He need not ask, but supposed he should.

I think only about being bitten. Being bitten by you.’

I urge you not to think about that, Ma’am.’

She stepped into him, livid with passion. ‘How can you say that? How can you say that after our kisses? After what you did to me in the woods?

‘I stopped your bleeding, that was all.’

‘No.’ She stepped into him and drew her hands with staggering sensuality up his chest. He tried to look everywhere but into her eyes but soon enough could not prevent himself. ‘You did it for you. You did it because you wanted to drink from me, you wanted to feed on me. And you told me it was exquisite. I know it was, because it was for me too. I want that again. I need that again.

He swallow ed hard, his resistance crumbling .

‘Please don’t say these things.’

‘You have tasted me, Lord Melbourne … do you not want more?’

Oh Christ ! This was agony. She was real and here and warm before him. Real pain gripped him, the agony of restraint.

‘You know I do. But … I cannot. If I begin down that path …’

‘You yourself said that you do not have to kill each time. You can take enough blood to provide sustenance and then stop. I will not tell a soul, you know I won’t.’

He pulled away from her and paced over to the window. The rain was lashing against it now and the wind howled outside. It was early but so dark that it could well have been dusk.

Your Majesty, you cannot say these things. It is possible … but it is far from desirable. The first time perhaps, but then you want more and more … and eventually, you must drink your fill.’

She rushed to him and took hold of his arm to turn him round to her. ‘But I crave it. I long for it.’

He pulled away from her again. ‘You think I do not!? Ever since the first drop of your blood sank onto my tongue, I have thought of nothing else. It consumes me, it eats at me. And I practically see you every day. I long for you and cannot escape it! I can feel the warmth of you, sense your life force coursing through your veins, and I want it so much it destroys me!’

‘Then have it!’ She stepped up, pulling back the material of her nightgown and exposing yet more flesh to him. He closed his eyes against it.

‘You do not know what you ask! If I begin this I will be unable to stop! I will want more and more of you until you are either dead or –‘

‘Or you turn me?’

‘Yes!’

‘But what will that mean turning me? Surely, it will mean we can be together. In this life, we must pretend, we must deny our love and our feelings and our very selves. I cannot do that.’

He shook his head ruefully. ‘Victoria … you are so very young. How can you know your true self yet?’

She came up to him and if she had not been Queen of England she would have struck him, such was the anger consuming her.

How dare you?’ She was enraged, her eyes alight, her body rigid with fury. ‘How dare you presume to tell me what I know or do not know!? I am the Queen. I have spent my life being guided and moulded and shaped and instructed and I am sick of it! Throughout it all, inside here ‘ At this she pointed to her beating heart. ‘– there has always been me. Me! Screaming to get out! Screaming to live! Let me live, William! Let me live! Take me!’

But Melbourne shook himself off her and turned his back on her again, shaking his head vehemently. ‘By asking that, you damn your soul, you damn your very self, and you consign yourself to a half-life.’

‘You are telling me then that you too live a half-life.’

‘I do.’ He nodded, admitting his own truth.

‘Why is that?’

‘Because … it ensures that I am alone.’

She approached yet again, her arms reaching for him, her eyes wide and imploring. ‘And if you made me like you, then you would never be alone. You need me as I need you. If you do this, I will be there with you … forever.’

‘Victoria …’

‘No, William. I know you, and I know myself, you have ensured that. Make me yours. Make me yours entirely.’

‘I cannot do that.’ Again, he drew back.

She stood tall, her eyes burning with conviction. ‘I command it.’

‘Please … Ma’am …’

No more ‘ma’am’! I am exhausted by this life. I am sick of commanding and demanding and yet living entirely within the constraint of others. Let me take control of who I am and what I want. And I want you. I want to be as much a part of you as it is possible to be, through my soul, my mind, my bones and my blood.’

He looked over his shoulder at her and met her eyes. In them he saw only complete and utter conviction. And in that instant hesitation was vanquished. Duty was crushed. The inevitable was here and now.

Melbourne turned to her, and Victoria saw the reddening of his eyes, the tension in his jaw. She felt it so acutely it nearly upended her: that tight clenching need which captured and twisted and would not let go. Desire. She would find it through him. She would know it only through him.

He paced across to her, determination now his, and brought his hands to her arms, running them up with a sensual determination which took her breath away.

‘Yes, touch, ’ she sighed out. ‘ I want it all. I want all of you everywhere.’

He frowned a little, but did not take his eyes from her. His gaze seemed to absorb her, and she sensed the shift in him. She had him. His fingers stroked up and the tips moved under the cotton of her nightgown, pushing it back so that the pale skin of her neck was exposed. His mouth ticked at the corner, a smile of satisfaction, verging on wicked, which made her thrill to him.

‘Don’t stop, don’t stop, my darling …’

‘What you ask of me …’ he murmured, and if her eyelids had not fluttered shut at that moment, she would have seen the sharp points emerging on his teeth.

‘I do not ask it, I demand it. I expect it and need it. As do you.

His hands were on her neck, his thumbs pushing to angle her head up and back, exposing the long line of skin to his gaze, to his desire.

She let out a little gasp of expectation and felt him shudder with his own. His fingers tightened on her shoulder. Even if she had wanted to escape now, she was sure he would hold her there, captive. She considered trying to run simply to experience recapture, as she knew it would be the most glorious thing – resistance yet capitulation, denial yet acceptance.

But he suddenly pulled her in flush against him, and his arousal was evident, not only in the fangs which formed in his mouth, but from the furiously hard force between his hips. She pushed onto it and he groaned, tightening his hold on her again.

‘I want that too . You know I do. I want it all,’ she said.

He moaned again and moved down to her, eyeing the pulse at her neck with darkened eyes. She ground against his livid erection and he moaned, low and rasping. ‘Not yet.’

But I want all of you.’

Victoria stared up at him and was almost burned by his beauty. She saw the sharp points of his teeth clearly now and was transfixed by them. His complexion seemed paler, his skin stretched tighter, but it made his cheekbones even more striking, made the green of his eyes burn ferociously, made him so unfeasibly beautiful that she knew that when death came – in whatever form – she had never been so truly alive.

‘Take all of me.’

He shook his head the slightest amount and when he spoke it was rough with intent. ‘Not this time. This time it must be pure. Blood only.’

She gasped again. For as much as she hated the notion of not taking him inside her, he had with those words confirmed his intent. They were ready.

‘Yes … pure … ‘

He gripped her neck again, angling it perfectly for him.

She sighed out the last of her prevarication. Her belly twisted almost painfully – desire, fear, need, compulsion – all combined to make her want and want and feel and feel.

‘I give you one more chance, Victoria. Change your mind now or there shall be no return.’

She had never heard his voice so richly sensual.

‘I don’t want to return. I never want to return.’

‘Then I will take you.’

‘Yes. Claim me, William, now. Drink from me. Bite me.

And at that, he was lost. His eyes rolled briefly upwards, as if seeking forgiveness and claiming supremacy at once. She saw the flicker of red run through the green and the rim of black surrounding the pupils thicken. Melbourne opened his mouth and his fangs showed sharp and brutally white. A moment of anxiety took hold, but her need overcame it.

‘It begins,’ he said, seemingly to the heavens, and cried out – a cry of anticipating triumph, low and guttural, and then he dropped his head.

It felt like a kiss at first, warm and wet and nourishing, and for a moment she forgot all fear and thought it would be only soft and tender. But then … he bit.

His teeth pierced her skin. His fangs sank into her flesh with a noise as if breaking into an apple. Pain struck. She let out a cry as the grip of agony took hold. Oh dear God, it hurt!

But such pain! Such sweet, sharp, exacting pain that it was not pain at all but accomplishment and completion.

Deeper his fangs went, deeper through her flesh, into her very being. She felt them, the pointed sharpness of them sinking into her. He was attached to her, irrevocably and undeniably. His hands, stronger, more powerful than ever, gripped her, held her against him, bent her back so that he could shape his attachment to her perfectly. He had her. She was his.

His erect cock was still captured between them, and she could almost pretend it too was within her. For he had penetrated her. Pierced her.

And now he began. She felt it first as a curious tingling, a warming almost, which started at the point of attachment then spread through her veins as he began to draw on her blood, to suck on her and feast on her. And far from being drained, she had never felt so alive, never so connected to the life force of another human.

He sucked hard and as he did he drank. She felt him taking more and more of her, heard him swallowing, knew he was feeding off her and awakening his own life more powerfully than ever. She had done that. She had given him her love and her life. She turned her head and he responded, pulling his teeth out the slightest amount only to renew the penetration, piercing again to draw more from her.

She clung to him. His muscles flexed under her fingers, muscles she had not felt before, muscles which spoke of a supernatural strength and power. He continued to suck, he continued to drink from her, and in that giving, with that transfer, she lived. From the exquisite agony at her neck, the pull of her veins fed into the twisting in her belly, which grew and grew with each rhythmical suck, with each gulp of her into him. She felt it, brewing, billowing: ecstasy.

Now she was dizzy. As her blood left her and fed into him, the faintness began, but beyond it rapture was taking hold. That perfect moment between life and death, between light and dark. Still he sucked, still he was attached to her, and as she clung to him she felt it in him also – his own ecstasy. His groans, caught against her neck as he took from her, were now almost uncontainable.

And there it was. Pain which was only pleasure. The simmering heat in her belly tipped over. A wave of pure sensation rolled through her time and again as he continued to drink her in. She felt it in the pull of his mouth, she felt it in the grip of his hands, she felt it under her own fingertips. This was life. But as it left her, blackness claimed her instead and she knew she would go. At that moment, the last awareness she had was of him, pulling his mouth away from her, his lips dark red from her blood, a rivulet of crimson running from the corner of his mouth. He threw his head back and cried out as his own rapture took him. He had taken her and was complete again. His body gave the slightest judder as ecstasy overcame him.

With that, the darkness could no longer be held off, and she knew no more.

-- xoOox --

Victoria was aware of thought creeping back to her, but was almost afraid to open her eyes. She was not entirely sure what she would see or where she would be.

But slowly, daringly, she did. She was still in her bed chamber. Everything was how it had been. The rain still beat at the windows, the fire still glowed in the hearth. She was lying on her bed, propped up on several pillows. Dash approached her and sniffed at her hand. Out of habit, she ruffled his head, and was somewhat pleased to see she was as normal as ever. Perhaps she had dreamt it all.

But then something caught her eye. A dark figure sat in a chair by the embers of the fire. Melbourne.

He was staring across at her, his expression impenetrable.

Instinctively, her hand rose to her neck. She sucked in as pain caught her. There indeed were several puncture wounds, but they felt dry with no further blood.

‘Victoria,’ he said, no more.

She tried to sit up.

‘Do not move unduly.’

‘Am I … Am I dead?’ she asked, not out of fear but she could think of nothing more to say.

He shook his head a little and offered a rueful smirk but not a mocking one. ‘No.’

‘But … should I not be?’

‘It was not enough this time. I moved off you before it was too late. Perhaps … I am too selfish.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It was too good.’

‘Too good?’

‘Too perfect. I want it again. And again. I will not let you go completely yet. But the path we have started down … there is only one way for it to end. But I will try to delay that as much as I can.

‘Was I … no good?’

‘What?’ His brows creased in bewilderment

‘Did you not like it?’

He came over and sat beside her, his expression dark with confusion. ‘You think that? Victoria … I have never had anything so sensational. I could have drunk and drunk every drop of you. Your taste … the feel of you flowing into me … it was everything.’

‘But I wish to join you.’

‘One day that will happen as I cannot contain my thirst forever, and then we will share in other ways, but for now … let me continue to feast on you as you are. Did it hurt, my love ?’

‘Yes, but … also …’

‘Go on.’

‘It was … pure pleasure.’

He smiled and reached up a hand to stroke her. ‘Yes. I sensed that pleasure. I felt your rapture.’

‘And I yours.’

Taking hold of her head, he kissed her, deep and hard. His fangs were withdrawn but she would not have minded had he bitten her again there and then.

‘Next time … Will you enter me the other way too?’

My God, the things you demand!’ He let out a laugh.

‘I am ready for it.’

He studied her and an expression came over him which was a strange mixture of admiration and regret. ‘I have truly taken you beyond the bounds of morality.’ Melbourne held her face and let his gaze take her in, as if he would find the answer he sought in her eyes. ‘But, yes, I will have you completely, because I cannot stop myself. I have gone thus far and now, whether either of us likes it or not, I must take all of you.’ He turned away. ‘I am sorry.’

‘Do not be. I want it.’

‘You say that.’

‘I do! Lord M, I do!’

‘But you cannot fully know what will be on the other side.’

‘Then show me.’

He smiled gently and bent to kiss her again, the longest, slowest, deepest kiss which resonated through her very being.

‘When can we do it again … and when can you come into me?’

‘Not for a few days. You are weak. You must recover. I have taken much from you. And the other thing requires complete energy and acceptance.

‘I accept it completely.’ She smiled meekly. ‘But I am not sure anything can be better than what I just experienced.’

‘Oh, my love, believe me …’ His face darkened and he bent to her and murmured, ‘It can.’

Chapter Text

William Lamb used to slide down the bannisters at Eton when he thought the master wouldn’t catch him.

As Melbourne stood at the top of the staircase at Buckingham Palace now, he briefly contemplated doing so again.

He was deliciously content. Strength surged through his limbs, euphoria nearly made him sing.

She was perfection.

And he had drunk and drunk from her. Despite him not draining her, she had given the deepest satisfaction and pleasure: an effervescence of replenishment.

As he glided down the stairs (he did manage to restrict himself to the stairs), he revisited it all in his mind: her willingness, her enjoyment, the way her flesh had given way so succulently under his fangs, how her blood seemed to rise willingly into his mouth. Total capitulation and acceptance.

Let us allow him the glow of dominion for a brief moment; it was a feeling Melbourne had denied himself for so long, after all. She had adored it and he had felt her rapture as strongly as his. And he hadn’t even come inside her. He almost laughed. Never could he remember a connection so strong.

Again, there were aspects of what they were engaging in that he hadn’t been entirely frank about, to protect her, he assured himself. For instance, he hadn’t told her how feeding on her would take its toll. One cannot be drained of so much blood and pierced by vampire fangs and not suffer some repercussions. Victoria would be weakened, yet she would crave him more strongly than ever; it would be only in his presence that she would feel energised again. When away from him, a lethargy and malaise would take hold, worsening each time he drank from her. He wished it could be avoided, and vowed to spend as much time with her as he could to fend off her suffering and the speculation of others.

But in addition to not being entirely frank with her, Melbourne was not entirely truthful with himself; that was not the only reason he wished to spend as much time with her as he could. In any case, since he had started them both on the path towards her inevitable turning, there would be an end to it, and so the present difficulties, he reassured himself, were finite.

Guilt niggled, but not as strongly as it should. The heady satisfaction of feeding on her denied it taking hold for the time being. He had forgotten how good it was: the intense ecstasy of a live feeding from one so willing and wanting.

The man holding his carriage door open thought his eyes were deceiving him. The Prime Minister’s feet seemed to leave the ground as he approached and he appeared to fly into the carriage. The footman shook his head. He shouldn’t have had that jug of ale before coming on duty.

--xoOox--

It was only several hours later, at Brocket Hall, after the effect of her blood had diffused somehow, that regret crept back into the lingering soul which still defined Melbourne.

There was no return, he knew it. She was his now. He had to continue. There could be no regrets from either of them. They would have to tread carefully in the transition time, before she was fully turned. She would be well when he was near, but otherwise would seem lacklustre at best, mortally ill at worst, especially as the moment of turning approached. He would not be able to delay the turning for too long, although he so enjoyed feasting on her living blood. It would be different after her turning.

He had not told her of the precise nature of a turning, that she in turn would have to feed on him. At the mere thought of it his fangs tingled and his cock hardened. His head fell back and guilt was quashed by anticipation.

Oh, the beauty of it!

No one had fed from him for decades. Feeding from a vampire could rarely be done, only after they had live fed so plenteously as to build up enough fresh blood in their own veins and render it pure enough for another to drink.  It was then that the turn could take place, when the connection was so strong that the sharing of blood was essential.

He swallowed, picturing it, her soft lips closing on a wound of his own, her willing mouth sucking on him, drinking him in. He groaned and let his fangs emerge. His hand reached into his breeches and he worked himself quickly to an orgasm which confirmed his intent.

But after ecstasy faded, as it did quickly in his solitude, remorse took hold again.

He thought of himself standing in Parliament: the Good Man, the Worthy Prime Minister.

His damp seed cooled against his legs and a sickening wave of shame came over him. It was a common sensation, this cycle: expectation, satisfaction, regret, shame, need … to be repeated endlessly. It exhausted him, and yet exhaustion had no finality for the immortal. There was no end to contemplate, only continuation.

He had gone through times when he had killed and fed mercilessly to try to vanquish his inherent decency. Not for over a century, it must be noted; the 2nd Viscount Melbourne remained, ostensibly, a thoroughly decent fellow. He could never quite let his integrity go, and so he had tried instead to embrace it. Hence the frequenting of the slaughter house (bitter pigs’ blood which staled as soon as the animal had been killed) and only occasional feeding from the less admirable in society – their veins often corrupted by vice and noxious substances.

Why not reward himself now? She was willing – oh, so very willing. He closed his eyes and pictured her complete acceptance of him as her head fell back and her eyes closed and she bared her neck and she moaned as he drank from her and she came, pleasure so new and fresh, taking her by surprise yet absorbed so readily. And how much more he would give her.

That was all he wanted through all of this – to give to her – was it not?

And thus William Lamb justified his actions and continued on the path he was treading. This way, he told himself he had some choice in the matter.

In truth, free will had been denied him 256 years earlier.

--xoOox--

Victoria did not feel very well that evening, but then, she didn’t suppose she would having had much of her blood sucked from her.

Lord M had told her she should rest, so she did, and sleep claimed her early, although she remembered in time to put on the high necked night gown to hide any wounds from prying eyes. She did not notice the staff and Lehzen fussing around her, wondering what could be tiring her.

The morning was difficult. She lacked energy and asked for breakfast to be served in bed. Her mother was most displeased and insisted she get up. And so, with heavy limbs (and a broad diamond choker once again hiding any inconveniences) she forced herself to dress and appear downstairs. It was a Wednesday, and due to questions in the House on this day, Lord M did not usually appear until late afternoon. This made her yet more despondent.

Her head was thick and dull and conversation tired her. Any attempt by her ladies to engage her in a game was met with a rebuke. They soon left well alone.

Victoria could think of one thing only. She yearned for him, she longed for his touch, craved the time he could sink his teeth into her again, that sweet piercing penetration which gave such glorious agony. And more – he had said – he would have her the other way too, the way she dreamt of, the way she imagined when she lay at night so ready. This was not new. Victoria had known since her body had gone through its adolescent changes that she was curious and needy. Never did she think her latent passion would be awoken and appeased in such a bewitching manner.

Her legs instinctively clenched together to try to relieve some of the tugging tension that pulled at her there. She let out a little sigh as she did so.

‘Ma’am … Ma’am!’

As if from afar, she heard Harriet’s voice calling her. She turned blearing towards it.

‘Ma’am? Are you quite alright? You seem most at odds.’

‘No, I am not alright. I feel very headachey and tired. I did not wish to rise today but Mama insisted on it.’

‘Well, some activity may do you good.’

Victoria knew exactly what would do her good.

Her embroidery was placed in her hand. She tried vaguely to attend to it but found herself studying the needle in her hand and wondered if it was as sharp as the teeth which had pierced her neck the day before. Without a thought, she held it tight and pressed it deeply into the soft pad of her left forefinger.

‘Ma’am!’ exclaimed Harriet, quickly summoning a servant for a handkerchief and some water. ‘Be careful!’

She thought it not nearly as sharp as Lord M’s teeth, but she watched riveted as the deep red of her blood oozed out and began to drip from her finger onto her embroidery. It stained a little white dove she had been working on.

‘Oh, Ma’am, your embroidery is spoiled!’ Her Ladies didn’t know what to do with themselves. Victoria found herself quite immune to their distress.

They fussed and attended to her while she held up her finger quite unaffected.

While they were doing this something happened. Something changed.

Her blood seemed to grow faster inside her, hotter even. Her energy was replenished and her senses suddenly so attuned she could hear the workings of the clock on the mantel.

She stared straight ahead of her, unblinking.

‘He is coming.’

‘Ma’am? Whomever are you talking about?’ Harriet tutted as she bound her finger.

‘He is nearly here. I can feel it,’ she murmured to herself.

‘I don’t know what you mean, Ma’am,’ said Harriet, barely listening. ‘There. That should suffice, but please take care. Those needles are sharp.’

It was only three o’clock. Lord M never appeared until after the clock had struck five on a Wednesday, but she could now sense his approach so acutely, she felt she could draw a map of his progress.

And so it was a surprise to everyone except Victoria when, at five past three, the door opened and the Prime Minister strode in.

She stood immediately, enlivened, her energy restored. ‘Lord M,’ she said, hastening towards him. He knelt and kissed her hand, his mouth lingering on it for some time before he stood. When he did he searched her eyes, genuine concern evident.

‘Ma’am … how are you today? I came as early as I could.’

‘I am very well now. I am so very well.’

Victoria’s mother approached, her face sour. ‘The Queen is under the weather today, Lord Melbourne. It would have been better for you to stay away.’

‘I am not, Mama. I am absolutely fine. Now …’ Victoria turned to everyone present and dismissed them. ‘Leave us. We have much to attend to.’

If she noticed the glances across the room, she did not care. Soon enough, they were left alone.

They fell into each other, hands reaching, searching, mouths open and meeting.

‘My darling, my love,’ he breathed against her skin. ‘Have you been unwell? Tell me.’

She held him to her, but noticed he resisted grazing along her neck.

‘I felt so strange earlier, so at odds with my body, lethargic and melancholy. But not when you came. As you were arriving I sensed it and I was awakened again. You’re here now, you’re here and it is all so very, very good again.’

He was kissing her again. He couldn’t not.

She held his head to her and guided it down her neck but he drew back, his eyes darkening but his body resisting.

‘No, no, not yet, I cannot today. You have not recovered. We must allow time.’

‘Oh, but I can’t! I need it! I want you, I want you!’ So he kissed her again but when he felt his fangs prick he dragged himself off abruptly.

‘I will not today!’ He pulled away, almost with a roar, and paced practically to the other side of the room. ‘If I bite you now, I will take all of you, and I said I will not do that yet.’

She stood, her blood pounding, her desire raging. She was quite truthfully panting with longing and stared across at him fixedly. He stared back, looking at her over his shoulder, his back half-turned.

‘Then what? What can you give me today?’ she announced.

He frowned a little at her meaning. ‘Give you?’

‘My need is too great, my desire demands it … please.’

‘Victoria …’ His head fell.

Please.’

He met her eyes again, and slowly began a measured walk back to her. With each step closer, her belly twisted and screamed its need.

‘You are my angel … my fire and fury …’ He coiled his fingers through her hair. The strands caught and tugged and made her gasp but she did not remove her gaze from him. He opened his mouth to draw in much needed air and she saw the tips of his fangs gleam white. ‘Yes, Victoria … I will give to you.’

Still he held her head hard, and she inclined it, willing to offer her blood to him again.

‘No, I told you – I will not feed today.’

She opened her eyes enough to look at him. Despite his assertion, his fangs gleamed in the reflected light from the fire, and his irises were flecked with tell-tale red.

What then? What would he do? She practically sobbed with the denial.

But she had her answer. Still holding the back of her neck with his left hand, with his right he reached down and took hold of her skirts. Not breaking eye contact, he drew them up, reaching down under each layer of silk and satin and cotton until she felt the warm strength of his arm right underneath, grazing her legs.

She sucked in a breath and took a step to steady herself.

‘Shh,’ he warned, still holding her firmly. The red in his eyes deepened and when he opened his mouth to draw in his own breath, she stared fixedly at the sharp points of his fangs.

But his hand was finding its way, his fingers edging through the slit in her drawers.

‘I …’ she tried.

‘Shh, I said,’ he cautioned again, and his voice left no room for dissent.

And then, his fangs still revealed, the corner of his mouth curled up the merest amount. He had touched her.

Her eyes widened and her breath was held.

He barely grazed her at first, just stroked so very lightly along the slit which was so wet already, and up towards that tight little nub which she had saved for him. She had touched it herself often, but never enough, never quite enough to carry her through. The first rapture she had known was when he bit her yesterday, and now he would give her more another way entirely.

Melbourne started stroking harder, running the length of his forefinger down through her, testing her opening the merest amount, coating his fingers in her dripping desire, then dragging up and over that place again. She whined and closed her eyes without barely realising.

‘Look at me,’ he declared, and she dragged them open to meet with his gaze again.

The vampire in him had fully emerged – his eyes red, his fangs sharp – but still he merely touched and rubbed and stroked her, giving, only giving.

Pleasure threatened to make her stumble, but the steadying grip he had on her neck remained.

‘Don’t you want to bite me?’ she murmured between little gasps as he built her ecstasy. He circled her tight bud, firm, controlled circles, with a rhythm matching the beat of her heart.

‘Yes,’ he said, that was all.

But he didn’t bite. He just rubbed, harder now, faster, then slowing and softer, before building again.

It broke in her. With a rasping cry, her pleasure crashed through her and she flung up her arm instinctively to steady herself on him. He kept his fingers there, he didn’t stop, and it continued until it almost hurt but didn’t quite.

As her slight body bucked with the last of her climax, Melbourne himself threw his head back, baring his fangs yet more, and released a cry of his own, not of ecstasy this time, but of tormented frustration. When it had washed fully out of her, he released his hold and took several staggering steps back. Victoria could do no more than let her knees give way and sink to the floor.

He stood with his back still turned, his breathing laboured. If Victoria could have seen his face, twisted and tortured from the anguish of self-denial, fear would have struck her, there is no doubt. But, as it was, she sat in calm post-orgasmic repose while Melbourne fought to cage his demon once again.

After some time, he succeeded, and when he turned back to her, his fangs had retreated and the red of his eyes had dimmed. He looked down and offered his usual assuring smile.

‘Are you well, Ma’am?’ asked Lord M.

She stared up, almost in disbelief and could only offer a sated smile in reply.

‘May I help you up?’ He came over and offered her his hand. Victoria took it and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She practically fell against him and searched his face for meaning.

‘How do you do these things to me?’

‘Well … I have had one or two years practice, Ma’am.’

She grinned slyly and kissed him in response, drawing back to murmur the most sincere ‘thank you’ against his lips.

‘I was feeling so strange earlier, Lord M; and now I feel glorious. You make me feel glorious. I don’t want you to leave me. Don’t ever leave me.’

In truth, Victoria had never wanted him to leave, even before these curious events. But he knew – with shameful pleasure – that she now meant it completely, whether through choice or not. When his fangs had first entered her body it had happened, and there could be no return – she was addicted to him.

Chapter Text

When it was time for him to leave again, Victoria noticed a tension recapture him.

‘Lord M? What is it?’

He prevaricated a little, his eyes flitting around before settling on her. ‘Victoria … I must tell you this – you will not feel yourself when we are apart.’

She took a step in, confused. ‘By that you mean?’

‘You said that you felt out of sorts before I arrived.’

‘That is right. I missed you dreadfully.’

He took hold of her hands and said, ‘It isn’t just that. When I bit you, it started.’

‘What started?’

He rubbed his thumb over her fingers, almost distractedly. ‘Turning you. It can be a traumatic process, as I’m sure you appreciate. Part of me will have entered you … and will have started corrupting you.’

‘Corrupting me?’

‘Changing you.’

She moved in closer and smiled gently up at him. ‘But when you arrived, my ill feelings left me immediately and I felt quite wonderful.’

He focused on their joined hands, not her face. ‘Yes, you will, but when I am not with you, you will suffer. I am sorry.’

Victoria was unsettled. ‘You did not mention this before.’

‘No … and for that I am truly sorry. Would it have made a difference?’ At last he looked at her.

She met his gaze full on. ‘No. Not at all.’ She stepped in yet closer, so close he could feel her breath falling on him. ‘What you did to me then … it was extraordinary. I want to … I want to reciprocate.’

He let a slight smile take him. ‘Oh … there is time for that.’

‘But soon, please. Next time … will you make love to me? Properly?’

Melbourne stood staring down at her, his jaw clenching. ‘I must.’

Her brows knitted in bewilderment. ‘You must? But do you not want to?’

He gave a pained sigh. ‘I want to so much that I am in agony. At this moment here and now, I am in agony because I am not inside you.’

‘I am ready.’

Even if she wasn’t, Melbourne knew that she had no choice in the matter.

‘When? When will it be?’ she pressed.

He could not delay any longer than needed and so he told her. ‘The day after tomorrow. Your blood will be replenished by then.’

‘Will you feed on me too?’ She looked at him with such heady erotic confidence that he could have taken her there and then.

But in truth, he had not yet decided whether to feed on her the first time he made love to her or not. Fleshly pleasures were twofold for vampires: there were the sexual acts mortals engage in, and there was the feeding. For vampires, they could be enjoyed separately, but when done in conjunction gave pleasure so intense as to make one forget one was bound to earth. 

‘I do not know yet,’ he declared.

Her face broke into the broadest smile of encouragement. ‘Yes, yes, my darling, you must.’

Her openness amazed him. How easy she made the choice over some dilemmas, but with that ease came a moral agony which pained even his fractured soul.

‘Victoria … do you realise? The first time a woman is entered by a man is sacred. Each moment, each movement must be savoured. That in itself is beyond what I ever thought I could contemplate with you … and now you ask me also to do the other. For your body, your very being, these are momentous things … we must ensure it is not too much.’

Her bottom lip trembled almost indignantly. ‘Are you telling me I cannot cope with it?’

‘No, but you must realise and fully appreciate what you are doing.’

Her cheeks pinked as her temper rose. He loved that as much as the dewy adoration in her eyes. ‘Do you not think I haven’t imagined this every night? Even before I knew of your true nature, I still dreamt of making love to you, of taking you inside me, every night, longing for it. And now there is this too, and we have already started down that path. I cannot shake it from my mind, nor do I want to.’

But Melbourne remembered that he was still her advisor and so made a half-hearted attempt to advise. ‘You are the Queen of England – you are expected to remain a virgin and marry and –‘

Her eyes flared and she stood tall as she spoke her truth. ‘Yes, I am Queen of England, but I am first and foremost a woman. I am Victoria. And this is what I choose.’

At this she pressed herself fully against him. Then, before he could scarcely fathom it, she brought her hand to his thigh and slid it up, each finger confident and certain. Not moving her gaze from him, she drew her hand across brazenly and grazed the front of his breeches. He drew in a sudden breath and held it.

Victoria smirked. Melbourne swallowed.

‘Lord Melbourne,’ she murmured. ‘I am not as ignorant of the world as some would have me be. I know what is there for the taking … and I will take it.’ She rubbed over him, back and forth, not intrusively, not presumptuously, but with an erotic purpose that staggered him. He rose quickly and pushed against her hand for more. Finding the outline of him, she wrapped her fingers around it. ‘Is that the way, William?’

He nodded and his words caught in his throat. ‘Yes, yes, you know it is.’

‘How, my darling?’ She didn’t stop rubbing. He stared down at her, his eyes reddening, his fangs tingling.

‘Harder,’ he moaned and she did, circling the now rigid shaft and drawing her hand up with such natural intuition she could bring him off right there and then without even undoing his breeches. His head fell back and he drew up his upper lip as his fangs protruded.

At this, realisation gripped him and he reached down and encircled her wrist with his hand. She gasped a little at the sudden reversal. ‘Wait. We will wait.’ He was breathing heavily, his self-control tested to the limit. ‘You will come to me. It will be at my home, it will be at Brocket Hall. It must be.’

She nodded and let her hand fall from him. ‘Yes.’

Melbourne stepped away and turned his back to try to subdue his erection. ‘Can you contrive a reason for coming out?’

‘I will think of something.’

‘The day after tomorrow. Friday.’

She stepped into him again but he evaded her. ‘You must wait until then. I will not attend upon you in the meantime, I am sorry. I have Parliamentary matters to deal with. And, bear in mind, the malaise will return. Be strong, my love, try to keep your temper, or questions will be raised.’

‘Am I truly not to see you for two days?’

‘No.’

Her head dropped in disappointment but she declared, ‘I will be strong.’

‘I know you will.’

‘And you?’ She lifted her eyes to him.

‘What about me?’

‘Will you be strong?’

He smiled. Her understanding of him was innate. ‘You see, Ma’am, once again you remind me that it is not only your body and your blood I crave.’

‘I love you.’ She said it plainly and immediately.

‘I know, Ma’am. And I love you too.’

And with that, Melbourne bade her farewell and continued to validate in his mind the acts he was about to perpetrate – deflowering an unmarried virgin, blood-sucking, depriving someone of their immortal soul – all of which, for a serving Prime Minister, were somewhat dubious to say the least.

--xoOox--

As soon as Lord M left her, Victoria felt her headache returning. She slumped into a chair and called for some lemon water.

Emma Portman attended to her. ‘Has Lord Melbourne gone, Your Majesty?’

‘He has.’

‘Is he returning tomorrow?’

‘No, he is busy.’ Already she heard the tetchiness creeping into her voice. She must fight it. She turned to Emma with a smile.

‘Emma, you know Brocket Hall well. Lord M tells me the colours in the trees are most glorious at this time of year. I would very much like to see them. Friday, perhaps?’

Emma frowned. ‘Brocket Hall? It is half a day’s travel to reach it, Ma’am.’

‘Lord M makes the journey regularly.’

‘Indeed … but he rides usually, with a change of horse along the way. It takes longer in a carriage.’

‘Still I wish to do it. I am sure Lord M will accommodate me for the night and I shall return the following day, or perhaps stay for the weekend.’

‘Ma’am …’ Emma was unsure how to proceed. ‘What are your engagements? You will need to cancel them.’

‘Then I shall. I have not been feeling well. I believe a change of scene will do me the world of good. Arrange it, if you will, Emma. I shall leave for Brocket Hall after lunch on Friday.’ Her tone left no room for discussion.

‘Very well, Ma’am.’

--xoOox--

The next two days were difficult. For Victoria, her headache and tiredness worsened and she struggled to keep her temper, as Lord M had warned. But she was at least forewarned and so her mood was not commented on as much as it could have been. She found that if she sat still and concentrated (and there was one particular thing to focus on, after all), she was content enough. And so time passed. The others were told she was staying at Brocket Hall over the weekend to study the flora and fauna. Tuts were exchanged but little more.

As was usual, it was intended that Emma would accompany her as chaperone, but on the day, as they were mounting the carriage, Emma was sneezing almost constantly.

‘Emma, you are in no state to travel,’ observed the Queen.

‘But I must accompany you, Ma’am.’

‘Oh, stuff and nonsense! I am a grown woman, quite capable of making these journeys alone. I insist you stay and recuperate.’ She got in, closed the carriage door on her Lady and called, ‘Drive on!’

Emma was left standing alone in the forecourt. The carriage set off with nobody in it save the Queen of England.

--xoOox--

The journey seemed even longer than Victoria had expected, but she supposed it was her excitement and anticipation which made it so.

When she arrived it was already dark and she practically ran from the carriage to the door. The footman who opened it to her had the decency not to gawp when the Queen of England arrived alone at 7 o’clock in the evening.

She stood in the spacious hallway and removed her bonnet and cloak, staring up around her.

‘Your Majesty … welcome to Brocket Hall,’ came a familiar voice, warm and rich. She closed her eyes and savoured it before turning to him.

‘Thank you, Lord M. You have a fine home.’

Melbourne had emerged from a room off to the right. He wore no coat, and his shirt sleeves billowed cloudlike from the dark brocade of his waistcoat.

He glanced around and asked with some surprise, ‘You are alone?’

She blushed briefly. ‘Yes. Lady Portman was indisposed. I did not wish to impose on her.’

‘Was no one else available to accompany you?’

‘I don’t know, Lord M. I didn’t ask.’

He dropped his head with a slight smile. ‘You will be in trouble, Ma’am.’

‘Me? If anyone protests, they shall be sent straight to the Tower!’

‘Quite right, Ma’am. I remember recommending that on the first day of your reign.’

‘Indeed you did.’

They shared a smile, and so much passed between them with that alone that words were unnecessary. But then he remembered himself. ‘I thought perhaps a light supper tonight. I asked the staff to prepare a table in the drawing room.’

It was her turn to blush. ‘I would like that very much.’

He stepped in, his face shifting, his eyes casting over her. ‘Victoria … you look so very beautiful.’

Her blush deepened. ‘I came here to see the shifting colours of the leaves, Lord M. But it would seem to be dark already.’

‘Damn the leaves.’

And he bent and kissed her. She coiled her arms about him and returned it, opening for him immediately, matching her body to his. He soon grazed down her neck but managed to retain his fangs. He would make it perfect. With determination, he pulled away and beckoned her into a room along the hallway. ‘Come. You must be hungry.’

‘I am, Lord M. So must you.’

He glanced back and smirked. ‘Of a sort.’

They ate a small supper of soup and chicken, enough for now. They chatted as they always had – some talk of government, more gossip, frequent jokes and teases. What had changed, he wondered? And yet … they had already embarked on so much and would do more.

Supper ended. Silence fell, but it was one of their silences – easy and content.

Eventually, she reached across the table and placed two fingers atop his hand. She held his gaze and murmured, ‘I am ready.’

And so, not saying a word, he stood and took her by the hand. Slowly, silently, he led her up the stairs, along corridors and hallways, to a bed chamber far from the centre of the house. He opened the door to her and she stepped in. Melbourne closed it behind them, the click of the bolt audible.

A fire crackled inside the chamber and it was further illuminated by candles. A large postered bed dominated the panelled room, and the wallpaper was of a patterned dark silk which threw off pools of iridescence in the candlelight. There was an air of heady sensuality to it which made her insides quiver.

He approached her, his head turned a little as if inspecting her, but he retained that soft smile which made her trust and crave him equally. Reaching up gently, he took hold of her head under her chin and leaned down to kiss her. He kissed deliciously, perfectly slowly, as if time had stopped. She could have stayed like that for some time, kissing him, and indeed he continued, but in the midst of the kiss she felt a loosening around her waist. He was unhooking her gown. She reached around to help but he firmly pulled her hands back and murmured, ‘No,’ against her lips.

He continued. Agile fingers, which seemed to know all too well what they were doing, unhooked her gown fully and then pushed it from her shoulders so that it fell to the ground in a pool of red silk. He continued with her skirts, which soon followed suit. Holding her by the shoulders, he guided her to step away from it. Victoria was aware that she was standing before the Prime Minister in only her underwear, but her only thought now was to remove it.

He ran a hand down her corset, curling his fingers over her waist and hips. He drew his hand around as he walked about her. ‘Hm,’ he said, a satisfaction to his tone which made goosebumps appear on her skin.

‘Are you cold?’ he asked.

She shook her head.

‘And yet you shiver. Are you afraid?’

She looked at him and shook her head again, but without quite as much conviction this time.

‘Victoria …’ He stepped in again and once more kissed her. ‘Say it now. If you wish me to stop, say it now.’

She said nothing, and it was she now who reached behind for her laces and began tugging them out. His mouth curled up at the corner and he moved to assist her. Soon enough her corset was discarded and then it was only her chemise and pantaloons. Casting his eyes over her, he took hold of her chemise. ‘Raise your arms,’ he said gently, but a command nonetheless. She lifted them and he drew the cotton shift up and off, revealing her naked breasts fully.

She stood and at first wanted to draw her arms in over to hide them, but she resisted. He sensed her anxiety and ran the back of his hand up along her arm. ‘So beautiful. You are so very beautiful, I want you to know that.’ And with that his hand found her breast and cupped it gently. A little gasp rose from her. He took the other in his other hand, lifting them both, relieving the weight and making her love him more even for that little thing. He studied them, squeezing the slightest amount as if learning them. His thumbs then glided up and ran over the nipples.

‘Oh!’ she gasped inadvertently, so he did it again, flicking them gently back and forth. She whined aloud and tried to stop it by biting her lip.

‘It is warm in here, yet, you see, these are as hard as a rock atop the moors.’

She blushed but said, ‘I like that,’ and pressed into his hands for more.

‘Good,’ he murmured. ‘I like it too.’ And with that he dropped his head and dragged her right nipple deep into his mouth.

Victoria’s head fell back and she sighed deeply. He pulled and tugged and sucked on her as if that alone could sustain him. All the while the other nipple was being attended to by his hand – squeezed and rolled so that a constant pulse throbbed at her sex and dampened her thighs. His free hand dropped and undid the laces on her drawers. He pushed them down, although Victoria was so engrossed in the sensations he was drawing from her breasts that she wasn’t even aware. And so, a short while later, she stood entirely naked before him with no shame whatsoever.

With an effort, he dragged himself from her breasts to kiss her again. ‘Beautiful. My perfect angel.’

‘I want to see you now,’ she stuttered, and set about tugging at his clothes. He laughed at her haste and helped her, removing his waistcoat and cravat and breeches and all else until he was soon only in shirtsleeves, although the shirt was so long that the crucial part was still hidden to her. The shape of his body was visible through the cotton, highlighted by the fire behind. She pressed herself against him and whispered, ‘I am not the only beautiful one.’ And she ran her hands up his shirt, tugging on it as she went, until he had no option but to pull it off completely.

Victoria could only pause. She took a step back and swallowed. But she could look nowhere else. He was slim and his muscles were taut and defined, far more than should be expected from a man of letters and of a certain age. (That age being 278, but let us not dwell on it.) She had seen such things in galleries, sculpted by the ancients, but here he was now before her. And further down. She bit her lip but could not avert her gaze. He let her. She needed to see what she was about to absorb. And what it was seemed unfeasibly large and long and already quite hard and upstanding. Victoria chided herself and remembered her lessons in the biological sciences. It was perfectly normal. (Although we shall allow her a moment of shock and wonder at what, in this case, constituted ‘normal’.)

But then he stepped in and placed his hands on her shoulders again before running them with the utmost sensuousness down her arms. His right hand trailed across until he found what he had found the other day. She opened her legs a little for him and was not ashamed to hold his gaze.

His fangs remained hidden and his eyes the purest green, but she read the desire in his expression.

‘Hm,’ he confirmed as his middle finger slid through her folds easily. ‘So wet already.’

‘I told you,’ she exhaled. ‘I am ready.’

‘Yes …’ he breathed out, still stroking along her. ‘I believe you are.’

And kissing her, he cupped his hand over her sex and guided her back. She fell backwards onto the bed and he climbed up over her, but his kisses did not stop. In fact, he kissed her completely and everywhere. He kissed her shoulders, her breasts, down further, over her belly button, across her hips, further down her legs, all the way to her ankles before returning. She squirmed under him, longed for him. The heat in her belly flamed so much it hurt. She whined and wriggled unstoppably and when she did he held her and contained it, but his kisses did not stop. Only when he reached her mouth again did he at last move between her legs.

Pushing them apart, he placed himself ready. She glanced down. He seemed much larger than she recalled from stroking him in his breeches. How could it possibly fit inside her? A moment’s doubt took hold, but then she looked into his face. Still there was no red in the eyes, still no fangs had emerged. He kissed her again.

‘My love,’ he whispered. ‘It will hurt this time, but you can take me, I know.’

She nodded and opened wider for him. ‘Please don’t make me wait. I am so tired of waiting.’

And he held himself and brought his hand between her legs to open her carefully for him. Then, locking eyes with her, he pushed in with a grunt.

At first she thought there would be no pain. There was a stretch and a give but no more. But then, determination captured him and he pushed in harder.

‘Ow!’ she cried out, for it had hurt. But he did not stop. He could not. Melbourne continued into her, full and hard. With another grunt he thrust powerfully forward and another sharp cry caught her.

He withdrew a way and made her wince then surged back in again, stronger than before. His head was thrown back and he exclaimed, ‘Christ, you are my all!’

And at that the pain subsided and she could take him. She adjusted under him and held onto his back. He looked down, panting with the effort of entering her. ‘Do you hurt?’

She nodded a little. ‘It does not matter. Move in me.’

And he did. He pulled out then pushed in again and now built up a pace which he himself needed.

Victoria felt him moving through her, all of him, and the pain faded. This was fullness. This was completion. This was what she had been seeking. And as he stroked he rubbed along that bud he coaxed so beautifully. She moaned under him and he recognised it not as a moan of pain but of pleasure.

‘Do you feel it already?’ he asked.

She nodded and instinctively clenched upon him, making him gasp with his own spike of pleasure. ‘Oh, yes, do that!’ he exclaimed. She did it again. His pleasure built inexorably and he threw his head back and roared.

She gripped onto his back, clinging to him, and he reached under her and drew himself onto his knees. Melbourne knelt between her legs and pulled her up to sit upon him, quickly settling her again on his shaft and curling her legs around him.

She was startled and sucked in as the pain of earlier caught again. ‘Shh,’ he soothed and brought his hand between them to find her nub. Her pained cry became a moan.

He began to rock her along him. His focus was fixed on her and as she looked into him she noticed the red creep back into his irises. His mouth was open to draw in breath, and his fangs grew before her eyes. But far from being frightened by it, she bucked on him and delighted in the knotted pleasure which unfurled inside her. Melbourne forgot himself, such were the sensations consuming him; his eyes closed and he bared his fangs. She moved ever faster and this time caused him to groan. Victoria was transfixed. She sat, impaled on this man turning into a very demon before her eyes. But the most beautiful, perfect demon. Her demon. And so she only wanted more.

She moved on him as if it was her one hundredth time, not her first, and asked, ‘Have you decided? Will you feed on me?’

He could only moan. Still he was wrestling with himself. He had half thought to limit this time to the carnal; it was, after all, magnificent. But his compulsion was too great, his thirst all-consuming. His fangs were fully revealed, pointed and ready. His skin had paled and tightened, his eyes had reddened. The harder she worked on him, the more she clenched so gloriously on his cock, the faster her blood raced. He could feel it just as acutely as he could feel her tight wetness gripping him. He could almost smell her blood. And he wanted it. He wanted to drink her in so much the last of his sense deserted him.

She may have asked, but there had never been a real choice in the matter. But then she did something which banished the last remnant of hesitation.

‘Do it,’ she said. ‘Do it now.’ And, still riding him, she let her head fall back, threaded her fingers through his hair, and guided him down to her neck.

Victoria pulled up off him and held herself for a moment, poised, then she sank down so he rose fully up into her. And at that moment, he bit. She screamed. Pain hit hard as his fangs penetrated just as his cock penetrated.

In they went, deeper, piercing her flesh as they had before with that extraordinary crunch which both repulsed and bewitched. She felt his fangs embedding acutely. Somehow the agonised sensation connected to the hard shaft already inside her and the pain was amalgamated and absorbed. Her eyes stared above her and she could no longer move. He had her. But what was more, she had him. The circle was complete and, using the sheen of pain, she revelled in it.

Melbourne held her hard, his fingers splayed on her back. He pulled her – a yank – against him, and with a groan sank his fangs yet deeper. He felt her body shudder under him and a ripple of threatening ecstasy took him. His cock was encompassed by her body and he pushed in harder to reinforce it.

Then he began to feed on her, long, slow sucks which drew her blood into him.

They were barely moving but neither noticed nor cared. There existed such a perfect accomplishment, that for all they were aware the bed had vanished, gravity had failed. He continued to suck and she worked on him, little pulsing squeezes to feel him and give to him.

He drank her in, and the pleasure which already gripped his cock grew transcendent. He worked with her now – it was not difficult, their compatibility was indisputable – and felt her rapture poised. She had been making the slightest, sweetest little noises of pain and pleasure while he’d been inside her and feeding, but now she was moaning: a disembodied sound of rising ecstasy. He picked up his pace, moving his cock inside her with an almost brutal strength. It would take them both together simultaneously, he knew.

It broke in her first; he felt her body spasming on his cock, felt the shudder upon him, and she confirmed it with a harsh moaning cry. At that, he sucked yet harder, drawing a rush of her blood to flood his mouth. He came cataclysmically, his seed bursting from him with blinding force. If his bite were not so deep, he doubted he could have remained attached to her, such was the shocking power of his climax. Had the world stopped at that moment, they would have accepted it completely.

She mewled afterwards, little moaning sobs and sighs as the wash of pleasure at last faded. Her arms grew limp upon him. He had not the wherewithal to move but – with a final gulping suck – he detached his fangs and swallowed the last of the blood in his mouth. He held her upon him, and even in her dizziness (which was, admittedly, extreme for several reasons) she offered him her mouth and they kissed with a staggering intensity. She would taste her own blood on him, for much of it had run uncontained from his mouth in his desperation for more.

But he felt her faintness and, reluctantly, withdrew carefully from her and guided her to lie back upon the bed. He lay beside her and pulled the covers over them both.

She opened her eyes enough to meet with his and murmur, ‘My love.’

‘Yes,’ he confirmed, and watched as she fell into the deepest sleep.

His love.

Chapter Text

The enfolding darkness of night held them close until dawn pushed it back, bringing awakening with it.

Victoria blinked her eyes open. What a new state of being she found herself in. She should be alarmed, perhaps, she should be ashamed, but instead there was only warmth and contentment.

‘How are you feeling?’ asked a familiar voice. She turned her head to look up into the perfect face of her lover.

She was not entirely sure how she was feeling and so she stretched, then winced, then smiled. ‘A little tender.’

He smirked. ‘You have me to blame for that, I am afraid.’

‘And for that, Lord M, I am most grateful.’

He bent to kiss her softly and she wondered if it was possible to melt into someone. But when he drew back his face was serious.

‘My love, I must ask you this. When did you last bleed?’

‘I bled considerably last night, Lord M, but I believe you dealt with it all,’ she grinned.

He returned her smile briefly before growing serious again. ‘I mean your monthly bleeding. I must ask.’

She frowned in consideration. ‘It is due again in around five days.’

Melbourne exhaled and sank back on the pillows in apparent relief. ‘Good.’

‘Why?’

He looked at her. ‘Consequences. I would not wish to get a child on you.’

She smiled gently and turned, running a finger over his chest. Had they been rash? They must have been, but he seemed reassured by the timing. ‘No … It seems I am quite willing to become a vampire, but the thought of motherhood does not yet appeal, I will admit.’

He laughed again and moved over her, kissing her deeply. When he broke away, his fingers moved to the wounds at her neck and he furrowed his brows to inspect them. ‘They are clean and dry, but you must be careful not to expose them. I cannot always bite in the same place – the marks will increase although they will heal given the chance.’

She brought up a hand to feel for them – little wounds but, as he said, dry and clean. ‘They barely hurt,’ she observed.

‘Good.’

‘But I like the pain when you bite. Why is that? Why can my body crave and tolerate and enjoy that pain so much?’

He smiled. ‘It is a mystery, I confess, but one that is tied to our connection, our need and our desire.’

‘How much did you drink from me last night?’

He smiled softly. ‘Enough to make the sensations beyond imagining, but not as much as the first time. When I make love to you, although the desire to feed is strong, the need for so much blood is diminished as my body’s craving is satisfied in other ways.’

‘Was it … was I …?’ She grew bashful, unsure what to say.

‘What, my darling?’

‘Was I adequate?’

He nearly laughed aloud. ‘Do not ask me that. It is ridiculous to even contemplate an answer.’

‘So … I was then?’

‘I told you … you are my angel, you are my everything. It was the most wonderful thing I have ever had or experienced. Know that.’

He kissed her again before saying, ‘But if you ask, then I will also … was it too much? Did I hurt you?’

It was Victoria’s turn to realise the ridiculousness of the query. ‘Only to start with. Just as when you bite me … I liked the feeling. But it was … you were … big.’ She tried to stifle the bubbling giggle.

He quirked an eyebrow. ‘Well, there it is.’

‘You filled me. You stretched me. I liked that very much.’

‘That was rather the intention.’

She writhed under him, her body immediately craving more. ‘I want it again.’

‘You will be sore.’

‘I do not care, Lord M. I want you again now.’

He bent to kiss her and her lust overrode all else, as did his. Melbourne shifted atop her and she wrapped her legs about him. As gently as he could (which, admittedly, was not as gentle as he possibly should) he pushed into her again.

Victoria felt it sting but that soon passed and she started to move under him, adoring the thrust and stretch of him.

She gripped onto him and rolled her body in time with his strokes. His eyes shut and his Adam’s apple lurched along his neck, moaning out, ‘You! You are … superb.’

She smiled at the compliment. She had worked out quickly how to please him … and how to please herself. She found that if she lifted her hips his strokes not only built up her pleasure from a place deep inside, but also nudged that place which triggered her ecstasy.

She guided him up a little so as to make it perfect. ‘There,’ she said. ‘Do it like that.’ He paused briefly and looked down in surprise.

‘What?’ she asked. ‘Don’t stop.’

He grinned. ‘Carry on, tell me. You should, but … it’s not always usual.’

‘Why not? Why should I not?’

‘You should and you must, but some women are more passive, as society has regrettably conditioned them to be. They should not be. Be yourself, and tell me what you want. I will do it.’

She returned his grin and coiled her arms seductively about him. ‘Oh, Lord M, you know that I am anything but passive.’

And at that a strange urge came over her and with a twist and a roll she found she had reversed their positions, and she was now atop him, straddling him. He laughed in shock but did nothing to prevent it. Instinctively, she sat up with him inside her, and she found that this way he filled her profoundly. Her eyes widened and she sank down fully on him to feel it all.

‘Oh! Is this possible?’ she asked in wonder.

He chuckled again. ‘I think you have the answer to that.’

Taking hold of her hips he began to guide her up and down but soon enough his hands fell away and he left her to control it. Melbourne moaned as the squeeze of pleasure tightened. ‘My God, the way you do that!’

He brought his hand between her legs and circled her nub as she rose and fell along his cock.

Oh, could there be anything more divine?

Victoria came suddenly, sooner than she had anticipated, but it was shattering to the point of devastation. ‘Oh … oh!’ she cried wordlessly, gutturally, the shock of orgasm robbing her of coherence.

‘Christ, I can feel it, God, I feel you!’ he groaned, and the grip of her orgasm prompted his own. His fingers dug so hard into her hips that he left deep scratches. His back arched up and the muscles in his neck spasmed with the strength of his climax.

Eventually, she recovered enough to look down at him. Victoria was panting hard but managed a bleary smile of triumphant delight.

‘You …’ was all he said.

She slumped over him and murmured in his ear, ‘And not a single bite.’

He lifted his hand and studied it. ‘Hmm … but I scratched you.’ Melbourne put his finger in his mouth and sucked at the blood on it.

He was still nestled in her and she clamped on him to feel it. ‘Can life be more glorious?’

Perhaps not, although his mind provided a vision of her feeding on him and he swallowed back a response. Oh, she would know more and he would provide it. But for now, he could only agree: life was glorious.

They made love again later that morning, and then again as the day wore on. He fed from her, not excessively as her blood was already diminished from the night before, but desire demanded it and Victoria insisted. And so, as he lay on her, deeply embedded for the fourth time since her arrival, he sank his teeth once again into the inviting skin at her throat, and drank.

It was agreed that it would not be wise for the Queen to stay at Brocket Hall for more than one night. It would be known in London that she had gone without a chaperone, and enough questions would be raised as it were.

At around the three of the afternoon, after barely rising from the bed since she had arrived there, Victoria kissed him the deepest farewell and was driven off in her carriage. Melbourne had arranged to come to the Palace first thing on Monday morning, in little over a day’s time.

--xoOox--

As sexual activity had dominated the last day and had on this occasion eclipsed all else, it was only when a niggling hunger took hold that Sunday night that Melbourne realised he had not fed enough. His libido was at a high, and although it did not always demand it during intercourse, in the intervening moments this heightened his need for blood.

He had travelled back to Dover House that afternoon and asked his housekeeper to prepare a rare steak, hoping that it would assuage his need, but it did not. He would have to seek more.

And so, at nine o’clock that evening, he ventured out to his usual slaughter house, confident that the custodian would be able to provide for him. The man was, after all, used to his regular if somewhat surprising customer asking for blood at the strangest hours. Melbourne had always used the excuse that, by feeding it into the soil, it produced the most remarkable orchids.

His driver left him as close to the slaughter house in Smithfield as he could, and Melbourne walked through the darkened streets, the cobbles gleaming with the rain which fell in a light but unceasing drizzle. Melbourne pulled the collar of his greatcoat high around him and kept his head down, passing shapes which shifted away from him as he drew near, hearing whispers which turned to muffled murmurs or silences as he paced by. If anyone recognised him, their own business was so nefarious that the thought of drawing it to the attention of the most powerful man in the land did not appeal. He knew he could travel undisturbed.

But tonight he was unsettled. He turned frequently, thinking to find someone behind him, but never doing so. He shivered against the chill and, his usual confidence wavering, hurried on.

The custodian at the slaughter house was most obliging, providing a gallon of fresh bullocks’ blood for a few shillings. Melbourne rewarded him twofold for his efforts and hurriedly turned into a shadowed doorway to assuage his thirst.

The blood was rich but cold and it turned his stomach in contrast to what he had last feasted on. Yet it satisfied him for now, and tomorrow he would see her again. Melbourne, sated and anticipatory, set off for his carriage, his gait determined and reinvigorated. Tonight had been necessary but tomorrow would be magnificent.

He pictured her as he walked, the sheer beauty of her, the radiance, in such contrast to the filth now strewn about him. He continued on, confused by the twists and turns of the alleyways which led him around corners and through passages. Had he come this way earlier?

Melbourne passed beggars and waifs as he walked. He glanced down. They stared up at him, any vestige of hope in their hollow, blank eyes extinguished by the gnawing hunger and cold which assailed them. What had they done to deserve their fate? Nothing except be born, he surmised.

Suddenly and cripplingly, Melbourne was struck by his own failure. Here he was, Prime Minister, and yet people who had been born just like him into this world – innocent and naked and new – lived like this under his premiership. He could shrug off concerns when sitting at his leathered bureau overlooking the Thames, but here and now, the guilt hit him so hard he nearly retched. He hurried on past the wretches as quickly as he could but after a while could go no further. With a shuddering gasp, he stopped and braced himself against a wall, struggling to regain his breath.

Slowly, he composed himself, but just as he was preparing to set off again, footsteps sounded behind him. He froze and damned himself for not keeping a knife about him as so many of his colleagues advised. But then, if necessary – as he had used more frequently than he cared to recall – he did have remarkably sharp teeth.

Melbourne stood braced, guarding himself against attack. His body was tense and expectant, and his senses alert to anything that would indicate an imminent assault. But instead of the stale smell of villainy, a citric waft of bergamot drifted to his nose. It was familiar, dismayingly so. And instead of a gruff Farringdon accent demanding his purse, the refined and elegant tones of someone of effortless intelligence and education said:

‘My my … if it isn’t a little Lambkin.’

A sickening knot tightened in Melbourne’s gut. He did not turn around, for he knew that his worst fears would be confirmed.

Instead, the person paced slowly around until he stood in front of Melbourne, who had no choice but to raise his head and look.

The same louche handsomeness, the same limpid eyes, the same mocking expression of entitled superiority.

‘Byron.’

‘William Lamb, what an utter pleasure … after all this time.’ The derisive sneer could not be masked by the smooth vowels and rich tone.

‘Why?’ He could say no more.

Byron shrugged. ‘Boredom, perhaps, but not only that … I sensed a change, a resurgence … in you. You’ve been a bad boy again, haven’t you?’

Melbourne put his head down and tried to walk on past him but Byron raised his cane abruptly and stopped his path.

‘You’ve been feeding, Lamb, I can tell all too well. And on something rather delectable I imagine. Female, no doubt, that was always your preference. I am sensing that you haven’t turned her yet, however. Savouring her, are you? Well done.’

Melbourne spat out his fury. ‘Leave me. We were done. I never wanted to see you again, and that still holds true, now more than ever.’

He hurried on, trying to shake him, but Byron kept pace.

‘I hear you’ve gone up in the world. Prime Minister, no less. And Private Secretary to the Queen herself. Who would’ve thought it? Little Lamb, always trailing behind, always in second place … and now look at you. I am almost impressed.’

Melbourne stopped, barely managing to rein in his temper, his fists itching to strike him down. ‘I said, leave me!’ he spat.

Byron merely smirked and cast his eyes over Melbourne almost quizzically. ‘But something’s changed, hasn’t it? You always did try to be good and restrained and all of that tedious mediocrity … Animal’s blood? Is that how you slake your need? How could you?’ He sneered. ‘But not so much anymore … I can tell. Tonight must have been a mere top-up, hm? Because you’ve been taking something utterly delicious, haven’t you? And, I suspect, something very, very willing. But what exactly, I wonder?’

Melbourne paced on, but Byron’s strength and stamina were great and he kept pace with a light-footed ease which could not be shaken off.

At last the streets opened out and with the utmost relief Melbourne saw his carriage waiting for him ahead. He stopped and turned to his old nemesis. ‘Get out of my life, Byron. You destroyed it before, you will not do so again. Get out and leave us alone.’

Us?’ The vampire’s eyebrows rose up. ‘You and … who else?’

‘I warn you. If I see you again … I will rid this world of you forever.’

Byron frowned. ‘Well … you may say that, but … you never really had it in you, did you? Even now … skulking around slaughterhouses ...’ He tutted dismissively. ‘You could never keep up, could you? No wonder your wife turned for me so easily.’

Melbourne closed his eyes against it, trying to blot it out as he had always done: the taunts, the malice. He had thought it gone and now it was back, cutting and biting as it had done before. He must escape it. He stepped into his carriage and slammed the door on Byron.

Through the closed door, the man continued. ‘And who is it now, Lamb? Perhaps I’ll finish what you’ve started and then she also will be mine … just like Caro.’

Melbourne banged on the ceiling and the driver set off, but as the carriage sped away, he heard Byron shout again, his voice echoing off the cobbles: ‘Just like Caro!’

Chapter Text

It started almost as soon as her carriage drove away from Brocket Hall. It was familiar at first: the tightening in her head, limbs which seemed too heavy to lift, but this time it grew worse. Victoria grew unfeasibly tired, which was most likely a good thing, for she fell asleep quickly.

When she awoke, it was only with the door of her carriage being opened on arrival at the Palace.

She tried to lean forward, but her neck was so stiff she could barely move. ‘Ow,’ she said instinctively, and her face contorted in discomfort. She brought a hand to her head. The footman held a lantern to light her way and its brightness pained her eyes.

‘Your Majesty,’ came the voice of Harriet Sutherland who greeted her carriage. ‘We are so very pleased to see you safely back.’

‘Why would I not be safely back?’ She spat the words out tersely, silencing her Lady momentarily.

With a catch in her breath, Victoria pulled her aching body from the carriage.

‘Would you care for supper, Ma’am?’ tried Harriet.

‘No, I shall retire. Some tea, no more.’

‘Very well, Ma’am.’

Victoria could no longer pretend through her sickness. By the time she reached the upper floor, a faint perspiration had beaded on her forehead and she was shivering.

‘Oh, you’ve taken sick, Ma’am,’ said Skerrett with concern, guiding her into her chamber.

‘Yes, I shall go straight to bed. Lord M is coming tomorrow. I shall be better then.’

Her maid said what she thought was the sensible thing. ‘Oh, I’d put him off, Ma’am. You can’t be fussing over the dispatches like this. You need to recover.’

Victoria spun on her and hissed, ‘I shall recover, Skerrett, do not pester me!’

Her maid’s eyes widened in surprise before she hurried out, unable even to finish undressing the Queen.

Victoria fell back onto the bed with a groan. Her head throbbed horrendously and the sweat which had taken hold coming up the stairs could not be shaken. She managed to rid herself of the rest of her clothes and crawled between the covers before falling into a sleep disturbed by feverish dreams.

The next morning brought little relief and she remained in bed most of the day.

Any ailment on Her Majesty’s part gave rise to great concern in the Palace. This time was no exception. Whispers started immediately, tempers flared and anxiety rose. Victoria’s mother fussed, Lehzen pestered, and various Dukes and Earls paced the halls in hushed conversation.

Victoria, largely, was oblivious to this, although she did have the wherewithal to bat away the physician who approached her with leeches. She had, after all, had enough blood sucked from her for the time being.

Her fever remained through the next day and night, and the concern of everyone present was not eased. A specialist was called, the Archbishop informed, and the Prime Minister notified.

In fact, the Prime Minister called shortly after nine o’clock the next morning, at which point Her Majesty’s fever left her, her headache vanished, and she was suddenly in such a buoyant mood that she trotted down the stairs to greet him, the broadest smile on her cool, smooth face.

Melbourne rose after kissing her hand and studied her closely. ‘Ma’am … I was informed you were gravely ill. How good it is to see you recovered.’

Victoria smiled it off. ‘Oh, I was indeed gravely ill, Lord M, I felt hideous. But now, as you say, I am recovered.’

Lehzen approached, her hands clasped. ‘I do not feel that the Queen can possibly be fully recovered. It is quite bizarre, this sudden obliteration of her terrible sickness.’

‘But not a bad thing, surely?’ asked Melbourne with a soft smile.

‘No … but it is most peculiar.’ Lehzen took an earnest step towards the Queen. ‘Your Majesty … you were very ill, delirious only a few hours ago. Surely, it must linger. Please rest.’

Victoria tried to withhold her exasperated sigh but couldn’t quite manage it. ‘I am fully recovered, all is well.’

‘But … I …’

The Queen rounded on her. ‘Oh, do stop gawping like a dispossessed codfish, Baroness! Everyone should be relieved that I am better, that is all.’

And with that she ushered everyone out, closing the door on them all and shutting herself in the room alone with her Prime Minister.

They were on each other immediately. She found herself against the door. He cupped her head and kissed her with an intensity which made her dizziness return, but this time she did not mind.

Victoria wrapped herself about him, grateful for the support of the door behind her, and returned the kiss.

‘Oh, my darling, I have missed you!’ she sighed.

‘Have you been very unwell?’ he murmured through his adoration.

She pulled back with a frown of honesty. ‘Yes, I must say that I felt ghastly.’

His eyes closed against it briefly and he said with the utmost sincerity, ‘I am sorry.’

‘But you are here now and I am well and soon the sickness will end and we will be together for evermore.’

‘Yes,’ he slurred, kissing any exposed skin he could find, ‘yes. God, I missed you, I missed you.’

She let him take, but sensed an unease in him not usually present. She drew back and held his face, drawing his gaze to her. ‘What is it?’

‘What?’

‘Has something happened?’

His brows furrowed but his eyes fell from hers, confirming her suspicions. ‘What do you mean, Ma’am?’

‘There is something troubling you.’

He sniffed out in refutation. ‘No, not at all. I am here with you. What could possibly be troubling me?’

‘You seem out of sorts.’

‘No, I cannot be.’ He smiled reassuringly, as much for him as her. ‘For I have this …’ He kissed her left ear. ‘And this.’ And her right. ‘And this.’ Her forehead. ‘This. And this.’ Both eyes, one after the other. This continued. Melbourne covered her with such tender kisses that her concerns were allayed.

‘It is so strange,’ she sighed, ‘how when you are away I can barely stir from my bed, and the moment you arrive, I feel as if I could conquer the world!’

‘It is our connection, Ma’am.’

‘Then we should finalise it. When will you turn me, Lord M?’

He drew back a little and rested his forehead against hers. ‘In a while, not long.’

She grinned. ‘Are you worried about not being able to feed from me afterwards?’

‘A little, for you are so very delicious, I can only admit. But more …’

‘What?’

His voice dropped and any lightness of tone was put aside. ‘Ma’am … by turning you … I kill you.’

The word hit hard and she tried to swallow away the anxiety that took hold. She stroked her hands over him, reassuring herself of his physical presence, of the warmth and reality of this man who had already been through what she faced. ‘It is hardly killing though, surely, for you are gifting me eternal life.’

‘I have explained that, Victoria. You must not think of it that way. I have had times when I have wished death to take me rather than live the way I do.’

‘But not for a long time, William.’ She turned her eyes up, wide and open and pleading. ‘And you will not feel that way with me, you know that. We will be together, we will have each other.’

‘Yes … and that is the only reason I do this, despite your insistence.’

They kissed again, no fangs, for sometimes love was enough.

But at length duty overwhelmed them (they remained, despite it all, Queen and Prime Minister) and they settled to work.

Victoria noted Melbourne carefully while they worked. He remained standing just at her shoulder, as usual, and it was as much as she could do not to sit herself on her desk and let him enter her there and then. But she continued to sense a tension in him, not with regard to her necessarily, but something seemed to be distracting him. Perhaps it was business in Parliament; no doubt Peel was causing trouble again. And, after all, Lord M had not fed from her for some time.

She continued to amend the document before her, but said surreptitiously, ‘Are you hungry, Lord M?’

‘Not unduly, Ma’am, thank you. I had some fine poached eggs this morning.’

She smirked. ‘That is not what I meant, and you know it.’

‘I do not wish to increase your affliction at this time, Ma’am, which I would if I bit you, and we still have many documents to attend to.’

‘Indeed, Lord M, and you have taught me that duty always comes first … but you are absurdly selfless at times.’

‘One tries, Ma’am.’

Her smirk deepened. ‘Hm.’

With that she reached for a penknife she had nearby with which to open letters. Drawing back the sleeve on her left arm, she placed the tip of her knife near her wrist and dragged it up so that it left a cut about an inch long. She gasped as she did so but the sight fascinated her. It was not overly deep, nor near any significant veins, but immediately blood seeped from the wound. The man next to her did not move and neither did she look up at him, it was enough to sense his need. Victoria instead focused intently on the document on improved housing for the people of Liverpool. Her right hand remained intent on annotations. But she extended her left arm up towards her Prime Minister. A splatter of blood fell from it onto the dark oak of her bureau.

It did not take long. Melbourne took hold of her arm as if it were a precious ornament, and, after a moment where he simply gazed in anticipation, he lowered his head and closed his mouth around the wound.

Victoria allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction but concentrated on the paper before her while her Prime Minister assuaged his thirst by drinking the blood from her arm.

This continued for some time. Victoria attended to several important dispatches while Melbourne stood beside her, her arm held in his hands, his lips dragging on her skin, his tongue absorbing the blood which flowed from her at his behest.

He did not bite, merely sucked, and, like the first time in the woods, it was not enough to bring either of them to a full climax, but the pulsing pleasure which it gave enfolded them in a calm euphoria.

After minutes of this, Melbourne at last drew his head off and a sound of intense satisfaction lifted from him.

Victoria turned and smiled up. ‘Better?’

‘You know it.’

The cut had stopped bleeding. She pulled down her sleeve and turned back to the documents. ‘Good.’ They continued most efficiently.

When they had at last finished, Victoria stood and curled her arms about him. ‘I miss the other too. I miss you inside me.’

‘I have been thinking, Ma’am – I think it would be wise if I stayed in the Palace. If I am close then your malady will not return.’

‘That sounds very wise indeed. I shall inform the staff immediately.’ She kissed him long and slow.

‘And tonight ...’ she pondered as he grazed down her neck, planting soft kisses over her puncture wounds, ‘you will be with me … and on me … and in me.’

He dragged his head back to stare hard into her, let his mouth curl up and, before kissing her again, said, ‘Yes, Ma’am ... I will.’

--xoOox--

Melbourne remained at the Palace and a room was prepared for him. He sent someone to Dover House for his necessaries. If he was due a meeting, he requested they attend upon him at Buckingham House.

The Queen’s speedy recovery was something of a mystery, but one that people were only too happy to acknowledge. Not only did she suddenly seem revitalised but she had an ebullience which was infectious.

The afternoon after Melbourne arrived, further post was delivered to Her Majesty. The Prime Minister was in an adjacent room speaking with the Lord Chancellor and Victoria attended to her letters with Emma Portman. Most were the usual pleas and requests and missives from distant aunts inquiring after visits. But one caught her eye. It was written in a florid yet individual hand which caught Victoria’s attention. She opened it curiously with the same letter opener she had earlier used on her arm.

It read as follows:

Your Majesty,

(It seems so strange addressing you as such when I recall you merely as little Alexandrina!)

I hope this letter finds you well. It has been several years since our last encounter, but I am sure you recall it well – you were quite soaked from the pond when the boat upturned, and I do hope my rather inelegant efforts to remedy the situation have not tainted your memory of me. It was with such relief that I was able to reach you and rescue you in time – that scrabble up the bank afterwards! But what a day it was – such alarm followed by joy! You were quite young, of course, and I was little more than a boy myself, but I still recall it often.

And we enjoyed such a fine picnic afterwards, although I remember you turning your nose up at the dry cucumber sandwiches which I wholeheartedly agreed with. I did manage to take some of the strawberries before you sneaked them all, however!

In any case, I write merely to let you know that I have returned from my travels (yes, Madagascar was as exciting as you said it would be!) and I find myself in London for a time. Now that you have ascended to the throne – something none of us thought much about at the time! – you will surely not have time to see me, but I wish to let you know that I still cherish such happy memories of our childhood together and wish you every happiness now.

Edward, Lord Dorchester.

Victoria read the letter quizzically, her brows knitted as she concentrated to recall the incident. Did she know a Lord Dorchester? She must have done when she was a child. She could not remember falling in a pond, but she thought perhaps she might have once; he wrote with such humoured certainty. She was intrigued and a little ashamed that she could not remember more.

‘Lady Portman?’ she said, calling for Emma.

‘Ma’am?’

‘The ball this Friday … is it too late to add a name to the guest list?’

‘I suppose not, Ma’am.’

‘Good … then we shall add this name to it – Lord Dorchester.’

‘Who, Ma’am?’

‘Lord Dorchester … have you not heard of him? I knew him in childhood ... apparently.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes … he details a time when I fell in a pond and he rescued me.’

‘I see … and you recall this?’

‘I think so … I’m sure, yes.’ She was sure, wasn’t she? She felt as if she had to be, no matter what reason threw at her.

‘I am not familiar with a Lord Dorchester, Ma’am. Shall I have Lord Alfred inquire?’

‘No, no, that won’t be necessary. He writes from an address in Belgravia, after all, and says that we were great friends in childhood. It would be rude not to acknowledge this. Invite him – it will be intriguing to meet again.’

Emma stared hard at her for a moment, but could not argue. ‘Very well, Ma’am.’

--xoOox--

Lord M assured her that he would find a way of coming to her that night, and indeed, at just after eleven o’clock the door from her dressing room opened and he came in.

Victoria sat up, enthralled. ‘How did you do that?’

He grinned, a modicum of self-satisfaction undeniable. ‘This Palace holds many secrets you do not know, Ma’am.’

‘And you do?’

‘Well … I have my ways, Ma’am.’

She slipped from the bed and trotted over to him. ‘And I am most glad of them.’ They kissed again; they could not stop.

She moaned against his questing mouth, ‘I wanted you so much earlier. It is a hunger I never knew I had until it started.’

‘Hm,’ he said but was distracted by pulling her nightgown up and off.

She herself scrabbled at his buttons and pushed his clothing off him. ‘Oh, hurry.’

Her haste matched his, and, after only just opening his placket and releasing himself, he moved her back to lie across the bed, pushed her legs apart and plunged into her with a groan of intense satisfaction.

Victoria’s eyes widened with the shock of it and she gasped – it was sudden and she had forgotten how large he felt inside her. ‘Oh! I …!’ But she soon adjusted to his penetration and remembered to breathe again. ‘Yes, oh yes.’

Melbourne looked down at her with a gaze of such devotion that it was as good as the cock embedded inside her. She wrapped her arms about him and drew him down to kiss her again. At this he started moving, in and out, slow, long strokes which dragged his length fully through her, threatening to come out, before pushing deep back in again. She met each thrust, and their rhythm matched quickly and instinctively.

But he suddenly drew his head back with a moan and she marked the sharp tips of his emerging fangs. Pleasure was stirring deep inside her, stoked by the pistoning drives of his cock as he ploughed through her body time and again, but beyond that she craved more. She arched her back, she bared her neck, and Melbourne shut his eyes to fight it.

‘Yes, yes …’ she repeated, urging him on, clenching the warm, wet grip of her sex around him. ‘Bite me … bite me … you want to, you want to.’

He was wrestling with himself. He threw his head up again and cried out in torment. ‘Stop that. Stop saying that!’

‘I want you to. I want your fangs in me, I want to feel you sucking me out.’

He roared with anguish but it did not stop his cock as it plunged in and out of her. ‘It’s enough, for now it’s enough. You’re so good, you fuck me so well.’

His use of the word threw her – it was, after all, not a common word at Court – and she forgot to plead for his bite. ‘What did you say?’

He lifted her leg to angle himself differently and went at her with grunts of determination, pinning her to the bed with his thrusts. ‘I said … you fuck me so well.’

Victoria grinned. ‘Then … don’t stop.’

‘I won’t,’ he groaned, and after ploughing hard through her three, four more times, he released powerfully, his seed surging white and hot out of him. But he didn’t stop moving, and she came soon after with a strength which robbed her of movement, voice and coherent thought.

The strength of their joining abated both his hunger and hers. He was right: for now, it was enough. But the effort to resist was becoming too great and he knew it all too well.

But their ecstasy had resulted in something else. It had distracted them entirely from the other matter occupying both their thoughts: namely the person who Melbourne had encountered in Smithfield and the person who had written the letter to Victoria, the two people being, of course, one of the same.

Chapter Text

The next few days passed blissfully. Her illness did not return, namely because Melbourne remained at her side.

For his part, the Palace afforded not only the opportunity to spend almost every moment with her, but sanctuary also. Here, Byron could not find him.

Melbourne lay with her every night, and on the second he felt he could feed from her again. And so, after sinking his cock into her, he sank his teeth into her also and drank.  Their mutual pleasure eclipsed all else.

He stopped feeding before it was too late, and she asked afterwards why he had. In truth, his moral compass was not entirely broken and the thought of draining the life from her was one he struggled with, despite the extraordinary pleasure and desire she wrought in him. He would not be able to resist much longer, but for now he would delay a while.

‘I wish we didn’t have this damnable ball tomorrow,’ Victoria complained as they lay together that Thursday night.

‘I quite agree, Ma’am.’ He stroked a single finger along her arm. ‘Well, you are the Queen – you could cancel it.’

She giggled and nestled into his chest.

‘I cannot possibly do that! There have been so many arrangements … and people do seem to enjoy these things. I wouldn’t mind if I could dance only with you.’

‘You know that isn’t possible. Even Peel enjoys the occasional waltz with you, I’ve noticed.’

‘He is a better dancer than Leader of the Opposition!’ She laughed again. ‘Oh! I had almost forgotten. I have invited Lord Dorchester. Have you come across him?’

The stroking along her arm ceased. ‘Dorchester? Who the devil is that?’

‘Edward, Lord Dorchester. He wrote a charming letter telling me about a time we’d been out boating as children and I fell in and he rescued me.’

‘I know of no Lord Dorchester.’

‘He wrote from a house in Belgravia and his invitation was delivered there and accepted from there. He must be reputable to have such a fine address.’

‘Must he?’

She looked up at him. ‘Oh, don’t be too distrustful. He sounds like a pleasant enough fellow. Anyway, he is coming tomorrow. We shall find out what he’s like then.’

Melbourne sat up. ‘Ma’am … I would urge you to reconsider this.’

‘Why?’

‘You know nothing of this man. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Lord Dorchester.’

‘Well … you can’t be expected to know everybody.’

‘With all due respect, when it comes to Peers of the realm, Ma’am … I do.’ He rose from the bed and paced around the room.

‘Lord M! William? Whatever is the matter?’

Melbourne turned back to her, his hands on his hips, his anxiety clear. ‘Did this man give any indication of how old he is?’

‘He implied he is a few years older than me.’

‘His address? I wish to see it. I will go there myself and seek him out.’

‘Lord M! That would be most impertinent!’ She got out of bed and rushed over to him. ‘Oh, do stop this. What on earth are you so troubled about? Even if the man is an impostor, there will be plenty of people and guards about. There is nothing to fear.’

He stopped, breathing heavily, and looked down at her.

‘He is back.’

She frowned in bewilderment. ‘What? Who?’

‘Byron.’

She sniffed out a laugh of disbelief. ‘How do you know this?’

‘I saw him. I spoke with him.’

‘When?’

‘At Smithfield the other day. He found me.’

His distress was suddenly all too understandable. She reached for his hand. ‘Is this what was troubling you? Why did you not mention this before, my darling? I could have eased your worries.’

‘I did not wish to trouble you.’

‘But, what? You think this Lord Dorchester could be Byron? I have so many distant relatives who creep out of the woodwork; it is not unusual. I am sure your fears are simply heightened because of you seeing him.’

‘Perhaps, but it is a coincidence, do you not think?’

She stepped up to him and curled her arms about him. ‘What have you to fear from Byron? He has nothing compared to you.’

He met her eyes and said, ‘That is exactly what I am afraid of.’

--xoOox--

Victoria tried her best to assuage Melbourne’s concerns, and her body and blood and spirit eased him, perhaps too much, perhaps she convinced him and he became complacent. The next day he was busy with work. Many meetings took place at the Palace and he had no time to worry about the matter even if he had wanted to.

His constant proximity ensured that Victoria’s illness did not return, and she was busy with preparations for the ball. It was not a major affair, but enough to keep the staff occupied and rushing about. By the time it started, she had almost forgotten the matter of Lord Dorchester.

She danced with Peel and complimented him on his ability, which seemed to please him greatly. The evening wore on. Melbourne hovered around the edge of the room but she could tell many people wished to speak to him and she kept losing sight of him. She realised at one point that she had completely forgotten to inquire whether Lord Dorchester had arrived or not.

She would soon have her answer.

Victoria took a breath between dances and managed some surreptitious sips from a glass of champagne. She took herself off to a quiet corner and for once managed to escape simpering looks and questing conversation. She would go and find Lord M and perhaps they could have a quiet few moments somewhere secret. She smiled softly to herself at the idea.

‘Your Majesty … how wonderful to see you again after such a long time.’

She turned to the voice. A dark-haired man stood behind her. Late twenties perhaps, intensely handsome, with a penetrating gaze from which she could not escape.

‘Thank you, …?’

‘Lord Dorchester.’

‘Oh! I see, yes! How very lovely to see you … again.’

‘Indeed, Ma’am.’ He took hold of her hand and raised it to his lips. ‘And how very beautiful you have grown to be.’ The compliment, however effusive, was not unappreciated.

The man smiled. He had dark red lips, she noticed, soft, but the way they curled up did not quite work somehow. Victoria drew her hand away, although not quite as hastily as she wished she had.

He continued. ‘And I am also pleased to see you dry, Your Majesty.’

She laughed. ‘Yes, of course … the pond.’

‘You remember?’

She frowned, trying hard to do so. ‘Well … I think so.’

He stepped in and his gaze did not leave hers. ‘It was traumatic for you. Perhaps your memory protects you from it.’

‘That is most likely it.’

The man motioned towards the dance floor. ‘You must give me the honour of a dance.’

‘Oh, I’m afraid my card is full.’ She felt she should be grateful that it was, yet at the same time a strange sense of disappointment tinged her.

‘Surely not? Allow me to see.’

With no hesitation, he reached for the card around her wrist and lifted it so that she had no choice but to raise her arm to help him. He read her card quickly and tutted. ‘Why, it is full. But you don’t really wish to dance with him, do you … or him … and certainly not him. I will see what I can do.’

She laughed at his presumption. ‘You cannot do anything, Lord Dorchester.’

‘Oh, but you see … I can.’ He stepped yet closer. The way he looked at her made her almost feel rooted to the spot, cornered, although she wasn’t entirely sure if she was scared or not. She felt she should be but somehow only found herself staring into the man’s eyes instead. At last she shook herself out of her reverie – as that is what it felt like – and glanced anxiously around.

‘Well … I really must speak with Lord M … Lord Melbourne … he should be here somewh-‘

‘I wouldn’t worry about him. He has far more important things to trouble himself with. The country won’t run itself, you know.’

She sniffed away his assertion. ‘Well, even the Prime Minister is allowed the occasional night off. Where is he, I wonder?’ Her eyes sought Lord M out but he was nowhere to be seen. Victoria swallowed hard. She should go and search for him but her feet seemed to defy her.

‘He is clearly occupied. But I am not. Now … let us dance.’

‘But I am promised to Lord Ilchester next,’ she tried, studying her card intently.

The man laughed dismissively, almost mocking. ‘He is also occupied … with a large bottle of brandy. I passed him in some disorder earlier. Come, Ma’am … you are, after all, such a wonderful dancer. I have been watching you.’

She blushed, but also found herself unable not to warm to the flattery. There was something about this man which was both impossibly attractive and dreadfully disturbing. She did so wish Lord M was about.

The man took her hand and led her onto the floor. She followed him and her pulse quickened with an excitement which was undeniable.

He held her, moving with a grace and fluidity that she couldn’t help but respond to. He was unfeasibly handsome, with a cat-like charm, but it unsettled her more than attracted her. She glanced around for Melbourne again but he was still nowhere to be seen.

If Melbourne was too far from her, even further than the next room, her malaise would creep back, but for some reason it hadn’t this time. Her gaze rose to the man before her and realisation dawned at last.

What a fool she had been! What an utter fool.

‘I know who you are,’ she said, her breath catching.

‘Why of course you do,’ he smirked. ‘I introduced myself.’

‘No, you are not that person. Lord Dorchester does not exist. I know exactly who you are.’

‘Pray tell. I am intrigued.’ It was almost a purr.

‘You are Byron.’

He merely deepened his smirk and did nothing to deny it. ‘How very astute.’

She tensed against him but found herself still following his lead around the floor. ‘You should not have come,’ she tried.

‘Oh, but I have.’

She glanced about anxiously yet again.

‘Looking for your Lord M? He will be a while. The last I saw he was being harangued by a large group of lobbyists over welfare reform. Never his strong point, but he may be able to maintain a semblance of interest and enthusiasm.’

‘I need him,’ she said, more to herself than him.

‘Do you indeed?’

‘We should not be dancing.’ She tried to pull out of his grasp but he held her fast with an unearthly strength. She was turned and turned and felt herself dizzyingly compelled by him.

Byron held her in closer; each of his fingers dug into her waist. She tried to escape them but could not.

‘What a writhing little pussycat you are,’ he said, his voice darkly intent. ‘And all for lack of him. My my … the Lamb is more influential than I realised.’

‘Please stop this.’ But she wasn’t sure she could stop it herself.

‘I will not, I’m enjoying it too much. But wait a moment …’ He slowed momentarily, but still held her firmly. ‘How do you know who I am? What has he told you? And more importantly … why?’

She turned her head away from him to try not to meet his eyes and in so doing exposed her neck more prominently.

At this he stopped dancing abruptly and stared at her neck, a look of amazement taking hold.

‘Well, I’ll be damned.’

She dared look at him. ‘What is it?’

‘It’s you.’

‘What is?’

Byron’s mouth crept up into a sly smile of disbelief.

‘He’s had you.’

She realised and tugged at her necklace to ensure it covered her neck wounds.

‘Too late, my sweet. I know, and I have to say, I’m rather impressed with the man for once. I only came tonight out of curiosity and to meet you. I never dreamt he would have been quite so bold as to sink his teeth into you, the Queen of England no less. Bravo, Will!’

She took advantage of his amazement and pulled herself from his grasp, quickly pacing from the dance floor. She left the ballroom, ignoring the queries as she swept past people. But he followed.

Victoria rushed down the hall, trying to get away. She must find Lord M, she must tell him.

But everywhere she turned was empty hallways and hollowness. Lord M was nowhere to be seen. But the footsteps followed her. She seemed to forget her own palace and after rushing down corridor after corridor she found herself at a dead end.

Immediately, Byron was there and grabbed her wrist, pulling her into a hidden alcove.

‘He’s not here, I told you. But I am.’

She wanted to yell. She wanted to scream, ‘Let me go!’ But her mouth seemed to be locked, her tongue silenced. She could only stare at him as he drew closer, forcing her into a corner, preventing any escape.

‘He hasn’t turned you yet, has he?’

She shook her head, desperate not to give him anything, but seemingly unable not to.

Byron smiled, that sly smile which was at once repulsive and hideously alluring.

‘He’s eking it out, and quite right too … because you, my sweet little Vicky, are too, too succulent and ripe and perfect.’

His fingers touched her wrist and he drew his hand up her arm. She fought to deny the effect it was having. She wanted to push him away, wanted to run, but her feet seemed riveted to the ground. His hand ran up slowly, leaving what felt like a trail of fire along her arm. He drew it over her shoulder then along her neck. When he reached her head he exerted a force, tipping it back a little, and instead of fighting it she let him.

Stop! Stop! Her instincts screamed, but she couldn’t.

Byron stroked over her face with his thumb and she could only admit the sensuous power of it. Still her eyes were locked into his; they had a dark depth she could not deny, like two limitless pools dappled by moonlight.

He leant in closer and murmured, ‘We were very close, you know, Will and I. The best of friends.’ His thumb stroked, and his fingers angled her head back further. His eyes flittered to the jointure of her throat and shoulder. ‘And friends share … don’t they?’

Her eyes widened. His gaze was now fixed on her neck and his tongue dampened his lips.

‘You don’t know what it’s like to be sucked out by another, do you? Oh, you’ll like it, Vicky, trust me. You’ll like it very, very much. You see, unlike little Lamb, I don’t prevaricate. I lack any of that tedious, restrictive stuff called doubt. When I take you, you will fly, my sweet.’

Her breath caught and she wanted to scream, but no sound emerged. His hands were on her and they were warm and strong. Her mind told her to pull away, but instead she only seemed to melt into him. Her head fell to the side, inviting his bite.

He smirked and when he did she saw his fangs.

Yes, yes, it would feel good, wouldn’t it? Different, new, fresh and sharp and deep. Oh, yes

She bared her neck for him.

‘Good, good girl, oh, you are such perfection. How I will enjoy this … and then keep you. Mine forever.’

His eyes reddened, far more acutely than Lord M’s ever had. His face was stretched and tight so that his skull was nearly visible beneath. He had a sudden horrific malevolence which should have terrified and repulsed her but only made her want more. She was beyond escape. She welcomed his fangs.

‘Together we will rule,’ he continued. ‘Together, we will be magnificent. He may not have turned you … but I will.’

With a gasping cry of anticipation, Byron threw his head back and gripped her shoulders painfully, ready to plunge his fangs deep into her neck.

But at that moment he was pulled sharply backwards and off her.

Someone had taken hold of him and in the next instant a blow was delivered which hit Byron with such force across the jaw that he stumbled back and fell with a thud to the floor.

‘No!’ yelled a voice which at once wrenched Victoria from her nightmare and cossetted her. Melbourne was there and on him. He stood over Byron who lay shocked and bruised on the floor.

Her lover looked more magnificent than ever. Tall and strong, he seemed to possess an almost supernatural power. His eyes burned red, his fangs were out, sharp and furious. Reaching down, he grabbed Byron brutally and dragged him to his feet, only to land another brutal blow across his jaw. But this time he didn’t fall as Melbourne held him too strongly and started to rain down blows upon him, ending with a knee in his stomach which made Byron collapse in doubled-up agony on the floor.

Melbourne immediately bent down and picked him up, making him appear feather light rather than the weight of man he actually was. He carried him forcefully to a window and opened it.

Never again. You will leave and you will return to your place of hell and you will remain there forever.’

And with that he pushed him from the window and Byron tumbled out with a shriek. Victoria heard the dull thud as he landed on the stony path one floor below.

Melbourne immediately turned back, took hold of her and walked, pulling her away from it all.

 

Chapter Text

Melbourne continued with her to a secluded part of the palace. She had never known him so strong and powerful; it almost scared her. When they reached a study, empty and dark, he drew her in and shut the door fast after them. He was breathing hard and gripped hold of her as if she would be lost to him otherwise.

‘I am sorry … I am sorry, I am sorry,’ he repeated desperately. ‘I should have been vigilant. We knew it was him. We knew he was coming. I should never have left you alone. Did he touch you? Did he bite you?’

His hands were all over her, seeking out any injury the man may have inflicted.

She shook her head urgently. ‘No, no, it’s alright. You found us in time, but … I …’

‘What?’

Victoria dropped her head in shame and confusion. ‘I do not think I could have prevented it. I … could not fight him … I did not want to, even though every part of me was screaming for it to end.’

Melbourne clasped her to him, his anguish making his voice rasp. ‘I know, I know, my darling. He has that power. You would not have been able to prevent it.’

‘I am sorry.’

He pulled back, searching her face for meaning. ‘You? Why are you sorry?’

‘Because I … I think I would have let him. I would have betrayed you.’

He took her head and held it so that she looked at him. ‘No, no, that is part of his evil. He will have bewitched you. There was nothing you could have done.’

‘I felt as if I could, as if I should … but my strength left me.’

He bent to kiss her. ‘It’s alright, it’s alright. You’re here with me, you’re safe, it’s over.’

She let his kiss heal and soothe the conflict still raging through her. When they parted Melbourne rested his forehead on hers.

‘He fell from a great height. That will be it, will it not?’ she asked. ‘We can say that he fell, that is all. He was an impostor who was trespassing and he fell.’

Melbourne frowned and his voice was low in seriousness. ‘Victoria … he is not dead.’

‘What?’

‘Remember … vampires can only be killed in certain ways.’

The horror of the situation struck hard. ‘Oh God, I had forgotten. I did not think anyone could survive a fall like that. But … what ways … how can it be done?’

‘Direct sunlight, although that is difficult as they can usually find shelter … starvation of blood, as we discussed once … a stake through the heart.’

‘A stake through the heart? What kind of stake?’

‘Any sort of wooden stick or pole, it matters not, but it must be driven in firmly and with conviction.’

‘So he is still alive out there.’

‘Yes.’

Victoria thought back to what had happened.

‘He seemed so powerful. His body and his mind were overwhelming.’

Melbourne’s face darkened. ‘I wish him gone.’

It was her turn to reach up and kiss his pain away. ‘My darling, he is gone for now and he did me no harm. I am yours, I am only yours.’

‘I know …’

‘I want the memory of him, of what happened gone,’ she declared. ‘I want it banished.’

He held her, his hands running over every part of her he could as if he needed to reassure himself of her existence. ‘Yes, yes …’

Victoria curled herself about him. ‘You know what will heal me.’

‘Yes,’ he murmured, and dropped his head to her neck, not biting but nuzzling, taking the scent and essence of her into him, kissing, plucking her skin with his lips while he guided her back to a bureau behind them.

‘It must be now,’ he said, his voice deepening with intent.

She murmured in assent and held him close. With strong hands, she was picked up and placed on the bureau and her skirts flung up around her.

They seemed to frustrate him as his expression darkened and he tore at his placket to release himself with aggravated urgency. ‘Too many bloody clothes,’ he hissed and she couldn’t stop a little grin at his annoyance. Melbourne managed to negotiate his way through the layers of material and, holding himself – already urgently erect – in one hand, he pulled her in towards him with the other and thrust inside her quickly with a rasping groan.

She inhaled sharply. It was sudden and hard and Victoria’s face twisted with the shock of it, but that did not deter him and, withdrawing a little, he was back in with another groan, deeper yet, hard, full, long.

‘Yes,’ he breathed. ‘Like that.’

She nodded in agreement and clung to him. ‘Yes, like that, just like that.’

He set about driving into her. This was not love-making, although the love they bore each other could never be denied. It was that word he had used the other day. Fucking. She knew it. And she needed it. He fucked her.

She took it all, her body welcoming the hard insistence of his cock time and again.

‘More,’ she murmured after a while as pleasure grew, focused and ready. She needed more and so did he. ‘Bite me, feed on me.’

The pounding of his cock was intoxicating, but through this near drunkenness she focused enough to see his eyes redden. To some, the tightening and paling of his skin as he changed was disgusting, but to her it only heightened his beauty.  She gasped as she saw his fangs forming and wanted their penetration as much as she wanted her body breached by his cock.

‘Need you, Victoria,’ he moaned, barely audibly, ‘I hunger for you.’

He continued to move in her, insistent and demanding, but his left hand rose and fingers threaded through her hair until they dug into her scalp. He tugged and she had no choice but to draw her head back and expose her neck for him, not that she would have chosen otherwise.

As Melbourne saw the pale ripe skin glowing in the candlelight, he dragged in air, his own desire uncontainable.

She saw as he lowered his head to her, still fucking, still pressing his cock deep inside her, and just before he bit down, she closed her eyes to revel in it.

His fangs pierced. It always took more effort than she imagined, breaking through her flesh, and it was deep; nearly an inch of his teeth sank into her, right through her skin and sinew so that he could tap into her blood at its deepest. It hurt again, how could it not? It always hurt, but she was used to it; she relished it.

He drank deeply, but did not neglect her, his innate awareness as a lover was present even now, especially now, and he caught that nub with each stroke in and out, in, out, building her pleasure as the rapture of his feeding caught hold.

She came first, strong and fierce, and as he felt her orgasm grip and let her blood nourish him, it took him too. It exploded hard from him until she was plug-full of the warmth of his cock and seed.

He remained attached for some time after, still drinking, still deep inside her, until he fell from her and was sated at last.

Her body was heavy after, richly catatonic from pleasure and the dizzying loss of blood. She could not open her eyes and wanted only to sleep. She vaguely remembered trying to stand and falling instead into his arms.

Victoria did not know it, but he carried her through secret corridors to her bed chamber and, after Lehzen had checked that Her Majesty was simply drained after an exhausting ball and was now sleeping soundly, he slipped into the bed next to her and held her close all night.

Melbourne, however, did not sleep. As glorious as the feeding had been, he had other matters on his mind so troubling that sleep would not ease them tonight.

--xoOox--

He had taken much blood from her the night before and it was not until the afternoon that Victoria managed to rise from her bed. This, of course, prompted concern yet again, but she assured everyone that she was merely tired after the ball and her previous illness had not returned. When she did rise and settled happily to court matters, their concerns seemed to be allayed.

The Prime Minister stayed close, and many tuts could be heard at his insistence on keeping by the Queen’s side throughout the day and into the evening.

‘Have you not got business in Westminster, Lord Melbourne?’ asked her mother tetchily.

‘Nothing that cannot be attended to here, Your Highness,’ he offered as smoothly as always.

But Melbourne was not entirely focused on the Queen, and Victoria sensed it even if nobody else did. He would frequently walk to the windows and look out, his gaze intent on the people below and the movements of citizens as they passed the palace gates. She caught him often in discussion with footmen and butlers. She knew what he asked: Had anyone been caught in the grounds? Had there been any intruders? Suspicious activity of any kind?

She approached him at one point as he stood scrutinizing the people below and stood as close as possible without raising suspicion.

‘Lord M.’

He turned, almost surprised to find her there. ‘Hm?’

‘Come away from the window. What do you think you will achieve by staring out?’

The muscle in his jaw clenched. ‘Why could he not have stayed in his underworld? He is best suited to it, after all.’ His words were low, only for her. How she longed to thread her fingers through his and reassure him with her touch, but there were too many others around.

‘We could go to Windsor for a few days,’ she suggested. ‘He may move onto other things in that time. And no matter what, he will be far from us and our worries.’

Melbourne smiled down. ‘I would like that. I like being in Windsor with you.’

She ached to kiss him but could content herself only with staring up and giving him the openness of her smile.

Victoria turned to her Ladies and announced loudly: ‘We are going to Windsor, I fancy a change. Please instruct everyone. We shall leave before it grows dark.’

And with her Ladies gawping open-mouthed at her sudden decision, the Queen and her Prime Minister paced from the room to prepare.

--xoOox--

The sudden move to Windsor did not go down well amongst the court and only a few of Her Majesty’s entourage went initially. But as soon as Victoria rode through the Henry VIII gate, past the glorious architecture of St George’s Chapel and along beside the Middle Ward to her chambers, she felt content. Here, they would be safe. Here, he could forget.

They enjoyed a small supper before retiring to bed. Again, Melbourne managed to find his way to her room secretly and silently. They made love but he did not feed, and for the first time in several days, his body entwined with Victoria’s, Melbourne slept contentedly.

The next day dawned bright and unseasonably warm. Victoria stared out across the Great Park. ‘Let us ride out after lunch. It is such a fine day.’

‘Of course, Ma’am.’

‘I have happy memories of riding out with you here, Lord M.’

‘I am pleased to hear it, Ma’am.’ He smirked but did not look at her.

At half past two they were both ready to go riding. They soon put anyone else off accompanying them. Everyone knew the Queen and her Prime Minister were best left alone on these occasions.

They trotted away from the castle quickly and rode on towards Home Park and into it as the trees thickened.

‘It was around here that you tasted me the first time,’ she observed, her very core quivering at the mere thought of it.

‘I believe it was.’

As they reached the deepest part of the woods, Victoria grinned over at him and slipped from her horse before leading it to a tree and tying the reins to a branch. Melbourne followed suit.

He approached her and pulled her in.

‘Am I not ready yet?’ she asked.

‘For what?’

‘You know what … to be turned.’

He averted his eyes. ‘I suppose you are, and yet … I must be certain.’

‘Of what?’

He smiled softly. ‘Do not fear. It will be soon.’

He bent and kissed her, but both were pulled up abruptly when a twig snapped behind them. They spun to it. ‘What was that?’ he asked, his eyes wide.

‘It’s nothing. The horses, that is all.’

Melbourne’s gaze scoured the woods. She tried to guide him round to her again. ‘William … it was nothing. We are safe here, my darling … kiss me.’

So he did and soon they were drifting in an intoxicating haze of desire.

‘Oh … am I interrupting?’

They leapt apart, gasping with the shock of it. A few feet away, standing as tall and proud as the trees around him, was Byron.

At first Melbourne was lost for words, but then rage tore through him and he stepped furiously up to the man. ‘What the devil are you doing here?’

‘Much like you, I imagine … out to take the air … although I’m not sure how much air you two are taking.’

It was Victoria’s turn to step forward. ‘This is royal property. How did you get here?’

‘Oh, my dear, it takes more than a fence to keep me away.’

‘You are trespassing,’ she declared but knew the futility of it before the words had left her tongue.

‘I’m terribly sorry … but, I don’t see anyone around to stop me.’

Melbourne took a step into him. ‘I told you the last time, Byron – keep away. Leave and never come back.’

‘But where’s the fun in that, hmm?’

Melbourne’s fists were clenched, his body livid with rage. ‘I should have ended it properly last time.’

‘I daresay you should have but … we both know you haven’t got it in you, have you?’

‘Go to hell,’ Melbourne spat.

Byron merely smirked and held his eyes steadily. ‘Oh, but you know we’re both there already, Will.’

‘Why are you back for us? There are plenty of others you can corrupt and torment on this earth.’

‘But a Queen and her Prime Minister? … Don’t deny me that.’

‘We don’t want you. We want you gone,’ Victoria said clearly and boldly.

‘Are you so sure?’ He glanced at her.

‘Wh-what?’ she stuttered.

‘Do tell, Vicky. Do you really want me gone?’

‘Yes.’ She blinked.

‘Well, you say that, but …’ He smirked. ‘It was fun, wasn’t it?’

Byron,’ warned Melbourne, the muscle in his jaw working furiously.

‘Oh … she’s a good one, Will, I’ll give you that. I’d’ve had her if you hadn’t arrived when you did. She wanted it … Didn’t you, girl?’

He paused briefly waiting for the denial he knew would not come. And so he continued, staring across at her. Victoria could not ignore the twisting, rolling desire which took hold again. Damn the man! How dare he make her feel this way?

‘My God, she wanted it. I could smell her desire, feel her blood pounding for me.’

Victoria released a sob at the effect he had on her.

‘Listen to her now. My God, what she would give to have me sink into her. He hasn’t changed you, has he, even though you want it so desperately? You know why, don’t you? He hasn’t got the nerve.’ He smirked sickeningly before taking a step towards her. ‘But, Victoria, you stunning, perfect, delicious creature … I do.’

And Melbourne was at him. With a roar of fury, he hurled himself at his nemesis, pushing them both to the floor. He began pounding him, fists pummelling, arms strong, enraged.

But Byron was ready for it this time and started to fight back. Soon they were both on their feet again and Victoria watched appalled and helpless as they set upon each other. Their strength seemed extraordinary, far beyond anything a normal human could achieve. They were hurled against trees, picked up and tossed about and always recovered and came back for more.

Their potency was terrifying, like two tigers with rampant claws and limbs which could crush any other beast.

But the power of the two men was indistinguishable. First one then the other seemed to hold supremacy, but both were bloodied, both staggered under the onslaught of blows and kicks they hurled at each other.

Victoria stood staring, enrapt of the rampant masculinity before her, but horrified at the sight of her lover bruised and battered. She stepped forward but her feet caught on the broken branches under them and she was prevented.

She looked on and it seemed now that Byron was gaining the upper hand. Melbourne’s decency gave his enemy the edge and he staggered now as Byron rained down blow upon blow upon him.

‘Stop!’ she yelled, terrified and horror-struck. ‘This must end!’

But Byron didn’t stop and, after stumbling a little, Melbourne fell to the ground. Byron’s face was drawn, his fangs out, and he looked around urgently, searching for how to end her lover’s life a final time.

She screamed out the only way she could.

‘Byron! George! Take me! Feed from me!’ she cried. ‘Feed from me, Byron! You are right – I want it now. He couldn’t do it – I need it from you!’

‘No!’ yelled Melbourne. ‘Never.’ He tried to drag himself up but his strength had been beaten from him.

‘Now, Byron! I am here! Take me!’ And she scratched at her throat with her sharpest ring so that her blood was drawn and dripped thick and red down her neck.

Byron paused and turned to her, his eyes redder than ever, his fangs out. He inhaled long and slow, and she knew the scent of her blood was irresistible to him.

He turned slowly and approached her.

His fangs gleamed in the moonlight and he breathed heavily after the exertion of the fight. But a look of victory took him and he roared in triumph. ‘Yes! It must be! I will suck you dry and I will claim you. Together, we will rule for eternity!’

Melbourne was trying to stand but the blows had taxed him too much and he managed only to crawl across, but not fast enough.

Byron took a step towards her, his fangs bared, his mouth wide and his head poised to descend. He allowed himself such a surge of supremacy that he held his arms wide out to the side and clenched his fists to roar out his victory.

And at that moment, with an unnatural swiftness of her own, Victoria bent and picked something up before quickly standing again before him. As Byron rushed in to bite her, she struck out with all her strength, and drove the broken branch in her hands straight through his heart.

The vampire’s eyes widened, and for a moment he was unsure what had occurred. His eyes met hers as disbelief took hold. She took the moment to thrust the wood deeper yet into him with a roar of determination. Then his gaze turned down to the stake protruding from his chest.

And his expression twisted into one of unmitigated horror. He roared again, this time with despairing realisation.

Victoria could only stare as he stumbled about briefly and then collapsed, the stake still deeply embedded. And then, before her very eyes, his flesh seemed to shrink, to dry onto his bones, and he crumbled into nothing but dust on the forest floor.

Lord Byron was no more.

Immediately, she rushed over to Melbourne, who was at last able to push himself up and sit slumped against a trunk.

‘He’s gone, he’s gone, my darling, he’s gone forever,’ she repeated over and over.

She showered his bruised, bloodied face with kisses, trying to help, trying to soothe.

‘You … you did that. You did it.’ He could barely talk through exhaustion and disbelief but eventually her kisses healed enough for him to return them.

She laughed out with incredulity. ‘Did I? How? I never realised. I didn’t think, I just did the only thing I could. He was going to kill you, I had to, I had to stop him.’

‘I told you – you are my angel. After all these years, after all the horror that man has inflicted on me … it was you. You have saved me.’ Melbourne held her, cupping her face as if it were a precious ornament, and kissed her again with such complete devotion that the tears at last came.

They broke out of her with a mighty sob and she lay against him and wept.

‘I have just killed a man.’

‘No. Not a man. The last of his humanity deserted Byron decades ago. He was evil. And you did what I should have done an age ago.’

She lifted her head and met his eyes. ‘You are rid of him. You are rid of him forever.’

‘Yes.’

‘Now we only have each other.’

He stroked her face. ‘And what more could we ever need?’

She smiled softly and laid her head against him. Neither could move for some time, but soon enough it began to grow dark and they knew they would have to try to return. She glanced up at him. ‘Can you stand?’

He tried to push himself up but failed. ‘He weakened me. He had strength, I grant him that.’

‘My darling, what can I do? How can I help?’

He lifted hooded eyes to her. ‘You know.’

‘You must feed?’

‘I must.’

Already his fangs had emerged, such was his need.

With no hesitation, Victoria undid the buttons of her dress to reveal her neck fully for him. And, like a mother drawing a baby into her, she pulled him down. She uttered only the slightest gasp as his fangs sank into her this time, and as he fed, she turned her head up to the heavens and gloried in it.

He was too weakened for sexual ecstasy to take hold this time – her blood merely restored his physical strength – but Victoria, for her part, let the rapture of his feeding take her, silent and still, and there, in the middle of the wood, she treasured it.

Chapter Text

For a long while, even after he had fed, they simply rested back against the tree, eyes closed, wrapped about each other, allowing recovery to take hold and reality to set in.

Byron was gone; Victoria had destroyed him.

‘We must return to the castle,’ Melbourne said eventually, trying to push himself up.

She looked at him, her eyes wide in the gathering moonlight. ‘Are you well enough?’

‘Yes, I am quite recovered. You nurture me well in that respect.’

‘Only in that respect?’ she smiled.

‘In all respects.’ He kissed her. ‘And you?’ he asked, stroking her face, staring into it as if it contained all the answers which had so far eluded him in his long life. ‘Are you well enough?’

‘I wasn’t in the fight, William.’

‘No, but … what you did …’

‘It had to be done.’

‘Yes.’

It was her turn to search his face. ‘Do you regret that it was not you who ended it?’ she asked.

He thought for a while, the tips of his fingers still tracing a path over her cheeks, but he soon concluded, ‘No, it was right this way. He was my past, and you are my present. The one vanquished the other, as it should.’

‘And what of your future, William?’ she asked softly.

But at that moment her wonder and beauty were so overwhelming that he could do no more than pull her into him and kiss her with an ardour which staggered them both yet again.

Breathless, laughing with the passion of it, they eventually broke away and managed to stand. Holding her hand, he led her back to the horses. When they passed the place where she had ended Byron, she paused and looked down. Not even the dust of him could be seen any longer.

‘He is gone completely.’

‘Yes. That is the way of it. Not a shadow left.’

She squeezed his hand. ‘I am sorry.’

Melbourne looked at her quizzically. ‘Sorry? Whatever for?’

‘You were connected to him.’

He sniffed out a laugh. ‘Perhaps once … but I feel a relief now which I did not know I would need. And for that I must thank you.’ He took the deepest breath and released it before untying the horses and mounting his. ‘Come, let us return. It grows cold … and I declare we both need a brandy.’

--xoOox--

Victoria and William ate a quiet supper together as the court’s dinner had ended before they arrived back. As ever, their late return had caused alarm and, no doubt, speculation, but Victoria brushed it off, declaring that they had simply ventured further than they realised and were therefore delayed in coming back. Once the Queen was back and clearly safe and well, tensions eased again and normality was restored to Windsor.

Victoria dismissed the staff, leaving the two of them alone with their cold meats and cheeses.

She smiled softly at Lord M. He was staring intently at her, the amber flickers of the candlelight reflecting in the green of his eyes.

‘What is it?’ she asked.

‘What?’

‘You are staring at me as if my nose had fallen off.’

He sniffed out a laugh and dropped his head. ‘Am I? I apologise, Ma’am.’

‘I don’t mind. But why?’

‘Well … you are very lovely to stare at but …’

‘Go on.’

He put his fork down and took a slow drink of Claret before saying, ‘What you did today …You are the most remarkable thing I have ever encountered.’

Thing?’ Her eyebrows quirked up in mock outrage.

‘You are beyond human, you are beyond anything. I adore you.’

‘Beyond human? … No, you are beyond human. I remain very much mortal.’

At this he stood and moved to her. Impulsively, Melbourne leaned down and kissed her again. She stood for him, hunger forgotten and assuaged with his kiss. They kissed open-mouthed, tongues meeting, breath warm and mingling, lips bruising.

‘I want … I want,’ she murmured.

‘Yes, my darling, my love.’

‘Make love to me.’

And so barely aware of their surroundings, they were soon on the rug by the fire and he entered her and moved in her, slowly and gently for now, his eyes locked into hers the entire time. He stroked along the wet warmth of her quim, and she took him, full and deep, hard and long, meeting him thrust for thrust and push for pull.

They came together, quietly but certainly. Her ecstasy could be read in the widening of her eyes and gaping of her mouth. His brows furrowed and his mouth pursed as he released into her.

They gazed at each other, panting softly, joined, the length of his cock embedded in her pliant body, and he said, ‘You are ready.’

She knew what he meant but voiced it anyway, ‘For what?’

‘To be changed, to be turned. To do what you did today … you can do anything.’

‘Yes. I am ready.’

After a kiss of confirmation he said, ‘Then we will go to Brocket Hall.’

--xoOox--

Again, the suddenness of the Queen’s decision to depart Windsor left a trail of amazement in her wake, but there was a determination to her which could not be disputed. She wished to visit Lord M’s glasshouses, she declared, to see how they were coping with the encroaching winter. Neither her mother, Conroy, nor her Ladies could change her mind. And she rode in the carriage with her Prime Minister. It would be a good time to attend to business, she said, and she did not wish to bore anyone else with that, so they would travel alone.

The carriage set off before anyone could stop them.

The Queen and her Prime Minister did attend to business: the business of removing most of their clothing and exploring each other’s bodies in ways that Victoria was discovering and responding to every day.

With two fingers high inside her, his thumb circling the little bud that sat just above, and her left nipple tight in his mouth, she considered briefly what Conroy would make of it, but soon gave up.

And when he guided her to sit with her feet resting on the bench opposite and placed himself kneeling between her legs, she wondered momentarily again. But when he lowered his head to her sex and his lips closed around her stark nakedness, when his tongue slipped in to taste her very essence, when he sucked and licked and dragged on her until she was incoherent with pleasure, she forgot all but him, and instead curled her fingers through his hair and held him there.

Victoria came and came until she wondered if she could ever stop coming, but at last he lifted his head, a smirk on his face like a schoolboy caught stealing Matron’s scones, and pushed himself up to sit beside her. She stared blankly ahead, her face aglow with amazement.

‘What did you just do? Is that within the law of my country?’ she asked breathlessly.

‘Did you enjoy it?’

‘I don’t think enjoy is at all an adequate term, Lord M.’

‘Well, it is most certainly within my law.’

She laughed and placed her hand on his thigh, running it up until she came to the hardness between his legs. He had removed his coat and waistcoat but still wore his breeches and shirt. ‘I feel I have been neglecting you.’

‘That can be put to rights.’

And with that he practically lifted her and guided her over to straddle him. After he released himself quickly, Victoria sank down onto him with a moan of the most glorious satisfaction. He rose up high into her, and, her quim already tight from many orgasms, she felt every inch of his hard flesh enclosed inside her. For his part, he seemed happy enough, for his head was back, his fingers dug impulsively into her hips, and he moaned out ‘Fuck!’ through clenched teeth and tightly shut eyes. Victoria allowed herself a grin of pride.

Melbourne forced his eyes open. He’d already discarded her gown and corset but he now pulled off her chemise so that her breasts were naked. Then, gripping her hips, he declared, ‘Move.’

Bracing herself with one hand on his shoulder, the other on the padded side of the carriage, she lifted up, feeling him slide through her as she did. Victoria grinned at the gloriousness of it. Teasing him, she held herself poised, perfectly placed so that the head of him barely sat inside her. He grimaced in anticipation before demanding gruffly, ‘Good God, down … please.’

So she lowered her body, but so agonisingly slowly that he moaned aloud, and this time when his head fell back with the agonising restraint of it, his fangs emerged.

She pulled up his rigid shaft and did it again, tormenting him, letting the heady rush of power take her.

‘You like that, Lord M?’ she asked, her voice infused with eroticism.

‘You are my goddess,’ came the slurred response. He was lost to her.

At last she built her pace, but slipped into an easy rhythm which still allowed her control – never too fast, but no longer so slow as to deny him the pleasure he’d gifted her so freely.

Melbourne stared with bleary eyes at her, but his lips curled back and his fangs were all too visible. She dipped down towards him and he instinctively took hold of her breast. His thumb and forefinger closed harshly upon the nipple and squeezed, twisted. The sudden shot of pain made her gasp but she adored and absorbed it.

It was so attuned with her pleasure, this pain he gave, and she longed for more. Still bucking along him, Victoria drew her body in closer so that her neck was in reach of his mouth. He inhaled deeply and groaned. He could smell her blood, sense the pulse of it through her flourishing body.

She moved harder now, knowing how his senses were heightened and focused only on her.

‘Jesus Christ, I want to bite you!’ he hissed, baring his fangs.

Victoria exposed her neck, inviting the piercing of his teeth, longing for it, but instead he turned his head away.

‘No, not now! Christ, not now! We must wait!’

It was her turn to moan. ‘Oh, but I want it. I want you in me.’

At that moment the carriage jolted over a stone, sending him yet more urgently up into her. ‘I am in you. Feel me.’

She leant back, angling his cock so that it pressed so hard against her that it almost hurt. ‘Oh, I do, I do, but more … please, more.’

‘No, it’s not time. Soon … at Brocket Hall … it must be there. You will be as much a part of my home as I am.’

She threw her head down in frustration but moved ever faster on him, now working herself on his cock with near desperation. The road was bumpy and each jolt and shake only sent more quivers of pleasure through them both. He held both her breasts and squeezed and plied them almost brutally. She loved it.

‘Pinch them, twist them … please … I need it.’

His fingers and thumbs closed on the nipples and he tightened his grip until she cried out. Shards of agony pulsed from them and dashed to coil through her cock-filled quim. But it made up for the lack of bite at her neck and she came almost instantly again, falling from the edge she’d held herself on.

Her orgasm clamped hard on his cock and, holding back as long as he could, he then let her body draw out his come with explosive force.

It took a while before either could react, but, at length, she opened her eyes and smiled broadly down to him. He could only laugh in return, such had been the force of their coupling.

‘Ma’am …’ he breathed. ‘I do declare … fucking hell.’

‘Lord M,’ she answered, ‘you are most remiss in employing language like that in the presence of your Queen.’

‘I find I cannot apologise, Ma’am.’

‘Then I shall send you forthwith to the Tower,’ she murmured, bending and kissing him deeply.

‘I will go willingly …’ he replied between kisses, ‘if you lock yourself up with me.’

‘Hmm, that sounds most appealing.’

She pulled back, losing her teasing for once. ‘But in all seriousness, my love … when will you do it?’

He stroked her face. ‘I fed long from you yesterday. From a purely selfish point of view, I need you to be replenished. Tomorrow. It will be tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow,’ she repeated, and kissed him again.

The journey continued, all bumping, jolting, orgasm-inducing 50 miles of it.

By the time they reached Brocket Hall, they were too exhausted with pleasure to do much more than fall into bed and sleep.

--xoOox--

It didn’t happen when they awoke. In fact, they barely mentioned it. The Brocket Hall cook prepared a glorious breakfast which assuaged the very human hunger which had beset them after their exertions on the journey, and then Lord M did indeed show her the glasshouses and his collection of orchids.

‘They are the most exquisite flowers, Lord M. And so very sensual.’

‘I think so. Exquisite and sensual … like you, Ma’am.’

She smiled and for a while they continued through his glasshouses. His botanical knowledge was extensive and she adored the passion with which he spoke about his plants, but soon enough her mind turned to other matters. ‘What time is it, Lord M?’

He looked at his pocket watch. ‘A little after four, Ma’am.’

She stepped into him and bit her lip coyly. ‘I have been most patient, do you not think?’

‘You have been a paragon of the virtue, Ma’am.’

‘Well then …’ She placed her hands on his chest and set her most seductive gaze on him.

He frowned a little. ‘Are you not the slightest bit apprehensive?’

She huffed. ‘You have made me wait quite long enough! Apprehension is long gone.’

‘But … your life as you know it will end.’

Determination set in. She was long past prevarication. ‘Good. Did I not say that from the beginning? I am sick of this life. I long for more, you know that. And together, we will live and live and live.’

He took her head and stared into her eyes. ‘Yes. We will.’

William kissed her, softly, almost innocently, and then, saying no more, he took her hand and led her from the glasshouse and back into the house. Silently, they walked up the staircase and along corridors until they reached the bedchamber.

He opened the door and held it for her. Victoria did not hesitate in walking in.

Melbourne closed the door and locked it. No one would disturb them, but enclosing them completely in their little world seemed somehow fitting.

He set about removing her clothing. Slowly and still silently, he took off her gown, skirts, stockings, corset and chemise, until she was quite naked before him.

The room was warm from the fire and the light of the flames made her pale skin glow golden.

Holding eye contact, he then removed his own clothes: cravat, waistcoat, breeches, shirt, all were tossed aside until they both stood with nothing on before each other.

He stepped into her and for the first time, Victoria did indeed feel the slightest tinge of apprehension.

‘What must be done exactly?’ she asked and he heard the tremor in her voice for he bent and kissed so beautifully her anxiety melted.

‘We make love. I will be inside you when it happens.’

‘Do I … when do I, you know, do it to you?’ She was still anxious and found herself unable to voice it starkly.

‘I will cut my skin before I feed from you. And you will drink.’

She nodded.

‘Victoria …’ He placed his fingers under her chin and lifted it. ‘Tell me now – Is this what you want?’

‘Yes. You know it is.’

And so he kissed her and in kissing her drew her over to the bed. Melbourne began to make love to her so that she forgot it was to be her last night in her life as it had been.

He nearly brought her her first orgasm with his fingers, and nearly her second with his mouth, but not quite. He held her on that knife edge each time, so that by the time he was ready to push into her, she was a seething ball of sexual potency and need. She lay back on the bed and writhed, her body on fire with anticipation, her senses attuned to all he would offer.

He moved over her and placed himself ready. She spread her legs wide, bucking her hips towards him to beckon her in. ‘Please, please,’ she implored.

‘Shh,’ he had to hush. ‘Calm.’

But when he thrust into her, his own need was clear. He groaned loudly as his cock disappeared into the warm, wet succulence of her quim and began to move with tell-tale urgency before forcing himself to slow down.

Reaching under her back, he pulled her up into a sitting position. She wrapped her legs about him and sat across his hips with his cock still firmly embedded within her.

Melbourne held her close and kissed her but then she felt him reaching for something. She looked to see what it was.

In his right hand he held a thin silvery knife, the blade sharp and gleaming in the candlelight. She smiled softly and kissed him again.

‘You must drink fully. It may be bitter, but you will grow used to it.’

‘I know,’ she said.

Melbourne brought the knife closer to himself, about to slice through his own skin, but Victoria curled her fingers around his suddenly and stopped him. ‘No … I want to. May I?’

He looked at her, surprise clear but soon melting into admiration and acceptance. He nodded and let her take the knife from his grasp. She ran her other hand over his chest and he shuddered in a breath. He was breathing fast now and his cock was lividly erect within her. She glanced up and when he opened his mouth, she could see the tips of his fangs gleaming bright.

He could scarcely breathe with anticipation. ‘My angel,’ he whispered, as she felt for the place.

‘Where?’ she asked and he pointed to the indent between his left shoulder and collar bone.

‘Cut an inch, perhaps a little more. Deep. At least an inch deep again.’

He thought she would hesitate but she did not. She brought the knife to the place and angled it so that its sharp point was towards his skin. Then, with barely a pause, she pushed it in before drawing it along so that it scored a deep incision almost two inches long. He sucked in, more with rapture than pain. At first it didn’t seem that it would bleed but then she drew the blade out and let it fall to the bed beside them.

She watched, entranced, as deep red blood began pouring from the wound. Was she surprised? Had she not expected him to bleed like her? She reached up and caught it on her fingers.

He was staggering in breaths, not with the pain but with the knowledge of what would be. She thought perhaps she should fear what it would taste like, what it would feel like, but she didn’t because at that moment she craved it and yearned for it. She wanted it as much as she had earlier wanted his cock within her.

Victoria glanced up at him, offering him her devotion, her love and life. He said nothing but stared back, open and truthful, and she lowered her head to his cut flesh.

As the first of his blood seeped into her, Melbourne sobbed, not a sob of anguish, but a soul-filled sob of pure glory. And then he felt it. Her lips tightened on his flesh, her tongue grazed over it, and his blood flowed into her mouth. His cock jolted within her, and pleasure so extreme unwound inside him that his head swam and he had to grip onto her head to stay grounded.

His sob changed and he began moaning, he couldn’t stop. He was lost and found in that moment. And she had done it. His love, his life, his Victoria.

She sucked and sucked, lapping at his blood, drinking it down with no hesitation, with no qualms, as thirsty and hungry as he had ever been.

He held her there now, not because she would go if not, but because he wanted that confirmation.

Victoria drank. It was warm, his blood, and not bitter as she had expected. In fact, there was a richness to it which reminded her of the finest Burgundy followed after by dark chocolate. The more she had, the more she wanted, until she was sucking and licking on his wound with fervour. As she swallowed him she seemed to float, although she was sitting astride him, impaled on his cock. She seemed to rise out of herself as his blood mingled with hers in her mind and she became more at one with him than ever.

She was unaware of how long it lasted, her feeding, but, after a while, he took her head and guided it off him. She was bereft for a time and felt anger with him for denying her more sustenance. Her lips were red with his blood and she licked at them greedily for every drop she could get.

Melbourne kissed and stroked her and guided her to lie back, quickly pushing his cock deep back inside her.

Even after drinking him in, she was still in such a state of erotic need that she tugged on him, urging him down to her. But he was equally in need, his breath still came fast and he drove hard into her two, three times with grunts of urgency. She took it all but longed for that final piercing. The taste of his blood was strong on her tongue and made her crave being bitten even more.

He leaned over her, pressing so deep into her that her back buckled. Victoria gasped and let her head tilt back so that her neck was fully exposed to him.

There was a moment of perfect silence and stillness, an awareness that what would happen next would enable the alignment between them to meet and join finally and never again move apart.

She turned her eyes to his. Neither spoke. They did not need to.

Melbourne opened his mouth and bared his fangs. His left hand stroked back her hair and his fingers threaded through it enough to gain purchase on it and hold her in place. His right hand gripped her shoulder.

And he lowered his head and bit.

It felt different this time, deeper than ever, sharper, more precise. And as his fangs sank in so too did he move in her. He withdrew his cock only to drive forward again, forcing his fangs into her yet more. There was that unique noise as his teeth sank into her flesh. She cried out, not with pain, although it hurt considerably, but with realisation of life.

She brought her hands to his head and held him there. He moved in her, made love to her while sucking the very essence of her life from her.

Rapture had been poised for some time but now, with the blood she had consumed making her shimmer with its force, with his cock stroking within her, and with the bliss of him drawing on her veins, she could not contain it.

Victoria stared above her and let it take. Pleasure started small at first, but then grew and surged until she had no recourse but to cry it out in amazement.

Still he moved. Still he drank from her, more and more, not stopping. She thought he could never detach himself from her. Would she mind if he could not? Here they were, joined, connected, one being.

He drank and drank.

And now as he sucked dizziness took hold, stronger than before. She tried to fight it but knew it was futile. Still he moved in her and as her head swam and she tried to cling onto something, anything, another orgasm took her and she almost thought it too much, but it was perfect and beautiful. La petite mort, was that not what the French called it? The little death … And such a perfect death. O death, where is thy sting?

He was draining her. He took more and more. His lips moved on her throat, his fangs were still embedded in her neck, and still he ploughed into her, coaxing yet more from her. All the while he himself moaned, low, sonorous groans as if his own life was complete at last.

She came again, and this time it took the last of her sense with it. She was coming to death. And death would come to her.

This time, it carried him with her. She felt the vibration of his moan on her skin, the shudder of his body as his cock released violently inside her at last.

But now the faintness grew too much, and as her last orgasm faded from her, Victoria closed her eyes and let the darkness overwhelm her.

--xoOox--

She woke up.

She was aware of waking up because her fingers were moving. But she supposed you could still move your fingers in heaven. Or hell. Or wherever else she may be.

She didn’t quite know if she should open her eyes, but she smelt something. So her nose was still working too, that was a good thing, surely. And what she smelt was familiar – sandalwood, bergamot … Lord M.

And so she carefully lifted her lids and there, looking down at her were green eyes. Green eyes, cheekbones, the same face, the same him.

‘Hullo,’ he said.

‘Where am I?’

‘You’re in my bed.’

‘This is not hell then?’

‘If it is, it’s considerably more comfortable than I’d anticipated.’

She moved her gaze around. There was the wardrobe, the mirror, the posts on the bed. It was exactly as it had been before.

‘Did it happen?’

At this his face lost its little smile, but was no less sincere. ‘Yes, my darling, it happened.’

‘I am turned?’

‘Yes.’

She swallowed. ‘I see. But … how do you know?’

‘Do not ask me that.’

‘No, I will,’ she sat up, determined, and felt alert and attuned. Gone was any hint of illness or dizziness. An energy coursed through her which was almost alarming. ‘You must tell me. I have a right to know what has happened to me.’

It was his turn to look anxious but he met her gaze again and said, ‘Because I killed you.’

‘Tell me.’

‘I drank from you. I drank and drank until you had no more blood to support you, and you died. I watched you die. I felt you die.’

‘But … now …’

‘It does not take long for you to reawaken in your new state.’

‘Now long?’

‘A few minutes only. But, in that time … I was in hell. You lay here, quite pale, quite still, no life in you, no heartbeat, no breath.’ The pain in his voice was tangible.

‘Did you fear I would not reawaken?’

‘Of course. I should know that you would, but there is always that doubt … it was an anxious time, not one I wish to go through again.’

She sat up and wrapped herself about him. ‘Oh my darling, you must have been so lonely.’

He drew back and smiled. ‘You say that? Even now, when I tell you what I did to you, you think of me?’

‘Of course I do … I love you.’ He kissed her gently before she continued, ‘Tell me what happened after that.’

‘Quite suddenly, you drew in a breath, and it was as if all the lights had gone on in the world at once. Everything that had been so ghastly and in such complete darkness was suddenly blindingly and completely wonderful.’

She smiled softly. ‘And here I am.’

‘Yes, my love. Here you are.’

Suddenly, Victoria reached up and felt her teeth. They were still the same, neat little blunt squares. ‘They are no different,’ she remarked in surprise.

He laughed. ‘No, you know that. They won’t be until you …’

‘Until I feed.’

‘That’s right. Victoria, listen to me. From now on, you must not expose your skin to direct sunlight. You must not get too close to a crucifix, nor touch holy water. You will have to return to Brocket Hall frequently as this was the place of your turning. And … you will have to drink blood.’

‘Yes. I know.’ She looked at him. ‘But I don’t feel it yet.’

He lowered his gaze. ‘It will not be long.’

‘When I drank from you last night … did you like it?’

He laughed again. ‘Like it? How strange a word to choose. You completed me. You made me whole. You gave me back my self.’

She curled her arms about him. ‘I loved it. I want more of you.’

‘Vampires cannot share from each other very often, only when we have drunk enough to replenish our own blood.’

‘But I will be able to at some point?’

‘Yes.’

‘And what happens now?’

He smiled and kissed her again. ‘We live.’

And once again he laid her back and entered her. She had lost track of how often they had made love in the last day or so, how many times he had brought her pleasure. It was no different now as her new self. She came again swiftly and clung to him as he filled her with his seed yet again.

At length they got up. The walked through the gardens, they ate lunch, they laughed and talked just as they always did. Life was normal. But they were together. She could not consider a time without him by her side. She no longer had to.

But as the morning drew into afternoon a change took hold in her.

It started off as a thirst, but no amount of water could slake it.

And then it became a hunger, one that gnawed and twisted at her, but unlike a hunger for food. She ate an apple, she ate some cheese, nothing satisfied her. This hunger was not one in her belly, but her very soul, although she was not sure she any longer had a soul. As she sat with him in the drawing room as the afternoon lengthened, she stated plainly,  

‘I am hungry.’

‘I shall ask the cook to prepare you some food. What would you fancy?’

‘No. I mean … I am hungry.’

Melbourne put the newspaper down and looked up at her slowly. ‘Ah … yes. Very well.’

‘What can be done? Is there a slaughterhouse nearby?’

‘No.’

‘Some animals then?’

It suddenly struck her forcefully, and she clutched, not at her belly, but at her chest, as if the hunger emanated from there. ‘Oh, dear Lord, I am starving.’

Just then a footman entered and gave Lord M a note. Melbourne took the note and turned away to read it.

Victoria watched the footman intently. He was a handsome young man, with a fine figure which she admired. She noted his broad shoulders, and the way his neck rose up strong. And she saw a vein in the side of his neck. Without a thought, driven by some strange new instinct, she stood up and approached him.

‘What is your name?’ she asked.

‘Barnes, Your Majesty,’ he stuttered.

‘Barnes …’ she muttered, but only stared at his neck. Her mouth was tingling, something pricked and grew inside it.

Oh, she wanted to, she could …

Melbourne suddenly seemed to realise what was happening and tore his attention from the note, hurrying over to them. ‘Thank you, Barnes, that will be all.’ He ushered the man out quickly then rushed back to her.

‘Victoria, Victoria, listen to me.’

‘Will you fetch him back?’ she said, staring at the door the man had left by, trying to move towards it. ‘I liked him very much.’

But Melbourne held her firmly and made her look at him. ‘Victoria, it is your hunger. We must address it.’

She turned. There was a mirror on the wall. Victoria moved to it quickly and opened her mouth. She saw them. Sharp, gleaming, white. Fangs. And more, her eyes – red, staring. Her skin was pale and stretched tighter across her cheekbones.

For the first time she was shocked. She brought her hand to her mouth and covered it. ‘Oh God!’

Melbourne clasped her to him and held her tight, turning her away from the mirror. ‘It is a shock, but you are here with me. Together, we will accustom you to it and you will learn to manage it.’

‘I wanted him. I want him still.’ She spoke her truth.

‘You will. You will want anything you see.’

‘I am so terribly hungry.’

He held her close. ‘My darling, I have not told you all. There will come a time when you can satisfy your needs with animal blood, but … not at first. At first, you must feed on a living being … on a human.’

She frowned a little at the realisation, but was so desperate to drink that she merely nodded. ‘Very well. Help me then, please, help me. I will do what must be done.’

He took her hand and led her from the room. ‘Come with me.’

Gathering their outer clothes quickly and a bonnet with a thick veil for Victoria, he led her to the carriage and ushered her in. ‘St Albans Prison, with all speed!’ he called to the driver.

Victoria stared ahead, that gnawing hunger clawing at her. ‘Prison? Why are we going to a prison?’

He did not answer.

It was late when they arrived. Victoria’s veil masked her identity. Melbourne hurried up to the gate and whispered to the guards on duty who, without question, let him in. The heavy keys clunked as thick wooden doors were unlocked to them. ‘Follow me,’ he said to Victoria who hurried along behind him.

The prison’s high stone walls were imposing and doom-laden, but Victoria barely noticed. She was consumed by her raging hunger; she could focus only on the need eating away at her. Sense was gone, morals vanquished, the only imperative she knew was for blood.

They arrived at what must have been the administrative rooms of the prison and a smartly dressed man stepped out from an imposing office. He clearly knew Melbourne, who conversed in hushed tones with him. The man glanced at Victoria but said no more, then led them both into the depths of the prison.

It was dark and damp and they were led past cells. Victoria could not see in but occasionally heard moans or curses emerging from behind the locks. But none of it mattered because she was starving. Not like ever before, but new. She noticed that Melbourne held her tight all the way and she was glad of it because the man leading them, although portly and old, began to appeal to her more and more as they went.

Finally, they stopped outside a large wooden door with many locks along it. The man unlocked them all and opened it for them. He said not a word. They walked in and he closed it again behind them.

Inside was a barren cell. There was a straw mattress on the floor, a high window, small, with bars across, a stool, a bucket with a lid. And a man.

Victoria saw only the man. He was no more than twenty-five or so and had a gaunt handsomeness which struck her immediately. His dark blond hair was too long, but he had piercing blue eyes and a finely cut face. He was to be her first. She knew it and was pleased. William had brought her to him.

The man turned to them in shock, standing up quickly from his position on the stool and retreating to the far side of the room. ‘Fuck me, what’s goin’ on? They said tomorrow. I’ve got until tomorrow!’

Victoria ignored him but simply asked, ‘What is your name?’  

‘Don’t tell her,’ said Melbourne. She spun to her lover, angry at first but forgetting it almost instantly as all she wanted was to eat.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ repeated the man.

After a little nod from Melbourne, she stepped towards him and drew back her veil.

‘Fuckin’ ‘ell!’ he gasped. ‘You’re the fuckin’ Queen!’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, stepping closer yet to him. ‘Nothing matters.’

‘What’s goin’ on?’ he said, wringing his hands together. ‘Am I pardoned?’

‘No,’ said Melbourne.

‘What then? I’m due to fuckin’ hang tomorrow!’

‘I know,’ said Melbourne again.

‘Are you?’ asked Victoria, curiosity tinging her hunger. ‘For what?’

The man gave a smirk which annoyed her. ‘I killed five people.’

‘Why?’

‘Revenge. Betrayal. A man did me wrong, very wrong. I fuckin’ slit his throat and those of all them closest to him.’ At that he spat on the floor in disgust. ‘I’ll fuckin’ hang fer it, but I’ll never regret.’

A strange twist took hold in Victoria’s belly, not disgust as such, but a sense of justice about to be served. She cocked her head to the side. The man’s sharp cheekbones and bright blue eyes were almost exotic. ‘I see. You are very beautiful for such an evil person,’ she observed.

‘That s’posed to be a compliment, Ma’am?’

‘Don’t call me Ma’am.’

‘Sorry, Yer Majesty.’

‘Don’t call me that either. In fact, do not speak at all.’ She approached him again and stared at him. ‘I do wonder though how you are so very pretty and so very wicked.’

The man shrugged. ‘Life. It happens.’

She turned to Melbourne. ‘I want to … touch … can I do that?’

Melbourne nodded. ‘You may do exactly as you must. There is little choice, Ma’am.’

The man scoffed. ‘So he can call you Ma’am but I can’t? Who’s this? The Lord High Pimp?’

He stepped into Victoria and raked his eyes over her body. Her belly twisted in darkest need. ‘What you want then? Sick of all them la-de-das and frills? Want a fancy man who’ll treat you rough? Want someone to take a trip up cock alley with you who knows what to do for a change?’ At this he glanced at Melbourne. ‘Not got it in you, old man, eh? But you like to watch, do you? Fair does. Take a seat. We can give him quite a show, can’t we, Vicky, luv? Well, this weren’t how I were expectin’ to spend me last night on this earth, but I’ll gladly service you, little Miss Victoria. How about a tickle of blind cupid, eh?’

She listened to all this with amused detachment. In truth, Victoria could focus on only one thing – the pulse in his neck.

‘Yes,’ she said and smiled at him. ‘How about it indeed?’

The man smirked and stepped in. The Queen placed her hands on his waist then drew one up to his shoulders while the other slid down to cup between his legs. She was curious as to how aroused he was. Very, she discovered.

He laughed out as his breath caught. ‘Fuckin’ ‘ell! You’re a good ‘un, you are, who’d’a thought it – the fuckin’ Queen of England herself!’

Such intense need rose in her that she had to plant her feet. He was pulling up her skirts, reaching underneath, but she was barely aware. The tingling in her mouth had started, her blood starting raging around her veins, and all else was crushed: doubt, guilt, morality. She must feed, that was all.

Victoria strained her neck back and opened her mouth wide.  

‘Jesus fuckin’ Christ!’ the man exclaimed, his eyes wide with shock and horror at the sight of the Queen’s sharp white fangs.

He staggered back but only came against the wall. It was too late anyway. Victoria was upon him. She gripped him hard by the shoulders – her strength unfeasibly powerful – and, without a moment’s hesitation, dropped her head and sank her teeth ferociously into him. It was easier than she thought, the penetration. Blood poured into her mouth the next moment.

It was like nectar itself.

Oh God, had there ever been anything so good?

She swallowed and the blood seeped in and satisfied. She sucked again and more poured into her. She drank it down. The man was moaning. She wished he would be quiet, but she recognised those moans, they were not moans of pain but pleasure. It was too late to be concerned and so she drank on, and on and on.

As she did she felt other hands upon her, warm, strong hands she recognised. Melbourne had approached and drawn his arms around her. She did not detach her fangs and continued to feast on the convict.

‘That’s right,’ came a low whisper in her ear. ‘Drink. Drink it all, my love. You must this first time. Take all of him. He would be killed tomorrow anyhow.’

She carried on. Pleasure brewed in her although not in the way it did with Melbourne. She would not let herself come, although it was tempting, especially with the encouraging murmurs and hands of her lover upon her.

She drank and drank. Eventually the man’s moans rose to a crescendo but then stopped and she found he was no longer able to stand unsupported. Her hunger was at last assuaged. Her fangs retracted and she lost the grip on his neck. He dropped like a stone to the floor.

Immediately, with blood still pouring from her mouth, Melbourne turned her and kissed her. She gave to him, letting him take some of the blood still in her mouth, sharing it. He kissed her open and deep, until they could do no more.

When at last they drew apart she turned and glanced down at the man. He was dead.

Did she feel guilt? Not at that moment, it must be said.

She felt life at its rawest and purest. There, in a dank cell as she stood with the man she loved, knowing they had all eternity together, she felt triumphant.

‘What do we tell the warden?’ she asked at length.

‘Leave it to me.’

‘Does he know you?’

‘Let us say it is not the first time I have visited this prison.’

She glanced down at the convict she had killed. ‘He was to hang tomorrow.’

‘Yes. You simply hastened his end … and, it must be said, made it far more pleasurable. If he could have chosen which end to take … there is no doubt it would have been yours.’

A shudder at last shivered through Victoria, but no more.

‘Come,’ said Melbourne. ‘Let us leave this place.’

She replaced her veil and he led her out. The warden was waiting outside. Victoria walked a little way down the corridor while Melbourne spoke in low whispers to the man. Victoria saw him hand over several bank notes then shake his hand.

Then, swiftly and quietly, they left the prison and returned to the carriage.

It bumped them along and Victoria rested her head on his shoulder.

‘I feel so very …’

‘What?’ he asked.

‘New. I feel new.’

‘Yes, you will.’

‘Does that last?’

‘I suppose it does, especially after feeding.’

She turned her head up to look at him. ‘Do you not need to feed?’

‘My feeding on you the other day will last me some time.’

She smiled softly and rested back on him. ‘We are truly now as one, my darling.’

‘Yes.’

‘I have killed two men in nearly as many days.’

‘Do not think on it.’

‘I feel no guilt. I wish I did, but I do not,’ she observed.

‘That is because a feeding makes you initially euphoric.’

‘Will the guilt come?’

‘I wish I could say no, but … at some point, yes, it will. They will not always be as culpable as that man, or as destined for near death.’

‘They? The victims?’

‘Yes.’

‘But soon I will resort to animals, like you.’

‘You cannot yet. You need human blood in your early days. You will seek it out and will be unable to stop yourself. You are young and new, like you said. You are learning, and in these young days your raw instinct will dominate.’

She felt she should be annoyed with him, but could not muster it and merely stroked over his chest with her fingers. ‘You did not tell me these things before.’

‘No … would it have made a difference if I had?’

‘I don’t think so.’

The carriage rocked them along. ‘I enjoyed it,’ she said.

‘What?’

‘The feeding. Do you mind?’

‘No.’

‘How strange that I can simply accept it.’

‘It is easier when one is with another.’

She turned her head up to him. ‘Yes.’

They kissed. She slipped her hand into his breeches and, still kissing him, brought him off in her hand with a natural intuition which staggered him.

When she’d finished he let his head rest back and asked in wonder, ‘Where did you learn to do that?’

‘I don’t know. Instinct.’

He laughed. ‘I cannot complain.’

‘Am I most wicked?’

‘Do not ask me that.’

‘So I am?’

‘You are now a vampire, Ma’am. A certain amount of wickedness is inevitable.’

‘But you will guide me.’

‘I will, but most importantly …’

‘What?’

‘I will love you.’

And he kissed her again and did not stop kissing her until they arrived back at Brocket Hall, at which point he led her up to the bedroom and made love to her, and she to him, until night slipped into day again.

--xoOox--

They stayed at Brocket Hall the next day as Victoria became used to her new state of being. It didn’t take long. Melbourne had to go into the village for a time and in his absence she felt as enlivened as ever. Her malaise had gone completely. She stared at herself in the mirror. Her skin seemed smoother, radiant almost, her eyes shone. She allowed herself a small smile of self-satisfaction, something John Conroy would have been most disapproving of.

Melbourne was upon her and inside her within a few minutes of his return, this time he took her against the door after he had barely closed it. She did not complain, especially when the strength of her orgasm nearly robbed her of sense.

She slid down the door afterwards and stared in near disbelief ahead of her. ‘What is happening to us? Surely this is impossible. How can our bodies stand it?’

‘It is what happens. Strength, stamina, all are enhanced … you are no longer human.’

‘Think of what we can achieve. Of all the good we can do.’

He managed to hide the initial tinge of sadness in his expression. ‘Yes. Think of it.’

--xoOox--

They returned to Buckingham Palace the next day.

Victoria swept in and practically dashed up the stairs.

‘Your Majesty,’ said Emma, struggling to keep up. ‘You look most well.’

‘I am very well indeed, Emma!’

‘I am pleased to hear Lord M’s orchids have been of such benefit to you.’

‘Well, he does have such wonderful orchids!’

--xoOox--

Victoria summoned all at court to the throne room that afternoon. There was a mumbling as she entered – it was not usual for her to address them all – but they fell silent as she swept in.

She mounted the throne and sat, looking out at her assembled court. Someone was missing from near her.

‘Lord Melbourne,’ she said loudly. He stepped out from amongst the others. ‘Come and take your place beside me.’

She spoke with such authority that nobody could question it, least of all the Prime Minister, who had neither the desire nor the inclination to do so. He walked out and came and stood beside her.

After giving him a smile of supreme satisfaction, Victoria turned and addressed her people.

‘I know that you have been worried about my health of late. I wish to inform you that there is no cause for your concern. I am fully recovered from my recent ailment and am in the best health I have ever been. I am reassured in this by the knowledge that I have the best Prime Minister a monarch could want. In Lord Melbourne I have an advisor, friend and companion who I never wish to do without. Rest assured, I shall not. Some question whether I should have ascended to the throne at all. Others questioned how long I would last. Well, I wish to tell you this: I am here to stay. With Lord Melbourne beside me, I shall rule happily and confidently for many, many years to come.’

The court was stunned into silence. There was something about the Queen which compelled them into it. They would not dispute her.

Victoria turned to smile up at her Prime Minister who looked down at her with a ferocious expression of love and devotion.

Together … for as long as eternity gave them.