The game begins with needlepoint.
The girl is arguing with her mother — nothing serious, only a strained disagreement at most — but Mother knows best, and away she is sent to the sitting room. In there, she piles her skirts up around her knees as she dutifully settles in the arm chair with her studies and a tray of tea things.
It’s not a terribly inspiring setting by any means, but he is terribly good at what he does. There’s a well-maintained fireplace in the room, and it is not difficult to turn up the heat. The flames go from flickering to licking at the charred logs, and he lets the warmth seep through the little parlor.
She doesn’t feel it for a minute. Before she does, he slips his fingers into the laces of her corset, the existence of the dress only a figment of imagination, and he reties and tightens, tightens, tightens, until her belly is taut and her breasts and pressed slickly against themselves. So by the time she inhales, placing her fingertips against the slightly damp skin of her neck, she can’t quite catch her breath, and she is stifling, and her head is foggy.
It’s good that things are going according to plan, and it makes this easier. Out of curiousity, Dio peers at her reading and gazes derisively at the text — a Bible study — but he catches a strange shape in the outline and cranes behind her shoulders to find that a there is a medical book hidden inside of it.
It isn’t what he expected at all, and at most he feels that she is peculiar. But it passes, and with a single deft hand, he sweeps her teacup off the side table and onto her lap in one smooth movement, causing the blonde girl to gasp with shock at the scalding liquid.
Such easy steps. Others had harsher methods of attracting their prey — forcibly, demandingly, entrapping them and using violent maneuvers to take as they pleased. And maybe once he had considered it, but he knew better, knew from experience and wiser intellect that the best meal was one that was well-prepared and handled with the utmost care, delicacy, and purpose. After all, the more you savoured each bite, the fuller your hunger would be.
And Dio loved nothing more than sating his hunger in the most satisfying ways possible.
The girl was quite a mess by now, fretting dizzily as she tried to clean the murky stain from her white dress with a handkerchief to no avail. She wobbled as she stood, swaying and blinking and breathing unevenly as a bead of sweat trailed down her temple. He heard her murmur in a sweet tone, “It’s so awfully hot in here,” and did not restrain his smirk.
So everything had been going fine. The girl suspected nothing otherwise. It was just another normal, effortless night, and Dio was looking forward to corrupting the virginal little student, and just as he moved in close to let his hand drift down her arm to her own hand that patted urgently over the crux of her thighs, she looked up at him. Dio scarcely realized that she had, and it took him a moment to, and when he did he found himself staring back into stunned crystalline blue.
“Oh,” she gasped, stumbling backwards, and Dio didn’t have time to be wholly stupefied that this average girl had just ruined everything.
The bedroom was rather plain; she was clearly from no noble family or blood, and her wealth was obviously a touch above mediocre at best. But there she sat straight up, her nightgown slightly disheveled and her tousled braid hanging limply over her slim shoulder as her chest heaved. And still, her eyes locked onto his, wide and unblinking.
The stakes of the situation finally forced Dio to recover his composure, and he instantly schooled his features into one of unfazed stateliness. His options trickled out of the window along with the night’s minutes. Killing her was one, but he had no desire to go down that route, nor was it beneficial to him in any manner. Not to mention she seemed like the type to scream.
Leaving was one. Chances were she’d forget him, consider him a wretched dream or enticing nightmare depending on her morals (which were maybe a little compromised, according to her reading material), and that felt like the right choice. But there was also force.
No, he did not want force. Not now. And not with her.
“Who are you?”
That question was expected. Dio blinked and looked at her coolly, folding his rippling arms across his bare chest without comment. The girl pursed her lips at his silence, and he marveled at her courage enough to answer.
“I have a set of horns atop my head and wings sprouting from my back. Use your sense.”
The girl swallowed thickly, but seemed no more fearful than she had a moment before. This bothered him. She should have been afraid. She should have been screaming, and... he should have been gone already.
Irritated, Dio uncrossed his arms and tensed, ready to vanish, but fire shot through him as a small hand wrapped around his forearm tightly.
“Wait!” The gentle voice was desperate, and his nostrils flared at her boldness. “Why are you here, then?”
“I was here to ruin you, child, but instead you have ruined that for me,” he hissed back, preparing to yank himself away from her grip, but her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were bright and... angry?
“I am no child,” she protested. “I am one-and-twenty, an adult in the eyes of the law.”
Her tenacity was endearing, and Dio nearly laughed. Closer he brought himself to her face, enjoying the way she flinched and retreated further against her headboard as he replied venomously, “Apologies, my lady. I would not have known given your state.” With a cruel glance downward meant to insult her physique, Dio pulled back, waiting for her tears, her condescension, her resentment. But they never came.
Instead, she laughed.
“Something humorous?” he spat, and she giggled more fervently, sweeping her feathered bangs from her face. When she finished, she smoothed out her quilt over her, and smiled at him.
“Charming, aren’t you?” she quipped merrily, and Dio was at a loss. He reminded himself again that he didn’t need to be here, he in fact could be moving quickly towards serious trouble, but his feet remained rooted to the wooden floor and his scowl directed at the hateful girl.
“Do you mock me?” This game had gone on long enough. The girl shook her head, though, and freely took his hand with another scalding sensation he did his best to ignore.
“Not at all,” she said. “My apologies if you thought so. I was only having fun, sir demon.”
Sir Demon? So she was aware? The sheer incredulity of the situation was not lost on Dio, and he found himself torn between rage and concern for this queer human female that obviously contained no sense of self-preservation. He had chosen poorly tonight indeed.
It did not help his thoughts that her nimble, delicate fingers held his own long, roughened ones very gently in her own, as if to keep him from leaving.
“So is this how I am to pay for my sins? May I know exactly of my faults?”
For a moment, he considered lying. But he couldn’t bring himself to.
“I know nothing of your sins,” he said, trying to control the erratic sensations in his chest. “I have nothing for you.”
“Your company has not been wholly unpleasant so far,” she commented, genuinely, and he grit his teeth, clenched his fists, and hated her. But he wasn’t so much angry anymore, and he hated that, too. The girl’s breathing had evened out and her temperature had slid back to normalcy, and she did not squirm in bed, riddled with wonderful aches and itches to be cared for. She was perfectly put together in his presence as no other had been, though perhaps there was still a touch of pink to her cheeks, and for that, he hated her more still. And, too, he despised that she meant what she said.
“I am glad,” he rumbled in reply, letting his thumb close over two of her fingers (Christ, such small hands).
And for that he hated himself the most.
“I am sorry for interrupting whatever business you had,” she went on. “It was not my intention. Would you like a cup of tea, perhaps? We keep some hot downstairs, Mama often wakes up in the night and has some chamomile.”
Dio faintly smiled and shook his head. “No, thank you, but I appreciate your offer. I should be going.”
The girl’s face sunk into something forlorn, and he spited the unfamiliar ache it brought to his chest. Quickly, he pulled his hand from hers and struggled to ignore the jolt of cold air the lack of her touch brought. Turning, he made to leave, but halted midway. He looked back at her, over his shoulder, thoughtful and quiet.
Her nightgown fell heavy over her breasts, and the light wisps of her hair still curled absently around her heart-shaped face. The disappointment in her eyes was evident, and her hands lay defeated in her lap, free of tea-stains.
Dio breathed in slowly, shutting his eyes, tasting the perfume of candles and Her.
“Tell me,” he began. “Would you be so welcoming with me if I were to return?”
He did not open his eyes. He was unwilling to bear witness to the crush of her face falling into apprehension, fear, reservation. He was more unwilling to memorize the way it might light up like a summer’s sunrise. Most unwilling to examine what these things meant, to him, a demon of stolen pleasure.
“My home is open to you as long as you’ll have me,” she replied evenly, and it was with great restraint that he did not dwell on the double-meaning that unwittingly lay in her words, and with more restraint that he offered her a vague bow as he left, and did not resort to Force.
After what could only be defined as an outright humiliating failure in terms of conquest, Dio decided on a string of rash, effortless meals. He found them in alleys, inns, pubs and family homes, their bloomers around their ankles and their dresses above their hips. It required no fight to coax the already intoxicating, sinful, and willing to accept him — the hardest part was finding the right ones. Every other night had been focused on those who would require finesse, whose reward would be worth the machinations he had to meticulously manipulate to master. This was an outlier. Cravings he had, sure, but this was fruit borne of an entirely different tree.
It was surprisingly difficult to find girls with blonde hair and blue eyes at this time of night.
He eats and drinks his fill, but feels no relief. Only a weight settled in him; a hole filled meaninglessly.
His fury is boundless.
He’ll kill her, he thinks.
Death will make this done with, and he will never have to dwell on the Girl Who Did again. She will pass on to the pearly gates and, Lord willing, never see her until the Battle.
This is what he tells himself as he hovers over her soundly sleeping form. Her hair is still yellow, still twisted into its coiling plait that drapes across her thick pillows with her arm above her head. Her eyelashes fan across the crests of her cheeks like dandelions and she breathes, in and out, with the same rhythm of the sea against her breast.
His knuckles crack and itch, and in his mind’s eye he sees himself choking her, snapping her neck, planting the pillow over her face, tearing out her heart, slitting her throat with a single, finely sharpened nail.
But, perhaps, he could wake her up instead, and settle her into a contract. Convince her to do things that her body has never dreamt of.
With a shuddery gasp, Dio’s head turns and he catches a scent that he is all-too familiar with. Thick, musky, sweet, inviting, promising—
His blood is burning in his veins and stiffness invades him in all places. The girl has her hand over her heart, naturally startled to wake to a demon in her room, and Dio counts every second as he considers all the ways he could take her where she lay or kill her but instead he gazes feverishly into her crystal blue eyes and waits for her fear, her revulsion, thankful that it is too dark for her mortal eyes to see how his body has reacted to her.
“Demon? Is it you?”
Dio scoffs, and moves an inch closer when he sees her eyes sparkle instead.
“Were you expecting another? Perhaps I’ve made a minx of you yet.”
She laughs back at him, but he sees how her cheeks flush.
“No, no. I just wanted to be sure of you. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
And there she goes again with her innocent cruelty.
He dwells on if he should tell her the truth or not, teach her some much-needed self-preservation that she evidently lacked if she was still pleasantly holding conversation with him. What would she do if another had invaded her room, her dreams, and not been as generous as he?
Her family would find her impure or dead, simply.
“You woke so quickly,” is what he remarks instead of voicing anything he’s really thought. Her earnest scent still lingered in the air, and he was careful to ignore it and all it stood for.
“Did I? You’ve not been here long, then?”
Dio’s wings stretched out and flexed idly. “Only a few moments. I did not mean to interrupt you.”
But maybe it was better that he did. With sudden voracity, he wanted to know what she had been dreaming of that had put her in this state.
“What were you dreaming of, little lamb?”
He poured every ounce of his alluring power into his voice to make sure she answered him. The poor creature didn’t know what had hit her; her eyes glazed as her lips moved to answer, and she breathed out, “Y—”
Just as quickly as the trance had come over her, it vanished, and she was left blinking up at him in a daze.
“Pardon me, I was lost in my own head. What had you said?”
Dio stared in silence. No question or answer he summoned made sense of anything that had happened. She’d resisted it? Had he failed? Was it his weakness, or was it her efforts? Had she even realized what had occurred?
“Nothing,” he said, voice lost of all its fire. “Nothing at all. I shall let you sleep now.”
“But you’ve only just arrived,” she protested immediately. “Why do you care to leave so quickly?”
“I am not so fortunate as to have all hours of the day to entertain you. Even I have business to attend.”
It was a lie, and the lie disheartened her.
“Indeed. Well, thank you for coming regardless. Goodnight, Mr. Demon.”
With that, she threw herself comfortably back into her bedding, nestling into the pillows and swaddling the covers around her snugly. Her eyes shut tightly, and it was as if light had left the room.
There’d not been much in it to begin with.
All the same, Dio remained trapped in his unexplainable bitterness, and as he uttered goodnight and flickered away, resented the dissatisfaction that permeated through his every fiber.