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Ten months into our arrangement, and I still couldn’t help but hesitate before I let myself into Adrian’s study. I checked my phone, touched up my makeup, and straightened the hem of my skirt; I reached for the doorknob, and then ran my fingers across the tangle of scars at my throat instead. I’d healed since last time, but they were still sensitive. That light brush alone was enough to send a shock through my veins and jolt me out of my vacillation. Portfolio clutched firmly under my arm, I opened the door.
My gaze went straight to her. It always did. In the dim lighting, reclining on a chaise longue with her usual languor, she reminded me of a woman in a Renaissance painting. Except Titian wouldn’t have painted her so thin or so pale. That would’ve been his mistake, I reflected. The chiaroscuro was striking on the harsh angles of her features.
Titian also probably wouldn’t have painted her in jeans and Ray-Bans, of course. Portrait of the immortal in the 21st century, I titled her in my head.
She was speaking to Lana, her personal assistant, who was typing dutifully away. “Can we move that flight forward? Either that or move the next one back. Celine just told me her launch party is that weekend, and I’d like to be in town. Come in, Grace,” Adrian greeted me, without skipping a beat, although my heart definitely did. Her voice was like a fishhook in my mind. I took an involuntary step forward and tripped over the edge of the rug, dropping my portfolio.
“Sorry,” she said, rather insincerely. “Didn’t mean to do that. Just one moment.” She continued narrating to Lana. I snatched up my portfolio, placed it and my purse on the coffee table, and planted myself in a plush chair. Safer than standing.
Lana typed a few last notes. “Good evening, Grace,” she said as she closed her laptop and turned to face me. The desk lamp behind her, the only source of light in the room, turned her steely-grey hair to silver and cast into bas-relief the gentle creases of her features. She was human, like all of Adrian’s staff, though a bit older and more masculine-of-center than the average model. “You’re early.”
“Sorry. If I’m interrupting, I can come back in five…?”
“Oh, no. She owes me a break anyway.” She stood and brushed the imaginary wrinkles out of her crisp white button-up. “It’s just that if someone—” she shot a look at Adrian—”had told me that you were outside, I’d have let you in.”
“I was in the middle of a thought.” Adrian’s low, dry voice took on a note of amusement. “And Grace is perfectly capable of letting herself in.”
“Of course I am.” The words tumbled from my lips unbidden. Adrian grinned and adjusted her sunglasses. Lana rolled her eyes.
“Well, I’ll go get started on the new schedule.” Lana made her way to the door. “The last one was finally starting to fall into place, too…”
Adrian sat bolt upright. “Oh, that reminds me—could you give Sasha a call and get her back on the roster? She cancelled last time because of—”
“The whole thing in Italy, yeah, yeah, I remember. Add that to my list.”
“And if you think of it, could you get in touch with that Toronto gallery about—”
“Adrian.” Lana tapped a wing-tipped toe impatiently against the rug. “It can wait.”
Adrian leant back into the chaise longue. “Mm. Give me an hour?”
Lana smiled wryly. “Double or nothing.”
Adrian’s laugh was as captivating as her voice; a sympathetic giggle slipped from me before I could stop it. “Fine,” she said. “You drive a hard bargain, you know?”
“That’s what you pay me for.” Lana let herself out of the study. The door clicked shut behind her, and Adrian and I were alone. A shiver ran up my spine and my scars twinged faintly.
“Sorry about all that, Grace. It’s been mayhem,” Adrian said, sitting up properly. When she raked her back her short, dark hair and leant forward over the portfolio on the coffee table, there was a nobility about her profile that reminded me of Roman statuary. “But mayhem can wait, as Lana says. May I?” She turned to me and I could feel the stifling weight of her gaze, even from behind the dark lenses. But she couldn’t exert her compulsion when she was asking rather than telling. It was up to me to grant her request. To invite her in.
“Of course. I brought them for you,” I said, although my heart pounded as she lifted the cover of the portfolio to reveal my drawings. Her hands on my work… there was always something uniquely nerve-racking about it. As she leafed through the selection, drinking in the images and brushing her fingers down the edges of the paper, it was as if it was me she was holding, appraising, drinking. I shifted in my overstuffed seat. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to. I just didn’t want her to find me lacking.
“Grace,” she said, startling me out of my musing. “These are wonderful. Really, really good.” Her voice was energized, as though just looking at my work had renewed her. I flushed at the praise.
“I’m so relieved you like aydın escort them. I know they’re different. I’ve been trying to take my gestures in a new direction—”
“Yes,” she cut me off absent-mindedly, flipping back through the portfolio to my sketches. “Yes, they’re less art nouveau, more art deco. Stylized, streamlined, but with a liveliness to them…” A long, pale finger traced the limbs of a half-inked ballet dancer. “Lovely. I can’t wait to see her finished.” Her smile widened, revealing the points of her long canines. I squeezed the arms of my chair and my breath hitched, just a tiny bit, but of course it didn’t escape her notice. Her hearing was even sharper than her teeth.
I forged ahead, pretending I wasn’t acutely aware of my pulse beating under my scars. “I think I’ll be ready to show by April, if nothing else comes up.”
“Hmm.” She leaned into the chaise again. “I’m sure I can make that work.” Back into her reclining position, hands behind her head, deep in thought. “Grace. Come sit with me.”
Fishhooks again. I was on my feet before I’d even had a chance to register her words. Tall as she was, she took up the whole length of the chaise, which left me with no choice but to sit on her lap. Her hands were all over my legs as she adjusted me so that I was straddling her; my skirt rode up just enough to accommodate the position. She pulled her knees up a bit so that I could lean back against her thighs, and that also meant that the seam of her jeans bunched up and rubbed against me in a very sensitive place. I suppressed a gasp.
Adrian let out a whisper of a laugh, and I echoed it. I leaned forward, rocking against the point of pressure, and traced the edge of her jaw with my hand. We were a study in contrasts, I thought with a thrill, even moreso than the dark and pale of her own hair and skin. There was a sweeter juxtaposition between the chalky whiteness of her and the rosy flush of me; the softness of my thighs and the sharpness of her hipbones; the hot wetness between my legs and the chill of her breath against my wrist. She leaned into my hand like an affectionate cat, and I shuddered as the feathery touch of her lips became the pricking of fangs. I closed my eyes and squeezed my legs around her, still rocking back and forth, holding my breath as I waited for the breaking of skin.
Instead, she intertwined her fingers with mine and held my hand against her cheek. “You’re so warm,” she sighed. “And the scent of you…. You do know how you tempt me, Grace.”
“I do,” I breathed, grinding against her as I leaned in. Her lips were only inches from mine. Our breaths mingled—a hot front meeting a cold one.
She ran her tongue along her bottom lip, revealing her teeth again, and I moaned. Was it fear? Anticipation? The pleasure of the tingle that was building between my legs? Or some tertiary colour of a feeling that was a mix all three? Her hands found my hips and started to move me in a circle so that I was grinding my heat against her. There was no use resisting even if I wanted to; she was far stronger than her 1920s-Vogue-illustration physique belied.
My hands moved up her torso, following the rungs of her ribs, and I frowned. She held me still. “Adrian, you’re so thin…”
“Aren’t I always thin?”
“You feel even thinner tonight. Are you losing weight? Is that… even possible?”
Her hands trailed up my sides to cup my breasts, and she toyed with me idly. “Mm. Yes, it’s possible. As I said, I’ve been busy. I’ve been missing sleep… and perhaps not drinking enough to support the extra hours of wakefulness.” She tilted her head to the side, and I could feel her gaze shift from my chest to my eyes. There was a touch of entertainment in her tone when she asked, “Are you… worried for me?”
I looked away. Silly to be shy, but I couldn’t help it. Even through the barrier of her black lenses her gaze burned into me. “I guess I am. I know I don’t need to be. I mean, God,” I scoffed, and I knew I was about to start rambling, “it must sound ridiculous to you, but it’s how I feel. I know what you are, but it’s so easy to forget it and just think of you as… human.”
She grinned. Showing off her teeth. “Is it?”
“Well, okay, no. But like I said, I know what you are.” I tapped a finger to my temple. “When I see you like this… I guess I feel something else.” I pressed a hand over hers, and held it against my chest.
Her other hand was suddenly between my legs, and my eyelids fluttered as she teased me. “And what do you feel now?” she asked, voice husky.
The fire in me roared, and it made my own voice shake. “I feel… very human. And I feel like you are, too.”
“Then you need a reminder.”
“I do.” I watched my fingers move to her face again, distantly, as though they belonged to someone else. My pulse throbbed behind my scars. I had just touched the frame of her sunglasses when she seized my hand.
“Do you want a reminder?”
I hesitated aydın escort bayan for a moment, as I always did. But then I nodded, and carefully removed her dark glasses. Her eyes were closed over shadows as dark as bruises. She looked exhausted. Deathly ill. Worse than ill.
“Oh, Adrian,” I breathed, a pang of sympathy twisting in my heart. I traced a fingertip under one dark shadow.
Her eyes snapped open. The pupils and irises melded together into black pits: Descent Into Limbo, Anish Kapoor. I jerked back, but a split-second of eye contact was all it took. A heavy blanket of fog settled over my mind and my pulse rushed in my ears. I couldn’t look away.
“You’re afraid,” she said, and panic took hold in my chest. My breathing grew shallow and my vision narrowed. “But you still want me. It doesn’t matter to you right now that I’m a monster.”
I nodded helplessly. The fluttering panic met the tingling pleasure as her hand worked between my legs in an insistent rhythm. I pressed myself against her, my mouth forming an ‘O’, and then her lips were on mine, cold and soft as an empty bed. She kissed hungrily but gently, mindful of her fangs even as she dragged them over my bottom lip. My breathing was ragged now and my breasts were heaving under her hands like the heroine’s in a bodice ripper illustration. Every time I met her eye my mind grew more clouded, and my heart beat faster, and the pleasure was mounting, mounting, nearly cresting—
Her grip became an iron vice. She held me away from her and I moaned, straining uselessly to grind against her hand, her jeans, anything. “Please,” I mumbled, gazing down at her. Her eyes were as dark as wells, and deeper by miles. I leaned over the edge, teetering, losing my balance…
“Did you bring anything with you?” Her voice was hoarse. I glanced at the portfolio on the coffee table. She shook her head. “Not that. Something for you.” Oh. My gaze flicked to my purse, just for a fraction of a second, but she saw. “Then go and get it, Grace,” she said, and released me. In a daze, I disentangled myself and went to my bag, found the toy I’d stowed there. My favourite. Not too long, but thick enough to stretch.
“Bring it here,” Adrian commanded. I was already on my way.
She took the toy from me and placed it out of my reach on the coffee table.
“Sit,” Adrian commanded. Suddenly I was straddling her again.
Her hands snaked up my thighs, stroked me once through the fabric of my underwear, and then undressed me from the waist down, tossing my skirt and my underwear to the side. I settled back against her and started to twirl my hips once more.
“Don’t move,” she said, and I froze as she finished undressing me. My hair came loose as she pulled my shirt over my head, and my curls fell to my shoulders, tickling the scars at my neck. I was so deep in her gaze that the pangs just registered as another kind of desire. I wanted her inside me in every way at once.
She took her time looking me over, devouring me with her eyes while I was paralyzed. Her hands cupped my curves and her cool touch ignited fire beneath my skin, fire that only she could soothe. I could do nothing but wait for her to decide if she wanted to.
After an eternal moment, she unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down enough to position the toy there, its base pressed against her so that it was an extension of her body. The heat in me flared.
Her dark eyes glittered. “Do you want me?”
A question. I couldn’t blame my automatic response on anyone but myself. “Yeah,” I moaned.
“What do you want me to do?” She allowed my hips to lower towards hers until she was pushing against my entrance. I was so wet that it would only take the slightest nudge for her to drive herself deep.
“I want you to take me,” I whimpered. She grinned.
“You can feel it building.” She allowed me another inch and I started to feel the pleasure of the familiar stretch. “Mounting in waves.” A surge of pleasure rippled through my body as she sunk deeper. “And when I take you—” she thrust up into me fully, raking against the front wall of my depths— “you’ll swear you’ve never felt anything so sweet.” My eyes rolled back as I stretched and squeezed tight around her. She was buried so perfectly in me, pressing against the sweetest place in my body.
“Show me that you like it,” she breathed, and she let out a low moan as I rocked against her.
She thrust up to meet me, again and again, prodding my tenderest spot with every movement as I ground myself against her. Waves peaked higher and higher. I was floating in the fog of her eyes, her voice, her command. And just as I was about to come—
“Stop, Grace.” She drew a shuddering breath and pulled herself from me. I nearly sobbed with frustration. She was discomposed, too; eyes squeezed shut and teeth bared. It took a moment for her upper lip to twitch back down. When she met my gaze again, the hunger in her was escort aydın a vast negative space that drew me in and swallowed me up.
“I can almost taste you already.” She kept her cruel grasp on my hips, keeping me away from her.
“Please, Adrian,” I whined. “I need it. I need you.”
“And I need what you have. I can feel it coursing in you everywhere we touch. I can taste it on your lips, your breath, in the air. Your life. You want to give it to me.” Her lips parted. Her gaze was locked at my throat. My scars throbbed; my blood rushed in rivers just below them.
“It’s yours. All of it. Take it.” I threw my head back, bared my neck to her.
She pulled me tight against her. The softness of my curves filled the hollows of her thin frame. With a shaking hand she brushed my hair away and traced her tongue along my jugular, from my collarbone to my earlobe, over dozens of sensitive scars. I trembled. An exquisite moment of limbo.
“Not all of it,” she muttered against my neck, so softly that I might have imagined it. And then her fangs pierced my skin and she drove herself deep into me.
The sharpness of her bite was the sweetest thing I’d ever felt. Every pathway in my body, every vein and nerve, was tied to the fresh wound at my throat. She sucked there and I felt her everywhere at once: my lips, my breasts, between my legs, deep inside of me. She stoked the fire even as she fed on its heat. My thighs shook uncontrollably and I rode her as I came, the tip of her still pressed deeply into me. A flood of hot wetness spilled from between my thighs. She unhooked her fangs with a gasp, and a gush of blood escaped her lips and spattered across both of us. Like Guston’s Red Painting… Newman’s Voice of Fire, but just the middle part… the very last Pollock…
I let out a weak moan. With a snarl, she flipped me over and loomed above me. Her hands pinned my wrists to the chaise, and my pulse was frantic against the tightness of her grip.
“Adrian…” My voice was distant and echoing to my own ears. My head was light.
“Stay still.” There was no trace of amusement or huskiness in her tone now. Only hunger. She licked the spilled blood from my body, the pinpricks of her fangs dancing over my skin. Then she ran the flat of her tongue over the fresh bite, once, twice, before fixing her mouth against me again. Her tongue probed one of the puncture wounds and I was frozen, unable to recoil, or to lean into her—whatever my body might have done of its own accord. She took another deep pull of me, and my vision darkened.
And then all at once she was gone.
“Sorry,” she said. She was hunched over Lana’s desk, jeans back up, facing away from me. She clutched the edge of the desk, hands shaking. “Didn’t mean to do that.” Another moment passed before she added, in a voice slightly more controlled, “Give me a moment.” She shook her head. “Or don’t. You can move. Go. Do whatever you want to do.”
I pressed my palm against my new wounds with and sat up. Too quickly. My head spun. She still wasn’t facing me. “Adrian. Are you okay?”
She turned, and she was composed again, despite that she was spattered with my blood. “Still worrying for me?”
She retrieved her sunglasses and put them back on. The weight of her gaze lifted, leaving only a slight pressure in the back of my mind.
“Yeah. I suppose I am. Well, I mean, I’ll be fine, so… that only leaves you to worry about.”
“Do I look like I need to be worried for?” She sat beside me, and pulled a throw blanket and a handkerchief from beneath the chaise. The handkerchief I pressed against my neck, and the blanket she draped around my bare shoulders. I hadn’t realized I was so cold until I was shivering under its heavy warmth. She wiped her bloodied mouth against the back of her hand, and then smiled at me.
I studied the planes of her face. They weren’t as harsh as they had been when I’d first entered the study. Her cheeks were less gaunt, even showing a slight flush of life—my life. She was still too pale and too thin for the Renaissance period, though. Venus in the style of Tim Burton, I titled her.
I giggled only a little hysterically.
Adrian touched my shoulder, gentler than she’d touched me all night. “Grace? Are you faint?”
“No, no.” I dismissed her with a wave as I tried to bite back the laughter. “Well, yes, but… it’s not that. Just had a thought.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Care to share it?”
Another giggle escaped me. “No, I don’t think I do.”
She stared at me a moment longer, and then shook her head, let it go. “You should eat to help with the faintness. Will you stay here while I go find you something?”
“Yes. I don’t think I’m in any shape to stand.” The fog might have lifted from my mind, but the physical effects of her predation would take longer to fade. I languished on the chaise as my blood cooled in her veins. For a moment I even thought I saw the stirring of a pulse in her marble-white arm. Like in that statue… the Pietà, that was it. Just a trick of the light, though, of course. “I did work up an appetite.”
“Hm.” The heaviness of her gaze landed on the bloodied handkerchief; my scars throbbed. She licked my blood from the corner of her mouth. “I can’t imagine what that’s like.”
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