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The Soul of an Artist (The Blood of a Man)

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“Having another melancholy spell, Séverine?” Marcello shook his head disapprovingly. “You need a new companion. Someone young, to rejuvenate your spirits.” 

“I might’ve known you’d make such an asinine suggestion,” Séverine retorted, adjusting her veil. “My Claude not cold in his grave-“

“It’s been eight years.”

“-not cold in his grave and you expect me to what, find another genius to replace him? Settle for some pretty thing you’ve brought here without an artistic bone in their body?” 

“Now, Séverine, be fair.” Marcello smiled in that infuriating way of his. “Just because they’re young and pretty doesn’t mean they can’t live up to your high ideals. Consider Mozart.” 

“Mozart?” Séverine made a face. “Did you ever meet the man? Disgusting. Charming music, abysmal company. I preferred his wife.” 

“Be that as it may, I feel obligated to point out there’s a lovely creature who’s been trying to catch your eye for at least the last hour.” Marcello glanced pointedly, and despite her numerous misgivings Séverine followed his gaze across the dance floor.

There stood a young man with chestnut curled hair, awkwardly trying to balance a tray of food with a glass of red wine. His clothes were a bit shabbier than Marcello’s standard, so perhaps he’d managed to crash the party with a winsome look. In any case, when he noticed them looking, he blushed and dropped his tray, creating a minor mess that Marcello’s servants hurried to tidy up. 

“He’s not one of yours.”

“No,” Marcello agreed amiably, leaning back on the terrace. “I’ve seen him around from time to time, stumbling through like a baby goat, but he looks more stunned than usual. Why don’t you go talk to him?”

“And suffer through him stammering and struggling to articulate on so much as a basic level, I’m sure? No, thank you.” Still, Séverine’s eyes did linger on his form as he attempted to help the servants, perhaps because he was attempting to pick up broken glass with his bare hands. 

The moment his hand slipped, every vampire in the ballroom’s head turned. 

“Ah, but now you can be his rescuer,” Marcello murmured, leaning in far too close for Séverine’s liking. “The wolves will descend on him if you don’t. And wouldn’t it be a shame to see that slender neck torn apart?” 

He was right, much to Séverine’s annoyance, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of saying so. Neither Marcello nor Séverine were gauche enough to kill when they fed, but many of Marcello’s guests were younger and… sloppier. 

So she curtly said, “Keep the wolves at bay then, will you?” and headed back inside

As she’d hoped, Séverine had barely taken ten steps back inside the ballroom before the young man was hurrying in her direction. Casually, she let her fan drop from her black lace covered fingertips, turning away as if she didn’t notice. 

Better for him to approach her. 

“Madame!” Goodness, he must have sprinted across the room. He sounded positively breathless. “Your fan-“

Séverine turned, wrapping her hand around his as she took back her fan. “Thank you.” She paused, surprised by the brilliance of his smile. “We haven’t met, I believe.”

“Oh! My name’s Luc. Jean-Luc, I mean, but Luc is what everyone calls me.” He was still beaming, but perhaps her earlier characterization of him had been overly harsh. “Oh, I hope I didn’t get any blood on it…”

Séverine frowned, pulling out a handkerchief from her reticule. “Take this for your hand and follow me outside, Luc. This is not a safe place to stand around with an open wound.”

“It’s not a wound-“ Luc began to protest, but stopped as she turned away and strode off in the direction of the gardens. “Wait! What do you mean, it’s not safe?”

She didn’t answer. 

It wasn’t until they reached the trellises covered in wisteria between the fountains and the rose garden that Séverine paused.

She could smell the blood on Luc’s hand though when she turned she saw he clutched her handkerchief still, so either it hadn’t yet begun to dry and scab over or he was just desperately attached to any small scrap of favor from her. 

“This should do.”

Luc frowned. “Should do? For what?”

Séverine smiled, lifting her veil. It was unlikely that this beautiful young man would prove interesting enough to keep her attention for long, but he had reminded her that she was hungry. “Tell me. Were you truly unaware of the nature of this gathering when you stumbled your way in?”

He drew himself up at once, affronted. “I didn’t stumble in. It was a completely respectable gate-crashing!”

“That does not answer my question.” 

Luc’s eyes avoided hers as he tugged at his cravat with the fingers of his clean hand. “Well… there were rumors. Nothing too specific, just that the owner of this estate is mad, bad, dangerous to know and all that.”

“He’s not the only one.” Séverine stepped closer, and was rewarded by him finally meeting her eyes. “Bleeding in this place is an invitation.”

“Then…” His eyes widened. “It’s true? There are vampires here?”

Gently, she cupped his chin, relishing the warmth of his living skin. “Yes, Luc.”

“And you protected me?” 

The poor fool. He hadn’t even noticed that Séverine had hypnotized him so he couldn’t run away. 

“From a painful, inelegant demise? Yes, I suppose you could say that.” She brushed back his hair, exposing his neck. “From the sting of a vampire’s teeth? I’m afraid not.” 

When Séverine sank her fangs into his neck, Luc made a soft noise, squirming slightly in her grip. This was not unusual. Nor was the way the fight seemed to ebb out of him as she drew the blood from him, until she was more or less supporting him herself. 

As she drew back, she expected him to sway, perhaps even faint outright. What she did not expect was for him to whisper, “Wow…”  before swooning in her arms. 

Séverine frowned, torn between the urge to drop him on the grass and the desire to find out what kind of addle-brained creature he really was. After a moment, she dropped him. 

On the grass, Luc stirred, his dark eyelashes fluttering. “Ow…”

“Get up if you’re conscious.” She pulled off one glove to dab at the corner of her mouth lightly. She did detest dried blood residue on her face. 

His eyes flew open and he scrambled very nearly to his feet, only to clutch his head at an apparent dizzy spell and have to settle for his knees. “For… for a moment I thought I’d dreamt you.” 

Séverine felt her mouth quirk. “A good dream or a nightmare?” 

Luc looked startled that she’d even asked. “An incredible dream! I- I don’t even know your name…”

She sighed. He was certainly proving to be a handful, if a flattering one. “Séverine.” 

“Séverine…” Luc seemed to savor the sound of her name in his mouth. “How beautiful…”

Séverine hated to admit it but looking at him on his knees in the moonlight, his lovely chestnut hair mussed… it was possible there was something to what Marcello had said about the rejuvenating powers of youth. Of course, it was also possible it was said youth’s blood running hot in her, but, if only to feel something for another hour…

She pulled her glove back on and held out her hand to Luc. “Come. Let’s go somewhere a bit more secluded.” 

Luc looked around, puzzled, though he did take her hand and stand. “There’s no one here.” 

“I said more secluded.” His neck wasn’t entirely done bleeding yet, after all, and it would call others of her kind to him as surely as sirens’ song. 

Séverine dragged him to the orangerie, only pausing long enough to let him marvel over the building’s attractive exterior before pulling open the door and leading him to a luxurious little chamber that Marcello had heavily hinted was available for her use on other occasions. 

“What…” Luc swallowed, his eyes wide as he took in their luxurious surroundings. “What did you bring me here for?” 

She drew him closer, not missing the way his lips parted instinctively as she leaned in. “What do you think?”

When Séverine kissed Luc, he moaned softly, trembling in her arms. He kissed her back with more enthusiasm than skill, but that was about what she’d expected. When she pulled back, she observed his dazed look with pleasure. 

“You came here hoping to find vampires, didn’t you?” she murmured. “Hoping to be carried off into the night and ravished beyond your wildest dreams.”

A weak, needy noise escaped him. 

 Séverine’s gaze was drawn to his neck again, to the small trail of blood leaking out and staining his collar. It was too soon to fully drink from him again without risking his life, but…

She felt him suck in an audible breath as she lowered her mouth to his neck again, smearing the blood across his neck before lapping at it . When he shivered, she kissed the wounds her teeth had left behind. 

“Are… are you going to kill me?” 

Séverine smiled, and pressed another kiss to his wounds. “No, sweet Luc. There is little pleasure for me in death.” 

She pushed him down onto a chaise-lounge and sat beside him. As he lay half draped over the back, panting, she pulled off her gloves and stuffed them into her reticule. Leaning in, she trailed a bare hand down from cravat to waistcoat buttons, stopping just short of his bulging trousers. 

“For you, however, there seems to be some… excitement,” Séverine observed. 

“I-it’s not that I want to die!” Luc stammered, pushing himself upright. “It’s the beauty of such an end, on a moonlit night, with the scent of wisteria on the breeze… Of you, Séverine!”

She raised her eyebrows, toying with the top button of his trousers. “Does beauty always rouse you so? Or only the dangerous kind?”

Luc laughed nervously, only to gasp as she drew her fingers lower. “I… oh, I…”

“Never mind.” She’d only had the brief thought that perhaps he did have an artistic bone in his body, but it was just as likely he was an ordinary dream-mad youth fresh out of university, with more balls than sense. And speaking of balls-

“Séverine,” Luc gasped as she fondled him through his clothes. “Please…”

“Please what?”

“Take me,” he moaned, eyelashes fluttering as color rose in his cheeks. 

Séverine rose up, pulling her skirts out of the way, and straddled his thighs. With her free hand, she unbuttoned his trousers and freed his cock, which twitched immediately upon being exposed to the cool air. 

“Oh my God,” Luc gasped as she took hold of him, giving him a few experimental strokes to make sure he wasn’t green enough to spill on the spot. “Oh, I- I don’t know that I can-“

She frowned. “Are you inexperienced?”

“N-no, it’s just that… you’re so beautiful and I-“

“That can be remedied easily enough.” Séverine released him, ignoring his look of confused disappointment. She drew one of her sharp nails across her collarbone, letting out a slight hiss of pain as it broke the skin. Leaning forward, she pressed her bloody fingertips into his mouth. “Suck.”

Luc’s eyes widened, but he let her press her fingers deeper into his mouth, obediently lapping her blood from her fingers. When she pushed them deeper still, his eyelids lowered and his lips trembled. 

“Good boy,” Séverine murmured, slowly drawing her fingers out. “That should keep you virile.”

The force of her own arousal surprised her. She ached in ways she had almost forgotten were possible, and seeing his pretty mouth tighten around her fingers, as though he wished to keep them inside him, made her absurdly impatient.

When she sank down onto him he moaned so loudly that it might have annoyed her if he hadn’t also felt spectacularly hot as he filled her. Well, it had been more than eight years, after all, and he was absurdly gorgeous.

Séverine rode him hard, relishing every little gasp and groan from his pretty mouth as he throbbed inside her. Her climax took her by surprise, coupled as it was with a particularly exquisite arch of Luc’s back as he moaned shamelessly, his long lovely fingers clutching the chaise-lounge.

When she pulled back, letting him drop out of her, for a moment he simply lay there, the back of his hand laid across his forehead as his chest rose and fell rapidly. Then, as she stood and begun to smooth out her skirts, he suddenly sat bolt upright, fishing around in his breast pocket for something. 

Intrigued, Séverine paused for a moment, watching as he pulled out a small notebook and pencil and begun to scribble frantically in it. When she was quite sure he was engrossed in his writing, she stepped around to peer at the notebook. 

His writing was cramped and sloppy, but the notes of a melody were clear enough. Without thinking, Séverine begun to hum along. 

Immediately, Luc tensed. “It’s not finished!”

“No, but it’s a more than credible start.” Séverine smiled. “I didn’t realize you were musical.”

“Well, you didn’t ask,” Luc pointed out. 

“And I should have.” Séverine set her hand on his shoulder, and felt him relax slightly. “I happen to adore composers.” She paused. “You wouldn’t happen to be familiar with the work of Claude Villfor, would you?”

Luc’s face lit up. “Claude Villfor?! His third piano concerto changed my life!”

“He wrote that concerto at my summer home.” Her heart ached to remember it, but not quite as painfully as it might have earlier in the evening.

“At your-“ Luc’s eyes widened. “But that must have been… how many years ago?”

“Yes, I’m quite a bit older than I look, if you hadn’t noticed,” Séverine said dryly. 

“Oh, I- I didn’t mean to be rude!”

“That’s quite all right.” She smiled again, faintly. “I’d be happy to show you around some time, if that would please you. You could play on the same piano he once used.”

“Oh! That would… that would be incredible!” And almost impulsively, Luc seized hold of her hand and kissed it. “And... we’ll see each other again soon, won’t we?”

Séverine stroked his dark curls with one hand, cupping his cheek with the other. “Oh yes, we certainly will.”

And I’ll have to thank Marcello later.