I don't really know why I agreed.

Perhaps I too was eager for human contact. Perhaps I was grateful. I was indeed grateful to him, he had saved my life. But even that alone would not have induced me to lie with a holy man, under normal circumstances.

Of course, we villagers had little respect for holy men by that point, since our last priest had refused to baptize a newborn, saying that it was doomed to die. He was lucky the brides took him the next month; we might have lynched him ourselves.

Still, I had not lain with a man since my husband died at Dracula's hands, nearly a year before. Yet there was something about him. He'd been terrified by the attack, we all were, but he did not run. Somewhere behind the hesitant friar was a strong man. A brilliant man too, I discovered, for as we returned to the Valerious manor, he told me about himself and his work. In turn, I found myself opening up to him, speaking of the loss of my husband, my childlessness, how I worked to keep our inn open, how it was to live in fear always. He listened, taking in my words as a sponge does water. He took my hand, holding it in comfort. When he spoke of his companion, and his conviction that they would defeat Dracula, I felt hope for the first time in years. He did that. He gave me hope.

I suppose that was what convinced me. His hope, his mischievous smile, the light in his clear blue eyes, all seduced me. Certainly I made the first move, as he had no idea how to proceed. His lips were soft and his hands strong as we embraced. We taught each other much that night. I taught him how to give pleasure and take pleasure in the act of love. He taught me to laugh again, for he had no shame and was as playful and eager as he was gentle and kind. We came together several times in the night, and between times we lay entwined, holding one another and breathing in each others' warmth.

Of course, it could not last, though the morning was more abrupt than I would have liked. His discovery of the painting led to a rather comical sprawl for both of us, though I laughed and kissed him again when he apologized. And too, I recalled that my aged mother would not know that I survived the attack, and I should go to her. When I left, he gathered me into his arms, kissing me and thanking me, and promised me before God he would see Dracula defeated so that we of the village might live freely again. He was so sure, so warm; it was as if another man entirely inhabited this friar. And that I suppose I gave to him. He gave me hope and laughter. I gave him manhood and purpose.

I did not see him before they left. When we found out Dracula was defeated, the celebrations kept me busy, and too soon, he and his companion were gone.

I do not mourn the loss. We came together for a number of reasons, most of which were selfish. We both received much from the experience.

And now I look down at the greatest gift I received. He has my dark hair, and his father's bright blue eyes. I hope he'll be as kind and as brilliant as his father. I plan what I'll tell my son about his father. How his father was a scholar and a warrior for the Lord God, how he saved me and our village. I have more hope now than ever before. I have happiness.