A/N: So it's somewhat corny and somewhat clichéd, but what the heck, I still love it. And I hope you like it toooo! And if you don't... I'm sorry... :(
WARNING: Rated M for cussing, steamy hot vamp scenes, and just general hotness all around. It's rated M for a reason. I have warned you! So don't complain if you get offended… Instead, just enjoy it ;)
Chapter 1: Emptiness
It filled the air, wrapping its delicate tendrils about everyone and everything in the room. Sometimes so sad, it gave one an urge to weep, or so passionate, one could not help but to be filled with the same fervor and feeling. It soared to the rooftops and plunged into the deepest depths, pierced every heart and consumed every soul, left none unaffected.
The music was almost ethereal, the way it seemed to float on the air, its notes lightly floating across the room. So beautiful, so impossibly perfect that it made one wonder how such things were possible, it was… magnificent.
And all the while her fingers flew.
Serena closed her eyes as she played the last few chords of her most popular piece, La Votume. It felt like a piece of her, as if she were not just playing mere music, but baring her own soul.
It was a song that she played without fail every time she performed. She didn't know why, but she just always felt as if she had to. Had to let it out. Had to let everyone hear it. Had to let her soul call out for whatever it ached for.
As she stood up from the bench and the applause and cheering surrounded her, Serena felt as if she were in another world, caught in a half daze, still too consumed to be completely conscious. She'd played this piece countless times, but every time her fingers moved in according to the notes of La Votume, whether in concert or in practice, she was left with the same feeling- emptiness.
As to what could fill this emptiness, Serena had no idea. She never even understood why she felt this way. All she could to was play, and hope that someday something would change and would no longer feel this longing for something she didn't understand.
Her mind finally began to clear, the last wisps of the song floating away, until finally she focused on the crowd- their cheers, their whistles, their praises, their tears, and most of all, their smiles. She presented them with a low bow and her curtain of straight silver blond hair fell forward, momentarily covering her face. Straightening, she flashed them a smile and strode off the stage.
The cheers followed after her, until she entered the small dressing room and closed the door, finally letting out the breath of tension that had knotted inside her ever since she first walked onto the stage.
God I need some candy, she thought. I'm pretty sure I still had few lemon drops somewhere… Digging around the cluttered room, she finally located her purse and rummaged through it.
"Ah ha!" she crowed, pulling out a baggy full of assorted treats, three lemon drops among them. She quickly popped them into her mouth and sighed as the tangy sweetness melted on her tongue.
Shoot, I better make a dentist appointment soon… Damn cavities...
If anyone were to claim that the elegant Ms. Serena Delancy, the newly introduced piano prodigy and already one of the most respected musicians in the world, was an honest-to-goodness candy addict, they would've been ridiculed.
She quickly slipped off her velvet black evening gown and groaned with pure pleasure as she stepped out of her four-inch black heels. The heels were a pain, but a necessity nonetheless if she wished to improve her small stature of 5'3". Slipping on a sweater, jeans, and a pair of heavy boots, she pulled on a thick coat and covered her head with the hood. Stuffing the gown and the rest of her things in a garment bag, she grabbed her purse and headed out into the snow, towards the street.
By the time she hailed a cab, loaded her things, and started for home, Serena was thoroughly exhausted. Damn sugar never lasts long enough, she thought drowsily. She couldn't wait until she would reach her apartment.
As soon as she entered her small apartment, she stripped off her clothes in trail to her room, toed off her boots, and collapsed on her bed, falling into a deep sleep.
But in another part of the city, in a far larger and much more luxurious room, another stood in front of a huge window, staring out into the night sky and the luminescent moon.
His day had just begun.
When Serena groggily opened her eyes, the sun was already shining brightly through the windows and the clock's neon green yellow numbers glared at her.
… One… Thirty-seven… ONE THIRTY-SEVEN!
"Oh, shit-ake mushrooms!" she started to curse, hastily correcting herself. She threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. Her foot slipped on a shirt on the ground and she nearly fell, twisting her foot awkwardly under her. She hobbled to the bathroom, cursing, and all but threw herself into the shower.
She got ready in record time (well, one of her many record times), quickly jammed her feet into her boots, grabbed her bag, and fled out the door.
It takes nearly 10 minutes to get there by cab…and the metro is too out of the way… Oh what the hell, I'll run for it. It was an impressive sight, all long legs and billowing silver hair racing like demons were on her tail, that is, if one could actually make out the blurry figure speeding across the crowded sidewalks.
"Oh god, oh god, hurry, hurry, I've got to flippin' hurry," she breathed. She's gonna kill me.
Serena jumped over a small yapping dog and quickly ran into the street to catch the "walk" signal.
She squeezed between a couple holding hands, ignoring their annoyed and surprised shouts.
Ducking beneath the shaking hands of two businessmen in front of the entrance she pounced directly into the spinning doors of the Plaza Hotel.
Ignoring the disgusted and haughty looks of the hotel's wealthier patrons at her disheveled appearance, she raced on.
In mid-run she managed to rummage her cell phone out of her purse.
She quickly checked the time, grimaced, and sped up.
Racing into the restaurant, she sidestepped the maitre' d and just barely avoid a collision with a waiter.
Spotting her target, she charged.
She could just barely grab the chair.
She pulled the chair out and was nearly seated.
Serena collapsed into the chair.
"Well done Serena. You're actually, if just barely, on time."
"No. - huff- problem - puff-."
Raye Beauchamp looked at her exhausted and worn friend with amusement. "You know, if you would actually wake up on time you wouldn't constantly have this problem."
"I can't help it! I got in late last night and you know how much I need sleep. And ever since I got that new "memory foam" mattress, my bed is like… my lover. So soft and cozy and comfortable and safe…" Serena said dreamily.
"Well before I lose you in your sleep dream world," Raye interrupted dryly, "let me tell you the reason why I wanted to talk to you."
There was a pause. Then she held up a hand, palm facing in.
Her left hand.
Serena's shriek of "SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!" turned nearly every head in the restaurant, and she immediately clapped her hands over her mouth and turned a bright cherry red. "Sorry."
Raye didn't care. Serena could see that her beautiful friend was absolutely glowing with happiness. "But. But. But. When? How? Eh? Damn that thing is BIG."
Raye laughed aloud at her best friend's expression. "Last night, in the park. Oh Serena, it was all just so wonderful I can barely contain it all."
" I always did like good ol' Jadeite. Seemed like a sharp boy with good taste," Serena said, winking at Raye. "Have you set a date?"
"No, of course not yet. It's just barely been made official. I just wanted to ask you first off to be my maid of honor."
A second shriek, this time causing the restaurant's more elderly patrons to shake their heads and mutter grumpily.
"Of COURSE! Oh god Raye. You're going to be married! I can't believe it. And to such a great guy." She laughed. "Do you remember when we were younger and we made up those lists of what our dream guys would be like? I remember your list had about 110 different requirements."
"Mm. Yes. A rather paltry amount of requirements compared to YOUR 250."
"What can I say? I'm a very picky person."
"Yes, this coming from the woman who will eat nearly everything one puts on her plate. Very picky indeed."
"Hmph. Food is food. Men are a completely different matter. I just wish that someday I can meet someone and be as happy as you."
They sat there, smiling in a comfortable silence. Serena finally broke the silence when she asked with a sly smile, "So, tell me, does Jed seem to fit all 110 requirements? I do remember you including something about shoe size…"
"Serena!" Raye exclaimed laughingly. Then with a sly smile of her own, she said coyly, "Let's just say Jed fits the bill and more." Suddenly her smile faltered slightly. "Although… Jed is also… quite a few other things that were most certainly not on my list…"
"Raye?" Serena asked questioningly.
"Oh, nothing. Just thinking aloud to myself," Raye remarked quickly with a bright smile.
Rather overly bright, I would say… Serena thought suspiciously.
Catching the suspicious glint in Serena's eyes, Raye hurriedly moved on. "Well anyways, I was hoping you could come have dinner with Jed and I, along with a couple of Jed's good friends."
Serena, understanding that whatever was bothering Raye was not something she wanted to talk about, got the hint and answered her question. "Sure! I haven't seen Jadeite in awhile. It'll be good to-" she broke off suddenly. "Oh shoot. Wait. I have a concert tonight. I totally forgot."
"Again? Didn't you just have one last night? By the way, how did it go?"
"It went wonderful. I had a terrific audience. And yes, I usually don't have back to back performances, but another performer unexpectedly backed out last minute, so as a favor to friend of mine, I decided to fill the empty slot."
"Amy right? The concert hall manager? I still really want to meet her. When will you give me an introduction?"
"I could probably introduce you two tonight. You guys would probably get along great. She's super smart and has the best taste in clothes, not to mention she's always punctual- your dream come true." Serena said jokingly.
"That actually sounds perfect. How about we all come to your performance tonight, then we can all go out to a late dinner afterwards? I know that Jed has been wanting to hear you play for a long time now."
"It's a date! I'll call in and ask for some extra tickets. How many people should I get tickets for?"
"Well, me, Jadeite, and his brothers Nephrite, Zoicite, and Kunzite."
"Woah. And I thought Jadeite was a weird name. What, were they all born to a family of jewelers?"
"No, not born to, but adopted. They're all different ages but it seems that they all grew up together ever since they were young. Oh and I almost forgot his boss, Darien. He should be coming tonight too."
"He's friends with his boss? Wow. That's rare."
"Well the five of them are all best friends and work for the same company, with Darien as the CEO and the four others as heads of different departments."
"I see. So then… six extra tickets and afterwards dinner."
"Sounds good." She looked at her watch. "Crap, I have to go and I haven't even eaten yet. I have to go pick up Mina from the airport. She just came back from Tajikistan or some other 'stan'-ish country."
"Mina! I haven't talked to her for almost… Almost a year now! God has it really been that long? How is your cousin doing these days?"
"You know her. Out to save the world as usual. She would've probably come to the concert tonight but she always has horrible jet lag. You'll probably see her sometime soon. She's settling down for a while now and staying with me for the next couple of months."
"That's nice. Tell her I say 'hi'."
"Will do. I have to head out now," Serena said apologetically, as she stood up. "I'll make sure to drop off those tickets to your apartment sometime today. See you tonight!"
"Oh come on Darien. Everyone else is coming tonight. I really want you to meet my fiancée. Besides you need to start getting out more anyways."
Not many would dare to argue with a vampire, let alone with a vampire king, but Jadeite considered himself desperate and pissed off enough to give it a try. Not to mention that he was one of the King's closest advisors and friend.
"Jadeite, you already know what my opinion is on your upcoming nuptials. Introducing a completely unknowing human to our world? Not only was it a rash decision but a risky one," Darien said coldly, his face displaying no emotion.
"Raye isn't like that! I would trust her with anything. I love her."
"As I have said many times it is not your affection for the human that I question, but the depth of her own love for you." He fairly spat out the word human, as if just the word itself were distasteful. "And even if she may truly love you and can be trusted, what happens when she is revealed to the even darker sides of our world? What happens if hunters capture her? What happens if she refuses to become one of us and dies with age? What happens then?"
Clearly shaken, Jadeite gritted out, "She's my match. My mate. That much I know for sure. It doesn't matter what our nature is or how bad things may become. I will protect her with my life. Despite her mortality, Raye has seen me for what I am and has accepted me. And she has agreed to consider risking the change. I can't ask for more. All I ask of you is to accept her as well."
Darien didn't speak. Finally, he let out a breath, the tension in his shoulders leaving as he gave in. "Jadeite, as your friend, I'm glad that you have finally found someone worth living for and I approve of Raye as a mate, but as your king, I just must warn you to be careful. Raye is, no matter what you say or think, a weakness to you and to our race. And weaknesses can be easily exploited. Just take care my friend, or you might end up finding your self completely without any defense."
Jadeite relaxed. "Thank you, my king," he said, bowing respectfully. "Does that mean you'll come later tonight?"
"I'll see what I can do."
After Serena picked up Mina from the airport and settled her into the guest room, she quickly began to get ready.
It's so wonderful to see Mina again. Even after all the emails, letters, and phone calls, it's always so great to see her face. Serena thought fondly as she pulled on her evening gown. Although she isn't looking too well… Maybe I should schedule a doctor's appointment for her…
For tonight, she chose a pure white halter that nipped in at her waist and flowed out to the ground. Being completely backless, the dress had thin white ribbons connected to the bodice that held the dress up and tied behind her neck. Serena always felt like twirling whenever she wore the dress, for the material swished and swayed so delicately around her legs that she felt as if she were floating.
She pinned her hair up loosely and finished applying a small amount of makeup, part of the reason being that she had no patience for carefully applying a lot of makeup and also because she had been blessed with clear, smooth skin, and thick eyelashes several shades darker than the color of her hair.
She slipped on a pair of white satin pumps, grabbed her things, and checked on Mina in her room before leaving. Seeing that her exhausted cousin was completely sprawled on the bed, snoring softly, Serena gently closed the door and left.
"Oh god, oh god. Where is she?"
Amy Wilde was not generally accustomed to being a nervous wreck but with her original scheduled performer having canceled at the very last minute due to an injury, it seemed that with every passing moment, a white hair was popping out amidst her short blue-black hair.
"I'm heeeeeeeeereee!" sang a playful, melodious voice. "And I bet not a moment too soon. You look ready to pass out," Serena joked.
"Oh Serena." Amy collapsed into a chair, her arms and legs akimbo. "Ever so not punctual and still my life saver. I can't thank you enough for doing this for me. Ever since we announced your showing, tickets have been selling like mad! I don't understand why you never perform any large-scale performances or go on a world tour."
"It's simple," Serena said with a shrug. "I hate to fly and I get stage fright with crowds that are too large."
"Right Serena." You strange woman. "Anyways, hurry! Your performance begins any moment now!" Amy exclaimed as she frantically ushered Serena towards the stage. "I owe you Serena, major time," she said right before she pushed her out onto the stage.
Serena turned and gave her a quick wink right before she composed herself and walked calmly towards the piano.
And thus sent the audience into heaven.
Darien was running late. Trouble had come up at work concerning some local property and he wanted to make sure everything would be back to normal before he left.
Checking the platinum watch that adorned his tanned wrist, Darien jogged up the stairs leading to the concert hall. Considering the time, he knew that he would only be able to catch the last few minutes of the pianist.
He knew little of this woman, hearing only random tidbits from Jadeite and every so often through his employees. Apparently while world-renowned, the woman, Serena, preferred to play only to medium-sized to small audiences and performed almost exclusively in New York. While considered a very private and rather eccentric person, her music was acclaimed to be some of the most magnificent pieces of the twenty-first century.
Right. Considering the many centuries he'd lived through, he would judge this Serena person's talent for himself in comparison to some the true piano masters he'd listened to in the past.
He pushed open the heavy double doors that led into the concert hall and stepped in.
Serena could feel it deep within her heart, something just suddenly filling the normal emptiness. Even as she continued to play La Votume, she felt… uplifted. Rather than playing with the normal sad and slow tempo, she reached a crescendo, playing with passion and playing even faster and faster. The effect was amazing. The audience, already awed from the previous movements now felt completely staggered. That such passion and fervor could arise from music, and from such a small and delicate woman… it was extraordinary.
Serena continued to play, not wanting the feeling to end. She had originally composed this piece based on the emptiness she had felt in her heart, but now that something had unexpectedly filled it, it seemed no longer suitable to play a tragic song. Instead, she poured out all her joy, her amazement, and her delight into the final movements.
Across the room, hidden in the shadows of the dimly lit auditorium, Darien focused on the music that was seemingly poured out of the woman in the spotlight. It wrapped around him, consuming him, until he felt something that he hadn't felt in a near millennia- absolute wonder.
It was hard to understand and completely mind-boggling, but somehow the music warmed him, as if he were engulfed in rays of sunlight. Stunned and baffled, his feet unconsciously began to carry him closer. Like a blind man watching the sunrise for the first time, he stared hungrily at the woman's small form. She was very petite and delicately built, her body slim yet full of subtle curves that were made to entice. The backless white dress exposed her smooth, pale skin and Darien felt his fingers curl, as if he just couldn't wait to stroke that creamy expanse. The spotlight left a halo on her silvery hair that was pinned up loosely, as if just waiting to be taken apart by a man's roaming fingers.
He took in a deep breath, as if trying to breathe in her music, her essence… And nearly doubled over in ecstasy. It was sweet, it was spicy, it burned, it soothed. It was absolutely indescribable. He wanted to drown in it, drown in her until he couldn't think anymore.
He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of that addicting scent… It was going to drive him insane. He was already hard as a rock, if his suddenly constricting trousers were any indication.
Darien had desired women before, and pleased scores of them throughout his long lifetime, but never had he felt such an immediate craving and possessiveness for a woman. A human one at that.
She looked like light, salvation… and her sweet scent was a fucking turn-on; like nothing he'd ever experienced. It enticed him to the brink of insanity, yet it soothed him as if it were stroking a calming hand over his back. It was… Fascinating. Alluring.
He wanted to taste her, devour those pink lips that were pressed together in concentration. He wanted to drag his tongue down the length of her smooth, pale neck. He wanted her soft body pressed against his, pressed against his raging arousal. He needed to have her.
Serena completed the piece with a flourish, her head thrown back and her fingers poised. She slowly opened her eyes as a smile crept on to her face. Never before had she felt such freedom, such fulfillment, such completion. She had no idea what it was that caused such a commotion in her, but whatever it was, she knew she had to find it again.
Taking her bows and smiling at the audience's tremendous ovation, she found Raye and her fiancée sitting in the audience and watched as Raye blew her nose, wiped her teary eyes, and gave Serena a watery smile, her eyes shining with wonder and amazement.
She retreated back behind the stage, where a tearful Amy threw her self into her arms, repeatedly giving her thanks and praises.
"SerenaIdon'," Amy rambled, not even pausing to take breaths between each word.
"Like I said Amy, no problem. Anything for a friend," Serena said warmly. "Besides, tonight was… I don't know why, but tonight just felt special. I should be thanking you," she added rather dreamily.
She missed Amy's slightly puzzled look as Serena glided into the dressing room and gently closed the door.
Lightly humming to herself and playfully swaying her body in a mock-dance, Serena smiled contently as she recalled the euphoria she had felt earlier. Too absorbed in her thoughts, she didn't even notice when suddenly out of nowhere, a tall, dark man appeared in her room; until in mid-twirl she slammed into a large, hard body.
She barely had enough time to suck a breath to scream before firm lips were molded against hers. She immediately began to struggle, pounding on the man's firm chest and attempting to knee him in the crotch, just like her uncle taught her long ago, but to no avail. Her assailant merely wrapped muscular arms around her waist and arms, pressing her firmly against his own long, hard body, keeping her completely imprisoned. She opened her mouth to snap her teeth at that sinfully skilled mouth but he merely took advantage of the situation and slipped his tongue inside, instantly dispersing all rational thoughts from her head and flooding her senses with an unexpected rush of primitive desire.
I really should've put up more of a fight, she thought vaguely, before she closed her eyes and completely melted.
He didn't know what compelled him to act so rashly, but he sure as hell wasn't regretting his decision now. Darien could tell the instant Serena surrendered; felt her body go limp against his. He deepened the kiss, slanting his mouth and savoring each and every delectable flavor of her mouth. His arms loosened and his hands began to roam over her body, caressing that smooth back just like he had imagined.
Sweet, so perfectly sweet… All mine… He couldn't deny it, no matter how impossible it seemed. After tasting her, experiencing her essence, he knew that the impossible had occurred- he'd found her. His missing half. His mate.
He'd long ago given up on the idea of ever finding his mate, deeming himself too dark and undeserving. Century after century, women came and went, and Darien could've cared less. He would've relegated the idea of "a vampire's one true mate" as a fairytale myth, had he'd not seen and met mated vampires himself. Instead, he gave up on the idea of ever finding that completion, and had painfully come to terms with it - that he, while more powerful than any other, would always be alone. He accepted it as his punishment, one fit for someone as ruthless as him.
And now that it was happening so suddenly, it still didn't seem possible. He could barely wrap his mind around the fact that this beautiful woman in his arms, so warm and sweet smelling, was made for him. That she had already fitted herself into the empty space of his soul, and he couldn't imagine a more perfect yet baffling feeling. That in a span of a few minutes, they'd already shared a lifetime.
A single word flickered in his mind, but disappeared, too delicate to completely bloom.
Her body fit perfectly with his, as if they were two puzzle pieces that melded together. Her soft belly cuddled his hard-on and he groaned when she writhed against his body. "Serena," he whispered against her mouth.
His deep, husky voice finally penetrated Serena's foggy and lust-clouded mind, her body still vibrating with intense arousal. Realizing that her own arms were wrapped around the stranger, her eyes flew open and she shoved herself away. But his arms trapped her like steel bands, even while embracing her so gently, and she only succeeded in breaking the kiss, her palms flat against his chest and her back bent over his arms.
The man slowly opened his eyes, revealing a pair of deep, midnight blue eyes, still slightly glazed over with desire. He smiled languorously, revealing straight white teeth, his tongue slipping out to lick his lips, as if savoring over the taste that lingered there.
God, he's freakin' gorgeous… But a crazy person! What is going on? He looks familiar… His face was something to be heralded, or at least made immortal by marble. With that thick, glossy black hair that tumbled around a sinfully handsome face and his perfectly symmetrical features, dark blue eyes, and a body fit for a god, he was the stuff of a woman's most erotic dreams. It'd be hard to forget a face like that.
And that mouth… He should be made illegal, considering that his tongue is absolutely lethal. Ah! What are you thinking? You don't even know his name, why he's here, and why the hell were you just involved in a major make-out sesh with him! The rational part of her brain scolded her. Still entranced, frightened, and aroused, she then watched as those perfectly shaped lips began to speak.
Serena shivered as his deep, sexy voice ran up her spine. She lifted her gaze from his tempting mouth and stared into fathomless blue-black eyes, eyes that trapped her in its depths. His arms had loosened around her, with one hand pressed against the small of her back, and the other softly stroking her up and down her spine. Slowly, dazedly, she framed his face with her hands as she continued to stare searchingly into his eyes. As his head slowly lowered, she felt her eyes flutter shut and her face reach up to meet his. She heard him whisper softly right before his lips captured hers.