*disclaimer: I do not own the Southern Vampire Series or any of the characters featured below. All rights belong to Charlaine Harris. Nor do I own the rights to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven", which this piece was inspired by.

Interlude

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I was startled when suddenly the door creaked open, just slightly, and a small silhouette appeared, framed by the shaft of light breaking through the open door. He must be one of Russell's concubines I thought to myself as I took in the strange olive skinned ebony-haired man looming at the bedroom door. He smiled shyly at his intrusion but remained still, observing us in silence for several moments until finally he spoke.

"Is she yours?" the small vampire quietly and curiously inquired.

I almost ordered him to leave. Leave us in peace. But I had no power here. I looked down at the girl I was sharing this bed with in our former tranquility, her body curled against mine. But now this vampire has opened the door, sending an onslaught of light pouring in from the hall, into our room, onto our covers. The intrusive light created shadows on her face, down her form, outlining her curves, and then I realized he was inquiring about this girl, the one breathing softly into her pillow next to me.

Did he think she could not be mine? Did it seem such an obvious impossibility for me be the recipient of the girls affections? Did he think I could not be worthy of this, that there was no chance she might love me? Even in the pitch black was, is it so clear to all others that she had not chosen me…

And I saw he awaited my reply.

I should dismiss him, telling him how rude he was and that he could have wakened her with his unwelcome disturbance. She desperately needed to rest, so I checked her face again and saw no movement. Her lips were still slightly parted pink petals and her cheeks still rosy with warmth. Her long gold hair still splayed onto the pillow, a few wisps clinging to the small beads of moisture, like dew, that relentlessly formed from her fever. But a few locks of her hair had wandered to mine. It was strange how they blended together so seamlessly, like they were sharing some secret together that we did not know, conspiring against my solitude. Her eyes were still shut tightly, fluttered lightly, as they did now and then, as if she were chasing images from some vivid dream. Or maybe it was nightmares she chased that made her lashes dance, though I wished it not the case. Even in this stillness, she was pleasing. No, that word was not enough; she was beautiful. And he remained awaiting my reply.

Quothe the vampire, Is she yours?

I almost told him to make himself useful. To go beckon the human doctor to check on the injured girl instead of asking forward questions. Her temperature seemed higher than usual, which I knew from returning my palm to her smooth head and soft neck, over and over again, only to find no decline in her temperature. I had undressed her body, taking my time, restraining my hands, but not my eyes. No, not my eyes, I could not keep them from betraying my honor as they savored every inch of her. But my intention in disrobing her was to cool her down and to take away the reminder of what had occurred earlier this night. I spared no one with this act because I was the only one being reminded. Her bloodstained dress was now strewn on a chair in the corner and the small visitor still waited for my answer.

Quothe the vampire, Is she yours?

What nerve this small man had. I should instruct him to deliver a message to Russell. She should be reimbursed for the dress, it was the least they could do. What a strange contradiction the girl was. She will wake soon, after having been near death, but she would be more concerned with the ruin of the dress than she would for her own injuries, for her own sacrifice. What disappointment she would have upon sight of the ruined garment, creasing her brows and pursing her lips in displeasure, as she always did when displeased. She would be distressed at that single dress because she could barely afford such a luxury, but in the same breathe she would give her last penny to another, if she thought him in greater need. She had little, but always seemed content. Never manipulating to be more than what she was, she appeared happy just to be. And she became overwhelmed by little joys that crossed her path despite her unfortunate circumstances. Somehow it pleased me to see these small things light her face. It seemed to illuminate everything around her. When she was happy, it made her shine. And she always shined for me, but I did not know if it was for me alone. I looked up to see our visitor stayed, unmoving, waiting.

Quothe the vampire, Is she yours?

My skin boiled at the audacity of this arrogant man. I should tell to him she deserved to be rewarded for her efforts, and tell him about the bravery of this girl. How she risked her life tonight for a woman, a vampire, she did not know, because she felt it was right, because she always did the right thing, even when it hurt her. I did not always understand this, but I was always in awe of it. That she was here, now, almost killed, to save a man who had left her for another. She was willing to fight for his life and risk her own. But she did not seem to know how vulnerable she was, how very human she was, and that her heart will break soon when she knows the truth of it. Ever still he stood smiling, mocking, waiting for his answer.

Quothe the vampire, Is she yours?

His presence was maddening now and I wanted to say that she deserved better than this, much more than this. That she was worth more than this. To tell her of her value, that she was dear and beloved. This pain would be too great even to bear witness, but to live it would be more deeply crushing than I could imagine. She would be broken soon and I wished I could prevent that. But I did not have her heart, it was with someone else, and I could not protect what was not mine. I wished I could heal it. I wished I could take this all away, to take her away. But she was not mine.

Only seconds had passed.

"No," I replied to the small vampire standing in the doorway.

I watched him smile slyly as he closed the door, returning the room to total darkness. I did not understand this instinct that made me want any of these things, or why the answer to his simple question troubled me now. I laid my head back down next to hers as I felt her chest rise and fall under my arm with each breath she took. In her face I saw all the things I did not know I had been searching for. It satisfied a need and hunger I never realized I had been suffering without. And I knew there was more to this, that it all meant something that I did not yet know.

"She will be mine," I told the darkness, my constant companion, and placed my lips lightly on hers.