Genevieve Moreau was roused from her slumber by her husband Gerard's insistent shaking.
"Get up and dress, Genny! I need you to go to the maids' chamber and wake the other girls!"
"What is the matter?"
"The master has returned with a young woman! He has ordered that she be lodged in the Lady Janette's chambers, bathed then given one of her Ladyship's old gowns to wear!"
"So he has found a new whore. I wonder how long she will last." Genevieve groaned as she rose from bed and threw on a simple gown over her chemise.
"Apparently she is no whore. His lordship has ordered that she be addressed as the Lady Magdalena and shown the same regard as the Lady Janette. Now hurry up! I must go and wake the servants to prepare the bath. The master has requested a bath as well."
Genevieve merely nodded before hurrying to the maids' chamber. The tired girls were quickly spurred into action by Genevieve's rapt instruction and made their way to the Lady Janette's chambers.
In the front of the chamber sitting in the Lady Janette's favorite chair was a young woman looking more out of place than a cuckoo in a robin's nest. She was not nearly as striking as the Lady Janette but a quiet confidence and strength emanated from the woman despite the layers of dirt coating her hair, skin, and ragged dress.
One of the maids barely restrained a laugh as all of the women sank into a respectful curtsy. The woman's cheeks darkened at the gesture.
"Lady Magdalena, I am Genevieve Moreau and I have been asked by the master to assist you in bathing and dressing. Shall we begin?" Genevieve asked kindly gesturing to the steaming sheet lined tub sitting beside the roaring fire.
The woman nodded and was quiet throughout the bath despite the harsh scrubbing the maids employed to remove the grime from her skin and hair. The water was cool and clouded by the time Magdalena stepped out of the tub wrapped in warm linen sheets. She was guided to the bedchamber and sat on the bed as the maids combed and toweled her long dark hair dry.
Genevieve, meanwhile, searched through the few chests lining the wall hoping the Lady Janette had left a decent gown behind when she had last departed for court.
Comfortably ensconced within the warmth and wealth of his privy chambers Lucien LaCroix sipped a fine glass of blood wine and stared into the flames that thrived in the impressive stone fireplace.
On the table beside him a platter of warm bread, fruits, cheese, and a mug of warm cider steamed but their rich scents were firmly ignored. In the recesses of his ancient mind lurked memories LaCroix had long considered dead and buried. A warm summer day long ago when Selene had introduced him to their daughter. The feelings of pride as he easily identified the pale hair and skin of his Gaul mother and surprise as young Divia fearlessly stumbled towards him. The soothsayer's words echoing in his mind.
"Truly? To never have an heir? A minor annoyance?"
"I will live forever. An heir is rather pointless."
"Pointless only because you believe it is impossible."
LaCroix swiftly emptied his glass and shook his head. He was a complete and utter fool to even entertain such delusions. His daughter's gift may have ensured that he reaped the benefits of an unending life but it had also completely robbed him of the ability to create further issue and considering what had become of his only child perhaps that was best.
There was nothing that could be done in any case. As knowledgeable as she claimed to be Magdalena de Sang simply did not understand that any life in his seed had been snuffed out long ago and could never be rekindled. LaCroix refilled his goblet with a renewed sense of purpose determined to dispel any delusions the young soothsayer harbored.
'Gently, of course.'
Magdalena de Sang's very presence fascinated him and LaCroix was resolved to stay in her good graces.
Despite the disapproving glances she was receiving from both Genevieve and her husband Gerard; Magdalena continued to wring her hands and smooth her new gown nervously.
Why she was doing so Magdalena had no idea. It wasn't as if she going to dine with a total stranger considering what she and Lucien LaCroix had gone through in the past week. Besides it wasn't the prospect of being in his presence that made her uneasy it was the grim anticipation of what he might say. Now that they had safely arrived at his home what would happen next? Would he keep his word and ensure her protection? Was this impressive castle destined to be her haven or where she drew her last breath?
As they neared LaCroix's privy chambers Magdalena quickly summoned the will to compose herself. Magdalena Maria de Sang was the descendant of one of the oldest and powerful soothsayer bloodlines in France. The struggles of day to day survival had succeeded in hardening her resolve to persevere. If the words of a vampire were not in her favor so be it. Her ancestors had endured far worse and still managed to press on.
When the great wooden doors swung aside to admit her LaCroix found himself rendered speechless. Magdalena's freshly scrubbed skin gleamed in the golden light of the fireplace. The butter yellow silk gown and rich red velvet mantle she wore perfectly complemented her dark brown hair, which now was parted in the middle, braided, and as glossy as a prized hunter's mane. Much to LaCroix's inner delight, the woman who stood before him was a stark contrast to the woman he had encountered on the dark path a mere week before.
Keeping his expression carefully neutral LaCroix set his goblet down and bowed his head towards Magdalena, who returned the gesture with a slight bow of her own head. With a slight wave of his hand Gerard and Genevieve scurried out of the privy chamber LaCroix's sharp hearing ensuring that the corridor outside was clear of any curious maids.
"Please sit. My cook has prepared a small meal for you." LaCroix said gesturing to the elegantly carved chairs and the equally fine table laden with food.
"I would rather stand." Magdalena said bluntly.
"If that pleases you." LaCroix replied nonchalantly though inside he beamed at her refusal. This one was no light hearted fool.
"What would please me is to know what your intentions are, Monsieur LaCroix. What is to become of me now that we have reached your sanctuary? Will you honor your word?"
"I am indebted to you, Magdalena. I will repay that debt by not only ensuring your protection but also your happiness. Chateau Crepuscule is your home now, Magdalena de Sang. You shall want for nothing."
Magdalena's determined expression abruptly became one of utter puzzlement, "Why do this? I have nothing to offer you." her gaze now absently focused on the roaring fire.
LaCroix gently put his fingers beneath her chin and drew Magdalena's gaze to him, "As I said before I am indebted to you, Magdalena. The only thing you can offer me is the pleasure of your company."
"But…I am a common woman. I know nothing of life as a noble." Magdalena whispered.
Their faces slowly drawing closer.
"I shall teach everything you must know. If you wish to accept my offer. If not I will send you on your way at sunrise. What is your decision? Will you stay with me, Magdalena de Sang?" LaCroix asked his cool breath sending strange shivers up and down her body.
So many thoughts screamed in her mind. The de Sang in her cursed Magdalena for her weakness, for betraying everything her people had suffered for because of a lonely woman's weakness.
But what had the coven ever done for her? As soon as she had been considered old enough not to need a mother's constant care Magdalena had been delivered into the clutches of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Fleeing from him had not earned Magdalena favor in the eyes of the Elders so they had condemned her to a brutal life of spinsterhood contact with her family the only mercy they allowed her. Lucien LaCroix had shown himself to be a formidable and honorable man even if he was a vampire. Was it so horrible to scrounge for happiness where she could?
"I…I will stay." was Magdalena's soft answer moments before LaCroix's lips claimed hers in a deep kiss.
A short while later the sky outside was just beginning to lighten as Magdalena's new attendants helped her dress into a simple white chemise. As a woman used to living by herself Magdalena silently considered their help absolutely ridiculous but played along. It wouldn't do for the servants to complain of her behavior to LaCroix.
Magdalena fought to control a raging blush as she recalled the sensation of her first kiss, which had seemed to end as quickly as it had come. Afterwards there was merely an exchange of smiles followed by Magdalena sitting at the small table and trying to emulate the table manners LaCroix patiently instructed her in.
Nothing else had come of that meeting other than a bidding of good nights and a wish to see each other tomorrow night when they were both rested. A silent agreement flowed between them. Magdalena was not yet ready to go beyond a kiss. Her virtue was her most valued possession and she was not about to surrender it to the first man who gave her attention. Time would tell if Lucien LaCroix was worthy of something so sacred.