Chapter 7 – What Joins Us, Binds us, Curses Us

Barnabas was sitting by the fire in the drawing room, staring broodingly into the flames. Since the evening they had kissed Elizabeth had been making a concerted effort to avoid being alone with him.
He didn't blame her. He knew very well how dangerous he was… to humans in general but particularly to her. But he was finding it very difficult to get her out of his head.
His own feelings were confusing to him. On the one hand there was Victoria… who reminded him so much of his lost love Josette. On the other hand there was Elizabeth… his own kin… who he was drawn to in a way he didn't understand. And he didn't think he deserved either of them.
The prickling sensation in his gums, the dryness in his throat was a constant reminder that he was a monster. He only killed because he was compelled to… compelled by Angelique's curse… but he was still a murderer.
It was also a niggling reminder that he hadn't fed in far too long. And the longer he went without feeding the more likely he was to snap and indulge his thirst. If Victoria or Elizabeth were nearby when that happened…
He was debating sneaking out of Collinwood to go hunting when he heard a light footstep in the hallway. The door opened and Elizabeth walked in, her blonde curls mussed and a shawl thrown over her long white nightgown.
"Hello Barnabas…" she said softly. "Elizabeth…" he said, nodding his head. "I couldn't sleep and I saw the light on…" she said quickly. "Thought it might be Julia on one of her late night drinking binges…" she added dryly, a slight smile curving her lips.
He couldn't help a chuckle. "Well by all means Madam… feel free to join me…" he said, gesturing for her to take a seat on the couch. She hesitated for a moment before walking over and taking a seat next to him.

Barnabas had to remind himself not to breathe in the scent of her perfume or let his eyes wander to the smooth pale skin of her throat, temptingly framed by the lace trim of that damned nightgown.
She glanced at him then away. He looked down, sure that his thoughts must be showing on his face.
"So… you couldn't sleep either huh?" she said, her voice cutting through the awkward silence. "Yes. I find myself with much to consider… and a most terrible thirst…" he admitted.
She looked alarmed for a moment then concerned. "You haven't been feeding?" she asked, looking at him. "I have been trying not to give into my cursed nature" he said, raising his eyes to hers. "For every life I take… a piece of my wretched soul dies…" he said in a haunted voice.
Elizabeth reached out and put her hand on top of his, compassion on her face. "It isn't your fault. It's her. Her curse…" she said softly.

"She has made me a monster…" he said, voice hollow and sad. She gently touched his cheek. "You aren't a monster…"

"You have no idea how it torments me" he said. "If I try to abstain it just gets worse and worse. My teeth ache… my throat feels like I have swallowed a red hot poker…"

Elizabeth looked thoughtful. "What if there was someone who was willing… would you be able to stop… before you… hurt them?" she asked in a very quiet voice.
He nodded. "Yes. If I didn't want to harm them… and I wasn't in a frenzy, then yes I could… but who would…" he said, trailing off as he saw her expression. His eyes widened.
"No! Absolutely not. Out of the question. I couldn't let you offer yourself like that" he said quickly, looking horrified but very very tempted. "If I harmed you… I would never forgive myself…"
Elizabeth shrugged off the shawl. She tugged down the neck of her nightgown a bit and brushed her hair aside, baring the line of her neck and one shoulder. Dear god… what was she doing to him…

Her blue eyes were unafraid as she looked steadily at him. "I trust you…" she said in a soft but firm voice.
"Elizabeth…" he said softly, trying to resist the temptation to take what she was offering willingly.
He found himself slowly leaning in towards her. Her body tensed slightly as he placed the softest of kisses on her bare neck, near the hollow of her throat. A soft gasp escaped her as he sank his fangs into her skin.
The sweet coppery taste of blood filled his mouth and he had to put all his effort into not letting it overwhelm him. He could already feel bloodlust testing the edges of his control.

He felt her stop fighting it, felt her relax and go limp. The more someone fought it the more it would hurt.
Barnabas drank more deeply, feeling slightly dizzy in a most pleasant way. And though he knew he was reaching the point where he should stop he couldn't seem to do it.
"Barnabas…" came her voice, weak but firm. With some effort he pulled away, his mouth stained with her blood. She looked rather relieved he had stopped when she told him to. A small smile curved her lips. "I knew you wouldn't… hurt me…" she said.
He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and quickly rubbed his lips clean. Luckily his shirt and jacket were not stained.

"Thank you… Elizabeth… for trusting me…" he said softly as she sat up, still very close to him.
"You're welcome…" she said, looking at him. He wasn't sure if she moved closer… or him… or both of them. His lips met hers in a soft but hungry kiss and his hands slid into her hair.

He pulled her closer, deepening the kiss, enjoying the feeling of her soft lips, her sweet perfume, her body close to his.
She looked rather dazed when they both came up to take a breath. "I should… go to bed…" she said in a rather flustered voice. He looked a little disappointed. It was clear he wanted more kisses.
Elizabeth tugged the neckline of her nightgown back into place and wrapped the shawl around her shoulders.
"Goodnight Barnabas…" she said in a soft, rather reluctant voice. "Sweet dreams… Elizabeth.."