"Sixty eight and seven is…" he murmured.
Her warm, delicate hand reached out and curled around his, halting the quill in its infernal tracks across the page. If the Count had had breath in his body, it would have stopped; if he'd had a heartbeat, it would have stuttered.
Deep in the inner sanctum that was his office, he couldn't help but shiver, though it had little to do with the merciless cold that froze the air outside.
"I know I've been cold to you in the past," she said, her voice tight, nervous and most pleasingly of all, earnest, "but it's only so you wouldn't guess the truth."
The Count's eyes trailed from her hand, up her sleeve, to her wondrously alluring face. Her loose hair was a glorious tumble over her shoulders. He longed to bury his fingers in that silken mass, but he was frozen; he could barely move, as if, if he did, this whole thing would amount to a cruel, tormenting dream the likes of which had been plaguing him since she'd told him that she wasn't sure that anything more than strict professionalism between them should be allowed.
Nothing had been said since then. He couldn't bring himself to demand an explanation. Why wouldn't she let them attempt it? Even if she didn't love him, perhaps she could be persuaded…
"The truth?" he asked innocently.
"Something I've been hiding since the day we met." At this, the Count smirked;
"Please say you're not Mr McCauley."
"I've fallen in love with you." Her eyes were wide and bluer than the skies at twilight, and he was enthralled. He couldn't believe this. How could this be? Could she really be in love with him? Was it possible – really – after all this time – all this cursed prevarication and obfuscation?
The quill he'd held fell from his suddenly limp hand.
"I know it's wrong," she sighed,
"No –" His chest was tight – this wasn't wrong at all. It was right – too right. Too right for words –
"I'm the headmistress; you're the owner, but ... it feels so right." At the light behind her eyes, at the warm, inviting softness of her lips – and her words … he was rapturous.
"Tell me if I'm being a fool." She said – as if he would be the one to reject her.
Reaching for her, he exclaimed, "My heart was yours from the moment we met." Well, it almost wasn't quite true – but that was an unimportant detail. He couldn't imagine not loving her – not wanting her – not now that she was in this room and professing her love for him.
"But I kept silent," he said, standing up – staring upward for some sort of guidance that was not forthcoming, "because I, too, have a secret. A terrible, terrible secret. If I tell you, your love for me will die." Turning back to her, he searched her eyes.
She looked away with a sly smile. "I'm not scared of secrets, Mr Count." She murmured. Her eyes flicked back to him. "Or should I say … Count Dracula?"
That name on her lips was like an electric shock – tearing him out of the state of romantic rapture that he'd fallen into. Bearing down on her, almost accusingly, he cried, "You know who I am – no – what I am!?"
"I want us to be together forever." She exclaimed, passion flushing her cheeks, her hair turning gold in the firelight. "Bite me, my love."
"Yes." He whispered, every cell in his body thrumming with anticipation, raging lust pouring through him.
"Bite me," she whispered, baring the smooth, soft column of her throat.
Without another word, he pulled back the dark fall of her hair, ready for the bite. He closed his eyes, oh so ready for the kill. It would be so good; so very, very sweet.
His lips were so close to her neck – he had to savour this one moment – this first consummation of their love.
His eyes flicked open for the barest second, and he jerked back in horror.
"This is a dream, isn't it?" he asked the room at large, deliberately looking away from the figure that he had very almost bitten. Himself. Curses.
"You were about to bite me. I'd call that a nightmare." The other … him … laughed mockingly as he despairingly planted his head into the account book.
A knock at the door dragged him – not entirely unwillingly, of course – from his nightmare. Looking up, he saw that Miss McCauley had come in. With the light from the hallway behind her, she looked divine and delicious and yet completely untouchable.
"Have you finished the finance projections?" She demanded. Yes, alright, she had asked for them a week ago, but couldn't the infernal woman give it a rest? The thought of her was haunting his every waking moment – even his sleeping ones weren't safe!
"Well, I – I" He started guiltily, pointing at his work (made awfully conspicuous by its absence).
"Were you asleep?" Her hands planted themselves on her hips as he covered his mouth in a yawn.
"No, no, no – wide awake, wide awake." He lied, staring up at her, wishing that all the things she'd said in his dream would magically come true.
"Well, I need those figures on my desk by morning." She said primly, crushing all his poor dreams even further into the mud.
"Right." He sighed as, with a last, lingering look, Miss McCauley left the room.
As the door closed, he picked up his quill. "The chances of Miss McCauley being secretly in love with me…" He carefully, deliberately, wrote down the one statistic he wished he could forget: "Zero."