Chapter I. – Daydreams & Afternoon Tea

Sunlight, filtered through the trees, making each individual leaf shimmer in a goldish-green hue, the color reflected in her upturned eyes. Alice looked back down to the tea party; guests sprawled out on the green expanse of the Liddell family's lawn. At the center of the gathering she saw her elder sister Lorina, standing arm in arm with the man she had known so very well…once. A sigh escaped her lips without her knowing, the guest standing closest to her looked over at her, with an amused half-smile he shifted his body to turn to face her straight on. After a pause, he decided to strike up a conversation with the young lady.

"Are you bored, too?" he asked; voice like warm honey. Alice was jerked out of her daydreams, turning her head slightly to look at who was speaking to her. She replied smartly, "I'm tired of the whole affair," with that she reached out her hand to take a small teacake from one of the elaborately painted china pieces at the center of the table. Even the china centerpiece made her feel irritated; her sister Lorina had hand-painted each and every centerpiece at every one of the tables, a past time that only a real lady would maintain. It was as if the china were jeering at her, telling her just another reason why that man had chosen her sister over her.

"Shall we take a walk, then?" the young man asked, gently, seeing that she was deep in thought. He held out his arm for her, smiling broadly now. Alice looked at him and returned the smile, the mocking china forgotten, "Yes, let's," she replied. She returned her tea and cake to the table, stood up and reached out to take the young man's arm. All of a sudden, when she touched him, his face blurred and she saw that she wasn't where she had thought she was at all! In fact, she was face to face with the Mad Hatter! Her expression darkened, so it was only my imagination. She guessed that she still yearned to be back in her world… back to her old life.

"Young lady," said the Hatter, "you could draw blood with that look. Have I offended you?" Alice looked up at him, his face drawn in concern. His eyes were such an intense aquamarine that she had to look away, "No, no. I was just… it's nothing," she replied hesitantly. She had to be careful around Blood when talking about her sister because, more often than not, the conversation would turn to her former love, and she couldn't have that now could she. She had to think up some kind of excuse for drifting in and out of consciousness. Making up something fast was not her forte, but it was better than making the head of the Hatter family suspicious.

"Ah! The scent of roses is so refreshing!" she couldn't help but feel a tad guilty for using such a tasteless tactic. "No, you didn't offend me, Blood, but my how sensitive you can be at times," she added with a small wink, just to push the attention away from herself. A confused, blank expression swept over his face as he stopped walking and just stood, staring at her. The expression then turned into a wry smile, his eyes narrowing into dark slits, "Well, well, well," he started, "has this young lady actually come into the possession of a woman's charms?" A soft chuckle escaped him, low and deep, making Alice shudder.

They continued on their walk about the garden, the tea party fully forgotten. It had suddenly changed from day to night, as the time generally shifted in this country from day to night to evening at random. The path was lit by the soft glow of lamp poles that stood on either side like sentinels, the Hatter's ridiculous signature hat atop each one. The energy between them was charged with some kind of electricity, as if the two were both thinking of saying something to the other, but stopping from doing so in fear of breaking the good mood that enveloped them. Rose bushes grew to a tall height here – Alice couldn't tell where they were at the moment, she just hoped that the Hatter did know. She could feel his heat flowing into her from the arm she held on to, the night had become somewhat chilly and the temperature raised goose bumps on her arms. Shuddering again, Blood turned to look down at her slight figure, "Are you cold?" she nodded, not looking at him, "Let's go inside, then."

He led her out of the maze of rose bushes and into the mansion. Alice was relieved to be in familiar territory again. She followed Blood through the halls of the Hatter Mansion aimlessly, not knowing or really caring where he was going. Did he forget I was behind him? She asked silently, staring at the man's broad back; he was headed straight to his room. When he reached the door, he turned around to face her – was he blushing ever so slightly? She thought to herself, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks. "Ah, sorry, I had for a moment forgotten that you were following me," Blood said absentmindedly. To lighten the atmosphere between them, Alice responded with gusto, "Oh! I just remembered that I'd wanted to borrow one of your books!"

Blood was surprised, he knew that he had extended that invitation to her a long time ago, but was this really the time for her to be asking for a book? Seriously, this young lady is just too much, he thought, a soft chuckle rumbling deep in his chest. He inhaled deeply, exhaled, then opened the door for Alice, "As the young lady wishes," he said as he motioned for her to go through first, a somewhat dangerous smile wrought on his lips. Closing the door, Blood turned to face the room and saw that Alice was making herself quite at home, running her index finger over the gold-embossed books that lined the shelves on nearly every wall of his room.

"Pick whichever book you like," Blood said casually as he crossed the room over to his desk. Sitting down, he took a stack of papers from one of the drawers and began to (or at least pretend to) work. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alice reading as she stood in front of the shelf. She looked completely drawn in, her mind already entranced by the book's contents. Blood smiled a wolfish smile, that young lady can be quite… for lack of a better word… interesting.