by Melissa Treglia
Natalie bolted into a half-seated position from laying supine on what appeared to be a very soft and large bed. It wasn't at all gaudy, but appeared more soft and feminine than its iron frame would have otherwise suggested.
She stared around the room, trying to get her bearings. The entire decor was in gentle pastels with gold accents, rather than the dark leather-and-lace of the Raven. Nor was it as spartan as the style Nick generally preferred.
Her mouth felt strange, dry and sharp like broken glass. She ran her tongue along her teeth, and was surprised - and yet, paradoxically, unsurprised - to discover fangs where her normal, human canines used to be.
Frowning over that, she listened intently and heard the sound of footsteps approaching. The telltale clicking of a woman in a pair of high heels. Natalie's attention was keenly curious as the door to her room gently swung open.
"Hello, Natalie." The woman didn't look like any vampire she knew. She was a dark blonde, but her features were much more delicate than most of the blonde vampires she was familiar with, and her eyes were a brilliant blue. Yet, she seemed oddly familiar, as if they might have met before and Natalie couldn't recall. Like she should know her from somewhere, and unfortunately didn't.
"I know you have a lot of questions, and I'll be happy to answer them," the woman said, her voice soft and melodic with the vague hint of an accent Natalie couldn't place, yet sounded strikingly familiar for all of that. Something like the odd, muted accent Nick had, Natalie reasoned. "You are here because I found you lying on the floor in Nicolas' home. You were very near death, and so I brought you over."
"Why?" It was the first question that popped out of Natalie's mouth.
"Natalie, many of our kind have owed you a life debt for your finding the cure to the dread illness which so tormented us all just a few short months ago. Your quick thinking saved so many, including myself and my children." She was fixing Natalie with a look that brooked no argument. "A life for a life, doctor. Surely, you can appreciate that aspect of our Code. Also, you mean much to my brother, and I don't believe he has any more right to assume the choice for you than he did for me." There was a trace of bitterness in her tone just then.
Natalie's brows furrowed in confusion. "Who are you?"
The woman smiled at her, the severity of her earlier words washing away in the face of the maternal gentleness she had first displayed. "My name is Marie... but you may call me Fleur."