- October 13th, 2011
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The ragged and threadbare blanket had obviously seen its fair share of accidents before, though. This most recent searing was barely made noticeable against the patchwork mapping of older scorch marks. Moments passed as she tried to collect herself. Chest heaved in ragged, painful gasps. A thin sheen of sweat had dampened her body. It evaporated off her hot skin like dissipating mist.
A floorboard creaked just across the room.
The bartender didn’t react like most would expect after awaking violently from a nightmare. Instead of jumping or exhibiting any sudden movement at all, she just slowly opened her eyes and scanned the bedroom. It was hot still, even though the fire had burned out long ago. The hearth was empty and ashen. Once merry flames burned down to cinders not too long ago. Her bruised fingers slowly crept beneath the pillow and closed over the switchblade. A bone-deep ache reminded her of the previous night’s business when the cuts on her knuckles reopened but Lash didn’t flinch. She only watched with a steady, penetrating gaze. No figure appeared in the shadow of darkness. No movement could be detected. That usually meant one of two things.
“You might as well come have a seat then.” Ms. Wylde’s voice carried softly into the void. Her fingers released the knife and made an absent gesture towards the fireplace. Without so much as a glance, flames leapt to life, adding further heat to the already insufferable room. “You already know I’m awake, so there is no use pretending I’m not. Of course, I seriously doubt you’d be a gentleman and leave even if I did make the effort.” Her voice no longer carried that street-wise, Irish lilt. It was all proper English now, every word of it. The differences were subtle but distinct, as was common for people of their age.
Silence answered back and with it the message of self doubt.
It wasn’t the first time she found herself talking to empty air but if that was really the case, no one would be the wiser.
And if it wasn’t the case?
Well, at least he’d think she knew he was here. That was half the battle won, anyway. It was a good gamble. Just on the edge of her hearing, a lullabyed caress began. Lash could hear the sound like a faded memory, but it didn’t dance within her ears. Sweet violin music drifted across the hot air on phantoms and drifted with whispers of the wraiths. It was akin to a fog burned from morning bay as spirits of the dead slithered off from their master.
Allesandro merely smirked from behind a curtain of inky hair before he brushed it to the side of those pale features. A brief glance around the room ended with a curt nod of greeting. No fear of the smoldering woman touched his face now. If anything there was a silent, contemptuous pride. In the open pub, he’d acted like most gentlemen would in his stead. Distant but polite, there was a wariness before while upstairs. At least he kept a respectful distance then. But whether that was out of genuine caution or civil business agreement was up for decision at that current moment. He gave a cold stare before his head tilted in silent appreciation for her almost-covered form.
The musician gave a long, lingering gaze before he pushed away from the bad wallpaper. The posture was momentarily formal when he bowed briefly.
Lash relaxed her grip on the knife and instead fumbled blindly for the current bottle taking up residence on her bedside table.
“It’s on the floor.” Allesandro whispered with full disdain. “With the others.”
The girl on the bed glared up at him. This time there was no hiding the brilliant blaze that flared across her pupils. She didn’t even bother to lower her face. The last of the restless dead rippled into nothingness and the hellstones on his cufflinks seethed and pulsed for a few moments before each one cycled dim. Allesandro simply smoothed his coat tails and ignored the unnatural glow. Ms. Wylde’s eyes rippled in a mirrored response, matching the play of ‘stone cufflinks. She was ill tempered already. The nearness of his ‘stones created a response in her own and it manifested as white hot flames. They were ghostly in appearance, surging from her body and creating a wall of writhing, transparent fire that repelled any of Allesandro’s pet spirits that drifted near. Wherever the maestro was, the were close at hand. Lash glared a long look before she slammed open the bedside table drawer and fished inside for a flask. It was less effort than leaning down and searching for a bottle that wasn’t empty. Less effort and more dignified. Steadily, the heat in the room became suffocating. Within seconds it was unbearable.
“Now, now! I even brought chocolates.” The maestro lifted a slim box and gave it a wiggle so that the rich truffles rattled temptingly. Allesandro drifted across the floor with predatory, dangerous grace. Lash’s burning eyes followed his movement, even as her bruised hands uncorked the flask. Moments passed and she didn’t drink but instead just cradled the liquor awkwardly. The maestro watched with mild interest. until down into one of the chairs he sank with a light sigh. Eyes turned from the woman and her writhing flames. Despite the contrast between the two, her wall was called from the very same sort of souls he used to vanish within. The dead hid him with invisibility, but the spirits fueled the Fire in a very different way.“Your nightmares are getting worse.”
He knew she’d not like his matter of fact tone.
“So is my temper.” Her voice turned low and dangerous. It was spawned by a seething, simmering kind of anger that came just before a storm of hellfire and rage. Ever since he’d known the girl, Lash always responded to hotter emotions with shouting and yelling and making a fuss. He knew well from experience that anytime she went quiet, it usually forewarned something very dangerous on the horizon. When Lash didn’t yell was when a person had best take notice.
“You shouldn’t be here.” The woman said in a whisper. It broke up his thoughts, and sent any hope of a reasonable response out the window. For a moment there was nothing left to do but watch her and the scene she made. Glowing red eyes danced across the room uncertianly. They seemed to land everywhere but on him. Fingers toyed with the cork of her flask, and it was easy to tell she was flustered. But unnecessary movement was an unnatural state, and it took a good ounce of discipline to be calm and still her hands. She was nearly trembling with the urge to do something, anything.
A sudden desire to pull that threadbare cover up to her chin and hide caused nothing more than further irritation and self loathing. It manifested as cool blue flames across her brow and cheekbones.