Blood and Strawberry Wine – Alternate Version

It was time for their Monday briefing, and Jason felt unusually antsy. His hands were under the table, and he kept running his thumb over the smooth scar that was left from the cut he’d accidentally made there last week.

The cut Alice healed.

“Jason.”

He was sure that she was the angel Christian was after, and the fact made him very uneasy.

“Jason?” Christian repeated, giving an annoyed sigh.

When he didn’t receive a response, the green-eyed boy took a piece of caramel popcorn from the open container in front of him and lobbed it gently in the younger boy’s direction. The piece of popcorn hit Jason on the nose and he looked up, disoriented.

“He’s alive!” Christian cheered mockingly. “I was asking you something.”

“Oh.” Jason look down, twisting his fingers in an uncharacteristically tense manner. Armand and Christian couldn’t help noticing that there had been a downcast shadow on his face all day. “What was it?”

“I was asking if you wanted to take a few days off while Armand and I do the hard stuff,” his boss continued. “It’s mostly spells and enchantments anyway. You know, warlock stuff. Nothing we’ve taught you yet.”

You’re not going to get rid of me that easily, thought Jason. “I want to learn,” he answered quickly, trying to ignore the piercing look that Armand was giving him.

“Awesome.” Christian finished off the rest of the caramel corn and stood up, brushing off his jeans. “Well then. I’m off to gather supplies, so I’ll see you guys later.”

Armand and Jason were left eyeing each other warily.

“I wanted to talk to you,” said Armand, finally breaking the awkward silence.

Jason blinked. “Me?”

“Yes. It’s about…all of this.”

He shifted in his seat, brushing off strands of his wavy brown hair away from his face. “You mean my job with you guys.”

Armand was looking at him in a slightly curious manner, his hand poised on his chin. It wasn’t the first time Jason noticed that the other boy always looked stoic and aristocratic. Also, very slightly dead. He had a corpselike pallor and Jason was pretty sure he’d never seen Armand breathe. “You’re not human, are you?”

Armand blinked his ice-blue eyes, then smiled slowly. “No. And it’s very observant of you to notice that.” He steepled his slender fingers together and gazed out the window calmly. “I was once human too, you know.” He caught Jason staring and laughed secretly, allowing his fangs to extend.

“Oh,” said Jason.

“Yes. I am a vampire.”

“What happened?” he asked.

“Well,” Armand cocked his head slightly to one side. “Your Alice happened.”

***

Armand was introverted from the very beginning. His family owned the biggest strawberry plantation for miles though, so the townspeople gave him some leeway. He was studied abroad and usually came home to the mountains for a few days at a time, but for the most part he stayed away.

All of that changed when his parents died in a trans-Atlantic plane crash. Suddenly finding himself a very young and very rich heir of an entire mass of industries, Armand had to go home to reluctantly learn the trade of managing their many businesses.

He was becoming a recluse, never leaving the house, and instead he stayed and conducted business from the inside. The only concession he made to signal that he was home was keeping up his family’s tradition of lighting up the house’s fairy lights every night.

Armand noticed the newcomer the very first night. She had a camera in hand and was photographing the lights, her face bathed in the sparkling glow, a kind of innocent wonder in her huge eyes.

She came back every night, and even though he was hidden behind heavy curtains, Armand was pretty sure that she knew he was watching her. He was intrigued because he knew nothing about her, just that she worked part-time at the bakery and that she sometimes went around town with a contemplative expression on her face, a camera hung around her neck and paint splatters on her hands and forearms.

One night, his curiosity overtook him and he finally invited her in.

She looked surprised, but she came.

Armand was a nervous wreck. He didn’t know what to say and was rambling on and on about his old job while they sipped chai tea in the drawing room. The girl listened attentively, but her eyes kept on flickering to his lips.

It made him even more nervous and he started biting his lips worriedly while she spoke. He suddenly tasted something salty-sweet, and realized that he had made his lip bleed.

And then the girl was only a few centimeters away, only a ghost of a whisper between their lips. He could feel her calm breathing and his own racing heart.

“I…”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. She leaned in and licked the blood on his lip slowly, delicately, and before he could process what was happening they were on the floor and she was on top of him and his collar was open and he was bleeding from all over his neck and chest.

***

It was the start of an addiction.

They were together every night. But she had to leave every morning to work at the bakery, even though he insisted that she didn’t need to work. He was suspicious of her sparse background and the fact that she didn’t volunteer much information about herself, and he rationalized that it was okay to check up on her.

So he watched her. At the bakery, while she served customers with her bright smile and teasing conversation. While she photographed houses and nature. While she painted. While she took long walks at night.

“You’re never going to leave me, right?” He asked, while he was writing a poem on the milky skin of her thigh. The dark ink left stains behind but they didn’t mind.

She laughed, pulling him down and kissing him deeply. She wrapped her legs around his waist, the ink on her thigh smudging and smearing on his back. He ran his palms down the sides of her body, kissing her neck and collarbones reverently.

“Don’t be silly,” she answered.

But he knew. He knew she was leaving. And it drove him crazy.

***

He was dying.

Armand was sure he was dying. He screamed himself hoarse while she was tearing out his throat, his wrists, his stomach. The gun lay forgotten in a corner, and he couldn’t forget the black wings that unfurled from her back and cocooned her like a shield when he shot her. A second pair of wings extended and stabbed his shoulders, pinning him to the wall and holding him there while she fed on him.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, sinking her teeth into his throat. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, licking the blood that ran in rivulets from his wounded shoulder.

He passed out from shock and pain and blood loss. When he woke up, his head was laying on a stranger’s lap.

“You’re awake then?” He boy finished bandaging Armand’s left wrist and leaned over him with a smile. “Alice sent me to look out for you.”

Alice. So that was her name. But why didn’t she kill him or devour him completely?

“Who are you?” he asked hoarsely.

“I’m Lucien,” the boy said, giving him a shadowy smile. “And you’re going to become one of us.”

For the original version, click here.

Read more at https://www.booksie.com/content/heykailin/the-descent-to-wonderland-428508/chapter/9/version/1#B9SPl7eAymfg4kPL.99

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