Just in case you need to catch up:
I rose at his insistence, a little light headed. When my eyes focused I saw the probable cause. Stoneware jugs littered the wood and sand inside the hull. I had never been much of a drinker. Apparently even second hand liquor still had some effect. I pushed Paul’s wrist out of my face and rose. “No Paul, I’ve fed from you twice.”
“Which means what ‘zactly? I feels fine, bullet wound done healed itsef like I t’warnt never shot.”
How did I answer his question? “Never more than twice, Thomas.” That was what Mariska had said, but not why, like she hadn’t told me exactly how to go about making another of our kind. I didn’t remember her taking blood from me but the once, before she gave me hers, but that time was hazy in my memory. She had taken near all of it when she fed, not leaving enough for my heart to pump. Paul hadn’t been as far gone, but still…
“I can’t answer your question, Paul. There are rules I must abide by, same as you. I can’t feed from the same person more than twice.” I didn’t mention the blood I gave him. Instead I asked, “When did you wake? Have you eaten?”
“‘Bout noontime, I reckon, feelin’ spray as a young buck!” He cackled a laugh. “I done had me some of them sand crabs. Beat the shucks off canned beans.” A wide grin split his face.
Relieve washed over me and I smiled in return. No harm done if he was able to be about in the daylight. “We better saddle up then.”
“Yessa, if’n ya expects to gets a bite afore ya gets aboard, we best hustle. Should be easy pickin’s on the warf.” He bent to retrieve the saddle, his shirt riding up in the process.
“Hold!” He froze to the spot, saddle in mid air. Removing the saddle from his grasp, I turned his back to the firelight. His skin was smooth, the whip marks, gone. He gasped when my cool hand spread across his back. My blood healed not only the bullet wound but his old injury as well? How could Mariska not know of this?
“What is it, Sa, a spider, a leach?” Paul dusted his hand over his back, then both hands, his eyes growing twice their size and welling with tears. “Them scars be gone too.”
“So it appears.”
“I gonna be likes ya, Sa? Not that be a bad thing, I gist askin…”
“No, I don’t believe so. You were out in the sun–”
“Meanin’ you didn’t know this here was gonna happen? Sa, meanin’ no direspec, seems to me, ya sho don’t know much.” He shook his head and took my saddle.
I picked up the McClellan and tossed it on Silas without a word. When I started to mount, a hand on my shoulder stopped me. I turned to find Paul grinning.
“Sa, ain’t no white gentleman gonna go ridin’ in to Portsmouth on a gov’ment mule while the likes of me sits tall and proud on that fine mare. No Sa! Ya takes Miss Merry, me and Silas we do gist fine.”
Well before midnight we rode along the wharf searching for the steamer, Annabel Lea. For safety’s sake, I wanted to have my destination fixed before I located a meal.. The steamer would have been easy to spot if not for the rigging of the schooners, but after a bit we located her stack near the end of the pier.
Drunken sailors were plentiful, but the after effects of the night before weighed on my mind. Never again will I feed on a drunkard. I was vulnerable enough during the day without being groggy when I woke. But where does one look for a teetotaler in a port town?
“There be plenty of soiled doves fer the price. Reckon they’d do?” A hopeful twinkle lit his dark eyes as he waited for my answer.
“Why Paul, have you a yen for some female companionship?”
“Well Sa, since you done ask, I feel obliged to tell you I ain’t dipped my wick it quite a spell.”
“You know of a whorehouse that won’t refuse you?”
He cackled. “You spent too much time lookin fer that there ship, Sa. Where you thinks we be standin’?”
I took a bearing. Being oblivious to my surroundings was an excellent way to end up permanently dead. We did indeed stand in front of a whorehouse and if the dusky ladies hanging out the windows were an indication, Paul would be as welcome as I if, he had the coin to pay.
“You go on in, Sa. I stays with the Merry and Silas. They won’t be here when we gets back otherwise.”
“That’s kind of you Paul. I won’t be long.” I smiled at his dismayed expression then, retrieved my money pouch from my saddle. Paul was deep in discussion with the animals when I entered the establishment.
The stench of smoke, unwashed bodies, cheap perfume and rotgut whiskey filled the room. A few toughs sat a table in the corner with a bottle and a deck, paying far more attention to me than the cards in their hands. The ladies, in varying stages of undress, were draped like swags of fabric along the banister and the worn velvet settee. They differed in age, size and race but wore the same air of tired expectancy. Any would do for my purpose, well for any man’s really, mine just happen to be different than most.
A shock of nearly white hair caught my attention. The bright red wrapper she had tossed across her shoulders looked like spilled blood against her pale hair and skin. Expecting an aged Madame, I was startled when she turned as if feeling my gaze.
Fifteen or sixteen at best, her blue eyes grew large and bright as she stared at me. She ignored the groping hands of the others and the harsh names they called after her. Pushing her way to the front, clasping the robe tightly, she walked to my side and took my hand, her eyes pleading. I allowed her to lead me to the staircase and on, to the rooms above.
The first room was occupied and she blushed crimson as she slammed the door shut, pulling on to the next, then the third. Finding it empty she pulled me through the opening and closed it behind her, standing with her back pressed to it.
She looked like a startled doe, trying to decide if she should stand and fight or flee for her life. Her gaze drifted to the dilapidated bed, then back to me. She chewed her lip, looked away and then dropped the scarlet cloth, her decision apparently made.
“How old are you?” I backed up until my legs hit the bed, watching her warily as she approached, disturbed to no end by the stirring in my loins. This was not what I had come for.
“Old enough.” She pulled the top of her chemise down as she drew nearer, exposing perfect breasts with rosebud tips. “See anything that strikes your fancy?”
Oh yes! My throbbing cock screamed at me. I closed my eyes and steeled my will. I could control my lusts. A bit calmer, I opened my eyes to find her a breath away, our gazes locked. That easily she fell to my will. She stilled and the fevered light left her eyes. It’s better this way.
“What’s your name girl?”
“How old are you?”
“What are you doing in this place?”
She chewed her lip and I fought the urge to join her. The question came from somewhere deep within me. “Have you been with a man, Sherry?”
“You’ll be my first.” Her gaze never wavered but her eyes filled.
No, I will not. “Sherry, listen to me carefully. When I leave here you’ll come with me. I have a friend who will take care of you. Do you understand?”
She nodded slowly and tried to turn her head. “But I want you to…”
My gut twisted. What she meant wasn’t what she said, but I understood. She wanted her first man to be of her choosing and it would be, but not me, not now. “Look at me.”
Once her gaze was fixed, I said, “Soon you are going to go to sleep. When you wake you will be with a black man named Paul Monroe. You won’t be scared because he will take care of you and find you a safe place. Do you understand?”
I pulled her into my arms, crushing her sweet lips to mine. When her body yielded to me I broke the kiss, turned her head and bit into the smoothness of her throat. The warmth of her blood on my tongue was almost too much to bear. I thought my cock would burst through my pants. I willed myself strong. There wasn’t much time to do want needed to be done. She moaned as I laved her bite and I kissed her again, bloodying her mouth. Good enough.
She swooned into my arms and I wrapped the tattered quilt around her, threw the door open and stomped down the stairs. “Consumption! You expect me to fuck a girl with consumption?”
Customers and whores alike scurried out of my path, all except the toughs at the table. They rose, and as a wall, came at me. Behind me I heard the snick-snick of a rifle being cocked, and knew without turning, Paul had my back. The wall of muscle stopped and parted to make way for a round woman with garish red hair and even redder lips.
She sashayed up to me hands on her wide hips, ample bosom swelled by the tightly cinched corset strained around a plump torso. The top of her head barely reached my chest and mostly because of her hair, but she had an air of authority. Twisting Sherry’s head away from my shirt, she grimaced at her bloody mouth and the stain on my shirt. “What you plannin’ on doin with her?”
“What do you care? How much?”
She cast a look behind me, shrugged and held out her hand. “The price of a poke– two bits.”
I slung Sherry over my shoulder, reached into my pocket and drew out the coins, slapping them hard into her palm. Turning, I walked past Paul, leaving him to bring up the rear.
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