I don't usually do warnings, but this is a depressing one. Reader beware.

Given and Taken by Laura Mason


I should have known it would happen. How could I not know he would find me?

I settle on the bench, facing the trees and not the water. I'm a coward; I'd rather not face the day.

He always pursued me; always found me. Always brought me home. Yet I fell into despair and didn't realize he'd come after me, find me here, and refuse to leave without me.

LaCroix laughed when Schanke brought him into the Club -- he told me he'd never seen one of us actually turn paler until that night. But there he stood, beautiful and alive -- his heartbeat sang to me, I could hear the blood rush through his veins. Ray has always been so alive, so vital -- it called to me, even before. But now he was irresistible. My kindred were approaching him from all over the room, eyes fixed in the same manic lust and longing I felt.

Schanke, to his credit, looked frightened. Ray didn't see any of it, he simply stared at me as if he could never tear his eyes away.


I no longer have tears, but his voice hurt nonetheless. He moved toward me, oblivious to Schanke's muttered "see you later" as he slunk out, still spooked by us all.

"Ray. How?" But he didn't answer, just enfolded me in his long arms. I couldn't keep myself from closing my own arms around him, inhaling the scent of him -- all of him, not just the wonderful blood-scent. A quick glare and grimace at the others sent them off, back to their own pursuits. Ray was MINE. But I quickly calmed myself.

He dragged me out of the Raven and off to a restaurant, where he ate an Italian meal and we talked so much he never noticed that I didn't touch the plate in front of me. Victoria had been captured in Vancouver, he said, headed back to Alaska evidently. She told the police she'd escaped my custody on that train, but I couldn't let Ray believe the lie. So I confessed it all to him, how we'd come here and I'd been foolish enough to believe that she wanted to live a life with me, marry me. Foolish enough to believe that losing the diamonds didn't matter.

I found a job to support us, and fixed up an apartment in a quiet neighborhood. She left me after two weeks, after pulling a bank job with another man. They fled together with twenty thousand dollars, leaving me trying to deal with the police and nosy neighbors who recognized her photo from the security cameras, which had been splashed on the front page. I moved on before my flimsy identity fell apart, and came to the Raven looking for work.

Jeanette gave me a job, but warned me to stay away from the patrons. I obeyed her instructions, for a few weeks. But after two months of guilt and solitude, LaCroix's attentions were welcome. Even when I realized what he was doing to me, I couldn't care.

But he didn't kill me as I'd expected. No, he brought me over and made me his child. A child in an incestuous relationship, true, but his. He taught me new ways to love, new ways to kill -- though I have to admit, I'd always been proficient at that. He told me their lives were unimportant, and I believed him. For mine had been a sham, a lie -- and ultimately unimportant. I'd betrayed Victoria once, sent her to face justice and repay her debt to society. Had that ended her crimes? No, and I was a fool not to expect that. She was still a predator, still a criminal. She'd always been one, and I'd been an idiot to look for something better, higher within her because of her sexual abilities. She'd saved me and seduced me, and I thought there had to be some purpose, some meaning. There wasn't. It was strictly convenience.

But I realized tonight that I'd forgotten Ray -- in my new, twisted view of humanity, I'd forgotten that there were unselfish, giving people. Friends who loved and gave so freely of their love. It was as if I'd blocked him out of my memories, out of my mind.

Maybe LaCroix did that. The man is powerful and unscrupulous. He might have seen that bright spot in my memories, and known that Ray alone could stand between me and the pit of despair. LaCroix didn't damn me to hell, I did that myself with my own actions. But my maker wasn't adverse to helping me along down the slope, either.

Ray listened to my story, but didn't seem to understand it. I tried to tell him I was damned now, and it was too late. He still wanted to take me back to Chicago, back to his family and the RCMP and Diefenbaker...

I took him back to my room above the club instead, and we made love for the first time together. It was so different from what Victoria and I had done, from what LaCroix had done to me -- there should have been a different name, or a whole new dictionary to describe it. When we finished, and I knew I had to send Ray away forever, I was still happier than I've ever been in my life.

But he wouldn't leave. Ray refused to go, he clung to me and cried and told me he loved me. I couldn't leave now -- the sun had risen, and I was trapped in my room with him. I'd had no food, no blood, in 24 hours. My hunger was increasing, as well as my frustration.

"I don't love you, Ray. You must go." But he wouldn't believe me, not after the way we'd pleasured each other. I lied, but I've never learned how to lie convincingly enough. Particularly not to Ray.

Then the pains began. I was tired, exhausted really, but mostly I was starving. My hands shook, my body cramped, and I was unable to answer Ray's frantic questions as to what was wrong with me.

Finally, after about an hour, I fell asleep. It was dusk when I awoke, and for a moment I remembered nothing. There was just hunger, and the smell and sound of fresh blood.

I ripped his neck apart before I knew what I'd done. Ray cried out, but I was already sucking his life away, taking him into me. And he didn't struggle, though his incredible eyes were wide.

"I didn't believe..." he whispered. "Sorry. Take what you need, Benny. It's all I ever wanted..." Then his head lolled to one side as the loss of blood took his consciousness, and finally his life.

I held him through the night, while his body cooled and changed into something I didn't recognize as Ray any longer. Then I kissed what was left of him and came outside.

There is heat, a burning smell. My flesh. I welcome it now, and find the courage to turn east and face my doom. Forgive me, my love.


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