Home > After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(3)

After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(3)
Author: May Sage

Oh.

He had a point. She didn't doubt it. There was something so very dangerous about him.

"What are you?" she asked him.

The man tilted his head. "You've seen my kind before, if I'm not mistaken."

His kind…

Chloe watched him closely again, focusing on his dark eyes in detail. They had a strange glint, and seemed almost blue in a certain light. And there was his skin, which glowed, too clear and perfect. Airbrushed like he'd stepped out of a magazine. And his…

Teeth. His teeth, poking out under his lip. Elongated canines that hadn’t been there a minute ago caught her attention.

He was a vampire.

Chloe understood why she hadn’t thought so at first. She hadn’t seen many vampires, even though she was employed by one. Most of them kept to themselves, even in NOLA.

The stranger wasn't at all like Charles, who looked like a very strong man, not a…thing. A Greek god. A predator.

She blushed. "You're not a normal vampire."

Chloe felt silly the moment the words left her mouth, but they earned her a thin, fleeting smile. "Observant. You'll do well at the Institute."

The Institute.

"You know where I'm going?"

The vampire looked around and sighed. "Yes, I do. And we can't stand here. Come with me, or make your own way. Your call."

She only had one choice.

A Hidden World

Chloe had done her best to ignore the man—or vampire—whose secretive smile seemed to mock her. He was trying to get under her skin, she could tell, but she was determined to not let him spoil this experience for her.

This week was full of firsts. Her first plane ride, and then her second one from London to Edinburgh. Now, to crown the lot, she was in a train. Not just any train—the Belmond Royal Scotsman, westbound. Better yet, the vampire had paid for it.

Only she should probably stop calling him “the vampire.” She knew his name now: Levi, owner of the Institute. As soon as she'd regained her sense, she'd asked him to identify himself, and checked in with Charles.

“Rose's was attacked?” he’d said in shock. “Chloe, where are you? You need to get off the road, right now. I'll send…”

"I'm with someone, actually. He says his name is Levi De Villier."

Charles had immediately exhaled in relief. "All right. You're perfectly safe. Good. Is he around?"

"Riding in the cab next to me, and probably hearing every word."

The vampire flashed his teeth. "Hello, Charles. Long time."

"Sir. I apologize for the trouble."

Holy fuck. Who was this guy? Certainly not just the owner of a college. She'd never heard Charles sound quite so deferential. Her boss ruled all of NOLA and answered to no one. That she knew of.

"No matter. Your protégée is in good hands, and we'll get to the bottom of the issue."

"Of course. I'll contact you when I hear any news."

"Likewise, Charles."

Now, to her, her boss said, "Listen, I have to tell Chelle. She won't be happy. She had several friends and family members at Rose's. Dammit!"

Shit. "I'm so sorry, it's my fault."

"Highly doubtful, Chlo,” he said. "So far, only regular humans have moved against you, and regular humans couldn't have taken the witches of Rose’s. I gotta go."

And on that note, he’d hung up, leaving her certain of what she'd somehow instinctively known despite Levi’s dangerous edge: she was going to be okay with him.

And she had been, so far. Levi flew them to Scotland, and she was now enjoying the Highland countryside in style.

The elegant dining room seemed to belong to the ’20s, with the cushioned velvet seats, thick patterned curtains, and so many damn spoons.

Chloe was acting like a puppy, and she didn't care. Her eyes were fixed on the window. If they'd been open, she might even have popped her head out.

And Levi's mocking grin was firmly in place.

"Look," she said, finally unable to ignore him any longer, "I've never traveled outside of the States. It’s my first time in a train. Let me enjoy this."

"By all means." He gestured for her to carry on.

"Preferably without your condescending smirk. Being a tourist is no crime."

He lifted the menu to his eyes. "I'll endeavor not to ruin your fun. But for your information, I'm not amused by your novel enthusiasm—if anything, the fact that you've seen nothing beyond your corner of the world at your age is quite depressing. I'm just intrigued by your resilience."

She lifted a brow. "Resilience?"

"Just so. This morning, you were looming over a corpse, and looking quite shaken, if I might say. Now you're effectively distracted. Would you say it's typical of your kind these days? I've not dealt with mortals in some time."

Chloe's good humor had effectively evaporated. "That's called avoidance, not resilience. Yes, it freaked me out. No, there's nothing I can do about it. So…distractions."

"Does it work?" Levi questioned.

He seemed genuinely interested.

Chloe was learning something about him, something that made him feel real—not just some too-perfect, too-cold stranger who might evaporate in a cloud of smoke.

He was curious. He liked observing, guessing, and understanding things around him. As a regular, she was an oddity, and therefore interesting to him. She certainly could relate. Chloe had never encountered a puzzle she didn’t wish to solve. So she indulged him.

"You mean, until you mentioned this morning? Yes, it worked. This is all new to me and suitably entertaining, so I can put everything behind me. But in the middle of the night, I've no doubt I'll remember him. The bald man. The others, too, but I saw him up close. Not his face. But the smell. The blood…” She shook her head, as if willing the very memory away—ineffectively. “I doubt I'll sleep easily for a while."

Nor should she. People shouldn’t be able to see that kind of horror and shrug it off. That was what psychopaths did.

Levi frowned. "I'll have Alex brew you a sleeping draught."

Thoughtfulness.

That was also unexpected of him. Another piece of the puzzle.

Chloe was doing her best to draw a mental picture of the vampire, knowing that he’d fade from her life before she knew it. And she didn’t want to forget a thing.

"Now,” said Levi, “we'd better order soon. We aren't riding this train for very long, and we don't want to miss dessert."

The food was delightful. Halfway through their main course, Chloe's mouth betrayed her again, babbling before she could question herself.

"Wait, you're eating. Do you guys eat? I've never seen Charles eat."

The vampire didn't roll his eyes, but she could tell he wanted to.

"Yes, Chloe, we do eat. We have bodies quite similar to yours that need sustenance in order to function adequately."

A billion questions popped into her head, but she closed her lips firmly and kept them that way.

Levi grinned. "You can ask. Curiosity is no crime."

"So, what about blood? Is that just a food supplement?"

She wasn’t supposed to have asked this directly. She knew that. The air changed around them, becoming thicker, stranger.

He smiled broader, flashing his extra white teeth that seemed so very sharp, and she knew the answer before he said anything.

"No. We do need blood. Less frequently as we age, but without it—" He interrupted himself. "Let's just say it's not very pleasant."

She really wanted to know what he meant by that. The need went beyond mere curiosity. Something inside her felt like pushing a little further, and maybe even getting a rise out of him.

Which was insane. And potentially suicidal.

She didn’t know much about him yet, but she was pretty certain that those who got a rise out of Levi De Villier ended up exsanguinated and dumped in a narrow grave.

But he’d done nothing to hurt her. If she wasn’t mistaken, he actually seemed to be doing his best to avoid frightening her, too. Charles moved a little too fast—she couldn’t always catch all of his movements; one moment he was grabbing a pen, and the next he’d written five words. Her eyes couldn’t follow the transition.

Levi’s limbs were purposefully slow; too fluid and graceful perhaps, but she was fairly certain he did that for her benefit.

So, she pushed.

“Tell me. What happens if you don’t get blood?”

His eyes narrowed and zeroed in on hers. They were bright blue now. The warm amber-brown was completely gone.

“Discussing blood with a vampire isn’t wise, Chloe.”

She shrugged.

“Nor is traveling with one. Yet here we are. You said so yourself, if you wanted to hurt me, you would have done it.”

Chloe couldn’t tell whether he was amused or exasperated. Both, perhaps.

"Nevertheless, I’ll not answer that. You'll study the gory details if you take Paranormal Introduction."

Chloe blinked, her desire to bug him evaporating as she asked, "Can I? Paranormal Introduction was listed in the program the school sent me, but it's an undergrad course that doesn't have much to do with my master’s."

"I have no role in the school administration,” he replied. “I just own the land. But unless I’m much mistaken, you may study any course taught at the Institute. As long as you don't piss off the teacher."

His language entertained her greatly: a mixture of modern vernacular, with outdated phrases and the occasional slang. His accent was also noteworthy, not quite British, definitely sexy and distinguished.

She had so many questions.

"Sir, we're close to your destination," the conductor said in a low tone.

Levi sighed. "Would you mind asking the chef to send our dessert through, Louis?" He removed a clip of bills from the inner pocket of his coat and handed the man two fifties.

   
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