The dark was a thickness, tangible, Phoenician red.
Clouds boiled into fists over the city, as if God Himself endured a torment His children could never know. Rain scoured the new roads and the walls of the old houses, and there was a smell in the air that seemed familiar, yet foreign, all at once.
At her bedroom window Wilhelmina Harker née Murray breathed in this scent, and shivered from the head downwards. The air crackled with tyrian rage, an electric portent of something she couldn’t define. She feared it. She desired it.
She recognised it. This red night had been known to Mina, in her dreams.
She’d grown strange, in such ways, over the past seven years. Mina had seen things all that time ago that few had, or ever would, and now, still, she experienced such phenomena as would have seemed a fiction to the young woman that she’d once been. Visions, she thought them, although of past, or present, or future she did not know.
But, like Cassandra, Mina was consigned to brood over such prophecies alone: this sense, she’d been told, was a mere scar of the past, no different to the pale, circular mark that had once been burned into her forehead. Old wounds were bound to ache in the rain, Mina supposed, but she resented them, for they were her shame.
She brought her fingers to her brow, reflexively, the skin seeming hot beneath her palm. Mina had a touch of fever, and had retired early to heal it through sleep. But sleep had not come, and instead she found herself in agitated wakefulness, ruing the past, and its hold upon her.
If only the others would speak of it. Mina’s husband, Jonathan, and her dear friends, Jack Seward and Arthur Holmwood, would affect a sort of deafness if any reference to that distant suffering was so much as whispered of. They would only mention it on their own terms, obscurely, dancing hastily away from any conversation of substance.
Mina, in exasperation, understood. Her friends’ healing was a terse, masculine breed of secrecy, parting themselves from chronological darkness like historians intent on rewriting some scandalous past.
Mina couldn’t bear it. Poor Arthur she could almost understand, having lost his beautiful young wife Lucy to their mutual enemy, and Jonathan, too, still haunted by all he had endured in the shadows of Romanian wilderness.
But that their pain did not allow them to comprehend Mina’s need to heal through speaking of the past agonised her, and othered her, if othered she had not always been.
They were not cruel, never that; her dear friends were incapable of harshness of any sort. They loved her, valued her- by God, Mina was forever some man’s mother or saint -it was merely that they expected her to be restored from her ordeal by her husband, and her son, and by the grace of the Lord. Housekeeping, might keep her mind busy, or other such purile activities; men thought women to be simpletons, it seemed, to be so comforted from baleful things.
Mina twisted the curtain at her window, battling a hysterical urge to laugh.
If only her husband, her darling Jack, and Arthur could see the carmine horrors of her dreams. They would not dismiss her so, then, nor speak to her like some dull pet as Doctor Abraham Van Helsing had done.
Mina had hoped that her friends would at least take note of her melancholy, but they had not. It was to her credit that she concealed it well, although not always well enough.
Once, emboldened by the new era of science, Mina had visited a psychiatrist, in private, hoping to bare her soul to an impartial ear. But the doctor had been a friend of Jack Seward’s, and had gossiped; the ensuing discussion of Mina’s mental health had struck such a fear into her of incarceration that she dared not trust a stranger so again.
She remembered vividly the asylum of which Jack was still administrator, an eidolic hollow filled with screams and abandoned misery. That was the place Mina would inevitably go if her menfolk truly suspected her of madness, she was sure of that.
Yes, madness– what else could it be, Mina thought, wretchedly, as she stared at the dank street beneath her window. What else could make her- a pious woman, loving, devoted -so unhappy, victim still to the ravages of an enemy long dead?
Reckless, Mina wished that she had taken the place of her friend, Lucy, dear Lucy, a girl of such sweet and humorous demeanor that she had been adored by all. She had been warped by the vampire, and thus dispatched, long ago. At peace- an enviable position, Mina had begun to reason. There was nothing else to fear when one was merely bones under quiet ground.
It was a sin, surely, to think so enviously of death. Once Mina would have rather ceased to exist than abandon her principles, but they seemed to serve her so little now. Rather, they oppressed her, driving her, abject, ever-forward to some nameless precipice.
Mina had tried for so long to be a good woman, and had broken no oath to anyone, husband, friend, or God. And yet in her suffering nights she was a traitor, and gradually in waking thoughts, as well
Disturbed by her own cognitions Mina left her window a moment to pace the room. By chance she caught sight of herself in a long mirror, which sometimes, in secret, she covered, as mourners did, afraid of what she might see in it, or not. Now Mina stood and looked, observing, frankly, that she had become more beautiful in the near-decade that had passed since the great fiend come.
Furthermore, she had not aged a day.
Mina had almost been a vampire, once, and now that she was only human some qualities of the undead remained with her. Where Jonathan had grown thin and grey Mina thrived; it was so that in the street men and women gazed upon at her, although still she could only afford the secondhand clothes of a schoolteacher’s petty wage. She was offered assistance at every door, endured gifts thrust upon her with a nonsensical frivolousness from those she barely knew.
Now Mina understood the life of her precious Lucy, and felt a certain pity for her. Even for one so accustomed to the limelight this ceaseless affection must have been a tiresome thing.
It had come on slowly, Mina’s beauty, as if left in her, like a seed, to grow. Now, in her mirror, she had the appearance of a young girl risen from some fevered doze, her hair a spill of lovely darkness, her eyes, blacker still, enormous. Beneath her nightgown Mina was thin, too thin from the wearing of anguish. But that was becoming the vogue, now, this cruel fashion of illness.
As she turned away from the looking glass Mina still could not shake that impression of herself. It was how she’d appeared in her recurring dreams, for she always saw herself, within them, as though she were someone else, staring upon her own pallid face.
And Mina was someone else, now, had been since the night she’d first exchanged blood with Count Dracula.
Even Jonathan could see it, although he’d never expressed it aloud. But Mina suspected that even his gentle ego could never forget that his beautiful wife had betrayed him, that she had once lain, limp, in the arms of their enemy, her lips a poppy bloom against his waxen chest. It was an offence to him, an uncleanness that Jonathan, the perfect husband, had graciously chosen to overlook.
A rare anger flared in Mina then, and she clutched at her hair, seizing great handfuls of it in aimless rage. It had been an assault, what was done to her, a crime of a war between men, and yet it had been passion, too, and succulence, and she was, in part, accomplice to it.
On nights like this, when the air smelled of sea-salt, and driftwood, and the soaking pelt of wolves come up onto the shore, Mina felt an ache between her thighs, need of the infernal creature that death had wrenched from her like the gibbet. She would have perished rather than admit it, but it wasn’t death that Mina wanted, only the thundering pleasures of that half-life she’d so briefly known.
This was the sin that she repented each night, on her pale knees, silent with Jonathan beside her.
No. Dracula was.
He was the evil that drew her mind to teeth, and claws, and serpentine temptation. Mina had been repulsed by him, then, and yet had wanted him, and wanted him again. Still her mouth watered for the taste of his flesh, for she’d never washed his rot from his hands, nor his pleasures from the neglected warrens of her sex.
Dracula. Mina wanted to speak his name into the night, but she was afraid of it. Words were power and mysticism; this she knew from how a simple invitation could unwrite a life, if uttered to the wrong being. She must keep her silence if she was to save her soul.
Drawing a long breath Mina returned to the window again, compelled by the strange colour of the night.
When had it begun, this longing for the man who had stolen her, who had known her forever, and no time at all? Perhaps it had begun before either of them were ever born, destiny sewn into existence by the Devil with will as his needle. But, then again, it might have come only when the vampire had fastened the brooch of his teeth upon Mina’s silk, and knelt her will to his, like a serf.
A weakling, Mina had allowed the Count to die.
She could have saved him, stood by him, kept him, selfishly, her master, the undoing of morning. But she had pitied his cursed life, felt the misery of it within him. Thus the vampire had met his end, with Mina as his Judas, her cold mouth kissing him to sleep.
She could never forgive herself, although it was her greatest good.
Mina found herself trembling with humiliation. It repulsed her that she ached for that monster, for her death, when she had so much in life to console her. There was her husband, of course, and their beloved son, Quincey, named for their lost friend, and as kind-hearted as his namesake. Now almost eight years old he was away at school, and wrote such darling letters in his uncertain hand that it almost broke Mina’s heart.
Yet neither man nor boy brought any true comfort. With Jonathan away on business Mina felt abandoned to the cobwebs of her mind. Once, she had thought herself strong, and good; now she was scarcely either.
An animal cry cut through the night, a curt little fox’s bark. Mina clutched at her chest, a thrilled fear running through her, but the sound did not come again. It was so easy to forget how many wild animals there were, in London, creeping back to eat from gardens that had once been forests to them.
Had she thought it to be some sign, a call from her dead king? Dracula had become a wolf, and rats, and mist; a fox was not so far detached from them, after all.
Mina shuddered again, and inhaled her fill of the night. She seemed to struggle for breath, pulling for it desperately. This room, this house, her existence, it suffocated her.
Over and over Mina had endeavoured to embody the wife and mother she’d always craved to be. But the lush terrors of the past had savaged her strongest convictions until she felt an actress in her own life, so bereft of salvation that she turned, a web-spun fly, towards her undoing.
Mina put her cool hands together and attempted to pray, knowing it fruitless. Since her spell as Dracula’s creature religion held a certain repulsion for her, although she knew that it was God’s will that the Count had been destroyed.
The scar on her brow, once searing red, had been impressed there by a Communion wafer, her mark of Cain. In those old days Mina had been horror-struck, knowing herself damned by the mark; now she also felt resentment of this branding, that men and God saw fit to mark her for her sin.
What was there to do when praying was futile, and there was no one left to safely turn to?
Nothing could be done. Nothing could be changed. Loneliness had exposed Mina to the liberties of the Devil; wasn’t that why she waited here, for him to come?
Every night in recent months she had dreamt of the Count, of rats teeming the streets in October night, of crimson fog boiling the rain. Mina had seen herself trapped within it, and liberated at once: there would be peace in accepting her monster, the comraderie of evil. So it seemed Mina was compelled to hover at her bedroom window like a madwoman, like a fool, hoping to fulfil her own feared prophecy.
She stood a minute longer, her gown damp with moisture, from the rain. Then she returned to her bed again, dejected, and drew her sheets up to her throat.
Sleep would not come easily, Mina knew, for now it seldom did. There was a draught in her bedside cabinet that she had become much reliant on; sighting resignedly she bent to take it out.
Then, and only then, did Mina hear the velvet thickness of motion at her open window, feel the baleful cold of a hand over her mouth, silencing her.
“Don’t look at me,” a voice said, so known to her, horrible and beautiful at once. “See me only when I desire it, as you did when I first came to you, in this land.”
Terror rendered Mina into stillness, that and a queer, enigmatic relief. She lay like a doll upon her mattress, utterly rigid, and yet as pliant in the intruder’s hands as soil. He ran his free palm across her body, lightly, a mist of touch, drawing away the sheet. Mina ached to raise her hips to meet his caress, and to recoil from it, all at once.
The hand on her mouth eased away, releasing her dessicated lips from its perilous touch.
“Count,” said Mina, breathlessly. “It cannot be. You were killed. I witnessed it. Why are you here?”
For some time there was only silence, in which the monster stroked Mina’s breast with a slightness that tormented her. Then the vampire said, “It was not my choice to return.”
A spasm of frost passed through Mina’s heart.
“What do you mean?”
“It is as priests say,” said Dracula. “I was freed, my sins absolved. I met with God; He granted me forgiveness, and thus I was content. I would have spent an eternity, in Heaven, and made my peace.”
“Then,” said Mina, her breath imprisoned in her chest, “am I dreaming again, to feel you here? To hear your voice?”
The hand at her breast tightened, the thumbnail a dagger pointed to her heart.
“No,” said the vampire. “This is no dream. I am alive, again, against my will.”
There was such bitterness in the Count’s voice that Mina believed him.
“How?” she asked.
“A follower of mine revived me, a necromancer schooled in the arts of resurrection beneath the Carpathian mountains. One night he implemented it to call me back to my immortal life, for he sought that same gift for himself.”
Never had Mina heard such sorrow in a man’s voice, and yet with it a hazardous joy.
“I raged at him, at first,” Dracula murmured. “I did not want to return, to be devolved again into evil. Yet I would have resigned from goodness in an instant to kill my servant for what he had done.”
“And did you?”
Mina uttered a frightful cry as the creature laughed, for there was little humanity left in the sound.
“No, my love. But I did not spare him out of mercy. His talents will be of use to me.”
“What use? Must you return to a life of darkness?”
Mina wanted, desperately, to open her eyes, but without her master’s consent could not. Blind, she felt for him, yearned, feared.
“It occured to me that if God loved me as He claimed then He would never have released me so freely,” said Dracula. “I had been lied to by the monster that gave birth to this world. So a monster I, too, will be again.”
“No, no, you can’t-“
“Yes. I will find some wicked purpose on Earth rather than return to a Lord that retracts His affections like any father from an unwanted child.”
“Perhaps this is a test,” said Mina, desperately. “Of your renewed purity. You should resist temptation.”
Dracula shook her until she opened her eyes, glimpsing, at last, the tortured beauty of the Count that had defiled her, that had cut her free from human life.
“I have been tested enough,” said the vampire. “God insults me for the second time, and the last. I will not bow to the true king of lies.”
“Not even to defend my soul?” asked Mina, although she wanted only to bare herself to him.
Dracula put his mouth on hers, to her neck and breast and navel and thighs, touching, gently, with his lips alone, bringing welts of desire up from her paleness.
“Your soul,” he said, vicious, adoring. “Your soul was torn asunder when we drank of one another’s blood, and our minds were one. When the vampire’s curse left you my influence did not. I marked you as mine, always. Your husband knew of this. Knows it. He understands he is beneath me.”
Hopeless, Mina thought of every awkward fumble, feigned pleasure and crawling discomfort of love-making with Jonathan, how he’d clumsily tried to please her.
Once, retching drily upon the floor, he had admitted the cause of his impotence: the ecstasies Dracula’s three brides had given him in the dread castle, and the attentions, too, that he had feared from the Count.
Mina had been devastated by the confession, repulsed, empathetic, afraid. They had wept in each other’s arms, and still it was the vampire Mina thought of when she caressed herself to ecstasies at night.
“You must not kill him,” said Mina, suddenly. “Please, Count. I care for Jonathan, still. He is my husband. He attacked you only because he cares for me.”
“And yet, in your dreams, you beg for me to return to you. What lover abandons his woman so wholly that she yearns for his nemesis?”
Abashed, Mina turned her head against her pillow.
“Even now, in these modern times, men cannot allow their women to think, or feel,” said the Count, “or endure the melancholy their greatest artists and geniuses are praised for. A woman’s purpose is to maintain an artifice.”
“I do so poorly,” said Mina. “I am alone.”
Dracula’s hand came to her cheek with a gentle force that liquefied Mina within his grasp.
“Never, my loyal one. You are never alone. I am the one that you have called for across the impenetrable ravines of death. Now, I am with you. We will never be lost to one another again.”
Mina turned her face, kissed the icy hand, and at once regretted it.
“You mustn’t hurt him,” she urged. “Jonathan. He has cared for me, as well as he can. He is the father of my son. I love him.”
At this Dracula snarled, hatred clotted in his voice, and strained impatience.
“I am the creature that owns your heart, or what remains of it. We may only love each other; you are mine, Wilhelmina, only mine.”
The monster’s face hung over Mina’s, handsome, his long hair oiled back from his face to mimic the fashions, now, the beard shaved away. The face beneath still had the strong, angular beauty of a warlord, and Mina was attracted to it, to the vengeful darkness of his eyes.
“I cannot see him die,” said Mina. “Please. I beg you to let Jonathan live.”
“You would keep him as your cuckhold?” asked the Count, harshly. “That is what he will become.”
Again Mina could only shrink from the monster’s stare. His return to life had made him crueller than even he had been before.
“Very well,” the creature uttered. “You must drink from your husband. Make him your servant. Bind his will to yours. He will kneel at my mercy, and I will take from him, as you do.”
“But you will spare his life?” asked Mina, timidly.
The vampire took her left hand in his, the one that bore her wedding band. Gently, hatefully, he removed it from her finger, and cast it away from him into some corner of the room.
“Yes,” said Dracula. “For you, my cherished servant. He will be yours, and mine, again.”
Mina understood, then, that to keep Jonathan alive was to offer him freely to the Count, and that Jonathan, compelled, would learn to ache for that union. It was a horror and a comfort.
Mina’s heart was broken, and cold.
“What of my son?” she asked. “Please. You cannot make me destroy him.”
“Your other friends still live,” said the vampire, dismissively. “The grief-stricken fool. The asylum keeper who houses the weak in their own filth and despair. Give the boy to them.”
Mina’s eyes widened in surprise.
“You’ll spare them, too?”
“Unless they make any violent move towards me, yes. Another gift to you, mercies even a God would not give. But should that move be made it will be your duty to see them dead.”
Horror swept through Mina’s stomach, bowling her over.
“I could never kill my friends. I love them dearly.”
“And yet you have feared them, too, with their stakes, and silver, and the madhouse.”
Dracula brought his lips to Mina and kissed her, as if drawing the fear from her mouth on her breath.
“Yes, I know of your terror. The stories your precious Jack has told you. The books you’ve read. Details of torment behind white walls. You know they will come one day if I do not save you.”
“Save me? You delivered me to this suffering. I had forgiven you, and now-“
“You will always forgive me,” said Dracula, between a blazing rain of kisses. “You cannot resent me. I am your love. Your death. Your life.”
He was tender, now, as he’d once been, yet arrogant too. Mina was overcome, feeling as helpless to his power as a leaf caught up in a savage wind.
“If you are to turn me,” she said, “make me as you are. Must I take the lives of others to survive?”
“You must drink blood,” said the Count. “Whether you go so far as to drain every drop is your choice. I will not force you in that.”
“And where will we go? We cannot stay in London.”
“We will see the world. Dine with artists in Berlin. Cross the white sands of Egypt, and the waters of Venice. The streets and cemeteries of New Orleans, and all the great cities of the world, as newlyweds, my Mina, garnet of my soul.”
He held her to him, the monster, with an exaltation that was almost a heat, his hands buried in the thick of her hair, his mouth at her ear, her throat, smouldering her nerves to ash.
“You speak like a traveller,” said Mina, weakly, “but I know you mean to conquer.”
“Slowly, this time,” said Dracula, his smile showing his white teeth. “I see the value of protecting the human race, so that I may feed forever. But I will seed our kind across the Earth, and God will shiver that He allowed me to slip through His fingers again.”
The vampire drew his long thumbnail between Mina’s breasts, tearing the thin fabric of her nightgown so that it fell open from her, baring her pale skin to the night. Desperately Mina wanted the Count’s red lips upon her again, and yet was frigid in horror of it.
“You are cruel,” she said.
Smirking, the Count pushed her down upon the bed, where he lay upon her, both light and impossibly heavy, all at once.
“I am that,” he said. “But less cruel than men.”
Then his mouth was on her, kissing her throat though, to breast, to hip bone, both crimson warmth and cemetary cold all at once. His vast hands engulfed her, and Mina became aware of some dread urge to be consumed.
In a sudden burst of panic she fought against the vampire, her fingers ineffectual claws, her feet digging at the mattress, to push herself away.
The curtains at the window billowed in a scream of wind, and the room, at once, seemed full of red mist, like some hideous Martian fog. It was the Count, Mina realised, his power, flooding her with himself, the very air she breathed loose fragments of him.
He seized her by the throat, his thumb flush to her windpipe, and pulled her mouth to his, all savagery and romance and possession. Mina heaved against the monster, pulsing with a sickened perspiration, her arms, helpless, flung about him. Enraged, pitiful, she wrenched her head from him, her eyes a livid darkness.
“You’ll force me, then,” she said, coldly.
Dracula peered down on her with a look of cool amusement; a serpent living beneath some black rock would have more warmth in its gaze than that.
“Yes,” said the Count. “And no. You have been mine for so long that you have no power to defy me.”
His left hand rose, and brushed a tear from Mina’s cheek that she hadn’t even realised had fallen.
“You desire this,” said Dracula. “Life, and freedom eternal.”
Mina, unable to deny it, whispered, “Yes.”
“No tether to this mortal life is strong enough to stay that yearning. Nor will it ever be. Were I to leave you as you are you would live long, and scarcely age, trapped in a prison of judgement and expectation. You will die having never lived. Will you yield to me, and be freed by your submission?”
The garish winds waned slightly, as if holding their breath in anticipation of Mina’s answer.
“Will I still be myself?” she asked. “Will I still hold to my beliefs, and morals? Jonathan said that Lucy was no longer the woman she was-“
“Your hunger will change you,” said the vampire, softly. “An inevitability; nothing in existence remains the same. But you will still retain your faculties, a sense of being. Lucy did not lose that; she was only lost, temporarily, to her thirst.”
For a long moment Mina was silent, swaying in the Count’s grip. Then she said, “You took her from me. You allowed Lucy to die.”
“It was your friends who put her to slaughter as if she were some sow,” said Dracula, his lip curled. “But forget it. I will have my necromancer revive her. to you; a companion on our travels. No more will she languish in the charnels of that false Heaven.”
At this Mina let out a sobbing cry, and the Count pulled her against him, caressing, softly, her damp hair.
“You see. Even a monster such as I am is capable of kindness.”
It wasn’t kindness, only a rope to bind Mina to the fathoms of some deathly sea. But amidst her mortal strains she was already drowning, and thus she said, “Then show me your mercy, king of death.”
The Count stared upon her with a look that was neither lust nor triumph, but some pitiless emptiness in between. Then he laid Mina upon the bed again and bowed his head between her thighs, attentive as a congregant of some poisoned church, his lips a frozen heat on her moist skin.
The sharp of the creature’s teeth on Mina’s leg was so sudden that she screamed out, a sharp, bronze peal of agony the vampire made no move to suppress, although through the open window the whole street might hear her.
Dracula’s fingers bound her waist, a corset of knuckle and nail. His spine arced as he drew her blood in the posture of a great, red dragon, buried in the glut of flesh and fire.
Mina roiled against the mattress, her body segmented by dual sensation. The pain was a saccharine monster; honey drawn through a hyperdermic needle could not have been so sweet, nor painful, an apocalyptic of moment, the brokage of a deathly life.
Then the chill mouth spirited the drained channel of Mina’s thigh and found the space between, the trembling hearth of a need she had long been denied. Pleasure, so suddenly unearthed by the rasp of a dead man’s tongue, was a shock of lightning through the rod of Mina’s prone form. She raked her clammy palms through the slick hair coiled at the vampire’s neck and bucked her unholy need into the very mouth that had bitten her.
Again she screamed, not the the cry of a wife, or a mother, or even a human woman, but some shadow-spun temptress, flesh and flax.
Rain agonised the open window, and in the cuneate vermilion between Mina’s legs Dracula raised his head, and smiled.
“Now you must drink from me, as you did, before.”
Mina lay, weak, her body still thrown by paroxysms of feeling, until the vampire slipped his arms about her shoulders and brought her trembling lips to a garnet opening at his throat.
“Drink,” he whispered. “Tomorrow, I will come to you, and we will live this night again until you are as I am.”
Again, Mina attempted to push the Count away, but his body, astride her, was an intangible fog, although he felt as solid as she.
“No,” said Dracula, with a velvet finality. “Do not fight me. There is no more war between us.”
Mina couldn’t discern her own thoughts amidst so many churning hungers and delights, and that frightened her, having always marshalled a will strong enough to rival any man’s. But as the vampire brought her mouth to the slit in his throat again Mina forgot all this, the folly of rational thought. The foul deliciousness of blood devoured all her senses, luring her into a burgundy sanctum.
Somehow it surprised her that it was warm.
The vampire groaned as Mina drank from him, his face buried in her shoulder. The sound was rich and obscene, a noise that had never left the lips of tightly-buttoned Jonathan, who would do no more than pant genteely through his pale climax. But Dracula was violent in his ardour, his hands wrenching Mina’s legs up around his waist, his hardness crushed to the desperate space between.
In the greedy stupour of feasting Mina barely noticed the vampire open his breeches, only knew for certain that he had done so when, as she released his throat at last to breathe, he thrust himself deep within her.
The abruptness of it punctured Mina’s rising cry. It felled her like a maiden deflowered by some passing king in a valley of snow, such was the cold and remoteness of it all. Yet as the vampire moved upon her conquered form Mina seized his shirt, tore it open so that she could press her palms to the wretched frost of that cruel body and condemn herself to the evil of her desire.
Dracula gazed upon her, his face- as hers was, annointed in cooling blood -so handsome that Mina had no doubt that he had seen Heaven. Yet he mounted her with the blunt possession of an animal, a wolf or bear-lord of a fairytale, snarling upon her fragile beauty as if the act of rutting was to devour.
His hair had come down from its clever knot, a river of dark oil against his pale shoulders. Mina pulled him down to kiss her, and that hair closed about them, a shroud over the dead. The vampire tasted of salt and cloying death; she could have held that flavour in her mouth forever.
Beyond the window thunder tolled like the Deis irae, and Mina let out a sudden, raw cry as she came, came for perhaps the first time with anyone but herself, in guilty privacy. This time she endured it without guilt, yet with the feeling that a thousand dark eyes, newly opened, were upon her. With a bellow of pleasure, the vampire reached his own release, his every muscle sculpted and shining like cathedral stone in the rain.
For a moment they lay together, strengthless in this cursed act of love. Then Dracula unsheathed himself from her and stood at the window, his eyes reflecting that strange red of the night.
“How long,” asked Mina, gathering her sheets around her, “until I am as you are?”
“For three days I will come to you,” said Dracula. “And we will do as we have just done again. Then, drained of blood, your mortal form will die; I will take you away, before you are found, to sleep until you rise again.”
“And then,” said the vampire, “you will handle what matters you must here, in England, to soothe the fears of your human acquaintances. Then we will leave, to meet my servant, and we will begin our life again, you, and I.”
“Lucy and Jonathan, also,” said Mina, softly. “You promised me them. Please don’t forget them.”
She rose to her feet, frail as a cobweb, and placed her hand on the vampire’s arm. He seized her hand in a display of such avid jealousy that Mina remembered, with a jolt of stupid terror, that it was a monster she had taken to bed with her, not a man, that same creature, she, too, would soon become.
“It is me you are loyal to,” said Dracula, “above all others. This you must not forget.”
Mina kissed the hand that so gripped hers, hoping that her affection might loosen the intensity of its vice.
“How could I, when your blood is mine? You won’t lose me now. Even Heaven could not part us.”
Heady in the fog of blood Mina felt bold enough to make such statements, to spurn what she had cleaved to, the false love of an uncaring God. The vampire laughed at her blasphemy, and drew his lips to Mina’s mouth again, to her brow, to all of her, the frenzy of a devil’s victory.
“Sleep, now,” he said. “And tomorrow: wait at your window for me, again.”
Then, in a strange, twisting magic of transfiguration he was away, out of the window, a mere bat against the sky, sleek and dark.
Mina stood and watched him for a moment, her heart pulled by longing, and dread. Then she staggered back to the mattress and fell upon it, a ruin, delirious in her joy.
What her men had fought for long ago had been undone, and she was not sorry for it.