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Authors: Kelly Varesio

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BOOK: Insperatus
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Rein glanced at Harker. His face was intimidating with annoyance, and he was staring steadily at the captain.

Traith, you and Miss Pierson stand together!” he said with another laugh, bending himself underneath the curtain, holding the shutter. “After all, you’ve met, and that is enough for a picture relationship, isn’t it?”

Uh, I do not think taking a photograph will be necessary,” Romanoff said, smiling.
The captain stood and pushed the curtain off him, letting go of the shutter. He laughed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that neither of you liked photographs. You don’t like the way you look in photographs, Harker?”
He said nothing from the end of the table, and Rein saw the anger in his previously gentle eyes. Although his voice contained all the anger she saw, he continued to speak calmly. “I don’t.” His upper lip nearly rose with irritation.
Romanoff stood and walked near the captain, holding him around the waist and leading him back to the table. “More wine for me
, s'il vous plait
.”
Rein was shocked at the tense manner of the men and the covered up, double meanings of the words they used with each other. The captain nodded his head to her in a closer greeting, reached across the table to fill the Frenchman’s goblet again, and then began a quiet conversation with Romanoff. Traith Harker was silent and motionless.
She wasn’t able to hear their conversation. Her attention on Harker muted everything else around her. Each time he glanced at her, she quickly looked away and acted like she was listening to the conversation at the end of the table. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Harker turned down and stared at his glass. She wanted to stare at him again, at his rough but handsome face and his mysterious actions. She was wondering if she’d ever be able to read his face.
But then Saria turned and whispered to her with a joyful tone, and she had to blink fast and turn her seemingly full attention to her.

Rein!” she whispered earnestly. “Please redo the knot in your hair. It’s quite a mess, you know. You must have presentable hair, more than anything, especially to make a good impression. Nonchalantly, though.”
Rein rolled her eyes and laughed at her friend, knowing that she jested in a most unusual way. She slowly lifted her arms and re-pinned her hair as well and as subtle as she could behind her. It fell out of her hands, however, and fell in wavy, black chunks down her shoulders. Her heart hit her throat in embarrassment and quickly pinned it back up, then sat quiet again, hoping she hadn’t made too bad a breach of etiquette among the men. The Frenchman and the captain hadn’t seemed to notice, but she caught Harker’s piercing eyes dart toward her and watch for a while. She then smiled at him. His eyes became tame again in his glance, but she lost sight of them when he looked down, smiling faintly back as if he were uncomfortable.

Have
you
ever read, Miss Pierson, about werewolves?”
Rein saw Harker’s near smile turn. His head rose, and his eyes focused tightly toward the captain. He really hated that man.
She immediately turned her interest to the captain with delayed brightness, wishing to see Harker’s face. “I…I’m sorry?”
He looked irritated for a moment at her lack of etiquette, but he continued. “Werewolves—you know, beasts of the night, frightful men that are doomed to change into wolves every full moon?”

I have,” Saria answered him. “I read something of it in the awful rendition of
Little Red Riding Hood
that was retold by the Grimm Brothers.”

Aha! In 1812,” the captain replied. “But that was more a normal wolf than a wolf-
man
.”

Ah, classic authors of literature, they were, the Brothers Grimm,” Romanoff added. “They had many a story about strange things.”

Yes, and what about you, Harker? Do you recall any good reading on horror? Of werewolves, or perhaps others?”

None that I recall,” Harker replied, his voice very calm and steady.

Oh, come on, Traith! What about Webster's
The Duchess of Malfi
? I know you’ve read it, what with the library you have at your castle.”
His bright eyes turned and focused on Romanoff. The stare had deeper meaning. “Oh,” he said ironically. “I forgot about my library.” He swirled his drink; the first time he’d grasped the cup.
Rein was intrigued by Romanoff’s last words. Harker had a castle? He had a castle. He therefore must be, or must have once been, a lord or a very wealthy landowner. But a castle? Something that rare and expensive? And so young. Why then had he told her he lived on this ship?
She was still stunned by his coldness. He truly seemed as though he did not want to talk or be there; perhaps it was because she was there that he was hesitant to speak. But there had to be something more.

Oh,” said the captain with a jovial expression, “but nothing sells a good werewolf story like introducing a vampire.” The man walked around smoking a pipe by the fireplace. “Leipzig, 1734. Do you know what was written?”

The German story, I believe, about vampires,” Rein spoke quietly, trying to be in some of the conversation. She knew the answer after all.
The captain stared at her with curiosity. “You’ve read about the vampire, then?”

Briefly,” she replied. “I didn’t know it was in 1734, but I knew about Leipzig. It’s all in German. I only know what I could make out, as I only know a little German, but it was awful. The thought of drinking blood is entirely sickening.”

I agree,” said Saria. “I don’t understand what would make someone create folklore as monstrous as that.”
Rein saw Traith Harker glare, but not at her. Even Romanoff seemed on edge suddenly, looking at the captain.

Another version was written in English, in 1732, two years prior,” the captain stated again with his egotistical intelligence. “Harker! You’ve read it!”
He did not respond, though his animated, red eyes slowly gazed down at his cup and then back up at the captain. The captain seemed at his throat.

Yes, Traith, I recall you telling me about it,” Romanoff added.
Rein noticed that Harker always paused as if he was tiring of the situation before he spoke. “I have read it,” he answered them coolly.

Tell me, what does that make you think, then, about vampires? What do you know about them? Do you think them to be real?”
There was a longer pause before Harker answered. “I think that the vampire is described as a fearsome curse on man in books and articles.” His words were quick, quiet, and not exaggerated.

Do you think them
real
, Mr. Harker?” Saria asked him with interest.
Romanoff stared at him for a moment, and then let go of his gaze and smiled at Saria.
Harker glanced at Rein, and then down at his goblet of wine. “I do not.”

Don’t you?” the captain asked, interested.
One of Harker’s eyebrows rose as he stared at the white-eyed man. “No. Was I unclear in some way?”
Rein was interested in Harker’s reaction to the captain’s questioning when she noticed that her wine was very clear. That was, in all fact, the norm, but as she glanced down at Romanoff’s goblet, she noticed that it was quite an opaque red, much thicker. She could not see into Harker’s chalice, but she could see that the Frenchman’s glass was already empty again, and a residue was left inside of it.

I recall a French reading about them, too, Romanoff,” the man interrupted her thoughts. “I’m sure you, a Frenchman yourself, have read it.”

Ah, yes; indeed I have!
Histoire des Vampires
, a scarce but famous history of vampires by Collin de Plancy, right? Paris, 1820. Oh, I do adore books of that nature! Such mystery and skepticism!”
The captain laughed. “Well, ladies, do you know what a vampire
looks
like?”
Rein figured he was trying to scare them, but in a good-natured way. “I have no idea,” she said, finally sipping once at her wine. “I know what they do, but no author has ever really described them.”

I don’t know, either,” Saria replied.
Harker looked quite frozen as he spoke, his head tilted sideways. “Is this subject so interesting to you that we must speak of it?” He was addressing the captain.

Do you not like it, Harker?” the captain asked simply.
The words Traith Harker said were enunciated carefully and slowly with clear precision, and Rein could see his immense agitation. “It is very
dull
.”

Bah!” The captain moaned, puffing on his pipe. “Dull, you say? I thought you enjoyed it. You of all—”

Not particularly.”

More wine, then, Harker?”

I have no desire for more, no.”

Don’t you? No desire at all?”

I should like more,” Romanoff broke in, without doubt trying to stop conversation between the captain and Harker.
Harker stared at Romanoff, his eyes burning red as the captain laughed and filled the Frenchman’s goblet with more.

Traith, you know, you do not speak loud enough,” the captain said with a smirk.
Carden Romanoff sat back and looked tense, staring at Harker with his large eyes full of nervousness. It was obvious by the expressions he made that there was a dark and hidden agenda between the captain and Harker.
Harker’s eyes raised and opened larger in response. “Does that bother you?”

You mumble much too much! Open your mouth a bit when you speak.”
Harker stood. “If my speech so very much annoys you, I’ll
leave
.”

Then off with you, Harker.”

Thank you,” he said dryly.
For a moment, as he stood, she felt his eyes hook onto her gaze. He turned away, nodded his head in her general direction, and walked out the door, slamming it on his way out.

Such an
obdurate
boy,” the captain said with a laugh.
Rein noticed Romanoff’s eyes grow regretful, and he stared past her at the door Harker had left from. “Poor man,” he whispered.

Forgive me,” Rein said assertively, trying hard to act as if she was in shock at remembrance. They all looked at her with question. “I just recalled that I’ve left something…hazardous exposed in my chamber. I very much enjoyed the wine and conversation.”
She had no desire to be at the conference anymore, Harker being gone, and she did have unpacking still to do. As she contemplated her unpacking, she realized she no longer wanted another chamber—not if Harker’s was two doors down.

Going after him?” the captain asked with a chuckle.

No,” she said with dipped eyebrows.
Romanoff and Saria smiled, and the captain laughed. “Very well, you may leave. Take this key,” he finished. “Sometimes the entrance door locks itself.”
She thanked him and stood, taking the key. Closing the door behind her very silently on her way out, she quickly ran up the flight of stairs in hopes of catching him. She opened the port door and felt disappointed when she did not see him. She walked across the deck and into the lobby of the ship, but he wasn’t there either. Her heart sank when she could not find him anywhere, so she headed back to her chamber as she had proposed she would at the meeting.
She still wasn’t sure why she had such strong and sudden feelings for Traith Harker, but she did know she didn’t want to lose them.

 

Chapter 9

 

Rein opened the door with a sigh, closed it, and locked it with a chain. She had no idea what she was doing. Why had she even left the meeting?
She walked deeper into the chamber and grabbed the water pitcher to wash her face. She shook her head and poured some water into the bowl, then cupped her hands and splashed water onto her face. She placed the water pitcher back in the indented holder and patted her face dry with a clean towel that was hung over a wall bar.
With a sigh she sat down on her bed. She was so frustrated with herself. So far she had minimally been enjoying her stay, even though only one night had gone by. Saria had fallen into another one of her many loves, and was obviously smitten with Romanoff. It was all part of the vacation, for her, as she had said. She had been expecting men.
The realization hit her; she was alone. Saria was busy and she didn’t know Edgar. “Do you have a male escort?” Traith Harker’s words rung in her mind. She had no brothers or sisters, no mother, and her father…she hadn’t seen him for years. How could he be gone so long? So many years without word? The last letter she got was fourteen years ago. But those were the questions she silenced each day. She pushed the nightmares out of her mind at night.
But now, she was on a real steamship. She was away from the haunting she felt in Teesdale, especially at Barnard Institution. Thoughts of Carden Romanoff’s teeth and the captain and Harker’s bizarre eyes crowded her mind. What happened to those men? What was that accident? And the subject at the captain’s meeting—why had that ugly man wanted to be so chilling?
BOOK: Insperatus
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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