The night was so clear, the moon so bright, hanging low over the city, that Leo could see every stone paving the street, every small wave in the canals as though in full daylight.
He had never been to Europe before being turned, but he had no trouble imagining what Venice might have looked like under the sun. In his mind, the sky was the palest blue rather than inky black, the water blue-green, the stones in every possible hue from white to pink.
Patting Beth’s hand on his arm, he turned to her and asked, “Would you care for a gondola ride?”
She shook her head but didn’t reply. She hadn’t said a word since thanking the concierge at the hotel. Her heels clicked sharply on the stones and the sound reverberated down the street. They had crossed two more bridges, neither more than five feet across, before she finally spoke.
He wasn’t used to such coolness in her voice, and it made him feel uncomfortable. He shrugged his shoulders, but the feeling persisted.
“Why not? It sounded like a romantic place.”
She snorted at the word ‘romantic’ and pulled her arm free of his. She slipped her hands into her coat pockets. Was she walking a little further away from him, suddenly, or was he imagining things?
“We had the entire world,” she insisted. “You mentioned Paris. Rome. So why Venice?”
She knew. All Leo needed was a look at her face, at her eyes turned to steel by the cool moonlight, to realize that she did. He stopped and she continued for a few seconds before turning back. Nothing he said would change her mind now, would it?
“How did you know?” he asked, resigned.
She raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t see him in the hotel lobby?”
Leo shook his head. His throat felt too tight to let out a word.
“He wanted me to see him,” Beth continued still as coolly. “He wanted me to know he was there too. And not by coincidence. Is it?”
Another shake of head. Neither of them moved, but Leo had rarely felt as far from her as he did at that moment.
“He contacted me,” Leo offered. “He said he’d be here, and that we could come back if—”
She turned on her heel and strode away. It took a few seconds for Leo to react and rush after her. He caught her elbow, and held on even when she tried to pull free until she cast a fiery glare at him.
“It’s not as easy for me as it is for you,” he offered in a hushed, shamed voice. She was only days older than he was, but she had shaken off their Sire’s hold on her in a way that Leo could only hope to achieve. “I just thought… I don’t know.”
Her stare pinned him in place. “I’m not going back to him. Not now, not ever. I’m leaving tonight. Are you coming with me?”
Or are you staying with him, was what she meant, but she didn’t need to say it. Leo bowed his head. “With you,” he murmured. “Of course.”
She nodded sharply and led the way back to the hotel. They didn’t see their Sire there, and left before the night was over.
But when Leo received another postcard, two months later, with just a few words spelling out an invitation, the temptation was still the same to return to their Sire – and to follow his lead once more. He didn’t know how long he would be able to resist.