He hadn't wanted to come here, so he felt he had a right to be miserable. After all, who wouldn't be miserable, he thought, stuck in a small, noisy, smoky room, surrounded by wannabe vampires? He didn't care how trendy Dark Ruby's was, he'd known he would hate it, and he did.

He glanced around, trying to pick out his sister from the countless other corset-clad, pale anorexics gyrating on the crowded floor, and spotted her by the bar instead, with a pseudo-Byron, engaged in her own form of animated conversation, which involved a lot of frowning, shrugging and airy waving of hands. The pretend poet looked bored, but then ennui seemed to be the fashionable expression on the faces that weren't transfigured in some kind of tortured ecstasy.

He was simply too old for a Goth club, he thought. For any club, probably. The music was too loud, the bass too heavy, the air too thick and hot. What he wanted to do was just sit in a nice, quiet pub where the music was a background, and maybe talk to some pretty girl who'd heard of the concept of 'colour'. Perhaps, if Bea was involved enough with this guy, he might be able to slip away, and at least catch the half-hour before closing time. He pushed that idea away. He'd come here to look after her, and he couldn't just abandon her, especially when it was of Rob's abandonment that left her needing to be looked after.

He turned to look longingly at the door, and that's when he saw The Girl. She was quite the loveliest thing he'd ever beheld, and she stood out like a peacock among crows. For a start, she was laughing. Not just smiling, but head-thrown-back, mouth-wide uproarious laughter. Her hair was a mass of bright blonde curls, falling just to her shoulders, and framing a face that surely shouldn't exist outside a fantasy. Her dress was in the same style as the Goth-chicks all around him, but the skirt beneath the black corset was a vivid crimson and she was… curvy. Really, deliciously woman-like, seeming to flow into the narrow waist of the gown without the aid of lacing.

How the fuck did she come to be in a place like this? He looked at the men to either side of her, trying to decide which was the prime idiot that had brought a creature so alive into this house of the undead. Neither looked like a candidate for attracting a woman like this, and when she stepped forward, away from both of them, he wasn't surprised. Her eyes met his as he looked at her, and he knew he should look away, that it was rude to keep staring, but he didn't – couldn't.

He couldn't understand, as she walked toward him, why people didn't turn to look at her as she passed them. Even if she didn't outshine the other girls, like the sun beside a candle (which she did), her bright clothing should have drawn eyes; yet, although they stepped aside for her and some nodded in her direction, they all turned back to their groups as soon as she stepped away. He swallowed as she approached closer. His throat was dry, his lips dryer, but he couldn't put out a tongue to moisten them, without looking crass.

She stopped, two feet from him, and smiled. "I knew I could hear the cry of a soul in torment," she said, "You don't like it here, I can always tell. Why?"

It was entirely not what he'd been expecting. Not that he could have said what he did expect, but it wasn't that.

Surprised into honesty, he replied, "It bores me. Row on row of people all dressed the same, with the same expressions on their faces, drinking the same drinks. Every song expressing the same emotion, over the same chords. No diversity."

"Yet you're dressed in black. Just like everyone else." There was amusement as well as challenge in the comment.

He shrugged. "I'm dressed in black, yeah – but only a Tee-shirt and jeans. I'd've worn that in whatever colour, and it would have upset my sister if I hadn't made the effort to make them black. Why fight battles you don't have to?"

"Which is your sister?"

He gestured, and the vision nodded. "Oh yes, I've seen her here several times before. Not with him though, or with you. With some other man."

He nodded. "Her fiancé. Ex fiancé, rather. He left her, and this evening is something of a wake for a dead relationship." He wondered why he was telling her this, when she was a total stranger, then as the realisation dawned, he said "Hang on, you've seen her here before? You come here regularly?" He was more surprised than before.

She laughed. "Well, I have to, really. I own the place. I'm Ruby." She held out her hand to him, and he closed his around it, finding it cooler and smoother than glass.

"Ben." He held onto the hand, far longer than he should, until she drew it away from him, and he blushed. "I'm sorry," he said. "Sorry about running down your club, I mean, and about..." he looked at his hand, and the blood flowed back to his face again.

She shrugged, and smiled again. "No need. I have to admit, this place has been something of a disappointment to me. I thought Goths were the people I wanted to attract, but now I've got them, I find they aren't any more adventurous or rebellious than anyone else. They bore me quite as much as they bore you, believe me. Still, it turns a nice profit, and tonight, at least, it seems to have brought in one real live man."

She looked at him from below her fringe of shining curls with eyes like fire-opals, blue-black but flashed through with a kaleidoscope of sparks. From nowhere, one of the bar-tenders appeared, with a bottle of wine, and two glasses.

"Drink with me?" she asked. He became aware of a hint of a London accent in the voice and a slight roughness to the timbre that made it sexier in its imperfection than any pure tone could be.

"I'd like that." He'd like to do much more than drink, he thought. There were bands constricting his chest, making it difficult to breathe, as she sat beside him. Her thigh was separated from his only by two layers of fabric. She twisted to pass him a glass of wine, and he followed the arc of her arm inevitably, to the breasts curving whitely from the black velvet of her bodice; for the first time, as he looked at them, he understood what the description 'alabaster skin' meant. His hands were sweaty and the glass slipped in them as he took it, spilling a tiny droplet of red onto that white skin, and he watched it slide away into the crevice between the breasts, under the velvet. He almost whimpered aloud.

The rest of the room slipped out of focus as he gazed at her. For a moment, he caught a glimpse of Bea, her dark hair swirling, dancing out her demons of disappointment with the poet-boy, but it was only for a moment, before Ruby filled his eyes and ears and mind again.

He was aware that they were talking, that she was probing and he was laying his soul bare for her, but in the morning, he wouldn't be able to remember a single detail of what he said, or she asked. All he would know is that time scuttled away like rats in the darkness, and Bea was standing beside them, and saying.

"Ben, it's time to go. George has offered to walk me home if you're busy, though."

He dragged his eyes from Ruby and looked up at his sister, nodding at the tall, dark man beside her, that he wouldn't mock now, because he was freeing Ben to stay with Ruby.

"I ought to see Ruby home," he said, "it's dangerous out there, especially for a woman."

He could see the laughter in her fire-opal eyes as she tucked herself under his arm and murmured, "Oh, I do hope so."

And so, he found himself, a little later, in rooms two floors up from the street, drowning in kisses and dark blue eyes. Ruby clung to him, for a moment, and he held her to his chest, gasping for air. Then they peeled the clothes from each other, swiftly and easily, eager to get to the ripe fruit beneath, and tumbled together onto the bed.

Ben could hardly believe his good fortune, even as the woman mounted him and moved easily over his body, as naturally and smoothly as waves on a beach. The light shone through her hair, making it glow like a halo around her head and she was all heat inside, and all cool where her hands touched and slid along his skin, and he thought that if he died now it could hardly matter, because he'd already found heaven.

Something of this he said, and she laughed, and leaned forward, putting her lips to his neck.

Below, in the street, a man brushed back dark hair from a weary, unhappy, pale face, and murmured, "One shade the more, one ray the less, had half impair'd the nameless grace..." before he touched his mouth to that of the girl in his arms.

She gave a small smile, and let him kiss her, leaning against his body in the deepest darkness that hovers just beyond the street-light's luminous pool. It was better, she thought, than being alone, with the edge of rejection sharp on the knife of solitude. He'd gathered her tight when a long scream shattered the silence, and she twisted, startled, tipping back her head to look up at the lighted window above.

Twenty minutes later, the door of Ruby's room opened. The man framed in the doorway stood and smiled to see the golden head curled on Ben's motionless chest, Ruby's lovely face a picture of satisfaction as she ran a finger along up and down his ribcage.

Ruby wriggled from the bed and padded silently to the door, looking up at the man with expectancy in the opal eyes.

"Perfect," he murmured, putting his hands on the round, white shoulders, and her naked form shimmered in the light and was suddenly gone.

"Sex, death, blood, semen, man and woman," He mused aloud, "all aspects of the same thing. It's amazing really." He turned and shut the door, silently, leaving Ben to his blissful dreams of how Ruby had screamed out her release when she came, and the delight -- as much agony as pleasure -- that he'd felt course through him at that moment.

At the foot of the stairs, the creature who was once George Gordon Noel Byron stepped over the drained, crumpled body of Ben's twin sister, and darted out his tongue to lick away a smidgeon of blood from his lips. It walked swiftly, but a with a slight limp, towards the lightening sky, anxious to reach home before dawn.

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