The wind blew my hair softly the next night as I stood out on the balcony. It was twilight, and the sun was receding from the sky, leaving the heavens azure, dusted by the odd cloud, which drifted aimlessly across the horizon. 

The branches rustled in the breeze, the lake lapped lazily at the shore as petals fell into its inky depths from a nearby tree. The nights were drawing in, that I had noticed. I was woken far earlier and went to bed far later, it was not much, but noticeable. I wondered how vampires adjusted to such long nights in the winters, but then reminded myself they were dead, so probably didn't need sleep. 

Felix's arm was wrapped around my waist, holding me into his side. My head rested on his shoulder as we watched the moon rise from behind the tree like some resplendent orb.  The ground below was dry, a testament to the lack of rain, though I knew it would come, it always did. England never stayed dry very long, though at the moment it seemed to be proving it could. The lakes waters were lower than they had been in a long time, according to Felix, but vampires didn't worry about things like droughts. 

"How long has Immortalis been here?" I asked him. 

"We built it in the sixteen hundreds as a place for visiting vampire nobles, but the original house was destroyed during the civil war, we rebuilt it in 1790, though it has changed over the years to keep up with the times" 

I gaped, three hundred years was a long time. It had been standing longer than Rowhurst, well at least there had been infrastructure longer here anyway. "Who came up with the name?" 

"Vladimir" he said, "his castle, his name, he told me, I wanted to call it 'castrum vitae', thought it would be ironic but sadly, irony did not win out"

I sniggered, 'castle life', Felix had a sense of humour. 

"Why do you ask?" he said.

"I don't know, curiosity" I said. I turned back to the view, admiring the way the fields rolled out behind the surrounding forest, and the pale silvery colour everything seemed to take at night. Below the flowers had bloomed under the moonlight, Felix told me they had been picked because they bloomed at night, so vampires would be able to enjoy them. It seemed every last detail had been thought of when it came to the place.

"Can I show you something?" he asked me. I nodded and he unwound his arm but simultaneously took my hand. His cold fingers entwined with mine and he tugged me to a back staircase. We passed very few people and I was starting to wonder why, so I asked.

"The court is currently residing in Moscow, but will return during the winter season" he explained, "vampire court is very complex, but we usually spend the winter here, simply depending on where we have been, it changes every ten years or so, as we cannot risk being discovered staying in one place too long, as far as London society is concerned, I'm the son of an old reclusive Lord who lives on this estate"

I laughed, it was something I already knew about his 'human' identity, I'd been briefed on it. 

He opened the door to narrow  spiral stairs, and I practically had to run to keep up with him. The stairs were obviously neglected, the stone was not polished and pristine like everywhere else, the banister was wrought iron and cobwebs were woven into the corners of dusty stone. 

After eventually reaching the top of the seemingly never ending flight of stairs, he pushed open a trap door above us and climbed up, hoisting me up to join him with one arm. I stood and sucked in a breath, the view was awesome. The air spun around me and my grin was from ear to ear as I looked out, you could see for miles. There were no towns or villages nearby, just the odd farmhouse dotted on lonesome hillsides, trees covered largerly the southern end, but northwards was a grand expanse of fields and hills, dotted with the odd crag on the wilder landscape. "This is amazing" I said. 

I leaned over the edge and giggled like a child. I then ran across the roof happily, feeling like a bird. One that could take flight at any moment and float away on the breeze. "Now you are less suicidal I thought it was safe enough to bring you here" he joked. I smiled at him, running into his arms, leaving him taken aback. "Thank you" I whispered.

He led me to the edge and placed me between his legs, one on each side of me. His head rested on my shoulder and his arms were around me middle. "I often come up here to think" he told me, "It's not easy...the things I have done, what I live with now, it is often to much to bear, up here, I escape"

"Why now? How do you only live with it now?" 

He smiled ruefully, "I told you, you have changed me Beatrice, I view the world differently, and it makes me regretful of the things I have done, so many lives...so much blood and pain at my hand, how can I hope for redemption"

"You cannot change your past, only your future" I said quietly.

I joined hands with him, his cold fingers stroking mine in a comforting way. "I am not blind with you like I was with Elise" he admitted, "she made me foolish, but you, you make me strong, my love for her was full of all sunshine and flowers, it was mad mans fantasy, it wasn't real"

"You mean you never loved her?" I said, sounding a little shocked, mainly by the sudden confession.

"No, I loved her, but it was a love that doomed to fail, we were blind and oblivious to the rest of the world, I saw it through rose tinted glasses, never spotting deception where it lay, never knowing the darkness that lurked, but with you, it's different"

"How?"

"It's...hard to describe. One minute I am filled with desire, the next I am filled with fury, then wonder, my emotions change like the weather, you remind me that I can be more than the monster I thought I was supposed to be, I do not float around in blissful ignorance, and see you for all that you are in a way I did not with Elise, you make me feel more human and...alive than I have felt in over two hundred and fifty years"

My eyes were brimming a little, though I wiped them away before he could see, I was awe struck by the complexity of the man that held me. Yes, man. I found myself incapable of calling him a monster anymore, I simply couldn't, I would never believe it. I turned in his arms and kissed him softly, my lips moving slowly and tenderly on his, savouring the icy touch and smooth skin. 

Suddenly, he broke away from me, and was on his feet in an instant, he pulled me up with him. "Felix? What's wrong?" I asked, concern filling my voice as my heart pounded against my chest. 

"Something's wrong" he said, throwing me onto his back and racing down the stairs and pushing me flat against the wall before the entrance. "Wait here" he told me. I nodded and he stepped around the corner, my breath stuck in my throat, I was paralysed by fear, and could not comprehend the possible danger. 

I heard laughing and cheering at the bottom, but willed myself to stay where I was. Then I heard an unfamiliar voice ask "where is she?"

Someone climbed the steps then Felix appeared, he leaned down and kissed me. It frightened me, it was rushed, hasty even, and filled with fear and apprehension. "What's going on?" I asked him.

"Whatever happens next, don't doubt my feelings, and please, please forgive me" he said urgently.

"What's going on?" I demanded. 

He gave me one last grim look before pulling me harshly around the corner, he had not handled me that way in a long time, and it made my heart rate sky rocket as his eyes turned red. "Here she is" he said. 

"Ah, the famous Beatrice Everlyn" he said, turning around to face me. He was older than Felix, perhaps about thirty five with black hair streaked with grey and vermilion red eyes, "allow me to introduce myself, Vladimir Romanov, but you may address me as 'your highness' "

My eyes widened and my heart stopped, as I stared into the undead eyes of the King of Vampires. 

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