Daniel's question hung in the air. What was he going to do with her? None of the more usual options for a woman alone with a man seemed likely. Ciara could not see him attempting to seduce her, nor did she fear rape. It was not so much that she thought he would not be incredibly skilled at seduction or willing to force the matter to get his way; she simply had no feeling that he was currently thinking of her that way. It could, of course, change.
No, as Ciara met his eyes she swallowed. Fear flowed through her veins, both heating and freezing her blood all at the same time. Every muscle ached with the need to run and hide. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that any attempt to fight him would be useless. Before her sat a predator of some variety and she knew him to be of the most dangerous kind with that little part of her brain that survived from the ancient past.
In the midst of that fear she realized that his eyes were predominately the exact shade of Phthalo Green. It was a beautiful shade, one she used whenever she could justify it. Distinctly unfair, said her brain, that this man who very well might kill her had eyes of that tint and hue.
Only a second or two had passed since Daniel had uttered his question and she remained trapped, his thumb and forefinger holding her chin in a grip that would likely leave a bruise. He was close, so close that her panicked breaths pulled in the scent that clung to him and she finally recognized it as the smell of the wilderness, the places not tainted by humanity. Wet earth, growing things, new life and decay. It was the smell of a forest, of moonlight. And magic.
Laughter caught her off-guard as a song slipped into her head, the strains of Nat King Cole winding through her soul. So while there's moonlight and music, love and romance.... So inappropriate. There was no music, certainly no love and romance. Yet something about him had made her think of the song. A quirk of mental association.
His eyes widened at her laughter, then the pressure of his fingers eased and his thumb lightly stroked over her skin, sending shivers down her spine. Just like that, the mood shifted. Her earlier thought that the man she had sketched was capricious came back to her. Suddenly her breath was held, possibility crowding the room. No longer the possibility only of violence, it was now mingled with other potentialities.
None of them were ones that made Ciara particularly comfortable. She cleared her throat, wishing she could break his gaze. Still trapped, this time by light touches and by the hungry way he gazed at her.
"Do you know," he began in a voice richer and huskier than she had heard previously, "what I would have done to you only a few hundred years ago, a mhuirnín?" The last words puzzled her, clearly not English, but it was the tone of his voice that captivated - and terrified - her. All she could do was swallow as he shifted closer on the sofa.
"I..." licking her lips, Ciara fumbled for the right words, "please?" The very fact that he spoke of hundreds of years did not register. She was overwhelmed. In that stange instant of the mood shifting she found her own reaction changing. A corner of her mind still screamed that she run, but her body would not listen. Her pulse sped, her hands trembled, and as she wet her lips they felt raw as though he had kissed her oh so thoroughly. He hadn't though, had he?
She found herself unable to answer that question. Dazed, she looked at him. He was beautiful and terrible, terrifying and desirable. Warmth pooled low in her body and she shivered, but not from fear this time. It should have been from fear.
"Please what, dark one? What is it you would ask of me?" His voice muddled her senses, filled with tones and qualities she couldn't comprehend fully. He spoke, and she heard wind through the trees, haunting music, laughter and tears.
Trying to suck in a breath, Ciara knew she had to clear her head. She had to get herself under control; a part of her knew that this was a moment in which she could be lost forever. If she was not very careful she might just get all the answers she could ever want, only to discover that none of them were what she would choose to know. One tiny bit of resistence remained to her and she used it to close her eyes.
She still felt him there, but at least without his eyes meeting hers she felt her sluggish thoughts begin to move again. Enough to know that whatever he was she was in very real danger. She had discovered what she was not to have seen, whatever it was.
"Don't hurt me. Please." Her voice was small, still breathier than she would like. The desire that had threaded along with the fear in her veins still lingered, still promised silken touches and the perfect caress.
His laughter was sharp, the sound of a man surprised and just a little pleased. It was enough to bring her to open her eyes, just a little, to look at him. His face had eased. No longer quite the predator he had become, although certainly not the man she had met at the party. Easier, however. Hesitantly she opened her eyes, looking at the corner of his jaw rather than meeting his eyes.
Releasing her chin he let his fingers trail along her jaw before his hand fell back to rest casually on his thigh. "You do offer me quite the quandry, a mhuirnín. A fascinating thing you are, and yet dangerous. Killing you would be a waste, however. That leaves a few options." He fell silent, his head tilted just slightly, and a curl fell to shadow his forehead. Something about that curl made her want to smile; it was strangely boyish for a man who had just admitted he had considered killing her.
She knew her thoughts were not moving clearly. Normally she would have run for a baseball bat or turpentine, anything she could use as a weapon. She would have phoned the police, or just run. Especially as a man oh so casually mentioned that he had decided not to kill her.
It was at that point that she remembered his easy mention of hundreds of years. Her eyes widened and she scooted as far away on the couch as she could. Lips parted, and all she could do was stare at him in shock for a moment. "You... you said.. hundreds of years! Not human, not at all. What are you?" Her voice had risen and his eyes narrowed, a tiny frown furrowing the skin between his brows.
"Hush. Have you truly no idea? You are the one with sight clear enough to see. Even your name. It makes sense now," Daniel muttered, seemingly to himself. Ciara had no idea what on earth he was talking about. She shook her head, about to answer, when he waved a hand at her, dismissing it.
"Of course not. If you had you might have known better. Well then. Take a guess. I admit I am not human. But what am I? Have you truly no idea?" There was a look to his face, something sharp and expectant. In that moment she realized that to him this was but a game. A cat playing with a mouse, toying with it. Indignation rose within her, although not enough to give her the fire she needed to run. She still felt the attraction of him, just enough to keep her there on the sofa with him. Perhaps more spider than cat.
Confusion was clear on her face, but concentration warred with it. She had to think, but it was difficult. Everything felt just a little unreal, a fact for which she was rather thankful. It made thinking difficult, though. "Not... not a vampire?" She was not completely sure, but her voice conveyed that she found it doubtful. Not just for the fact that vampires didn't exist. No, things just did not add up right. It felt like the answer was just there, just out of reach.
Daniel's gaze turned dark, clouds scudded over the moon that lit his eyes and the forest was cast in shadows. "No. I am not one of those damned creatures." He bit off the words, clearly rather offended. "I will give you one more guess. I suggest you think carefully."
Ciara swallowed, realizing now that the game continued, that this was part of it. And things could still go badly for her. The only question was whether it would be better or worse to get the answer right. Taking a deep breath she forced herself to look at at him, to truly see.
She knew. He was right, she should have known all along.
"Daoine Sidhe." She barely choked out the answer, wonder and terror warring within her. Names from stories fluttered through her head, stories of those caught up in the intrigues of such creatures. A benefit to some, but even to many for whom it seemed a blessing it proved to be a double-edged gift.
Daniel's smile was rather smug as he sat back. "Well you aren't as foolish as I was starting to worry. I do beg your forgiveness. I was startled by your drawing, but I suppose I should not have been. I should have known it would be like that from what I had heard. Silly me to not truly believe the stories. I wonder who in your family it was that received such an honour to pass it on to you." He had grown pensive, and it was clear he was thinking about people and places far from where he said before her on the sofa.
Looking at the man who sat before her, she realized he was younger than he had appeared. At least he looked younger. He wasn't. At least she doubted he was. She had felt the weight of his regard earlier and she truly hoped he was not merely a youth. If he was she truly prayed she would never encounter one of the older Fair Folk.
"Dan-" she broke off, looking down at her hands, then back up at him in discomfort. "I'm not sure what to call you. I doubt Daniel is your name." His laughter was answer enough, and he looked at her curiously.
"What name would you have me give you? Do you truly seek my true name, little painter? I might just give it. But you might find that more burden than gift. It is often so." His lips quirked at the thought. The amusement that had been in his face earlier had returned. He was again relaxed although whatever mask he had worn for the benefit of those at the party was gone.
After a moment of silence as she picked nervously at the paint on her overalls with a blunt fingernail he shook his head. "No. For now, call me Daniel. It is as good a name as any other. It will save you from confusion." His smile was gentle for a moment, and she felt uncomfortable under his regard. The shifts of his emotions confused her, left her utterly off-balance.
Daniel, or whatever his name was, looked down at the sketchbook he still held in his hand, then back at her. "I am sorry. I should have left you alone, but if you know anything of us then I am sure you know that we rarely can resist our whims. I am afraid that you were one of mine. You will probably live to regret it, and for that I offer my regrets." Sadness and weariness warred in his face as though he foresaw what was to come and knew just what it would bring her.
Afraid to ask, Ciara hugged her knees to her chest. "I'm sorry. I couldn't... I had to. Had to draw you." He waved off her apology, shaking his head.
"I am not surrpised. I should have known it was a Gift." The way he said it she knew it had a capital letter and she frowned slightly, thinking to old stories that she dimly remembered. Thomas the Rhymer, for one. She bit her lip, her body beginning to shiver.
"I will take my leave now. You are weary, I'm sure. I should return to the party before all my guests depart. We shall see one another again. It might be best for you if I left you alone, but I find I am not willing. Not yet. It has been... some time since a mortal saw me for what I am." Ciara wished that she could be certain she was more than a novelty to him. Her earlier excitement at his offer of patronage was long gone, leaving in its wake apprehension and a certainty that her life had changed but quite possibly not for the better.
Standing, Daniel leaned down and carefully pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead. The brush of his lips was warm and he smelled like enchantment and promise and her eyes closed as though her lids could no longer fight the pull of sleep. "Dream sweetly, and let your sleep be untroubled. I fear your waking will hold enough trials." With that he walked away.
Ciara felt sleep pulling her deeper and snuggled down into the sofa, just slightly aware of the door opening and closing, and the sound of the lock. Then awareness faded as she was drawn into a slumber that was deep, and dreams that were filled with laughter and revelry, bright and sparkling figures swirling around and drawing her with them.